While sitting watching some water birds at Cardiff Bay the other day, I heard the familiar call of a wagtail and turned to see two Pied wagtails bobbing about on the gravel path behind me but then was delighted to also see that they had a friend with them, a lovely little Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis). I had seen a pair of Meadow pipits nearby the previous week but not been able to get close enough for good photos. This time I was in luck, probably because I was sitting down so there was no movement to catch its eye. I was able to slowly pivot round far enough to catch a few shots of the bird foraging for insects in the short grass.
The Meadow pipit looks a bit like a song thrush but is smaller, about the same size as the wagtails this one was feeding near. Once very common, their numbers have been in decline over the last 40 years so they have now been added to the amber list, reflecting an increasing level of concern for their conservation. They tend to nest in moorland and heathland, habitats that have declined significantly in extent in recent years, which is likely to be the most significant factor in their decline.
The Meadow pipit has long been associated with the Cuckoo, which often lays its eggs in the nests of these little pipits, and the association is reflected in the Meadow pipit’s many common names. In Hampshire it’s known as the Butty lark – Butty meaning friend or companion; in Durham it’s the Cuckoo’s sandie and the Cuckoo’s titling; and in the Welsh language it’s Gwas y gog which translates as ‘servant of the cuckoo’.