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Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch

John Ward works at RSPB Conwy and recently celebrated his birthday. Why are you being told this, you ask? Well, his fellow staff members thought it would be nice to buy John a present. What to get the man who has most things? Then a plan was hatched, how about a day’s birding? Everyone agreed, just the gift. Alan was contacted and the day arranged.
John and Alan met up at RSPB Conwy at 7am and headed east. John lives on Anglesey so they were off to explore some sites John was not familiar with and of course to find some birds.
First stop was the River Clwyd and they took the east bank walking north. It was grey but at least it was dry. A Goosander was the first bird of note, swimming along with head under water, looking very odd! A Kingfisher flashed up stream, always a thrill to see. Four Golden Plover wheeled overhead giving their melancholy calls, so much a sound of autumn. John picked up a small wader playing hide and seek above and below the edge of the river channel, now you see me now you don’t! A lovely juvenile Curlew Sandpiper with peach-washed breast. A Kestrel hovered low over the grass just a few metres in front of them. Tinkling calls drew their attention to a charm of Goldfinches tumbling from the sky and landing in the weeds by the river, lovely.
A short drive took them to Bodelwydden Woods and they met a gang of Grey Squirrels, not a good sign. At first the wood seemed bird less but as they got further away from the road a call gave away a Marsh Tit, but where was it? The call moved away, the bird unseen, damn! Reaching the hide the very first bird seen was a Marsh Tit! Whew!
East again and down to the Dee Estuary at Flint Castle, a commanding viewpoint across this huge tidal area. The advancing tide was pushing waders before it like one of those shove-penny amusement arcade games. The waders bunched up until a critical mass was reached and a section of the flock was forced to fly up and land on the raised saltmarsh. Hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits jostled for position with Curlew, Oystercatchers and Redshank.
News from Colin Wells over at Inner Marsh Farm had John and Alan on the move again. A quick nip across the border and they arrived at the RSPB reserve. A short walk down to the hide and John had a new life bird, Long-billed Dowitcher, happy birthday! These two American vagrants were again performing right in front of them and through the scopes every plumage detail could be studied. Another Curlew Sandpiper, four Ruff, three Golden Plover, two Greenshank and more Black-tailed Godwits added to the wader fest!
A panic amongst the birds announced the arrival of a Merlin! This rocket of a pocket-sized raptor tore around the lagoon, at one point it looked like it might fly into the hide! The Merlin repeated the performance three times and the ooo’s and ahhh’s from all in the hide were testament to the amazing views. A Water Rail popped out and for once stood still in the weak sun admiring his perfect reflection in the still water. Very well pleased, the lads remembered they still hadn’t had lunch.
Just a few hundred metres away lay Burton Marsh, a vast grazing saltmarsh where Flintshire meets Cheshire on the Dee Estuary, a perfect spot to sit and watch a while as sandwiches were eagerly consumed. A Merlin, probably the same bird, flashed past and at least five Kestrel were stationed hovering over the marsh. Occasional Little Egrets flapped across only to drop into unseen ditches. Peregrine and Buzzard both put in appearances but one bird was missing.
Time for a change of view, a short drive north and they reached Little Neston and drove down to the Harp Inn, no time for a quick pint though. Resuming scanning, the target bird was soon found: a ring-tail Hen Harrier floated over the marsh, superb bird! John was delighted and Alan was relieved that they found one!
Heading back west along the North Wales coast, they checked more sites picking up new birds for the day at each. Best were three rather late Arctic Terns at Rhos Point. Two adults and a juvenile flew in and luckily landed allowing great views.
The day finished back at RSPB Conwy where a quick look from the Tal-y-fan hide added a few new birds, including Coot!
Actually that was not quite the end. John had just left for home on Anglesey, when Alan took a call. The news was major, Glossy Ibis on Anglesey! Alan phoned John and luckily he was able to see this great rarity, a second lifer of the day, over at Newborough Forest, what a great end to a cracking day’s birding.


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