Have fun with this scenario. Pete Kinsella, one of the faithful birders at Seaforth, Liverpool, emailed a couple of days ago with a pic of a flava type wagtail. It had a raspy call and I agreed with Pete: looks like a “Citrine Wagtail with weak wing bars” was my first reaction. I encouraged him to try to record the call as well. Some esp. 1st winter Black-headed Wagtails (feldegg) can have pale ear covert surrounds (as here)- but they don’t really look like his bird (which has very Citrine-like head). He went back the next day (yesterday) to try to see it and found a much easier 1st winter Citrine. That’s’ kind of why birding is so much fun. you just never know…
Here’s his pucka ‘easy’ 1st winter Citrine Wagtail (28.8.11):
and below- bird one (26.8.11.). What do you think? Looks most like a Citrine Wagtail to me, but the wing bars are so weak (and there is the interesting bird from the Netherlands in the blog post below). Another example in which I think recording the call can provide very valuable extra data.
Here’s Pete’s story:
A tale of two Wagtails
“For a few days prior to 26th August 2011 there had been a good passage of Wagtails through Seaforth NR, Merseyside. Perhaps as many as 50 Yellow Wagtails, unusual in recent years, had been seen along with many Pieds and a few White Wagtails. The presence of the White Wags made me think that some of the “Yellows” might be continental birds and I made every effort to check as many as possible for any “goodies”.
On the evening of the 26th I located a Flava-type Wagtail in flight calling, the thing was it sounded like a Citrine! Thankfully the bird dropped down just in front of me and initially I thought my ID was correct as it had a clear pale surround to it ear-coverts and white undertail coverts. However its wing-bars were too thin and weak looking for Citrine although it did have a broadly white edged inner tertial which ticked a Citrine box. I was in a quandary however , but managed to get one reasonable record shot before the bird flew off.
It was seen again the next day by another Seaforth regular who was also impressed by the head pattern but not the wing bars.
On the morning of the 28th August I again found the bird in its original location but soon lost it. I did however hear it call and confirmed my initial thoughts that it did sound like a Citrine. A few other regulars came down and just before lunchtime Gav Thomas heard a Citrine call amongst a number of Wagtails on a newly rain flooded area of the reserve. Amazingly when we saw it on the ground it was a different bird, a pristine 1st winter Citrine!
It was a textbook bird showing the broad white wing-bars and tertial fringes and the obligatory pale ear-covert surround. Interestingly though this latter feature wasn`t as pronounced as on the other bird, although still stood out. After a bit of a run around , the bird settled on the scrape alongside the main hide and was watched and well photographed during the afternoon.
Could the first bird have been a hybrid Citrine x Flava or a poorly marked Citrine or an “Eastern” type Yellow Wagtail? Surely the call must show that it has some Citrine type genes in it, as does the head pattern, but I still can`t resolve the thin wing-bars .The last few days however have been a superb learning curve, proving the value of checking through migrant Wagtail flocks.”
Pete Kinsella, Crosby, Liverpool.
and 2 more photos of the ‘easy bird’: All photos © Pete Kinsella