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Best of North Wales 18 February - showcasing our patch

We picked up Mike and Christine at their hotel early and headed for the hills. The full moon was casting a ghostly light across the moor. A Red Grouse flew up from the roadside in the headlights. At our first stop the wonderful sound of lekking Black Grouse filled the still air! With the aid of the moonlight we could see the fanned white tails of the males and as the light slowly came up the views got better and better. The grouse were really going for it; perhaps the calm dry morning had fired them up? A Skylark sang, hard to hear with all the noise from the grouse. Red Grouse were also calling and one flew through the lek area like a rocket! We marvelled at the Black Grouse stutting and posturing and occasionally coming to blows, the "thwack" of wing on wing heard in the calm air. What a fantastic experience!

Black Grouse April 2013 2

Suddenly three shapes appeared above the grouse hurtling towards us: a pair of Peregrines chasing a Stock Dove! The female struck the dove but it kept flying only to be hit by the male! Amazing to see these falcons hunting as a tag-team. The dove fell from the sky and Peregrines were down after it, all three were lost behind a grassy ridge, perhaps just as well, though we could hear the Peregrines calling. The grouse had flushed, not surprisingly given two top predators right above them, but slowly they came back and resumed play.

Red Grouse Broomhead 1

As we crossed the moors we enjoyed more Black Grouse and another Red Grouse shooting low over the road. We tucked into a hot drink and a snack to keep us going, now in lovely sunshine and surrounded by stunning scenery and even more Black Grouse including five greyhens, the females, two of which posed in the morning sun. Ravens flew over as Mistle Thrush song filled the air.

Worlds End view

We dropped down off the moor and enjoyed great views of Dipper and Grey Wagtail. We also saw more Stock Doves, this time without Peregrine attached. Time for a real breakfast and we tucked into a great full fry-up, always tastes so much better after a bird-filled early morning. But the birding didn't stop here as we added a Green Woodpecker from the breakfast table! A tough bird to find in North Wales these days and a first for our year list, amazing.

As we headed north we enjoyed brilliant views of Red Kites, with up to five in view at once; always a thrill to see these gorgeous birds. Buzzards were also enjoying the weather and we counted dozens of these raptors!

In the Conwy Valley we were amazingly lucky and saw a male Hawfinch perched on top of a yew tree in the sun within minutes of starting our hunt. Wow! We also saw another Peregrine, Red Kites, a Sparrowhawk and a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls - a sign of Spring!

RSPB Conwy reflections

At RSPB Conwy we added a lot of birds to our impressive day list with a pair of Scaup being the highlight. Down to the coast and we quickly found a pair of Eider, always great to see these handsome ducks. A search of the rocky shoreline produced great views of Turnstones and then a Purple Sandpiper flew in and landed close, once again we were in the right place at the right time! Offshore we saw Red-throated Diver, Shags, Razorbills, Common Scoters all new for our day. A mug of hot chocolate was welcome on the sea front as we enjoyed looking at all the gulls coming to bread thrown by Alan.

Further along the coast we set up the Leica telescopes and scanned the sea. Masses of Common Scoter were on the sea here and the scopes allowed great views. After some careful scanning we picked out the distinctive white flash of the head of a drake Surf Scoter! Amazingly we picked out two more drake Surf Scoters amongst the Commons. We even had two Pied Wagtails in the car park here, our first of the day!

What an amazing day, filled with wonderful birds, from moors to sea and all with plenty of time to enjoy the birds and scenery, and food! This really sums up what North Wales has to offer, amazing variety within a small area. Come and join us soon for wonderful birds and great fun. We can tailor make a tour ideal for you, simply drop us a line...

We would love to enjoy great birds with you!

Eider 2 Ythan


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