A Wonderful Day Revisited Moors And Estuary Birdwatching Trip 25 February 2019

Black Grouse May 2016 7

We picked up Paul and Sarah from their Llandudno hotel at 5.30am and it was a perfect night, flat calm and clear, most importantly no fog. We were heading for the moors in the hope of seeing displaying Black Grouse, hence the very early start. It was an hour’s drive to reach the moors and conversation flowed easily covering a wide variety of topics. We learned that this was Paul and Sarah's very first ever birdwatching day out! Wow! They had certainly chosen a good one and one with a 5.30am start.

We reached the moor just as the very first fingers of light crept over the eastern horizon and luckily no sign of fog, the previous day had seen dense fog in the area. We immediately saw our main target bird for the day, Black Grouse, whew! Eighteen of these wonderful birds were already displaying close to our position and even in the near dark their wonderful white under-tails stood out. Our Leica Noctivid binoculars really excel in these conditions, the light gathering is just mind-blowing allowing far better views than any other make or model we can’t recommend them highly enough. It wasn’t just a visual treat, these wonderful Black Grouse provided an amazing audio experience too, cooing, gurgling, keewicking floated across the still moor, a spellbinding experience.

Black Grouse May 2016 2

We watched the strutting grouse looking like Olympic fencers, lunging forward at a rival male, the rival jumping back out of reach only to return the lunge, very comical. Very little contact all for show this displaying lark. Leking, as this form of display is known, as takes place at dawn and groups of male Black Grouse use traditional sites to show off. As the light improved we could all see more detail, the lovely red “comb” over the eye of the males, the beautiful fan shaped undertail coverts and the Royal blue necks of the birds, just stunning. Moving on, further across the heather moorland, we watched some rather distant Red Grose giving their distinctive “go-back, go-back” calls. Two more Black Grouse were display on a bare area and these two were coming to blows, a right tear-up! A little further on we stopped and set up the Leica telescopes to watch another Black Grouse lek, the sun was coming up fast and we hoped the birds would keep going long enough to enjoy views with the sun on the birds. Flasks of boiling water appeared from the boot and hot chocolates and coffees were enjoyed with yummy biscuits, very welcome. The sun crept down the hillside towards the beautiful displaying Black Grose. A Reed Bunting sang from the top of a small bare bush lovely to hear in February. Four male Red Grouse were calling around us and two of these wonderful birds flew in landed pretty close allowing super views through the telescopes. The sun had reached the displaying birds and we soaked up frame-filling views of these oh so beautiful birds. We enjoy every detail with the superb optics and perfect light, even seeing the pink inside of the bird’s bills as the called, just wonderful.

Red Grouse male June 2017 2

Lovely to see both Red and Black Grouse on the same morning.

Coffee, biscuits and grouse all enjoyed we moved to the edge of the moor and walked up a ridge where a beautiful vista opened up. A stunning view across woods, valleys, moors and high mountains beyond, more birds too of course, great looks at both Lesser Redpoll and Siskins. Back near the car lovely views of a pair of delightful Stonechats and then we headed back over the moor, a pair of Red Grose posed for us in the lovely Spring like sunshine. Time for breakfast.

Norfolk Pink footed Geese snow

Pink-footed Geese another specie on the increase on the Dee Estuary - libary photo.

A great full breakfast went down very well indeed after our early start. Next we dropped down to the Dee Estuary for a complete change of habitat and birds. We walked alongside Burton Marsh scanning the vast area of wet grassland and pools. Lots of Pink-footed Geese were feeding here and a family of Whooper Swans also here. A Merlin was on a fence post, this tiny falcon enjoyed in the sunshine. Marsh Harriers swept low over the marsh, a bird we would never have seen here as recently as ten years ago, wonderful that this raptor is increasing. Sadly, the same could not be said for the next bird of prey, a Hen Harrier, these birds are relentlessly persecuted on Driven Grouse Moors despite being protected! This illegal killing is sickening but goes on and on, time it was stopped. Several Little Egrets were on the marsh then we spotted another white bird, this time a Great White Egret – another species on the up here on the Dee Estuary. We had super close views of Stonechat, Meadow Pipit and Goldfinch in the glorious sunshine.

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank in winter plumage silver white below - libary photo.

Time for some closer birds, so moved on to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve, just a mile away from Burton Marsh. The visitor centre overlooks man made lagoons packed with birds and there is a coffee machine, perfect after our very early start. The coffee was welcome and the birds plentiful as we watched delicate Avocets and lots of Black-tailed Godwits. Three Spotted Redshanks waded through the water watched by lots of Common Redshank and a single Ruff was picked out. We enjoyed watching Long-tailed Tits in the willows and enjoyed a gang of Grey Herons all hunched up in the sunshine.

A great day and so many wonderful birds, we hoped we hadn’t overloaded Paul and Sarah with too many species! But as proud new members of the RSPB, thanks Dan at Burton Mere for your help with this, we hope they will enjoy a lot more birds and hopefully we will see them again on our tours!

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