Emma and I have had a running joke for the last few years which involves a list of so called mythical birds which we maintained just did not exist. Celebrities such as Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Smew and Curlew Sandpiper have all graced the list in the past, often down to our inability to connect with them despite visiting sure fire sites on a number of occasions. Over the last two years we have slowly been whittling the offenders down partly due to luck and partly due to increased experience and field craft. One offender though has earned its title of “mythical” like no other and goes by the name of Yellow Wagtail. I have lost count of the number of times I have traipsed through the sand dunes to Sker Point with the knowledge that a flock of them had been seen there a few hours earlier, only to come back with nothing more than a crick in the neck from scanning through empty fields. Even visits to other popular haunts drew a blank.
I mention this history not to reinforce the impression that we might be slightly mad but to set the scene for the events that took place this afternoon. Sightings of Yellow Wagtails had again started to filter in from Kenfig NNR where several birds had been seen regularly across the last week. With a couple of hours to kill this afternoon I thought I might as well have another attempt, if only to reinforce their status on our list. The weather was fantastic and it wasn’t long before we were next to Kenfig pool, eagerly examining every Pied Wagtail that passed by. At the old boat house conditions looked perfect for the appearance of a Yellow one with cattle grazing along the waters edge and suitable feeding habitat everywhere. As if on cue, and presumably as a result of some glitch in the space time continuum, a Yellow Wagtail chose that exact moment to emerge out of the reeds and land on the partially submerged fence nearby. I could scarcely believe my eyes. A few moments later and it was flying right towards us, hunting flies on the wing and showing off its yellow underside and olive-green upper brilliantly. It then landed back on the fence, gave us one last good look and then shot off along the shore where it was lost from view.
Without a doubt that encounter was one of my top wildlife moments of the year, if not the past several, but I can’t help also feeling a slight twinge of disappointment. In truth I had kind of enjoyed having Yellow Wagtail at the top of our mythical list and the various adventures we’d had in trying to track one down. The challenge of getting a photograph of one definitely still remains though as this wordy entry will surely testify to.
Before I go I will briefly mention the numerous Linnets that were using the shallows around the pool both to hunt flies and to simply cool down.
The individual above looked to be in a trance as it was sat motionless in the water. I can certainly sympathise as out of the breeze today it was baking hot and I was very tempted to hop right in myself.