On the morning of March 11, I visited Mae Hia Agricultural College hoping to photograph some more Richard’s Pipits which seemed to be showing well at the moment. As I arrived, I noticed a particular dry plot close to the main street where many pond herons were gathering. I drove up to see what’s happening and found that water was being pumped into the plot attracting many birds to come and feast on insects which were escaping the water. I parked my car and set up a hide next to the plot and waited quietly. After a few minutes, I noticed a lone Richard’s Pipit came walking along the far edge of the plot. A pair of Paddyfield Pipits also showed up close to the hide. After about an hour, more and more Richard’s Pipits started to show up and finally, in total I could photographed 6 different birds!
Richard’s Pipit (RP) 1-6 are numbered according to the order of appearance. RP1 was seen shortly after I set up the hide and stayed around until I left the area, while the others only came and went randomly. All of them had subtle differences in plumage, size and shape which enabled me to differentiate them. RP1-3 were noticeably smaller than RP4-6 with somewhat different shape and posture. More detail will be discussed later on.
Characteristics of RP1 including very pale face, extremely worn wing coverts, relatively thick and conical bill comparing to other individuals and small size (only very slightly larger than Paddyfield Pipit). The lores are pale, as well as the ear coverts which are much paler than any Paddyfield Pipits which were showing nearby. A new median covert feather is visible on each wing but with stronger buffish colouration on the left wing. Black malar stripes and breast streaking form a very clear ‘gorget’. Faint dark brown streaking can also be seen on the flanks. Dark streaking on the crown shows a sign of lateral crown stripe. Overall structure is quite short-necked, rounded oval shaped head, long tail and slightly heavy bellied.
A video clip of RP1 while preening
I took especially many photos of RP1 because I wasn’t sure of its identity while watching it. Because of its relatively small size, short necked appearance and conical bill, I wasn’t sure if could possibly be the much rarer Blyth’s Pipit. However, after checking the photos thoroughly, I think it is certain that the bird is indeed a Richard’s Pipit according to the not so clearcut dark median covert centres, very well defined long supercilium, long and relatively straight hind claws, and large white patch on the outer tail feathers.
A video clip of RP2 preening after a morning bath. I slowed down the speed of the video to allow more details while preening and fluffing the feathers.
RP2 also has overall worn plumage. It shows a thinner and less conical bill than RP1. Relatively thick lateral crown stripes are also visible, as well as a clear ‘gorget’. The hind claws are straight but not very long. The size is about the same as RP1, which is not so different from Paddyfield Pipit. Overall structure is basically the same as RP1 but slightly more slender built.
The last individual for this post, RP3, has the most fresh plumage comparing to the other 2 individuals. It has very well marked black streaking on the crown, breast, face and neck sides.The bill is marginally thinner and more pointed than in RP1 but overall structure is very similar, which is short-necked appearance, rounded head and quite heavy bellied.
All of the first 3 individuals that I found basically had the same size as Paddyfield Pipits that were feeding nearby. I assumed that these are the subspecies ‘A. r. sinensis’ which is described to be smaller than the nominate race ‘A. r. richardi’. The latter 3 individuals that showed up later on had a noticeably larger size and slightly different structure. I will write and post photos of the latter 3 individuals on the next post.