A Strange Day In A Sunny North Wales Unexpected Birds For Sure 24 August 2020

Wonderful views of Gannets from the Great Orme, Llandudno, early morning.

It is always great when friends come to stay in Llandudno and we get the chance to meet up, something we have really missed during the long months of lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus. Sean and Maura were staying at The St George's Hotel on the seafront in Llandudno so Alan picked up Sean at 6.30am for some pre-breakfast birding on the nearby Great Orme. The sky was dramatic first thing with a band of orange on the eastern horizon. Along the Marine Drive birds were in short supply but five Rock Pipits did show well, scanning offshore was more productive with a flock of Kittiwakes on the sea, lots of Gannets passing, all going west, some very close indeed allowing super views. A Mediterranean Gull flew right below the cliffs and there were plenty of Shags just offshore. Then two geese appeared flying east, at first just silhouettes in the early light, they looked small? As they moved past the light improved and they were Barnacle Geese! A very odd record indeed and the first time Alan had seen this species from the Great Orme and even stranger in late August.

Juvenile Northern Wheatear on the Great Orme one of the many joys of autumn birdwatching.

Up on the limestone pavement area, on top of the headland, a Wheatear was the first migrant seen close to the car-park and there were plenty of Stonechats along with a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets. The sparse bushes by the stone wall, marking the border between pavement and sheep fields, held two Willow Warblers and a male Blackcap. Walking back to the car a Chough flew past us, a nice finish to the pre-breakfast session.

At nine am we picked up Sean and Maura from the hotel and headed south into the Conwy Valley, blue sky and sunshine were very welcome indeed and the views of the mountains were superb. First stop was the lovely 13th century church at Caerhun where the views were beautiful over the Conwy River and valley and plenty of birds. A Goosander was in the river channel along with Grey Heron and a flock of Lapwings. Both Mistle and Song Thrush showed well in the yew trees and a Common Buzzard stared down in the warm sunshine. A Red Kite circled over the wood just to the north and a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew over.

We then headed up into the hills and the views just got better and better. A glorious morning to see Snowdonia National Park at its best with the purple heather just stunning in the clear morning air. Sadly our enjoyment of this breath-taking landscape was tempered a little by the sight of a mechanical digger creating drainage channels in the beautiful bog here! Why? These upland bogs retain rain water like a giant sponge and release it slowly into the streams that feed the Conwy River below. Speeding up the flow of water only increases the risk of flooding in the valley, crazy. With a helicopter whizzing back and forth and jet fighters overhead it was not surprising that the birds we had come to see were not here! The digger alone would have been enough to clear birds out of this scenic place. We did manage good views of Reed Buntings and lots more Stonechats but the only raptors were very distant Kestrel and Common Buzzard. Still the scenery was just beautiful.

We then enjoyed a delicious lunch at Llanrwst at Tu Hwnt I’r Bont tearoom by the Conwy River. Many thanks Sean and Maura for treating us it really was a lovely meal. We then headed into the nearby Gwydir Forest and a viewpoint overlooking the trees and the mountains in the distance, lovely warm sunshine continued. A Common Redstart gave wonderful views just below us perching right out in the open allowing prolonged looks through the Leica telescopes. Jay, Great spotted Woodpecker, two Common Buzzards and yet another Stonechat added to the scene here.

Into the Ogwen Valley and the scenery was fantastic with sunshine and clear blue sky such a wonderful place in weather like this. Birds were sadly very thin on the ground, not at all surprising in late August, Ravens and Stonechats, of course, were the only things showing.

Dropping down to the coast at Aber Ogwen the tide was high, very high, and an amazing flock of some 130 Mute Swans were off the beach car park. With a bit a scanning we picked out the summering Whooper Swan with them and saw lots of Common Eider loafing on the sea here, about forty birds a high count for North Wales. A Peregrine Falcon flew east over the water and gave us a super view in the sunshine. Five Eurasian Wigeon circled the bay and then dropped down on to the water and began to drink, surely these “winter” visitors had just arrived from further north? First we have seen this autumn and so exciting to think they had literally just arrived! A flock of waders flew low around the bay, Common Redshank, but amongst them were two Greenshank but they landed out of sight. Then we saw a large bird flying east over the bay, a fair way off, but the scope was straight on it and we were amazed to see an Osprey! A super record for this part of North Wales! All that excitement had left us thirsty so we headed over to Conwy Marina where we enjoyed drinks in the lovely sunshine and were amazed by how many people were out and about here on a Monday late afternoon!

Pink footed Geese arrive Sept

We have never before seen, and heard, Pink-footed Geese in August in North Wales before!

In the evening we all met up again and headed down to the Princes Arms in Trefriw for dinner. As we drove south down the Conwy Valley Ruth spotted two “chunky” birds on the top of a dead tree by the roadside, sounded interesting, quick “U” turn and amazingly two Hawfinch were still in the tree top! Luckily our 4x4 has a full glass roof that allowed us to all see these wonderful birds, and we had our bins with us, even when we're heading out for dinner! A real stroke of luck. Down at the hotel we were looking over the Conwy River and saw a flock of geese flying high south down the valley, we don’t usually see flocks of geese here! The geese were high but we could still hear their calls, “wink-wink”, surly Pink-footed Geese but it is August?! As we watched, the geese turned and flew back north giving us a second look and listen at this amazing sight! Pink-footed Geese in North Wales in August! We later heard a flock had also been seen in Lincolnshire earlier in the day. One of the many wonderful things about birdwatching – it is unpredictable! We would never have dreamt our day out would have included Barnacle Geese, Pink-footed Geese, an Osprey and two Hawfinch!

Huge thanks to Sean and Maura for their lovely company and hope we can meet up again before too long.

We are so lucky to have so many species and habitats within easy reach here in North Wales, and once the world returns to normal, we would love you to join us for one of our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips days out. We expect to enjoy a lot of birds during these relaxed pace tours and we can tailor make the day to suit you.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips in the future just drop us a line to arrange a custom tour and please see our tours pages for set departure trips. If you have any questions at all please fire away here….


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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