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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Flava Wagtails at Corton



A call from OFB had me pulling into the Corton Church car park, where both OFB and Paul & Jane were seen. They had just seen the Flava Wagtails. I made my way half way along the "golf corse" at Broadland sands and joined the finder, James B and Morris B. 
I could see the delightful mixed flock of Flava Wagtails (one of the joys of spring if we are lucky!) on the grass between us and Broadland Sands chalets.
Male Yellow Wagtails at least 2, 3 female Yellow Wagtails, 1 male Blue- headed Wagtail, with striking blue head and white supercilia and at the back left the probable female Grey- headed Wagtail (thunbergi race). A great find and bold ID from James B, especially as I can find no definitive ID info for female Grey- heads! But I tend to agree with James' ID. This bird had a distinctive grey head, crown ear coverts and the grey crown extended down onto the nape. The eye was bordered by a little white "stripe" and the lores and area directly below the eye was a darker shade of grey (but not enough for Ashy headed?) It had a pencil grey bill with straight culmen, the bill appeared quite long and slightly down curved. The throat was a cream white extending a little onto the very top upper breast but the yellowish hues of the upper breast was seen here too. The mantle and back was olive- green and differed from the striking grey on the crown and nape. The rear back had slight brownish streaking too. The flanks had long thick greyish streaks. Sadly, I didn't hear the bird call at all.
The grey crown on the bird was very distinctive (more so than on the accompanying pic) and could easily be picked up amongst the Blue- headed Wagtail and the other Yellow Wagtails. 
With the others leaving, I carefully stalked the flock by walking round through the caravan park and kneeling close to a chalet, hopping the birds would come to me. These tactics worked well as the Wagtail flock soon made their way over to where I was and the male Blue- headed Wagtails showed very well at around 24 feet away. I noted the probable female Grey- headed Wagtail, spent most of her time near the back of the flock.
Occasionally the flock would be spooked by dog walkers walking past the cliff edge, one Wagtail would call a strident "tslie' and they would fly a short distance away. Finally the putative female Grey- headed Wagtail came a little closer and I took some shots at around 30 feet away.
Pied Wagtail seen here also.
Finally a dog walker walking along the cliff edge (nowhere near the flock!) appeared to spook the flock as they all flew off and south.

2 comments:

Tim Allwood said...

The female type looks like it may be a thunbergi.

It has a clearly shorter and thinner super than expected in a flava and I can't really see any subocular mark to speak of. The overall head tone appears slightly darker than a typical flava and there is also a hint of slightly darker ear coverts.

Peter Ransome said...

Thanks for these enlightening comments Tim, we really need someone to do an ID article on female "Yellow Wagtails" one for Birding world to do?
Peter