Friday, 3 May 2013

What's Your Flava?

Boy, when I set off for Carrington Moss this afternoon did I NOT know what a can of worms I'd open today. I got a text from Ian McKerchar about a Blue-headed Wagtail in field 187 and thought that it would be a nice little afternoon jaunt over Warby Bridge towards Dunham Massey. I found the place OK thanks to the field number and the map and even got a good place to park, but then the wait began.

For well over an hour and a half I paced up and down the public footpath alongside the ploughed field with my scope and bins with nothing to see on the ground but four Wheatears, two Pied Wagtails, two Skylarks and a number of Chaffinches flitting around. There was also at least one Chiffchaff singing away in the woods at the end of the field. Whilst I waited I took some photos of the Wheatear, one of which came quite close, but the light wasn't good for most of the time and the wind kept whipping up mini-sandstorms along the path.

And then I saw a flash of yellow in the distance, and I'd cracked it, or so I thought - the bird had appeared and was busy running up and down the furrows, with a Pied Wagtail in tow for some reason. The bird was well over a hundred metres away and so although I took loads of photos, none of them are any good. Here's the best of what I got:

Anyway, satisfied I found the bird on my small twitch from Tyldesley, I walked back to the car and was about to set off for Dunham Massey Park in search of woodpeckers, when James Walsh arrived with his mate Sean. I told him I'd seen the bird and got some photos, but it had now disappeared. Just before I showed him the record shots on the back of my camera, he asked me if it was a 'Channel Wagtail' - wha????  I knew nothing about this 'issue' and so James kindly explained about some of the numerous Wagtail races including  Motacilla flava flava, Motacilla flava flavissima and Motacilla flava x flavissima or 'Channel Wagtail'! - see what I mean about the can of worms?

After looking at my photos several times, James thought that this bird wasn't the Channel Wagtail he'd seen recently and said it was 'probably' a Blue-headed Wagtail - good enough for a novice like me, but it you want to join the debate, look at my crappy record shots above.  Nice to meet James and Sean, and Tim Wilcox cycled in to join us just before I left.

P.S. I've since read Ian's excellent article on the Manchester Birding website about these birds and also the previous discussion posts in this forum, and so I'm now a lot more enlightened - thanks chaps.

Update: I've just had a PM from Ian to say that this bird is in fact a 'Channel Wagtail' and I've just noticed that James has reported it as such - well, it's still a new bird for me

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