Niall, deefstes, I still need a lot of time in the field to get to grips with these LBJs. But I can't make a FCLark or MonLark of the Pilanesberg bird. Can someone explain why it can't be a Flappet Lark, probably a youngish one because of the funny bill colour and because the plumage isn't as neat as in this photo HERE.
This is interesting!
Joel (and others), birding is a funny thing. You think you have a good amount of field experience and then a bird like this comes along that completely goois you. And, as everyone can see, the pictures are superb, there's nothing wrong with the pics.
I think the problem is, when you see a bird in the field you get a very good feel for its behaviour, its gait, its demeanor and all the things that is usually described by the word "giss". On the other hand, when you look at a picture like this (or two as is the case here), you often fall into a mental groove and you can go back to the pictures as much as you like, you will still only see exactly the same things you saw in it before.
If you had shown me these pictures on another day I may have immediately thought Fawn-coloured Lark and not be easily persuaded otherwise. Moreover, you can show these pics to Etienne Marais or Mostert Kriek and they will identify it for you within mere moments.
What I'm saying is that, despite having seen a fair number of Monotonous Larks, slightly more Melodious Larks and countless Fawn-coloured Larks, I just can't be sure what this bird is.
The reason I'm not considering Flappet Lark is not because of a list of specific morphological features but again, mostly just based on the "giss". (I've started to think that "giss" is just the cop-out answer by many birders who are too lazy to describe the real features
One thing about Flappet Lark though is that the undersides are usually very buff (or rufous or what you want to call it) while this bird has only slightly tinted underparts. That said, this bird has darker underparts than I would have expected from Fawn-coloured Lark.
The other thing where this bird doesn't match Flappet Lark is the colour of the mantle which is mostly grey on Flappet Lark. For the most part it's just the "feel" that I get of this bird which just doesn't fit with Flappet though.
I've had a look at the Pilanesberg pics again and while I'm still far from confident I think I will stick with Monotonous Lark. The throat doesn't seem right for it and just the fact that it was just sitting there in the tree and not bawling its little lungs out also seems very unusual but the shape of the bill really bothers me.
Niall, you saw the bird in the field and I would posit that no-one here can make a better call on the bird than you. I've birded with Niall and he is every bit as clued up as I am on LBJ's so he's probably just being very cautious here. But if you feel that it's a Fawn-coloured Lark then it may well turn out to be one.