Correctly identifying the streaky brown pipits is one of the tougher birdwatching challenges, and with both Meadow and Water Pipits wintering on the Padul reserve good views are required to be absolutely certain. Our recent trip brought precisely that however, and it’s great to have this new species confirmed for the December list.
The Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta nests in high mountainous areas, and breeds locally in the Balkans, Italy, the Alps and the Pyrenees. In winter however the birds descend to lower habitats right across southern and western Europe, and occur around lagoons, reservoirs and coastal marshes.
The seasonal, flooded pools of Padul suit this species perfectly, and completely absorbed in their task they picked tiny insects from the muddy margins around the new hide throughout the day, depsite the constant clicking of our cameras…
Note the yellow on the beak and the strong white stripe over the eye, and the clear, white bib just visible in some of the shots shown here. Note also the streaked chest and flanks, clean white underparts and the white edges of the tail.
The two thin, white wing bars and quite pale, red-brown legs – sometimes, apparently, confusingly grey or even black! – are also considered key points to look for, but there are inconsistencies in the literature and as is often the case with less obviously marked species, it’s a whole combination of factors that finally confirms the ID.
The “altitudinal” migration of the Water Pipit can, unusually, take it in any direction towards the colder part of the year, even northwards… and intriguingly, birds from eastern Europe are often seen here in Spain. Fascinating to ponder where the individuals shown here spent the summer…
We’ll have more from this important local reserve over the next few days so please keep checking the blog, and as ever if you’re interested in exploring this wonderful region yourself, our birdwatching trips and holidays could be the perfect introduction. Click here for more information!