There are a few species of birds that have yet to make it onto my UK life list that I really think ought be there. One of these is the Wryneck, an autumn migrant that occasionally pops up around the Welsh coast and has probably the most cryptic plumage of any of our feathered friends. Last week a particularly accommodating individual was found at the Newport Wetlands reserve and to my delight it was still around come the weekend. As a result a very wet Sunday morning found us driving along the M4 heading east, probably with far too much enthusiasm considering the conditions.
Upon arrival we headed over to the Wryneck’s last known position and started the search. A couple of other birders were also present but it wasn’t looking promising as the latest band of rain was driven in from the Bristol Channel. After about half an hour a friendly gentleman informed us that he had last seen the bird flying out towards the coast and hadn’t had any further sightings. Not too disheartened we decided to walk around the rest of the reserve in the hope of stumbling across it. The Wryneck was soon forgotten however with a Whinchat, Stonechats, Reed Buntings and even a pair of Bearded Tits more than making the trip worthwhile. It was only as we were walking back towards our original location that our primary purpose came flooding back to me. I suddenly became aware of a flapping bird on the path just in front of me and looked down to see the Wryneck staring back at me. I had very nearly stepped on it! Needless to say it was less than impressed and shot off into the edge of some nearby reeds where I snatched a record shot.
It only sat still for a minute or so before flying further back into the reeds where it was lost from sight. By now we had attracted the attention of the other birders and were all busy watching the area of reeds that the Wryneck had disappeared into, hopeful that it would show itself again. You can therefore probably imagine our surprise when a lady beckoned us further down the path to one of the screens that serves as a bird hide. Sat on the end post was none other than our Wryneck. Somehow it had given us the slip and had probably been laughing at us looking in the wrong direction.
The views were beyond spectacular and have to rank as some of the best I’ve ever had whilst getting a new life tick. Even when it was disturbed the Wryneck didn’t move far and seemed intent to feed along the edges of one of the main footpaths. This presented a stream of photographic opportunities that even the damp and dull weather couldn’t spoil.
In the end we had to leave the Wryneck to its feeding before I ended up with more photos than I cared to process. A great encounter to round off a great weekend.