Trip reports

Bird Watching Boat trip around Cardiff Bay

Bird Watching Boat trip around Cardiff Bay
Craig Watson

Sunday, 16 November 2014

It is the third year that we have organised this popular autumn boat trip and we had fine weather again, although it had rained in the days leading up to the trip. There was a strong breeze blowing across the bay so this caused quite a wind chill.

We had two boat trips, at 9.30 am and 11.00 am, with eight passengers in each boat. The boat that we chartered again was the steam launch lookalike, the Daffodil. This is an open boat with a canopy, which gives us good views of the bay area and the bird life. The Skipper, Ben Salter, runs regular trips around the bay and had a good knowledge of all the locations of the different bird species to take us to.

We started both our trips from the Penarth Marina Barrage South jetty and, because of the wind, we sailed in the shelter of the barrage towards the Norwegian Church and then on to the Cardiff Bay Nature Reserve. We spotted cormorants lined up on the jetties drying their wings, black-headed gulls on the railings and mallards, tufted duck and moorhens in the choppy water near the barrage bank. We also saw a pied wagtail on the old lock gate at the Roath Basin and a wren entering a hole in the wall at the lock gate.

At the Nature Reserve there were more tufted ducks, some mute swans, little grebes diving, great crested grebe and a heron skulking in the reeds.

We then headed across the bay to the calmer and sheltered waters of the River Ely. Rafts of coots were amongst the moored boats. Herring gulls, common gulls, a lesser black- backed gull and two great black- backed gulls were noted.

As we entered the mouth of the River Ely, a lone turnstone was seen on the bank wall as well as grey and pied wagtails. Our first kingfisher was seen in the bushes as we passed the footbridge by the marina near the International White Water Centre. Continuing up the Ely towards Leckwith, two kingfishers flew up the port side of the boat, across the bow and down the starboard side, we all had terrific views of these electric blue and orange small birds.

Our next sighting was a female kingfisher which has a black bill with an orange lower mandible, whereas the male has an all black bill. She had just caught a small fish and was whacking it against the branch she was perched on before swallowing it, a magnificent sight! We saw six kingfishers in all on our trip along the river, which was a record for me.

As we headed on past the Old Pumping Station, we spotted eight teal in flight, their chestnut and green heads catching the autumn sunlight. Goldfinches were in the bushes on the river bank and a large gaggle of mute swans on the water. On the boat in this idyllic setting, it was hard to believe that we were only a quarter of a mile from Asda!

-Viv Jenkins