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Calm seas storming birding at Black Rock

With Annette and Robert we headed south down to Black Rock, with conditions looking good, calm and over-cast. Even on the way we saw some good birds, traffic lights allowed us to watch a flock of Long-tailed Tits right by the "bird-mobile" window, lovely birds.

On the beach we were greeted by the calmest sea possible and we could at once see flocks of scoter just offshore. Scopes were quickly set up and frame filling Common Scoter were enjoyed. So good to able to see these sea-duck in such detail, so often scoter are a long way out, but not here. After having really good views and comparing the bill patterns on the drakes and various face patterns of the females we ready to widen our search.

We quickly found two Long-tailed Ducks, again pretty close in on the clam waters, but we were looking for something rarer. Alan soon the two birds we were looking for, two immature Surf Scoters! These rare visitors from North America were keeping away from the flock of Common Scoter, it seemed they knew they were a little different. We walked down to the waters edge and enjoyed great prolonged views of the rarities as they preened and streched on the flat sea, great stuff. Beyound them a single Velevet Scoter was diving and feeding. Three species of scoter in view at once!

It was great to able to compare all three species, particularly their different diving styles. The Common Scoter all dived with wings closed, the Surf Scoters dived with wings half-open, one bird more noticably than the other, and the Velvet Scoter open its wings just before diving. Annette coined a great phrase to describe this behaviour "doing the elbow thing"! This is a great way to describe this as the birds "elbows" do stick out just as it goes under.

We also watched two Great-northern Divers here, really living up to their family name, spending a lot of time dived. We eventually picked out several Red-throated Divers, but a good way out. Lots of Great-crested Grebes were loafing about showing very well and a few Red-breasted Mergansers.

Moving further along the beach we found a lovely flock of waders feeding on the flat sand. Mostly Ringed Plovers with a good number of Sanderling and three Dunlin amaongst them. Great to compare Sanderling and Dunlin, side by side, in their winter plumage, similar, but Sanderling much paler. A small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits rested at the eadge of the tide.

We noticed that the two Long-tailed Ducks were now much nearer and we again watched them diving just offshore, wonderful birds. Lots more Common Scoter here giving great looks through the scopes, every detail could be enjoyed. The Crossley ID guide was out regularly, comparing the plated with what we were watching, everyone agreed that this book really mirrored what we were seeing, do give it a try.

We were just about to move on when a small bird came fluttering along the waters edge, a Little Gull! This amazing bird worked its way right at the beach at the tides edge allowing stunning views! A first-winter bird, with lovely "w" mark across its wings and black tip to the tail. This delicate gull almost hovered just inches above the surface, dipping in to grab some tiny unseen morsal of food. What a wonderful bird.

At nearby Porthmadog we walked along the embankment and enjoyed great close views of lots of birds. Little Egrets waded in the shallow, Little Grbes dived for fish, Black-tailed Godwits probed the mud and Wigeon grazed the grass. A tranquil bird filled scene.

Suddenly birds were in the air twisting and turning above us, then we saw why, a female Peregrine! The falcon cut through the air at breath taking speed, wow! The waders were in panic mode and scattered across the sky. We then saw a second Peregrine, a male, above the female, seemed to be waiting for a target to present itself in just the right spot as the female flushed the potential prey in to the air. The show was just breath-taking as the female bird tore backwards and forewards across the pools, twisting and turning in pusuit of first one bird then another! A Black-tailed Godwit smashed in to the water and the Peregrine skimmed past it, wow! We did not see an impact, the godwit took evasive action by ditching in the water. Again and again the falcon stooped at the wet wader but it refused to take flight again, almost certain death if it had! The Peregrine was just fantastic and we were thrilled to experience it literally all around us as the birds were first on our left then above us then to our right! We were in the middle of a dog fight!

The pair of Peregrines left empty taloned and the pools quickly returned to tranquility. A Greenshank strode through the shallows and Robert picked out three very well camouflaged Common Snipe in the reeds. A stunning drake Goldeneye dived in deeper water and three Goosander "snorkeld" across the pool. A Tufted Duck was unusual at this site and showed very indeed close to the path.

We enjoyed a great lunch in Cricceth, having added Whooper Swan on the way, and then had a look at the sea from west of the castle. More Common Scoter, Red-breasted Mergansers, better views of Red-throated Divers, a Razorbill and several Shag. Rock Pipits were showing very well indeed along the sea-wall.

We headed north to Foryd Bay and it was full of birds! Flocks of Wigeon and Lapwing were crowded along the low water channel. Amongst them lots of stunning Pintail - what cracking birds the drakes are. A handsome drake Goosnder floated on the still water, we have been lucky to see a number of these large ducks recently and they are just stunning!

Suddenly Shelduck on the far side of the bay were flying in panic, the panic spread and all the Lapwing rose alarm calling! A female Peregrine tore low across the mudflats, here we go again! The Peregrine was moving so fast it hard to keep in the binoculars, she swept past three times but failed to find a meal despite the flocks of birds all around us.

We also enjoyed views of feeding Greenshanks, Goldeneye, Teal, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstones. At the mouth of the bay we watched a Great northern Diver fishing close in and through the scopes had great looks. As we watched the diver skeins of Pale-bellied Brent Geese swept in low over the water, right over the diver! The geese landed in the bay and along the beach to the east giving lovely views of these visitors from Arctic Canada.

We finished the day over-looking RSPB Conwy where we saw our first Canada Geese of the day! It had been a brilliant day and a huge thank you to Annette and Robert for their company and enthusiasum throughout the day! Looking forward to the next time we can enjoy great birds together.

To book your trip simply drop us a line....

We look forward to enjoying great birds with you!


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