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Hitting the targets

Today's guiding was a little different, we had a list of "target" birds to look for to help Robert fill in some missing birds on his 2013 year list. We love a birding challenge and thought we could find a few of the wanted birds.

We picked Robert up at his Llandudno hotel, sadly two other clients had cancelled at short notice, hope they read this and re-arrange their day soon! However this left us able to concentrate on the list of wanted birds, so good news for Robert.

RSPB Conwy view August

First stop was in the lovely Conwy valley, stunning autumn colours, and we started the day in great style with a Hawfinch! This huge finch posed in the top of a pine tree allowing plenty of time to admire it. Nearby we watched a Hooded Crow, very rare in North Wales, feeding with Carrion Crow. We noticed a Buzzard showing well in a dead tree, catching the morning sun. We had great views and as we watched, we noticed another raptor. Wow! A Hen Harrier was on a small dead tree beyound the Buzzard! With the scope we could see every detail of the harrier's plumage, a rare opportunity for such a prolonged view. Amazingly we then noticed a third raptor, this time a colourful male Sparrowhawk in the top of a bare oak tree. All three birds of prey in view at once!

The Hen Harrier took off and quartered over the field and reedbed allowing stunning views of this graceful bird in the sunshine. Twisting and turning the bird repeatedly hovered over one spot but we could not see what the attraction was.

Drake Eider

Up to the coast and the high tide allowed us close up views of many waders, wildfowl and Little Egrets. A fine drake Eider, the third new bird for the year list, showed off just offshore along with Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye. Nearby we found a Great Northern Diver on an area of calm sea where we had great looks. Several Shag and more Goldeneye were here along with Great Crested Grebes.

Blk Guillemot Ang Nov

On to Anglesey and we were soon enjoying close up views of some 160 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, such gorgeous little geese. Around the brents were Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlews. Offshore a Black Guillemot dived in the bay and after some more scanning we picked out a Slavonian Grebe, another addition. Luckily the grebe showed well in the sun and we enjoyed a hot drink as we soaked up the views.

At the next stop we again quickly found our target birds, Purple Sandpipers, with at least five of these dumpy, orange-legged waders on the seaweed-covered rocks. Until they move, they are very easy to overlook! We also added Grey Wagtail and Rock Pipit to our rapidly-growing day list.

Stonechat SS Ang

A warming lunch at RSPB South Stack was very welcome and we added Chough, Raven and Stonechat - all in sunshine with stunning views of Snowdonia as a backdrop. Well fed, we visited a nearby lake that was alive with wildfowl. Hundreds of Shoveler were feeding here and amongst them Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye. Careful searching picked out another species, a Long-tailed Duck, always great to see and another of Robert's target birds! Little Grebes were also diving for food here, new for the day.

Another lake and more birds were soon on the list, with lovely views of Goosanders - the drakes looking stunning in the soft afternoon light along with Reed Buntings and more Stonechats, our first and only Kestrel of the day and a gang of Fieldfares.

Spotted Redshank

Time for one more site before the light went and we headed for Malltraeth. We quickly found a Kingfisher that gave prolonged views as it dived for fish. A flock of Golden Plover shared a field, and later the sky, with huge numbers of Lapwings. On the pool lovely Pintail fed alongside a flock of Black-tailed Godwits. One last target bird for Robert's year list - a Spotted Redshank - waded through the shallow water allowing for great comparison with Common Redshank alongside the elegant rarer shank.

A wonderful bird-filled day in stunning scenery with great company! Come and join us soon and you too can experience the best of birdwatching!

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