I took the following photo at the same spot where I photographed the Pipit.
Hmm, that doesn't look like bad habitat for Long-billed Pipit but perhaps even better still for Striped Pipit, of course both of which are ruled out in your instance based on the unstreaked mantle (and undersides).
Personally I don't set all that much store by the colour of the base of lower mandible when ID'ing Pipits. I know that it is a documented feature but I have encountered too many anomalies and I've heard Pipit experts say the same thing.
Don’t tell me that!! Eish…how will I then ever tell them apart?!?
The first time I looked at the Pipit section in my guide I thought they did me in….3 pages full of the same bird!
Good one. I don't want to come across as saying that you should disregard that feature altogether but just be cognizant of the fact that the colour of the lower mandible base can at times be influenced by the angle of sunlight and a number of other factors. Here's what Faansie Peacock has to say on the matter.
Faansie Peacock wrote:
Traditionally one of the important characters used to tell Buffy and Plain-backed Pipits apart is the colour of the base of the lower mandible. In Buffy Pipits this appears pink while in Plain-backed Pipits the colour is yellowish. However, this feature is usually almost impossible to see in the field and is probably also influenced by e.g. blood circulation and ambient temperature.
Faansie Peacock wrote:
A handy field tip is that the yellow colour of Plain-backed Pipits' bills tends to contrast more with the rest of the bill, so if the bill appears rather uniform it is likely that it actually has a pink base. However, ID should not be based solely on this!
Now this is a good tip…I have six photos of the birds and in all the photos the breast do appear “puffed” up…BUT….the photos were taken early morning and it was quite chilly…..the bird might have also been puffed up due to the cold?
Your bird doesn't look particularly puffed up though. When birds puff their feathers they typically have a "softer" appearance if that makes any sense. It's as if the feathers look a bit more "downy". Not sure if I'm making any sense here.
But seeing as you have 6 pics, why don't you post all of them. In fact, I'd like to encourage other posters who are posting pics of Pipits (or any other bird for that matter) to post as many pics as possible (and reasonable, I guess
). Especially with Pipits, it definitely helps to have more pictures as one might just show something that the others don't and combined the six different images often give a better feel for the bird's giss.
Having said all that, I have to add that I've had a closer look at your bird and I'm becoming more convinced that it is indeed a Buffy Pipit.
I have learned something here tho….for me to ID these type of birds in the field will not be possible…I’m far away from having that skill.
Rubbish! It might take you another while but you will get there. If you can bare in mind that even the best birders struggle with Pipits and if you can accept that some Pipits you'll just have to let go unidentified, but keep trying next time you see a Pipit, you WILL eventually develop a feel for them.
I had two stark reminders of this on BBD and on one of our BBD recces (both times in Polokwane NR). On BBD we saw a Pipit which offered this classical Buffy vs. Plain-backed challenge. I was in the car with three other birders for whom I have a world of admiration and between the four of us we just could not decide on the ID. It took us quite a while to agree on the ID of Buffy Pipit.
During one of the recces we saw another Pipit which had the most unusual streaking but was just too big for a Bushveld Pipit. We had a strong suspicion that it could be a Tree Pipit (!!!) but just could not conclusively decide that it was indeed a Tree Pipit. We ultimately had to let the bird go unidentified (to my tremendous frustration) and in retrospect I think there may be a very good chance that it actually was a very young African Pipit.
I think however that in future, apart from just taking photos, I should also take a small piece of video where I can afterwards look at the behaviour and possibly listen to its call.
True, this might help. Just remember that video clips are often not of very good quality and while it certainly will help to see the bird's behaviour and possibly pick up the call, it might not show the salient features (like the colour of the base of the lower mandible). Ideally, I'd think you'd want to have pictures AND video.
Just as an aside, while I'm a big proponent of using bird call to assist in the ID, I should perhaps add that with Buffy and Plain-backed Pipits it is not typically a tool that I often use. This is not because their calls are indistinguishable but more so because they are just not very vocal birds. Regardless though, if you get a video clip that captures the call you'll nail the ID in no time.
As JoelR correctly points out, Pipits certainly are a fair bit easier when you see them in the field (as compared to photographs). With Buffy and Plain-backed for instance I think the tail wagging is probably the strongest feature on which they can be separated. I'm not necessarily referring to the amount
of tail wagging but rather the type
of tail wagging. Plain-backed Pipit tend to just dip the tail (almost wagtail like) while Buffy Pipit tend to dip the entire rear side of the body, they certainly have a more pronounced way of wagging the tail.
Of course this is not always the case with all birds (there's always a catch isn't there
) and some Buffy Pipits don't necessarily dip their tail so pronounced but when you see a Pipit with that very pronounced dipping of the tail you will know that it can't be anything other than a Buffy Pipit.