• Claire Stott

Walk on water

After a couple of glorious warm days in February the weather has very much taken a turn for the worse, battering us with torrential winds and rain. Thankfully this morning there was a brief lull and few hours of pleasant sunshine to soak up before the moody grey clouds rolled in once more…

The recent strong winds had blown many small branches and twigs from nearby trees, with large piles swept up on the harbour banks during the morning’s high spring tide. Lots of smaller pieces were still scattered over the water, swirling around in the ebb and flow of the currents.

Whilst most of the debris was simply small twigs, leaves and other natural items , there were also the inevitable pieces of litter and plastic bags. Thankfully this one washed up on the bank, and after a brief inspection by this curious jackdaw, I was able to retrieve it and dispose of it properly.

Hiding within the damp, rotting piles of vegetation are numerous tiny creatures; insects, invertebrates and their larvae, a valuable food source for many of the harbour residents, including the striking pied wagtails.

A grey female made a brief appearance before she was chased away by a black and white male who was not willing to share his territory. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to capture their encounter.

Having dealt with this intruder this male then began to sing from his watery stage, his calls echoing out over the water and warning any other wagtails within earshot to stay away.

With his territory reclaimed the male then resumed his foraging, delicately stepping between the floating twigs, picking off tiny gnats and other insects as he went.

Here he has found what looks like some sort of insect grub/larvae.

Being so light and agile these birds are in little danger of sinking whilst navigating the flotsam, fluttering between the larger expanses of open water to the next floating platform.

As the tide retreated the wagtail gradually worked it’s way towards the shoreline, wading through the shallow water on it’s delicate legs.

It wasn’t long before a few other birds arrived to collect their share of the food on offer, including this jackdaw and it’s flock who would quite often get in the way!

As the wagtail moved it’s tail was constantly in motion, wagging up and down. It is believed this behaviour helps to disturb tiny insects, allowing the wagtail to ambush them as they flee. It certainly seemed to be an effective strategy.

Here the wagtail has caught a large insect, possibly a mayfly nymph.

Another tasty find, this time what looks like an insect larvae.

Want to know more about the location where these photos were taken? Read here.

— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2019 © www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#birdwatching #aberystwyth #wagtails #storm #birdsightings #water #birdphotography #piedwagtail #outdoor

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