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Day out with The Drunkbirder

John Hague aka "The Drunkbirder" headed up to North Wales for a day out birdwatching with The Biggest Twitch. John arrived in time to see Manchester United knocked out of the Champions League, not the result Alan wanted!

Very early the next morning we were on the road well before dawn. On the moors it was misty and we were worried whether we would see any birds. But we did see a cyclist! Pitch dark and foggy, what on earth was he doing up here?!

We found our way through the fog and were in postion very early, no sign of dawn yet. But birds were already active, weird and wonderful calls were coming from the fog, Black Grouse were displaying! To add to the atmosphere a Skylark poured down its liquid song from somewhere high above, what a start to the day.

Slowly the grey dawn began to lighten the mist and we could see dark shapes not far away the Black Grouse were on show. As always the Black Grouse make for a wonderful spectacle as they strut, dance and joust just yards away. The mist kept rolling in and out making photos very difficult but the spectacle was brilliant. Red Grouse were also calling well, more than we have had previously here.

Black Grouse 1

After well over an hour of almost continous lekking by the grouse it was time for them to head off for their day jobs and they whirred over the heather and were soon lost in the mist. What an amazing experience to share the dawn with these very special birds. The coffee and danish pastries tasted good!

Sadly the fog had become even thicker and so we decided to drop down and try and get below it so we could see. We hadn't dropped down far when we reached a ford, and there was a Dipper! This lovely bird showed off on the rocks right next to the car and John's camera went into overdrive. The Dipper even began to sing making this a very special encounter with one of our favourite birds. Suddenly a second Dipper whizzed down stream and "our" bird shot off in pursuit, female or rival male?


Further down in the main valley we quickly found two Dippers in the the fast flowing river, both birds were posing on rocks either side of a torrent, brilliant stuff. Just downstream were four Goosanders, three fine drakes and a duck.

Stomachs were rumbling again and it was time for a second breakfast. The famous Number 17 breakfast soon vanished as it hit the spot! Ravens and Buzzards soared over as we ate and plenty of birds were coming to the feeders below the cafe window. Just a few miles up the road a stunning Red Kite drifted low over the tree tops.

Our next stop was an ancicent chuchyard with lots of old yew and beech trees around it, perfect habitat for our next target bird. We quickly heard the hard "tick" call of Hawfinches coming from trees by the lane. The birds were proving elusive despite calling regularly. We watched a Buzzard drop down nearby and began eating bread! A first for this! Not much of a predator!

Then the Hawfinch show got under way, Hawfinch here, Hawfinch there! It was brilliant they just kept popping up and we soaked up the views through the Leica telescope. Hard to say just how many birds we saw as they were very mobile, at least eight though. Several male Hawfinch showed very well indeed sitting right on top of the trees in good light, wow!

We headed up to the coast to look for a Firecrest seen earlier in the day but sadly no sign. We did enjoy lots of Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, a Treecreeper and a Chiffchaff - an over-wintering bird.


It had been a really fun day with lots of laughs and memories of birds past and dreams of birds to come, we look forward to John's next visit.

Do take a look at John's blog, great fun and some great bird photos:

To book your trip to see wonderful birds with The Biggest Twitch email us on

We look forward to sharing great birds with you!


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