Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Mystery lark?

This mystery lark was photographed in north-east France recently by Christian Dronneau - opinions welcome.
Christian Dronneau contacted me via the WestPalBirds Yahoo group to solicit opinions on this lark, which was photographed in north-east France on 28 December 2010. Unfortunately it's not possible to share the image directly on the group, so as group owner I'm posting it here on his behalf - I can't promise to do this for all mystery birds, but this one could make an interesting topic for discussion.

Any ideas? If so, please post a comment here, and in due course replies will be cross-posted back to WestPalBirds.


  1. Dominic,

    When I first saw this I thought Short-Toed with an unusual bill growth.
    Then I considered Dunn's and Calandra.
    And finally saw the optical illusion in capture.
    The bill area is the key here.
    It looks like a very thick bill. But it is an illusion.
    Like the Magic Eye pictures, one has to look until you really see it.
    This is a normal billed Skylark, with some illusion under the bill to create the effect of a massive bill. IMHO.
    Also. I don't think the plumage is "washed-out". I believe it is an effect of capture.
    The more I look at it the more I see a Skylark.
    My opinion only! ;)

  2. Great blog! Your photography is astounding however I can't guess at your mystery bird. You would be invited to contribute to World Bird Wednesday a place for bird bloggers to share their experiences. Check it out at http://pineriverreview.blogspot.com/

  3. What a timely post! An Aythya hybrid has just been photographed somewhere in Morocco and posted here (http://gomac.megaplog.com/index.php?id=3840&). The Moroccan bird resembles very much the classical hybrid types (like the ones in Collins Bird Guide (1st ed), but have a very yellow eye. Mohamed

  4. Fantastic work with the gull photos Dominic.
    Bumped into this when looking at the gull.
    Hard to judge size but given this view I'd definitely be expecting it to be a Short-toed. To me the mantle pattern, overall colour and bill size rule out Skylark. The back end is blurred but I think a primary extension would show if it were there.
    There are odd January records in the UK

  5. Great work on the gull photos Dominic!
    Was looking at the gull when I bumped into this Lark. It's hard to judge scale, but if I bumped into this in the field I'd definitely be thinking Short-toed Lark. For my money the overall sandy colouration, lacking bold streaking on the mantle, and the bill shape rule out Skylark. The back end is blurred but I don't think there's going to be a primary extension there.
    There are January records from the UK

  6. Hi,
    I agree with Black and Red. I think the bird is a Skylark.The neck side and flank streaking would seem to rule out Greater Short toed Lark as would the apparent primary projection.To my mind this would leave just Lesser Short toed Lark and Skylark as the likely candidates. Like Black and Red I think the thick bill shape is an illusion caused by the shadow under the bill and if you look closley the bird appears to have a long thinish bill very like skylark.

    Skylark for me....



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