10 Nov 2019

10 Nov 19 - Two Interesting Wagtails

On 7 Nov 19, RBA mentioned that there was a probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail on the marsh & beach at Corporation Marshes to the South of Warbleswick, which had been present for eleven days. There was a message later that day that it was probably a Yellow Wagtail, based upon a sonogram. The next day, RBA were stating that the probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail had been seen again. On Saturday 9 Nov, it was confirmed as an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, with an accompanying Yellow Wagtail. That explained the negative sonogram. There were recordings of the Eastern Yellow Wagtail which supported its identification.

The Sunday looked good for a trip with sunny & still weather on the forecast. Given it had been showing on & off throughout the Saturday, it didn't seem necessary to be there for dawn. I was up early and was on the road by 08:00 as soon as positive news came through that it was still there. I arrived about lunchtime and had a half hour walk up the beach to the area of marsh & wet pools that the two Wagtails were favouring.
Looking up the beach to Warbleswick & Southwold: This would be an interesting place to live with some great Birding spots on the doorstep
Soon after I arrived a Wagtail showed, but it was easy to confirm it was the Yellow Wagtail. I had spent some time that morning reading up the identification of the two species and also looking at photos & a Blog detailing the two Wagtails that were present at the Corporation Marshes. This proved to be a real help for me when one or other of the Wagtails showed themselves.
Yellow Wagtail: Note, the pale lores & the open-faced appearance
On a casual view, the two Wagtails looked similar. However, one of the key identification features is Eastern Yellow Wagtails have dark lores, whereas Yellow Wagtails have much paler lores and this gives a different paler and more open appearance to this part of the face. Having spent some time reading about this feature and looking at the photos of the two species, then it was very easy to focus in on this feature. Clearly, many of the twitchers who were there that day hadn't done their homework before they left home. As a result, when either Wagtail showed, there were a lot of shouts of "I've got a Wagtail", which was also clear that the person calling it out wasn't sure which species it was. Unfortunately, this wasn't the correct species, but it was good to feel confident on how to separate the two Wagtails. After a while the Yellow Wagtail flew away from the area.
Yellow Wagtail: This individual was as interesting as the Eastern Yellow Wagtail, as this doesn't look like a regular British Yellow Wagtail. So, I wonder what subspecies this might be & how far West it flew to get to Warbleswick
There was no sign of either of the Wagtails over the next couple of hours. However, the time passed quickly, helped with a Rough-legged Buzzard that steadily drifted South along the coast: a real treat for a Dorset Birder like me who rarely leaves the county.
Rough-legged Buzzard
Rough-legged Buzzard: One of the local Marsh Harriers look exception to the Rough-legged Buzzard getting all the attention
Rough-legged Buzzard: There are very few pukka Rough-legged Buzzard records in Dorset & it's still a county Tick for me
Rough-legged Buzzard: At one point, the Rough-legged Buzzard went into a steep dive before equally quickly pulling out. It's not a great photo, but it does give a good view of the upper tail pattern
There was a flock of eight Snow Buntings that were coming & going on the beach.
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting
At one point, a flock of around 250 Barnacle Geese flew South over the sea: another treat, but one we have a chance of occasionally seeing in Dorset, albeit in smaller numbers.
Barnacle Geese: This was only a small part of the 250 strong flock or so that flew South
Barnacle Geese: A closer crop
Finally, a Wagtail dropped onto the beach close to the marsh. A quick look at the lores. Bingo: this was the Eastern Yellow Wagtail. It spent about five minutes on the beach, before flying into the marsh. For the next half hour, it was on view in the marsh.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail: The dark lores stand out to give a very different facial pattern
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Eastern Yellow Wagtail: This Dutch Birding paper is well worth a read
After a while, the Yellow Wagtail flew over & dropped into the marsh. This made it more interesting when the views became more spasmodic as they moved in & out behind vegetation. However, the facial pattern worked on every view to figure out which species I was watching.
Yellow Wagtail: Head, shoulders and pale lores photo
Eastern Yellow Wagtail: A comparable head, shoulders and dark lores photo
I was happy I had seen both Wagtails well during my visit. Eventually, it stopped showing in the marsh: it as time to walk back down the beach. It had been a good day trip & a good learning exercise. It's taken me to Aug 23 to sort these photos out & write this Blog Post. This has the advantage that I can add in a photo that I took of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail during the Banda Sea Cruise for comparison at an identical time of the year.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail: Wilbur confirmed this is the tschutschensis subspecies. Damar, Indonesia (3 Nov 22)
Having got back from this trip, I dug out the photos from a day trip that Pete Moore & I did to St Mary's at the end of Oct 16. There had been an odd House Martin around during the week which was being touted as a putative Asian House Martin. It hadn't been worked out by the Friday morning, but it was still there. We decided to book a day trip on the plane on the hope it would still be there at the weekend. That afternoon, the news was updated to indicate it was most likely an odd House Martin. It became academic as it wasn't present on the weekend. But having been confirmed as an odd House Martin, there were probably few Birders looking for it. However, there was also a probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail on St Mary's which had been around for a while. This would have been a UK Tick for both of us at the time. As far as I can make out, this was never submitted. I guess in those days, there was a feeling that if there isn't any DNA or a recording, then it won't be accepted. But looking at these photos, in the light of seeing these two Wagtails in Suffolk, then it makes me think the finders should submit the record.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail or Yellow Wagtail?: St Mary's (29 Oct 16)
Eastern Yellow Wagtail or Yellow Wagtail?: St Mary's (29 Oct 16)
Eastern Yellow Wagtail or Yellow Wagtail?: St Mary's (29 Oct 16)