Seeing Scandinavian Rock Pipits at Flamborough

Littoralis on Scandinavian breeding grounds

Littoralis on Scandinavian breeding grounds

Characteristics
Two different subspecies of Rock Pipit occur at Flamborough. In Bridlington harbour, the local ‘Rockits’ can feed at your feet all year, while the south cliffs of the Great White Cape supports a small breeding population. Each autumn and winter a migrant wave of ‘Scandinavian Rock Pipits’ subspecies littoralis arrives from near and far parts of Scandinavia.

Virtually indistinguishable in autumn, spring sees some of them sporting various combinations of bright white supercilia and beautiful pastel tinges of pink on the underparts and blues around the head, some with much less streaking below. Extensive pale throat and weak malar lines also help with the ID. The best are arguably smarter than a summer Water Pipit (and easily mistaken as such)!

Rock Pipit (littoralis), Flamborough, 7th March 2014

Rock Pipit (littoralis), Flamborough, 7th March 2014 (Brett Richards)

Recent Sightings
Scandinavian Rock Pipits have recently been seen and are worth looking for on the beach at South Dykes, on the beach at South Landing, and on the first fields just east of the car park at North Landing (follow the cliff top footpath).

Visible Migration
Rock Pipits are also currently being picked up in small numbers on visible migration, and littoralis will be among their number, making their amazing North Sea crossings and heading to their northern European breeding grounds.

Contributed by Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers