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Biggest Twitch
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Black Grouse and two shrikes

A clear sky with thousands of stars above us was a very good omen, it was going to be a lovely day. Pre-dawn we headed for the moors. A Tawny Owl swooped across the road, great start.

As we crossed the moor in the half light we were nervous, would the birds be there? We killed the lights and rolled towards the small parking area. Yes! Even before we stopped we could see dark shapes on the moor close to the track, Black Grouse!

The weird and wonderful sounds of Black Grouse lekking came flooding in through the open windows, what an experience. Five of these simply superb birds were strutting their stuff less than one hundred yards away! Is there a more spectacular event in British birds? Not for us, this is the ultimate spectacle.

Black Grouse 3

The Black Grouse were in full display, jousting with each other, one male would rush at another forcing it to leap backwards only to return the charge and force the first back! It was just brilliant to soak up the sights and sounds of the lek under the clear sky with the moon behind and frost on the ground. How lucky to have such a perfect day. As the light came up the displays became more intense and the colours more vivid. The red combs above the eyes of the birds were scarlet, the royal blue sheen on their necks was lovely, jet black and white plumage setting off the red and blue. These birds have to be seen to be believed. And the sounds! Hissing, gobbeling, wheezing, wonderful sound track to the jousting. We just watched and watched and the grouse just kept lekking.

Black Grouse 1

Finally we moved away, leaving the grouse still going at it. As we crossed the huge moor we saw another thirty or so Black Grouse, their calls following us in the still air. Despite the sun it was very cold and the hard frost got to fingers and toes, time for a hot drink. Flasks are a great asset on days like these and the hot chocolate and coffee tasted good and warmed us up nicely, the Pains au Chocolat went down well, first breakfast!

Suddenly all thoughts of food were gone, Goshawk! This huge hawk drifted slowly above the ridge in full sunshine! Wow! Goshawks are always a real thrill and this one was even better than most in the lovely sunshine with a clear blue sky behind.

Anne Worlds End

After getting our breath back from that excitment we walked up the hill so we could have a panoramic view across the moors and valley below. From our wonderful vantage point we quickly saw a Great grey Shrike! Things were just dropping in to place this morning. The Great grey Shrike was sat on a dead tree on the opposite side of the valley but through the Leica telescope we had good views. The shrike was hunting the moor by scanning from the tops of small trees so was easy to pick out even at a distance.

We also enjoyed more Black Grouse from our view point, though further away than our earlier encounter, this time we also saw five females, the most we have ever seen here. Ravens and Buzzards soared against the blue sky with Siskin and Coal Tits in the nearby pines.

Anne Worlds End view

We dropped down off the moor into the lovely valley below and were soon watching two Dippers. These wonderful little birds were really showing off and we scope filling views as they bobbed on the rocks and plunged into the waters.

Food time again, and we headed for our second breakfast! Our regular cafe was as good as ever and the "Number 17" breakfasts went down very well indeed. Full of lovely food and enlivened by mugs of coffee we went back to the birding. As we stepped from the cafe a Red Kite soared right over head, wow! Just a few miles up the road we stopped to watch a second Red Kite, this one lower showing off its lovely colours against the fields.

We headed into a huge conifer plantation and walked up to a viewpoint. It was chilly up here and several other birdwatchers were looking gloomy as they had not seen a lot. We scanned around seeing Bullfinches, Buzzards and Ravens. We knew of another area to try and we drove a little way through the forest, a small flock of Crossbills flew over calling. At the new site we quickly spotted our second Great grey Shrike of the day! This bird was a little closer and we enjoyed good telescope views.

Anne Cloc

On again and enjoyed some great scenery, the snow capped mountains of Snowdonia looking stunning in the sun. We reached our regular site for Hawfinch in the Conwy Valley still bathed in sunshine. The Hawfinch were elusive on this occasion but we did see at least two birds. A Red Kite soared over a distant ridge.

A quick pit stop at RSPB Conwy added plenty of birds to our day list. Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Pochard were diving in the lagoons and a single Red breasted Merganser joined them. A flock of Wigeon were grazing on the causeway as Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Redshank roosted on the islands.

Down to the seaside at Colwyn Bay and, with the help of a few biscuits, we had amazing views of an adult Mediterranean Gull at our feet!

Med and Blk head

A little further along the coast we stopped for a look at the vast numbers of Common Scoter offshore at Llysfaen. What a sight! Thousands and thousands and thousands of Common Scoter stretched along the coast, wow! Anne spotted a Red throated Diver closer inshore near a flock of Great crested Grebes. Two Fulmars were on the cliffs here and gave great views.

What a brilliant day! Huge thanks to Alan and Anne for their wonderful company, we look forward to the next time.

For details of all our days out and longer Birdwatching trips do drop us a line at

We look forward to sharing great birds with you soon.


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