‘He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and singing his song’
~ lyrics by Jimmie Thomas
Today’s seven-mile walk was through thick grey drizzle-like mist and, except for the raucous gulls at the edge of Cosmeston’s east lake (where everyone feeds the birds), the land was hushed and still. Not wanting to get my gear wet, I only got my camera out of my backpack once, for a few shots of this handsome Great crested grebe.
This Black swan was a nice surprise during my ramble around Barry today. Though it wasn’t ringed, it may well have been an escapee from a wildfowl collection somewhere, which is the case with almost all British Black swans. As far as I’m aware, these now-wild birds have not yet established a self-sustaining local population so are not yet considered official British birds … but they must be close to reaching that level.
Back in August 2016, I wrote a longer blog post on Black swans, using photos I’d taken in New Zealand, where there is a large wild population. You can see that blog here.
It’s just over a year since I saw my first ever Siberian chiffchaff. These Siberian birds are a subspecies of the Common chiffchaff we all see during the summer months but, as their name suggests, these scarce but regular winter visitors to Britain spend their summers and breed in Siberia.
Two Siberian chiffchaffs were found in Cardiff Bay yesterday so, of course, I had to go and see for myself today. I only saw one of them, though both birds have been seen today – this one seems the dominant bird and chased the second bird away when that bird ventured within its territory.
As you might expect of a bird that comes from Siberia, it was quite confiding, as it may not have seen many humans before arriving in Cardiff. Hanging out in the small garden area in front of a Cardiff Bay pub has probably been a bit of a shock to the wee creature!
On yet another very frosty morning, I met a friend to explore a woodland near Caerphilly called Coed y Werin, which I hadn’t been to before. And it was a delightful place, full of grand old trees, small streams and an iced-over pond.
And we saw Siskin, birds that seldom venture into my coastal patch, though these were very high up, nibbling at the cones in the tall larch trees, so my photos are heavily cropped. But hopefully you can see the birds today – not like yesterday’s Snipe challenge.
It was frosty white again this morning so, in the hope that the chilly temperatures might have lured the resident Snipe out of their hiding places in the reed beds, I headed to Forest Farm Nature Reserve for a meander. And I was lucky – though they were very distant, I managed to spot three Snipe. Full marks if you can actually see them in this photo.
Of course, the cold temps also meant the birds were hungry and frantic to be fed. I took plenty of seed with me but many of the good folk who walk this reserve regularly had already covered fence post tops and feeding tables with food of various types. This Nuthatch was stocking up, taking away several seeds and nuts at a time to stash in nooks and crannies in nearby trees.
Jays were also busy stashing. Birders were spraying the grass in front of the bird hide with peanuts, which at least two Jays were gathering and carting away to their local hiding places. Best to be prepared in case this chilly spell continues.
What a difference a month makes! Well, actually, not quite a month – my first photo below was taken on 21 December, the other two today, 15 January.
Two juvenile drake Greater scaup (Aythya marila) have been over-wintering in my local area, some days on the lakes at Cosmeston, some days in Cardiff Bay, either at the wetlands reserve or on the opposite side of the bay, near Ferry Court, always in the company of the flocks of Tufted ducks.
When they were first sighted, it was difficult to tell them apart from the female Tufties, so brown were they in appearance. But, as you can see in these photos, they are gradually acquiring more grey feathers on their backs and white on their lower bodies.
In February and March, scaup begin to migrate to the Arctic in preparation for breeding, though, according to my bird guide, some immature birds remain in their wintering grounds over the summer months. It will be interesting to see what these two decide to do.
During my early morning walk my little Redshank friend Peter (the bird ringed at Peterstone in 2016, hence my name for him) was on the foreshore where the River Ely flows into Cardiff Bay.
And he wasn’t alone – his companions included 5 other Redshanks, 21 Turnstones (a large number for this site), 1 Pied and 5 Grey wagtails, 7 Great crested grebes, 2 Mute swans, 7 Mallards, 5 Goosanders, and the usual large numbers of Coots and gulls.
Were there so many birds because they were all sheltering from Storm Brendan’s wild winds or is it simply that I need to walk early more often?
Today’s was just a quick showery stomp to Cosmeston and back, for the refreshing air and to keep my mileage up (I’m aiming to walk 1500 miles this year). It wasn’t the weather for photography, too damp and dim, but I couldn’t resist this cheery Robin redbreast singing its merry tune.
For the past four years, each time in early January, I have been lucky to sight a Tawny owl – the same bird? – perched, snoozing, on this nest box in a local park. It gets screeched at by Jays and its box gets invaded by Grey squirrels during the warmer months so I don’t think it actually raises its young in this place, but rather uses it as a place to sleep during the short winter days. And, for that, I am extremely grateful, as the sight of this gorgeous creature brings me much joy.