A day off work on Friday gave me the perfect excuse to go and track down another long staying local rarity. Yes I probably should have been doing chores instead but who can resist a Long-tailed Duck, especially one which has chosen to take up residence on a body of water small enough to make photography a distinct possibility. So it was that I found myself at a cold and blustery Sandy Water Park just after lunch, a good selection of waterfowl on offer but only one real target in mind. Reports from earlier had put the bird at the Pwll end of the lake so that was where I headed, eyes open all the way just in case it had migrated. In fact I was so confident that finding the bird entirely absent came as something of a surprise and I spent a good while checking and re-checking the female Pochard just in case I’d made a mistake. No such luck. Things hadn’t improved by the time I’d made it back to the car at which point I very nearly headed for home, only deciding on another loop at the last minute. What a good move that turned out to be!
Quite how I’d missed it the first time I’ll never know because there she was, regularly diving just off the floating pontoon but way too distant for even a record shot. Even so I moved down to the water’s edge and waited, breath held as every dive brought her that little bit closer. I think the photographs at this point speak for themselves.
It’s been a good few years since I’ve been this close to a Long-tailed Duck and I’m happy to report that in that time they’ve lost none of their character. Yes a male in full regalia is probably more likely to induce full on thigh rubbing but on a bitterly cold day in South Wales this was more than enough.
There were plenty of other species present too including good numbers of the previously mentioned Pochard as well as Tufted Duck, Gadwall and even a couple of Little Grebes skulking through the shadows. All remained a little distant so I make no excuses, not that any were needed, for spending a little time with the Greylag Geese. Not every birders cup of tea but I like them. Add sharp teeth and some dramatic music and I’m pretty sure this is where the inspiration for Jurassic Park came from. The Jackdaws were quite friendly as well.
From there I headed along the coast a couple of miles to the Millennium Coastal Park at Tywyn Bach. Being mid afternoon I had high hopes that dog walkers would be at a minimum increasing my chances of getting close to a few waders, and so it proved to be. Oystercatchers lined the shore for as far as the eye could see, interspersed every now and again with small flocks of Sanderling. More birds were joining all the time and with dramatic light overhead I tried to get a little arty before marvelling once more at just how quickly Sanderlings can run. Great to watch, a pain to photograph.
Over at the mound I picked out a couple of winter plumaged Great-crested Grebes before a surprise Red-breasted Merganser flew in and then out. Overhead a lone Curlew noisily announced its presence before I stumbled across a flock of roosting Ringed Plovers, at least thirty or so, spotted sadly too late to avoid disturbance. Sorry guys, not my intention at all. More Sanderling graced me with their presence as I retraced my steps before it was time to take one last, longing look pending the onslaught of another wet weekend.