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Biggest Twitch
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The best of birding in North Wales

It was one of those very rare dawns, clear sky and not a single breath of wind. The moorland was just waking up as the first rays of sun crept across the heather. There! A Black Grouse amongst a patch of cotton grass, we focused the Leica scope and it came into crystal clear view. A beautiful and magnificent bird, glowing blue/black, red and white in the early morning light, we gasped at its beauty. More Black Grouse were seen amongst the grasses and one in particular really showed off and we all just marvelled at the amazing bird.

Black Grouse
A beautiful bird in a wonderful setting!

Whinchats were all over the moorland and some came very close giving the best possible views. The songs of Common Whitethroat and Meadow Pipits filled the air, joined by the electronic buzz of a Grasshopper Warbler. Amazingly this usually shy warbler sat out in full view in the sunshine.

A juvenile Peregrine swept across the moor and, luckily, landed in full view. The scope was soon giving us close-up looks at the huge talons and feet of this ace raptor. Two more Peregrines were then found sat on nearby pylons, brilliant to have three in view at once!

We then enjoyed a family of Ravens calling loudly from a pine tree, before flying acoss the valley. Crossbill, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll all showed as more Whinchats and a family party of Stonechats all showed off.
Crossbill are regular in the larch plantations here.

Lower down we enjoyed close up views of a lovely male Grey Wagtail who posed for us by a small stream, Redstarts, Bullfinch and Jay were added to the fast growing day list.

A hearty breakfast was enjoyed, and well earned after our 5am start. Then back to the birding.

A pair of Red Kites floated over a hillside looking wonderful in the sun and against the bluest skies. More Whinchats were seen posing on fence posts and with a little scanning a male Hen Harrier was seen distantly – mobbing a Buzzard.

Dropping down into woodland we soon heard the distinctive song of a Wood Warbler. The bird singing loudly and we soon saw it in a larch plantation and were able to look down on the songster as it quivered with each chorus, brilliant.

A fast flowing stream was carefully checked and we were rewarded with a Dipper bobbing away mid-stream.

The day finished with a pair of Common Sandpiper calling excitedly by a slow moving river, looked liked they may well have had young hidden in the grass nearby.

It was a more reasonable hour to start on day two for our day on Anglesey. The birding began literally on the hotel doorstep with Red Kite, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser with young and a pair of Common Sandpipers all seen!

Our stop on Anglesey was at Cemlyn Lagoon where we were soon watching Sandwich Terns over and on the islands in the lagoon. An amazing sight as some 1,600 of these shaggy crested large terns flew in and out with bills full of food for hungry chicks. Both Arctic and Common Terns were showing off very well, on the edge of the islands, and it was great to see the two species side by side. Several first summer Arctic Terns were also here and good to study the plumages of these birds. We picked up a stunning second summer Mediterranean Gull amongst the masses of nesting Black headed Gulls, a very striking bird with black hood, scarlet bill and white eye ring.

On the nearby beach we watched Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Curlew, good selection of waders for June. Offshore Gannets were moving west and we enjoyed great looks at Manx Shearwaters living up to their names, powering low over the water. Shag, Cormorant and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were here along with a good herd of Grey Seals hauled out to sunbath on the rocky islands offshore.

We then walked along the shingle ridge for even closer views of the tern colony and here we were very lucky indeed when we picked out a Roseate Tern! This elegant rarity was sheltering behind a grass back and we had great scope views. As with most UK Roseate Terns this bird was colour ringed on both legs – useful ID reinforcement!

Next, Holyhead harbour where we quickly found our target bird, Black Guillemots. These charismatic auks were diving for fish close to the harbour wall and we could even see the red legs and feet as they dived. At least five of the charming birds showed off in the sunshine for us.

At RSPB South Stack the seabird city was in full swing and an amazing bird spectacle! Guillemots were crowded on the narrow ledges, Razorbills were dotted about on larger ledges, Fulmars and Kittiwakes were sat on their nests as Ravens rolled in the sky above. It was just amazing, where to look first? Then loud calls announced the arrival of a gang of Chough. These red-billed corvids played on the wind, swooping and diving just yards away as if to say look at us! More Gannets and Manx Shearwaters were passing offshore, a real seabird spectacle.

A change of habitat next as we headed inland to wetland areas where we enjoyed both Little and Great crested Grebes and plenty of wildfowl. Last stop of the day was Newbrough forest where we enjoyed great views of Siskins and a Little Egret on a forest pool.

We ended our two days celebrating great birds and great company with a fine meal at the Prince’s Arms Hotel in Trefriw, perfect. Many thanks to Mike and Joanne for their wonderful company and sharing great birds with us.


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