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Getting 2011 off to a flying start!

Dawn on the 2nd of January saw stood in the grey light at Shotwick boating lake in Flintshire at the south end of the Dee Estuary. We were doing well having had Tawny Owl and Woodcock on our way here in the dark we excitedly waited for a rush of new birds with the coming light.

Dipper

A flock of swans were grazing in a nearby field and through the scope we could clearly see they were Bewick’s Swans, about 100 of them! A rare bird in Wales, this the only really good site for them. A hard look produced Whooper and Mute Swans amongst the Bewick’s excellent! More swans, both Whooper and Bewick’s flew in right over our heads, calling, magical.

Hundreds of Pink footed Geese then came in and landed near the swans again all calling wildly a wonderful spectacle. A great start to the day.

Yellowhammers and Skylarks fed in the field edge, the male buntings glowing yellow in the early light. A Buzzard sat on a barn roof and flocks of Stock Dove circled the area, On the lake, still part frozen, were Tufted Duck, Wigeon and Coots.

Just up the road we stopped at a view point over looking the Dee Estuary and Burton Marsh. We quickly picked up more birds with a juvenile Marsh Harrier being the star here and a great bird for January in Wales. Little Egrets were on the move flying over the marsh and a flock of Goldfinch and a Bullfinch were in the alders behind us adding colour to the scene.

At the mouth of the Dee, at the Point of Ayr RSPB reserve, we marvelled at thousands of waders leaving their high tide roost. We quickly many new species here including Knot, Black tailed Godwit and Pintail.

West along the North Wales coast we soon reached Kinmel Bay and within minutes we were watching five gorgeous Snow Buntings feeding on seed we had put down a few days ago. A flock of Sanderling scurried along the tide edge and Goosander floated off shore. Just across the road the River Clwyd held more waders including Grey Plover and Bar tailed Godwit.

The woodlands at Bodelwydden gave us Jay, Nuthatch and Treecreeper but the recent bitter cold weather looked like it had taken its toll on the birds here.

The promenade at Llanfairfechan was cold and grey but offshore we found a Slavonian Grebe amongst good numbers of Great crested Grebes.

A quick look at Aber Ogwen paid off well with Greenshank and Spotted Redshank added quickly. The river Ogwen held a handsome Dipper just where we wanted him – showing well. We crossed the Menai Straits and on to the island of Anglesey, first stop Beddmanarch Bay. We had not even got out of the car when we saw an adult Mediterranean Gull with a gang of Black headed Gulls. In the bay were some 200 Pale bellied Brent Geese but no time to linger we bombed over to Holyhead Harbour where we added Great northern Diver and Razorbill. At Soldiers Point a Water Rail was waiting for us, we hardly got of the car and were on our way again!

On the small reservoir on the way to South Stack RSPB reserve we finally added Gadwall for the day. Up at the reserve no sign of the hoped for Chough in the fields by the café. We hurried down to the cliff edge and luckily two of these charismatic corvids were near the lighthouse and we picked up a bonus Stonechat.

The Inland Sea gave us a drake Scaup and we headed south across Anglesey. Ruth remembered that we had not seen Shoveler yet and we had seen one last week at Llyn Coron. Light was failing; did we have time for a detour how ever short? We decided to go for it and sped along the minor road to the lake. Dashing to the lake shore we quickly found a drake Shoveler and a Kingfisher flashed past, bonus! We still had not seen a Common Snipe so as our luck looked in we walked the edge of the lake in hope of finding one. A movement in a small clump of willows ahead had us amazed; a Bittern was walking slowly towards us! This wonderful bird must have seen us at the same time as it lifted in to the air and slowly flapped past as we watched open mouthed. The Bittern landed just along the shore and stood in the edge of the reeds, brilliant.

Time to go! We dashed to the Cefni Estuary just in time to see a Hen Harrier float over the marsh and in to its roost, a superb view of this raptor.

Light almost gone we at last found a Common Snipe at Llyn Rhos-ddu. We headed for home very happy indeed with 108 species and some really quality birds on the list.

As we neared home at Llandudno in the pitch dark we decided to try one last throw of the dice and look for a Barn Owl seen recently just south of Llandudno. We drove the lane slowly and were amazed to see a beautiful Barn Owl sat in an oak tree by the roadside a fantastic end to a great days birding.

If you would like to join us for the very best in birding drop us an email at info@thebiggesttwitch.com for details of our forth coming trips, we know you will have great fun and great birds!


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