Little Bunting and Lesser Scaup in Cardiff – 8th Feb

In my newly leisured situation any sunny winter weather forecast is very attractive, and the prospect of a two-lifer trip to South Wales today was a suitable draw. Little Bunting is a taiga-breeding winter visitor that was absent from my British list, so one frequenting a LNR (local nature reserve) feeding station in Cardiff sounded like an easy spot. If this bird was seen quickly there would be plenty of time to look for a wintering Lesser Scaup in Cardiff Bay, and lay that particular bogey to rest having dipped on the species twice previously.

The Glamorganshire Canal LNR in the north-west suburbs of Cardiff is pretty much a public park. The outward journey was 110 miles. After stopping at the first entrance I came to it was unclear how to locate the exact place cited on RBA where the Little Bunting had been performing for the last few days. Through various and conflicting directions I eventually found the hide in question at a time when relatively few birders were inside. This was at the end of Forest Farm Road past some rugby pitches, or a walk through the reserve always bearing left.

Little Bunting

Little Bunting

Shortly after my arrival the Little Bunting flew in very close, seed having been put down for it. Reasonable images (above and below) were not difficult to obtain at that range, though always looking into the sun. Resident Reed Bunting were present for comparison and the visitor was clearly smaller with chestnut cheeks, pale eye ring and noticeable wing bars. Gaining this important life list addition seemed a bit too easy really, but preferable to going to the Outer Hebrides or Scillies to see one which was the point of being here. The early afternoon was becoming pleasantly mild and when the hide began to fill up again I moved on.

Little Bunting

Little Bunting

I envisaged the Lesser Scaup as likely to be a dot on the far side of an expanse of water. But when I relocated to Cardiff Bay Wetlands NR, local birders said the north American vagrant was showing well from a boardwalk. That location was at the far end of the reserve from a public car park between the Techniquest Museum and St David’s Hotel. I was told to locate the Scaup amongst the Tufted Duck, but there were a lot of the latter to scan. So having invested in just one hour’s parking time, I first took the easy option of asking another birder to put me on this adult drake. Then at my leisure I relocated it several times myself, and obtained a record shot of more usual quality (below).

Lesser Scaup (left)

Lesser Scaup (left)

When in view the Lesser Scaup stood out clearly from the Tufties with which it was associating due to its compact appearance and grey back. Most importantly the distinctive head shape was plain to see. This individual has apparently wintered here for a number of years. It was now 2pm and the afternoon had become positively spring like. The reserve itself (pictured below) was a pleasant oasis in what is a vibrant built-up area. I could only imagine the days when more of the waterfront here must have been in the same natural state.

The Lesser Scaup location

The Lesser Scaup location

My two lifers had been gained and after an uninspiring motorway journey out I took a “scenic route” home via Chepstow and Gloucester. The words warm, twitch, successful and glow were rearranged in my mind as I went and the feeling savoured. This had been an outstanding day.

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