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Birthday Birding Surprise packed with great birds.

Helen asked us to help organise a birthday surprise for her husband Mark, of course we were thrilled to help out. Mark is a keen birder so what better than a day out birding for a present? Nothing!

Helen had managed to keep the day a secret from Mark right up until they arrived in North Wales, cleverly telling him to bring his binoculars on the mystery tour in case he had a little time to look at birds, nice going Helen.

We met Mark and Helen at their hotel at 8am this morning, and after wishing Mark a very happy birthday, we headed off to enjoy great birds. The weather was looking a little grim with dark clouds spitting rain at us, but it was calm and there was a bit of blue in the sky, just.

Hawfinch LYC 3

First stop was in the Conwy valley where we were quickly enjoying a lot of birds. Fieldfares and Redwings were feeding with both Mistle and Song Thrushes and glowing in the now morning sun with a back drop of glourious autumn colours of the woodlands. A Red Kite was seen in a dead tree with a Buzzard in the tree next door. A Hawfinch played hide and seek in large tree, they have been hard to track down so far this autumn, but the leaves are staying on late this year.


We headed north and were soon enjoying brilliant views of a Dipper, playing at being a Turnstone tossing over leaves by a fast flowing stream. Dippers are magical birds and we were thrilled by the scope filling views!

At the coast we added a lot of new birds quickly as we scanned the bay and mudflats as the tide rose. A Great northern Diver was an exciting find and nearby a Slavonian Grebe dived near a drake Eider! A Greenshank waded through the shallows with Bar-tailed Godwit not far away, both Goosander and Red-breasted Mergansers were floating up on the tide. A gang of Goldeneye were close inshore and lots of Little Egrets were fishing in the shallows.

Brents Ang Nov 1

On to Anglesey and we were soon enjoying great views of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and another Slavonian Grebe, this one closer. Waders were reprsented by Black-tailed Godwits, Grey Plover and Ringed Plover. Chocolate biscuits and hot drinks warmed the inner birders as we enjoyed the great birds.

Holyhead Harbour next but for once we could not find a Black Guillemot, we have great views of a Razorbill and two Shag. We met up with our great friend, and ace local birder, Ken Croft. Luckily Ken had seen two Black Gillys at the west end of the harbour and came back with us to look for them. But even with Ken's help the guillemots were not showing. Then Ruth spotted one amongst the boats and luckily Mark got on to it before it dived and vanished again! Ken checked back in the open harbour and was soon back to tell us he had one. This time we all saw the Black Guillemot though not great views as it was rather distant, but seen!

South Stack cliffs windy 2

At RSPB South Stack we enjoyed a great lunch and then had wonderful views of Chough on the cliff tops. The views were just stunning, snow capped peaks of Snowdonia, the Lleyn peninsula and right across to the hills of Ireland and the Isle of Man. Harbour Porpoise were feeding off the lighthouse with at least eight of these mammals here. Stonechats, Rock Pipit and amazing views of Ravens all in sunshine made the visit here just brilliant.

At a nearby rocky bay we found two Purple Sandpipers and through the Leica telescpes we had good views. And it was very nice to see a Black Guillemot showing well in the sunshine in the bay, much better views than earlier.

Next stop was the RSPB Valley Lakes reserve and the calm waters of the lake were busy with wildfowl. Lots of Shoveler were feeding and amongst them Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Gadwall and we picked out a Long-tailed Duck diving repeatedly, a scarce bird on freshwater.

Kingfisher AO 4

At Malltraeth the light was beautiful with dramatic clouds and sun, and plenty of birds! A Kingfisher gave prolonged views on the river bank, always great to see one of these little stunners. Lots of Pintail were loafing on the pool where Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin were feeding. In fields flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover were amongst Curlew and big flocks of Starling. Out on the mudflats hundreds of Shelduck and Wigeon and lots more waders.

With sun dipping towards the west we headed for a marsh and stood and scanned. Lots of Ravens were coming in to roost. A flock of about 40 Common Snipe, yes forty, flew over against the orange sky, quite a sight. Mist rolled in and we were thinking of heading for home, luckily we gave it a little longer and the mist rolled away again. Then Ruth picked out what was voted bird of the day, a superb male Hen Harrier! This stunning raptor flew towards us low over the marsh and twisted and turned showing off all sides, just wonderful. What a way to top off a fantastic bird filled day!

Many thanks to Mark and Helen for their great company and of course to Helen for making the birthday surprise happen. We are sure Mark had a great day!

If you would like to join us for great birds simply drop us a line at...

We look forward to enjoying great birds with you soon!


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