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North Wales at its very best April 2014

Black Grouse 2

We picked up Martin and Penny very early from the Princes Arms Hotel, Trefriw, in the Conwy Valley. We were soon up on the moors and watching lekking Black Grouse, a dozen of these stunning birds were really fired up and showing off. We could barely believe our eyes when a Hen Harrier landed in the middle of the lek! Amazingly the grouse hardly batted an eyelid and carried on regardless as the harrier looked around rather bemused. The harrier soon lost interest and move off leaving the grouse still going like mad. One of the male grouse began to move closer, just as the sun peeped over the horizon lighting up the birds in their full glory. We held our breath as this gorgous bird came closer and closer, Martin's camera fired away like crazy as he captured frame filling pictures in the sunshine, just an amazing moment.

It was turning into one of those days when everything dropped into place, we quickly found a Great grey Shrike on top of a small tree, a huge female Goshawk flapped slowly across the blue sky, Red Grouse skimmed over the heather, Stonechats sat up and showed off as a Peregrine looked down on us from a perch above, what a wonderful morning.

Leaving the moors behind the dropped down to the Dee Eatuary where one of the first birds we saw was a Merlin! This dainty raptor posed on a fence post for us in the sun. We were surprised to see huge flocks of Pink-footed Geese still on the marshes, a great sight and sound. A bacon butty and a coffee were enjoyed outside the cafe in the warm sun.

Avocet Titchwell

Next stop was RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve where lots of lovely Avocets waded through the shallows alongside flocks of Black-tailed Godwits. A fine drake Pintail was great to see amongst the Wigeon and Teal. Chiffchaff were singing from the willows as Little Egrets and Grey Heron were nest building in the tall pines.

Heading back along the North Wales coast we enjoyed great views of a Red-throated Diver off Pensarn, on the Great orme a handsome drake Eider was on the sea near the pier as Fulmars swept over our heads. Also on the cliffs were Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Cormorants and Shags, and time for a large slice of cake and a coffee in the cafe! This is what birdwatching should always be like!

Back at the Princes Arms Hotel we thought the day was done, not quite, Alan saw a duck on the River Conwy in front of the hotel, a drake Mandarin! This most beautiful bird was glorious through the Leica scope, as we watched a female Goosander flew down stream - what a day!

A more gentle start on day two of Martin's and Penny's tour, an eight o'clock start from the hotel. We had mentally set aside about two hours to search for Hawfinch, less than two minutes in and Alan picked out two of these huge finches! The Hawfinch were in the top of a beech tree and the views in the scope were great. At least three Red Kites were in the area, always a thrill to see these raptors. Then a Hawfinch flew and landed nearby allowing Martin to fire off some photos. Then amazingly two Hawfinch landed in the top of a dead tree, brilliant views through the scopes!

Hawfinch 2 Caerhun

We tried a site for Ring Ouzel but the weather at over 1,000 feet was very different from the warm calm of the valley floor and we soon beat a retreat. Down to RSPB Conwy and we timed our visit perfectly, Alan noticed all the gulls on the estuary lifting up and speculated there might be an Osprey about. We were soon watching an Osprey! This wonderful raptor drifted slowly north over the reserve, magic. A flock of 40 Sand Martins over the lagoons was great to see and a Common Sandpiper fed along the shoreline.

Further along the coast it was high tide and we walked out to a shingle spit to see lots of roosting Curlew, Oystercatchers and five Bar-tailed Godwit. Suddenly the waders were in the air as a Peregrine tore along the beach, wow! The falcon came right over us giving amazing views. All this excitment had given us an appetite and we hit the cafe for a lovely lunch, thank you Martin and Penny.

Out again further west along the coast and we enjoyed great views of three Greenshank and even closer views of gangs of roosting Redshanks. Offshore here a breeding plumaged Slavonian Grebe entertained us, preening on the water showing off all sides, even its belly! Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers and Wigeon were all close in and showing really well and a flock of 25 Little Egrets roosted in a field. A Lesser Redpoll here was a nice surprise.

Up into the mountains again and the weather was a little better than this morning. We soon found singing Wheatears and then, bingo, a lovely Ring Ouzel, yes! On the stream a Dipper did what Dippers do, dipped.

Time for more coffee and tastey Welsh cakes as we watched Siskin and Nuthatch in a patch of sheltered woodland, a Marsh Tit was a great local record.

Another bird filled day had been great fun with Martin and Penny and a huge thank you to them for making the two days so good, we like lucky people!

Come and join us soon for the very best birdwatching in North Wales, we know you will love it! Drop us a line to book your tour here...

Curlew sky full


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