There's a great shot of a Buff-bellied Pipit of the eastern race japonicus on the European Stop Press by Frank Steinkjella. http://surfbirds.com/cgi-bin/gallery...lery=gallery11http://surfbirds.com/cgi-bin/gallery...lery=gallery11
It compares nicely with the numerous birds seen in Ireland and the UK last autumn - see the many images in Stpo Press. The pale legs are particularly eye-catching, but note also the pale, almost white underparts (as opposed to the buffy wash on the American race rubescens), the white wing-bars, the slightly more restricted malar, and hint of more pronounced streaking above.
Cin-Ty Lee produced a great article on the ID of Buff-bellied Pipits on surfbirds – see http://www.surfbirds.com/ID%20Articles/Pipits1.html . This outlines the features for separation in much more detail.
In my opinion there is a really strong case for Buff-bellied Pipits being split as two species, American Anthus rubecens and Buff-bellied Pipit A. japonicus. Their voice is subtly but distinctly different and their plumages, especially in winter, are significantly different. In Alstrom and Mild (2003), Zink is quoted as stating that ‘significant differentiation in mitochondrial DNA restriction fragment profiles between Buff-bellied Pipits from eastern Siberia...and northwest Washington, USA, is “consistent with species-level distinctiveness” .‘ Under both the biological and phylogenetic species concepts it would seem that the rubecens complex and japonicus are distinct enough to be classed as separate species.
Anyone up for a twitch to get it on their European list? (Is it still there?)