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Birding the Sunshine Coast

Today was a little bit different as our day's birdwatching was a surprise birthday present for Chris. His wife Claire and daughter Emily had booked two days with The Biggest Twitch as a birthday present and somehow managed to keep the whole thing a secret from Chris until they were well on their way north from Devon. What a lovely idea!

Our day began by picking the three of them up at their hotel in Llandudno with a clear blue sky and the sun catching the cliffs of the Great Orme - a great day was in prospect. A short drive took us to the nearby promenade where we threw bread for the gulls. Unbelievably not a single gull was interested. How could that be? Gulls love bread. Perhaps it was a little too early for them. Scanning offshore we could see huge flocks of Common Scoter out in the bay and on the beach a newly-arrived Lesser Black-backed Gull was standing with a group of Herring Gulls. We tried throwing more bread and finally the gulls noticed and within moments a feeding frenzy was all around us. Dozens of Herring Gulls and a gang of noisy Black-headed Gulls squabbled over the food. Unfortunately no sign of the hoped-for adult Mediterranean Gull which had been regular at the breakfast table in recent days.

Next stop was RSPB Conwy and a lot of birds were quickly added to our growing day list. The views of the medievil Conwy Castle and the snow-capped peaks of the Carneddau mountains making a spectacular back drop for the wildlife. Goldeneye were just a few meteres from the hide, a flock of 17 Common Snipe stood in line on an island, very unusual to see so many out in the open. The alder trees held both Siskins and Lesser Redpolls showing off in the sun and we enjoyed at least four stunning Bullfinches.

Conwy RSPB

Further west along the coast we stopped to scan the millpond like sea and were rewarded with hundreds of birds offshore. Most numerous were the Common Scoters and Great crested Grebes, many of the grebes in breeding plumage and some even displaying, good stuff this sunshine! We also picked out at least 14 Slavonian Grebes on the glass like water, a high count for North Wales. Red throated Divers were also offshore and great light allowed good scope views despite being a fair way out.

Further west again and we soon enjoying a redhead Smew diving with a gang of Goldeneye amongst a large flock of Wigeon. A Greenshank strode through the shallows and three more Lesser black backed Gulls bathed in the river channel. A Skylark flew over, singing as he went, more signs of Spring.

On to the island of Anglesey and we made a quick tourist stop to photograph the longest village name in the UK, as we call it Llanfair PG! Look up the whole thing on the internet, don't have space to type it here!

Pale-bellied Brent Geese on Anglesey

At Beddmanarch Bay we enjoyed a hot chocolate and wonderful close views of pale bellied Brent Geese. These visitors from Arctic Canada were feeding just off the car park and we also added REd breasted Mergansers, Knot and Dunlin to the list.

In Holyhead we soon found two species of diver, a large Great northern and another Red throated, great to have the two in view at once, at least when they were not underwater! Piebald Black Guillemots showed off in the sunshine showing their scarlet legs and feet as they dived. More Red-breasted Mergansers were fishing here.

South Stack cliffs

Up at RSPB South Stack Chris picked out two Chough though unusually the views were a little distant this day. But we had a very pleasant surprise at the cliffs, thousands of Guillemots were already back on the nest ledges! We did not expect that in February! More auks were on the water and these included dapper Razorbills and we found Fulmars on the ledges and Clare picked out a Rock Pipit, joined by a second. A lovely lunch was enjoyed in the RSPB Cafe, very busy, the sunshine brings out everyone! As we left a superb male Hen Harrier flew north over the heathland, an early migrant?

At a nearby bay we quickly found a roosting Purple Sandpiper as waves crashed all around the sleeping bird. Just down the road a tidal area gave us a Little Egret and a beautiful adult Mediterranean Gull, making up for the one we missed at the start of the day.

A shallow lake held plenty of wildfowl and the fields here gave us our first Pheasants of the day, great views of Fieldfare and Reed Bunting and our one and only Meadow Pipit of the whole day!

On the Cefni Estuary we were soon watching a stunning flock of Pintail feeding in the shallows as a Spotted Redshank and Greenshank waded side by side in the river. A Little Egret fed in a flooded field, joined by a pair of Shoveler and more Pintail, looking gorgeous in the late afternoon sun. Hundreds of Lapwings were feeding here with huge flocks of Starling. A quick look in a patch of woodland added Coal Tit to our impressive list. As we headed for home we spotted a gang of House Sparrows in a hedge, our first of the day!

Malltraeth dusk

The drive home gave us magnificent views of the whole of Snowdonia, the tops of the mountains plastered in snow, stunning. A wonderful day of great birds, lovely scenery, great company and sunshine! Can't wait for more of the same in the morning.

For details of all our tours and to arrange your special day out please drop us a line

We look forward to enjoying great birds in great places with you soon.


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