Monday, 15 December 2014

Blyth's Pipit in West Yorkshire

This bird should be in Mongolia or the surrounding areas of that country, not in an industrial estate just off the M1 in West Yorkshire. However, that is indeed where it was found last Monday by a local patch watcher who identified this very rare visitor to our shores on his trip around the ditches and scrub outside the offices of the West Yorkshire police.

This bird is superficially pretty similar to a Richard's Pipit, but has a very different call and is smaller with shorter legs, a shorter bill and shorter tail. This Blyth's Pipit didn't want to be seen too easily though and has decided to stay pretty well hidden in the long grass and juncus and has only been seen for short periods in flight. This didn't stop myself and my friend Chris Orders making the trip on Sunday to this rather unprepossessing spot of land.

We set off at silly o'clock and arrived at the site as the first rays of what was a damp, dark, horrible morning started to appear. The site was indeed not particularly awe-inspiring, but we duly parked and made our way to the flooded field that was being favoured by the pipit. A few other birders were already there, along with the birds finder and we all set up our scopes and started to wait. The bird had apparently been showing very well on the Saturday, perching in trees and running along a small bank as well as appearing in flight, but Sunday was a very different day. The sky was leaden grey and an extremely cold wind was blowing straight into our faces as we all stood along the side of this miserable little field overlooked by West Yorkshire's finest. By 9 o'clock there were approximately 50 birders present and so the finder of the bird started to walk into the field, something that had been happening all week, with varying effect and not without voices of discontent on various forums. This was what is known as an 'organised flush', something more preferable to the free for all that happened on the Monday when 400+ birders swarmed on to the field in order to put the pipit and consequently every other bird into the sky for a split second viewing. This time, one person, with another hanger on entered the field and started to methodically walk the area and just as he was nearing the end, the bird rose, calling as it did so and was seen in flight for a few seconds when it then landed back in the safety of the scrub where it was left to feed in peace. The two people left the field and rejoined the gathered crowd, where everyone present had seen the bird. A couple of people were seen to leave the group, all presumed that they were leaving, but no, they then decided to start entering the area where the bird had been seen to land, obviously intent on getting some more views. At once, the local chap started shouting at these guys to get out of the field and clear off, something they did and were not seen again. We all then started to disperse, content in the views that we had and safe in the knowledge that, although the bird was occasionally being flushed, it was a very rare occurrence and it was still being given time to rest and feed.

Our views did not lend themselves to photography, although I am posting one photo, I assure you that it is the bird in question, but to be honest, it just looks like a brown blob in the sky.

The field in question. ©Chris Orders

A few of the assembled twitchers with the police offices in the background. ©Chris Orders
And now, for what you have all been waiting excellent flight shot of the Blyth's Pipit. Try to contain your excitement!

You can tell it's the Blyth's Pipit because of its' straggly, scruffy tail. Honest!
As I said, this bird should be in Serbia or Mongolia and as such is a pretty rare visitor to our shores with only 21 other individuals ever recorded, although this is the third bird this year. Maybe it is a species that has been overlooked in the past, it is after all, a little brown bird.

Thanks again to Chris for driving and Anne for providing the lunch. Another 'tick' in the book.


  1. I am no expert of course but I think it's a Haddock in that photo!

  2. Hi John,

    'Organised Flush', is that Code for 'Disturbance of bird Habitat in breach of the Birdwatchers and Countryside Code.' {:))

    1. Hi Roy!
      You could say that, indeed some have. I think it is the better of two evils, not ideal, but preferred to a mass disturbance which would probably have moved the bird on prematurely to goodness knows what.


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