Quite often we associate rarer species of wildlife with nature reserves – some of the last remaining refuges for our wildlife, far away from ‘the real world’. But just recently a visitor from eastern Europe took Cardiff by surprise, calling Roath Park lake it’s home away from home!
This is the red necked grebe, experts suggest it’s a juvenile as it doesn’t quite have it’s striking plumage that the adults have. The RSPB suggest that only around 50 of these birds arrive in the UK for the winter, such a tiny amount compared to the 20,000 UK great crested grebes which we are much more used to seeing here in Cardiff. So it’s a real treat that this one has found it’s oasis in the heart of the city.
It’s noticeable how small this bird is compared to the others on the lake. Mallards look practically enormous compared to it, it’s size a lot more similar to the smaller tufted duck, but a lot more streamlined. The grebe was quick, ducking and diving along the lake edge whilst I watched. It went under for long periods at a time, giving those watching it a tough time to track it’s movements along the water!
So how to check what you’re seeing is a red necked grebe or a great crested grebe? Let’s first start with that ‘red neck’. Even this youngster has a rusty red neck from head to body – our more common great crested grebe only has one rusty red patch, and that’s on their ‘crest’ right on top of their head. The great crested grebe also has a pink/grey bill, whereas this lil fella has a yellow/black bill. Snazzy!
I really love how this lovely little bird picked Cardiff city centre as it’s home – it’s a real testament to those who spend their time on conservation efforts in the area. It shows what Cardiff could achieve through more careful conservation projects and engaging all communities – not just those privileged to live in more biodiverse areas. A great way of getting excited about our wildlife is when visitors like our red necked grebe inspire us to get out and investigate!
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