Sunday, 12 February 2012


For the majority of my birding life, the appearance of a pipit has resulted in an expletive & one of several responses:

1. Pretend I haven't seen it
2. Give it a cursory glance, call it a 'pipity thing' and then ignore it
3. Make a vague attempt to identify it before being distracted by something more interesting (easily done)
4. Grab the Collins, make a determined effort to identify it & offer thanks when it flies off giving me an excuse for not actually figuring out what it is
5. Identify it

Options 1 to 4 are definitely the most common. However, during longer birding trips I normally manage to at least get to grips with Meadow & Rock Pipit, only to find that I’m back to square one when I haven’t been out for a while.

Then we moved to Exmouth & I started making frequent visits to the Otter at Budleigh where it’s wall to wall pipits. It’s impossible to walk along the footpath at the base of the pebble bank without practically standing on a Rock Pipit or 2, with a few Meadow Pipits showing up to demonstrate the differences. At last, I have them sussed! That just leaves the rest of the pipits!

That brings me to yesterday’s trip to Bowling Green Marsh. Although for once I’d actually got my timing right for the tide (I went about 40 mins after high tide & it was a particularly high tide at 4.3m) I hadn’t factored in the sun. It was very bright & low across the main marsh making it difficult to see anything. I had a brief look using the scope, there were hundreds of Wigeon, Black-tailed Godwit & Avocet, large numbers of Teal & Curlew, with a few Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Lapwing, Tufted Duck & one sleeping Pintail. Most of the ponds were frozen, so the birds were concentrated in quite a small area of water & on the grass. I decided to give the hide a miss (probably the first time ever!) & carry on round to the Goatwalk where the light may be better. It was, at least looking upstream, but unfortunately there were no birds.

River Exe from the Goatwalk

Back to the viewpoint where there were just a few Black-headed Gulls. I then checked Birdguides to see if there was anything about & discovered that a Water Pipit had been seen from the hide at about the time I was walking straight past it! Fiddlesticks (or words to that effect). The two chaps that had just arrived at the viewpoint hadn’t seen it as it had flown off before they arrived. I decided it was worth a try so headed straight to the hide.

There were quite a few birders with some good optics, so I was quite happy that if it was there someone would spot it. Although I’ve done my homework on Water Pipit, I wasn’t sure if I’d recognise one as they are very similar to Rock Pipit. Someone spotted a couple of Meadow Pipits in the channel to the left of the hide, and then a third Pipit appeared. I got it in the scope & it definitely wasn’t a Meadow Pipit, and it looked much paler than a Rock Pipit, with a nice white breast & ‘clean’ streaks rather than the smudgy ones of a Rock Pipit & it had a rather nice white eye-stripe. Amazingly enough I was happy that it was the Water Pipit & the other birders were all in agreement.  That’s 3 Pipits on the list!

It came as close as the point just above the hedge

I still had an hour before I was due home so I nipped up for a quick look at Matford Marsh. I counted at least 33 snipe gleaming in the sunshine, including several doing impersonations of Torvill & Dean on the ice. I gave them 10/10 for entertainment value. It was only the second time I’ve visited the site & this time I discovered that the path goes to another pond & viewing area which is a bit less noisy (further from the main road) but quieter (less birds). I was surprised to find a mallard asleep in a tree.

Matford Marsh from the roundabout

The other part of the marsh

I'd spent the morning out playing with my new toy whilst Simon was home keeping Vera company. In the afternoon it was his turn to play with his new toy.......

Simon insisted I include his bike in the blog. "Bikes and birds have always gone together", he says.

Year List on 121


  1. Quite worrying really, you writing about pipits...

    1. I've already ordered the straight jacket.......

    2. I await the inevitable blog about juvenile gulls with trepidation...

  2. should find all the swans you need when you visit Welney!hw