My first February wander alongside the River Ely was in the late afternoon of Saturday the 3rd. It was quiet – were the birds all watching Wales thump Scotland in the 6 Nations rugby, I asked myself? A faint peep alerted me to a Rock pipit tootling along the embankment path towards me. It had been minding its own business, looking for a lunchtime snack, when it suddenly realised there was a stonking great human standing on the path in front of it … at which point it flew off to the relative safety of the water’s edge.
Shortly afterwards, I could see a roundish form that might’ve been a rock but was, in fact, a Turnstone, the only one seen that day. And, as well as those two birds, one Pied wagtail and two Grey wagtails were in residence. One of the Greys had an interesting plumage aberration, as you can see below.
I was away for a week mid February so my next visit to the embankment was on Tuesday 20 February. A strong cold wind was blowing small waves on to the stony shore and, initially, there were no birds to be seen. But, about half way along the embankment path, I spotted a huddle of seven Turnstones, looking sleepy, enjoying a little bit of warmth from a shaft of sunlight that had reached their roosting spot from between the nearby houses. And, a minute or two later, I noticed one further Turnstone who was already meandering along, turning stones as it searched for breakfast bugs. Two Grey wagtails, hardy creatures, were also dotting about.
The twenty-seventh of February was a bitterly cold day, as Britain was in the grip of a severe blast of polar weather, blown across Europe from Siberia, and even Cardiff had a few snow showers that day (quite unusual in recent years). Hopefully, the birds had found somewhere more sheltered than the embankment, as the stiff easterly was so cold that icicles were forming on branches that littered the shoreline and there was a slab of ice at least a foot wide coating the rocks along the water’s edge.
In spite of those bitter conditions, I spied one Grey wagtail, one Turnstone, a pair of Coots, and a solitary Redshank. It made me feel cold just looking at that lovely bird standing in the icy water!