Sunday, 22 January 2017

Turning Water into Stone.

Well, I could start an argument on my own in a telephone box.
 I went down to Stodmarsh after finishing work early on the afternoons of the 19th and 20th, taking advantage of the crisp but sunny afternoons. The Reed bed hide as was the rest of the reserve was frozen, hardly surprising as the temperature struggled to better zero throughout the two days. A Pheasant this morning (21st) looked neat against the frozen grass as I walked down the entrance path to the reserve.

Click on image for full size.

As I walked down the back path to the Marsh hide on 19th, a 360 excavator was dredging the dyke from the caravan where the path turns 90 degrees North down to the Marsh hide. The excavated mud and silt was laid out on the bank of the dyke which in turn attracted quite a bit of activity from birds taking advantage of this new food source. I counted 8 Stonechat's in a 100 metre stretch along with a pair of Cetti's Warblers, Blue Tits and Robins and a pair of Water Rails.

That's where the fun and games started. I noticed what I presumed to be at least 20 Water Pipits also foraging about on the newly exposed silt but getting any images was a little difficult. The birds as I approached, even though they were on the other side of the dyke, flushed and flew off, returning a few minutes later further down the path. I eventually made my way to the bottom of the track near to the Marsh hide and used a bush on the bank of the dyke for cover and waited until the Pipits returned. I was able to get a few fairly close shots, of which I posted a couple on social media as Water Pipit images are not easy to come by. That is when, I think the term for it is, the shit hit the fan. A seemingly knowledgeable chap by the name of Steve Newman, a birder from Essex and someone whom I do not know commented that in his opinion they were not Water Pipit's but in fact Littoralis Rock Pipit's. I know the two are hard to distinguish at this time of the year and a few more prominent Kent birders have added their support for Rock Pipit, but there again, a few other prominent Kent birders have sided with Water Pipit. Make up your own mind if you can from the images below.

The above image was taken on the 19th when I would estimate there being 20+ birds present. (I counted 14 birds in one flock as they were flushed by someone walking down the path) The images below were taken on the 20th when there were again approximately 20 but probably in excess of 25 birds seen along the length of dredged mud.

Carrying on the debate on social media, someone has added a link (click on the link if interested enough)  that goes some way into explaining the different plumage's of Water and Rock Pipits and the image below (heavily cropped for this purpose) is almost identical to the 3rd image from this piece and suggests Littoralis Rock Pipit. 

Also I was a little surprised to find that the wintering population in the U.K for Water Pipit's is only 80 to 90 birds (BTO statistics) I thought it was a lot more. So, where does this leave me. Totally confused. Bearing in mind that there has only been 1 previous record of Rock Pipit at Grove/Stodmarsh, do we have now 20+ records ???? Answers on a postcard please. I will carry on snapping them and let the pro's decide on the important bits but for the record and it is in no way important, the title of this post shows the way I rock. One thing is sure, it does make for a fascinating hobby.

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