The Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) is an uncommon visitor to south Wales – the RSPB website recommends looking for them ‘from seawatching points around the coast in winter, particularly in northern Scotland, Shetland and Orkney’ – but this one has been over-wintering in Cardiff Bay with a raft of 8 Greater scaup (Aythya marila), and I finally got to see it a few days ago. (I had tried a couple of times previously but on those occasions the Scaup had Coots and the odd Great crested grebe accompanying them.)
The Long-tailed duck is a smallish sea duck that dives for the small fish, crabs and bivalve molluscs that make up its diet. It doesn’t breed in Britain but heads north to the Arctic regions, to Iceland and areas in northern Europe and northern America, so I guess this little guy (only the males have the really long tails) will be heading off soon to find a mate.
I didn’t hear this particular duck make any sound but apparently their call sounds something like a yodel and that is reflected in the names it’s known by in the northern isles of Shetland and Orkney: calaw, caloo and coal-and-candlelight are all derived from the sounds the duck makes. I think I would’ve been rather surprised to hear a duck yodel but I certainly feel privileged to have been able to sit and enjoy watching it.