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Hawfinch Hunt and a lot more

We like a little pressure, and calling a day of guided birdwatching a "Hawfinch Hunt" when the weather has been bitterly cold and snow still lying everywhere is just that! Could we keep our 100 percent record with the big finch, despite the Arctic conditions?

We met at RSPB Conwy and headed south, we did not get far before a Red Kite was seen over a roadside field. Luckily a gateway provided a handy viewing spot and the kite showed off in the morning sun. As we watched, this most beautiful of raptors swooped down and picked up an item of food from the field in front of us. Suddenly a Buzzard appeared from nowhere and tried to mug the kite! The kite was too quick for the robber and side stepped, if that is possible in mid air? The Buzzard missed and the kite rose above us and began to feed on the wing. What a start!

At the Hawfinch site we quickly heard the metallic "tick" of the Hawfinch call but could not see it. The call kept coming so we waited and scanned the trees. A bulky bird dropped to the ground nearby, but landed behind a small grass mound. Looked good. We held our breath and waited, then out hopped a Hawfinch! Wow!

This bull-necked muscular finch was instantly in the Leica scope filling the view with goergous colours and that massive beak. What a view of a stunning bird. Then a second Hawfinch dropped down and fed on the grass bank in front of us. You just don't get views of Hawfinch this good, but here they were, fantastic.

The Hawfinches flew up into the trees but soon dropped back down, the male even landing on a fence post in the sun giving the best possible view. A Nuthatch and Coal Tit joined the Blackbirds and Chaffinches feeding here. Then we noticed two Red Kites soaring right overhead! Hawfinch and Red Kite in view at the same time, two brilliant birds, which way to look?

Hawfinch Roy de Hass


If that was not enough we also watched more Hawfinches sitting in tree tops and again the Leica scope showed them off perfectly. A Sparrowhawk glided over as a Mistle Thrush sang in the sunshine, an amazing start to our day.

We headed north back towards RSPB Conwy. As we slowed down to join some traffic we noticed a large bird flying over the road - Osprey! We could hardly believe our eyes but there really was an Osprey flying over. Luckily we could pull over and jump out and watch this early migrant raptor heading east chased by gulls. How lucky can you be?

We called in at RSPB Conwy for a celebration Hot Chocolate and of course quickly boosted our impressive day list with wildfowl and waders. A Little Ringed Plover was showing well with a stunning male Wheatear for company. Black-tailed Godwits roosted with the Curlew and Redshanks. Twenty Red-breasted Mergansers were on the lagoons and several males were displaying.

Next was Morfa Madryn Nature Reserve where we enjoyed the high tide wader roost on the shingle spit. Hundreds of Oystercatchers and Curlews were joined by Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover and Knot. A single Greenshank was feeding at the water's edge with Redshank. Lovely views of Wigeon were enjoyed on the saltmarsh.

At the nearby sewage works we watched Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests feeding in the brambles by the stream, again brilliant views. Treecreeper and Long-tailed Tit added to our great list.

At Llanfairfechan we enjoyed a great cafe lunch, at The Beach Hut, and then had a scan over the sea. The water was pretty choppy but we still enjoyed Great Crested Grebes and Common Scoter. A stunning male Grey Wagtail showed off in the stream at the west end of the prom.

Aber Ogwen next and we timed our arrival just right as the tide was just dropping in front of the beach car park. Hundreds of birds were feeding along the tideline and we watched Wigeon and Curlew in the perfect light. A Little Egret dropped in and fed in the pools right in front of us. Offshore were plenty of Goldeneye and amongst them we picked out a Slavonian Grebe. This bird was in full breeding plumage but it was a good way out in the Menai Straits and even the amazing Leica scope could not produce great views.

Luckily our next good bird was very much closer, a redhead Smew! This very scarce visitor to North Wales was just offshore beyond the Little Egret and this time we had scope-filling views.

We walked around the pool to the far hide and enjoyed wonderful views of a feeding Common Snipe, Little Grebe and two Goosander. The well-stocked feeders were busy with birds, a real treat to see the birds so close.

Still time for one more site and we headed for Bangor Pier. As we got out of the car we heard gulls and Oystercatchers giving alarm calls, an Osprey! We were stunned to see our second Osprey of the day flying east along the Menai Straits towards us. This wonderful raptor almost passed over our heads giving amazing views as the poor bird was mobbed by hundreds of gulls and Oystercatchers.

Bangor Harbour Mar Osprey
The Osprey passes over Bangor Pier - taken with Leica V-LUX 3.

We watched the Osprey head out over Bangor Harbour where it hovered trying to fish despite being mobbed from all angles!

Bangor Harbour Mar 2
Osprey watching, but which scope would you use?!

We then walked out along the pier and had even more great birds. Shags and Great Crested Grebes were fishing and with a bit more scanning we picked out a breeding plumaged Black Guillemot and a pair of Eider, what a day!

Bangor Harbour Mar 1
Birdwatching on Bangor Pier with the snow covered mountains of Snowdonia beyond.

We returned to RSPB Conwy delighted with our Hawfinch Hunt and much more.

To quote Jean and Brian who joined us today
"We had the most amazing day of birdwatching. Truly unbelievable at times. We will undoubtedly book another outing"

So have we tempted you to join us for great birdwatching? Drop us a line for details of all our days out and tours.

Or if you would like to have a chat about your day out please give us a call -

01492 872407

We would love to hear from you.


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