Three weeks ago, we enjoyed Linnets bathing. Today, we have one of a small flock stripping seeds from wildflowers, munching happily with its efficiently designed, seed-cracking beak.
I know cleanliness is really essential for birds to keep their feathers in good condition but, watching these Linnets enjoying their bathing on the edge of Cardiff Bay, I think there was also a huge element of fun involved.
With rain forecast for the following few days, I was determined to enjoy my meander along the coast, and it was certainly not difficult to do. So many Swallows, perhaps thousands, were swooping low over the fields, feeding up before heading out across the water, that I spent rather a lot of time just standing, watching, smiling at the sight of them.
There were Linnets too – one flock held more than 200 birds, and a smattering of Meadow pipits and Skylarks, though it wasn’t until I got back to town that I had wonderfully close views of one particular Skylark.
It was rather incongruously poking about a large grassed area on top of the seaside cliffs, optimistically labelled a ‘park’ by the local council, which is usually devoid of anything but human and canine life. What a splendid bird!
Finally, we’ve had a rain-less day and, though there was a bitterly cold wind blasting across Cardiff Bay, I had to take advantage of the dry weather so walked an 8-mile circuit right round the Bay. The first highlight was my first two Wheatears of the year, a bit distant, and only popping up very briefly from amongst the huge Barrage boulders, but it was lovely to welcome them back for the summer.
The Bay was buzzing with Sand martins – I must’ve seen at least 20, perhaps more, at various times during my wander, and it was a joy to watch their aerial antics.
Though it’s now several weeks since the big floods pushed a ton of rubbish into the Bay, the huge accumulations have still not been cleared. In fact, most of the rubbish slicks have seen no clearance action taken at all. The ONLY positive thing about this is that the Goldfinches and Linnets seem to be finding plenty of food amongst the garbage.
I simply had to include this male House sparrow, as today is World Sparrow Day.
This lovely female Stonechat was dotting back and forth across the footpath through the wetlands reserve, and let me get quite close for photos. There was no sign of the male today though.
Normal weather service (i.e. wind and rain) has resumed here today but yesterday, Christmas Day, was glorious – blue skies, cold but no wind, so I took myself on a 6-hour 8½-mile walk right around Cardiff Bay. I saw 44 species of bird (and dished out some Christmas seed to a few), and had some nice chats to random strangers. The birding highlights included …
Grey wagtails and my favourite little Turnstones on the Ely embankment
Seven Linnets in a tree
A Moorhen and a Little grebe at Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve
The day’s surprise, a Great spotted woodpecker in trees, also at the wetlands reserve
Two Cetti’s warblers seen (and more heard), plus a lovely male Stonechat
A Common gull puddling for worms with the Black-headed gulls in Hamadryad Park
What a wonderful long walk I had around Cardiff Bay today! Here are some of the birds I spotted along the way.
There were nine Goosanders in total, four in the River Ely where it flows in to the Bay and another five further east, in the Bay proper.
My favourite little Turnstones, again four along the Ely embankment and more near Mermaid Quay.
Linnets, a small flock of six flitting about the grassy slopes of the Barrage.
Pied wagtails – I lost count of these cheery little characters who appeared wherever I wandered.
One of several Great crested grebes that live in the Bay, constantly diving for fish.
I was getting ‘the look’ from this Black-headed gull, in the pond at the wetlands reserve, for not supplying food!
This Coot was also hoping for food.
This Chiffchaff was a surprise – it’s either very late migrating or has decided to over-winter in Britain, as some now do. Interestingly, I saw a Chiffchaff yesterday too, in a different location.
The best possible end to my walk – a Kingfisher peep-peep-peeped in to the pool near Hamadryad Park and perched on a branch over the water.
These are just a few of the Goldfinches that have managed to escape the talons of the Sparrowhawk I featured yesterday (and other hungry birds of prey). This seems to be a particularly good year for these little birds, as small flocks of them have been everywhere in recent weeks, in local parks and reserves, flying along Penarth’s cliff tops, in the neighbour’s garden over the back lane, even in the tree outside my living room window.
Although it’s not the sharpest of shots, I particularly like this photo of the Goldfinch flying with a flock of Linnets as it shows its distinctive yellow wing-bars so well.
The juveniles take a while to get their full bright red and yellow colours so look a little scruffy for a time … but very cute with it!
Until the farmer decided to plough them last week, the fields alongside the coastal path between Penarth and Lavernock were alive with birds, hundreds, perhaps thousands of Linnets and Goldfinches.
For those fascinated by birds, it was a feast for the eyes but for the local birds of prey, it was just a feast … or, at least, this Sparrowhawk was fervently hoping it would be a feast.
However, although I watched it for over an hour one day, flap-flap-flap-gliding effortlessly overhead and then swooping very low and very fast over the fields, I never saw it actually catch anything.
It seems the Sparrowhawk mostly went hungry and most of the little finches lived to fly another day.
I seem to be seeing Linnets everywhere at the moment.
There have been little flocks of four, six and ten browsing for seeds amongst the wildflowers that grow on the stones of the Ely River embankment in Cardiff Bay.
And then there have been much bigger flocks of 50 to 100 birds (sometimes joined by Goldfinches) grazing in the maize fields along the edge of the coastal path between Penarth and Lavernock.
And, when those Linnets feel threatened by a predator (like the bird of prey in the top left of the second photo below), they very quickly join together to form enormous flocks of at least 500 birds that whirl and swirl to try to confuse the hunter. I’ve seen this incredible phenomenon twice recently and it is truly amazing to watch and to hear all those birds tweeting and twittering at once.
I went for a wander along the Ely embankment yesterday and was delighted to discover a family of five Linnets, two adults and three exceedingly cute juveniles, all feeding on Herb Robert seeds. They started off with Mum and Dad feeding the youngsters but the kids soon got impatient and wanted more food more quickly.
Mum or Dad has just plucked one of the Herb Robert seed pods while …
… youngster is watching to see how this food-gathering process works.
“Now if I can just reach …”
“Now I’ve got the idea, I can help myself.”
Youngster looking rather pleased with itself.