Recently my wife and I went to a violin & piano concert featuring Vaughan Williams “Lark Ascending”. In his introduction to the piece, the violinist said he had researched the (British) Lark, and decided it was a “boring little bird”. A few days later, I saw something very similar to Vaughan Williams’ Lark strolling down a Waverton footpath. It wasn’t a Lark, though. It was an Australian Pipit (Anthus australis).
The Pipit saw that I was following behind it, and quickened its pace.
Then it stopped to see if I was still following:
I was, so it decided I was getting too close, and turned towards the nearby grass.
Immediately it reached the grass, the advantage of being a boring-looking bird became apparent.
In the previous and next photographs, the Pipit is in focus, but in the latter one you can see its eye half-way up and about 1/6th across from the left. From there, you can just make out the wings, below and to the right of the eye. The protective coloration was working a treat, so well I didn’t attempt to follow the Pipit any further.
The Australian Pipit looks enough like a Lark for the Australian Bird Guide (P. Menkhorst) to have a little section showing the different birds next to each other. In spite of their similar appearances, however, Pipits and Larks aren’t closely related. Pipits belong to the same family as Pied Wagtails, and are part of a superfamily called Passeroidea which includes sparrows and weaver birds. Larks are in a different superfamily, Sylvioidea, along with swallows, warblers and white-eyes.
Coincidentally, I recently came across the following anecdote in the 1814 British Naval Chronicle. Only here the bird in question is not a Pipit, but the very similar-looking European Skylark. If nothing else, it shows the problem a Lark encounters when it’s too far out to sea for its camouflage to work.