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Biggest Twitch
Biggest Twitch
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Happy Hawfinch Hunting

It always adds a little extra "interest" to our guiding when we go for one headline bird, we do really want to see that bird! When the bird we are after is a species that has a reputation for being elusive then that ups the anti, so our Hawfinch Hunts are always very interesting.

We met Julie, Mary and Dave at RSPB Conwy and set off south down the Conwy Valley, the three were excited by the prospect of seeing Hawfinch, and we were nervous. The weather was not looking good, high winds and dark clouds did not inspire confidence.

At our first site we were greeted by two Red Kites wheeling low over a field just a hundred yards away, wow! These most beautiful of raptors really showed off as they performed an airel ballet over the sheep below.

The trees however, were birdless, not any finch let alone a Hawfinch, not good. We pointed out the lovely drake Goosanders fishing in the river below and scanned and re-scanned the finch less trees.

We moved on to another site and walked up the hill towards an area where we had seen Hawfinch before. Alan was already scanning ahead and within minutes he had a Hawfinch! Panic as the Leica scope was swung into action and within a moment the bird was in pin sharp focus and everyone took a quick look in case the bird flew. As it turned out the bird was happy on its lofty perch and what's more we picked out two more Hawfinch sat in the same tree top! Not one, not two but three Hawfinch within an hour of starting our Hawfinch Hunt, yes!

The three big billed, bull necked finches flew off and dropped out of sight behind some trees. We continued to the area where we had been lucky in the past and at once heard the "tick" of Hawfinch calls, very close!

Hawfinch LYC 1

Hawfinch LYC 2

At least four Hawfinch were in fruit trees above us but difficult to see through the tangle of branches. We moved our position and suddenly we had a great view of a male Hawfinch! Through the Leica APO telescope on 50x the view was brilliant! What's more the bird just sat there and sat there and even began to sing, mind-blowing stuff.

Hawfinch LYC 3

Hawfinch LYC 4

As we watched this amazingly helpful bird we noticed other Hawfinch flying around the trees on the hillside and landing in tree tops, then a gang of at least 15, yes 15, Hawfinch flew and landed in the tops of some beech trees. This was crazy stuff, we had been elated with our first three birds but now it was just fantastic birding.

Birdlist RSPB Conwy

After all that excitment we needed a sit down, we headed back to RSPB Conwy for a very welcome hot chocolate and to catch our breath, what an amazing few hours. Of course at Conwy the birding can continue while we drank, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Little Egret were all added to our fast growing list from the coffee shop.

Dave and Julie Birdmobile
Dave and Julie scan the Conwy Estuary from the warmth of the bird-mobile.

Bangor Pier 3

At Bangor we scanned the harbour and enjoy great views of Oystercatchers and Wigeon on mass. We braved the gale force winds to walk out along the pier, a Black Guillemot dived in the straits where both Shag and Great crested Grebes were fishing, joined by Razorbills.

Bangor Pier people 1

Bangor Pier people 3

Bangor Pier people 2

We battled back along the pier and found a more sheltered spot on land to scan the incoming tide and quicly saw a lot of birds! A flock of Knot had joined the huge numbers of Oystercatchers, Turnstones were feeding on the mussel banks and a Rock Pipit flew in. Then we picked out a lovely Great northern Diver in the Menai Straits and enjoyed good scope views in the strong sunshine.

We ate our picnic lunch at Aber Ogwen overlooking the estuary and as always plenty of birds here to keep us from our food. A Goosander was resting on the tide edge and just beyound a group of handsome Goldeneye dived. Then we noticed another bird diving with the Goldeneye, a redhead Smew! Always a real thrill to see one of these Arctic visitors, particularly here in North Wales where they are pretty rare.

Lunch done and Smew very well watched we walked around to the hide and settled in to see what the rising tide would push up for us. The well stocked feeders were busy with birds.

Great spotted Woodpecker 1

Long tailed Tit 2

Great spotted Woodpecker 2

Suddenly attention was drawn to the pool behind the hide as a flash of colour annouced the arrival of a stunning Kingfisher!

Kingfisher AO 1

Kingfisher AO 2

Kingfisher AO 3

Kingfisher AO 4

Again the views through the scope on 50x were just amazing, every feather could be seen in pin sharp detail, a magic birdwatching moment.

And there was lots more! A Spotted Redshank fed in the shallows with four Greenshanks, flocks of Dunlin put the Red Arrows to shame with the airiel skills, Black tailed Godwits waded through the rising water. Offshore an Eider duck rode the waves alongside Great crested Grebes. A Little Grebe dived in the pool and a splendid male Bullfinch posed for us. Time had flown by, as it always does when good birds are about, and we headed back to the birdmobile.

Still time for one more stop, at Llanfairfechan we tried scanning the storm tossed sea but it was very hard going in the gale. We did pick out three Red throated Divers and two flocks of Common Scoter but all agreed it was time for home.

What a wonderful days birdwatching and a huge thank you to Dave, Mary and Julie for their company and all the laughs along the way.

Our next Hawfinch Hunt is on 23rd February come and join us, and if that dates does not suit we can happily arrange a custom date to suit you!

We look forward to enjoying great birds with you soon!


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