Best Birdwatching In North Wales Example Of A Best Of North Wales Five Day Tour Day

Black Guillemot

North Wales offers a wonderful mix of birds and habitats in a small area - Black Guillemot.

We run our five day Best of North Wales tours all year round and they always produce wonderful birds in spectacular scenery with wonderful food and lots of fun. We always love putting together of “Best of North Wales” five day Birdwatching Trips as there is so much to see here! Each month sees changes in the birds we encounter so each tour is unique but always full of wonderful birds in beautiful scenery here is an example of a tour that we ran in March 2019 to give you a flavour of how these five day trips run.

Day one. We met our guests, Ray, Val, Paul, Wilf and Brian and Rita at our base for the five days the lovely Princes Arms Hotel in the Conwy valley. The hotel makes the perfect base for our five day tours as it is within easy reach of the birdwatching hot-spots we visit. The hotel also has wonderful food, a warm welcome and birds on the doorstep.

The birdwatching literally began immediately as the hotel overlooks the Conwy River and valley, Buzzards were overhead and Long-tailed Tits were on the bird feeders, a Red Kite drifted over the ridge opposite the hotel – great start!

We enjoyed a lovely lunch before heading out on our first of many birdwatching trips. The weather however was far from ideal with gale force winds making it tricky to stand up let alone see birds! Our first stop was at a beautiful 13th century church overlooking the Conwy River but sadly the gale force winds meant few birds were on show so we quickly moved on.

Red-billed Chough are a real speciality bird here on our tours in North Wales come & enjoy them.

At the Great Orme, Llandudno, we were at last sheltered from the gale and could enjoy some great birds. Turnstone were feeding here on the rocks as Fulmars swept overhead and attempted to land on the ledges, always funny to watch their comical landings, crashing on to the cliffs. A Peregrine Falcon posed for us, and we all enjoyed wonderful looks at the fastest bird in the world through the Leica telescopes. A large group of Atlantic grey seals were hauled out on their usual beach but sadly, due to the strong winds no auks were on the cliffs where they had been only two days previously. But all was not lost we spotted a breeding plumaged Black Guillemot on the sea and as we watched this handsome bird we saw three more! Ruth then spotted two Chough sheltering on the cliff just above us, and luckily these lovely corvids stayed in view allowing us all to enjoy them.

Moving further east along the North Wales coast we enjoyed close looks at Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Oystercatchers before heading back to the hotel with the wind still at gale force. Despite the weather we had enjoyed over fifty species of birds during our first afternoon. We all enjoyed a wonderful meal in the evening, always great to finish a day’s birding with good food!

Best Of North Wales Five Day Tour Day Two 3 March 2019

Goldeneye 2

We enjoyed a wonderful mix of birds from the shelter of the hide including Goldeneye.

Our first full day of the five day “Best of North Wales” Birdwatching Trip and it dawn with heavy rain, not good! We tried to see a few birds from the front of the hotel but hard going. We all tucked into a great breakfast before boarding the minibus with the rain coming down hard. We drove north up to the coast and visited Aber Ogwen, the mouth of the Ogwen river where a hide overlooks the estuary on one side and a shallow pool behind the hide, ideal for a wet morning. We had timed our visit to coincide with the falling tide so lots of birds were coming in to feed close to our position. Flocks of Redshank and Dunlin dropped in and allowed us super views, amongst them five gorgeous Greenshank strode through the shallow waters. Out in the bay Goldeneye dived and Wigeon floated on the sheltered water as the rain came down. Plenty to see on the pool side too, Little Egrets showed well along with Moorhens and the feeders here were busy with Coal, Blue and Great Tits along with Nuthatch and a nice surprise of two Siskins.

Dipper Mar

Dippers are always a delight to see and luckily we have a number of spots to look for them.

Back on the estuary side three Black-tailed Godwits dropped in and showed really well, great to see them stood with Curlew and Redshank for comparison. Ruth then spotted a Dipper! A very unexpected bird here this dapper bird was on the bank of the river and was collecting nest material. Little Grebes were also feeding in the river channel here and five Teal were picked out. So many birds in view at once!

With the rain still coming down we moved to the beach and scanned over the Menai Straits, Great crested Grebes and Shelduck were offshore and Alan found a single Slavonian Grebe. This diminutive scarce bird was on the sea next to a female Goldeneye, handy for scale.

Eider 2 Ythan

Always wonderful to see Common Eidre though not so common along our coast here in North Wales.

East along the coast to Llanfairfechan, where the rain eased to drizzle, and we enjoyed a hot drink and the loos. The sea was calm and we scanned offshore, plenty of birds here and we watched Red-throated Divers, Great crested Grebes, Eiders, Razorbills and Common Scoter. More waders on the beach here too with Turnstones and Dunlin were feeding amongst the rocks at the stream mouth.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Glan Conwy as the rain continued to pour down. The afternoon was spent at RSPB Conwy where the hides provided much needed shelter from the pouring rain and lagoons provided lots of birds. One of the first birds we watched was a Sand Martin, so good to see this newly arrived migrant. The Sand Martin swept back and forth over the first lagoon looking for insects in the heavy rain. More signs of Spring were at least three Chiffchaff feeding in the reeds around the lagoons, poor birds; we felt for them trying to feed in the heavy rain.

There were still winter birds here too, March is such an exciting month with a real mix of winter, resident and summer birds all possible to enjoy. Goldeneye, Pochard and Wigeon were all on the lagoons and we had great views through the Leica telescopes. Common Snipe were on the islands in the pools and again the telescopes allowed wonderful views of these beautiful birds. Both Great crested and Little Grebes were diving for fish in the second lagoon.

With no let-up in the rain we headed back to the hotel to dry out and to enjoy another wonderful meal. When we did the check list, in the bar, folks were pleasantly surprised that we had enjoyed 75 species of birds despite the weather being so awful, just shows the birds are still out there!

Best Of North Wales Five Day Tour Day Three 4 March 2019

Sunday morning and finally good weather. Stepping out of the hotel at before 7am Alan saw Wilf already out and looking up, a female Goshawk right overhead! Wow! This muscular raptor circled right overhead allowing wonderful views what a fantastic start to the day. Now joined by Paul, Val and Ray they walked down to the river bank enjoying the early morning sunshine. Buzzards were already up soaring and a Sparrowhawk flew along the forest edge above the hotel. Then the Goshawk was back, this female bird circled low over the ridge before moving off out of sight. But a second Goshawk was soon in view, this time a displaying male, really showing off in the perfect light. We even had time for everyone present to enjoy the bird in the telescope amazing!

Back for a wonderful full Welsh breakfast but Brian and Rita had only just come down so had not seen the amazing Goshawk display. During breakfast Alan kept scanning the blue sky and suddenly jumped up “Goshawk! Not kidding, outside now!” Everyone bundled out of the front door, Alan grapping a scope, and there over the valley was an immature female Goshawk, our third of the morning, fantastic! Brian and Rita both had good views of this huge hawk in the scope and we were joined by Lindsay, the hotel owner, who also saw it, a new bird for him. What a fantastic start too day three of our tour!

Breakfast resumed and finished we headed through the Snowdonia National Park, enjoying the wonderful scenery under blue skies. We crossed the Menai Strait on to Anglesey and our first birding stop at Beddmanarch Bay. The tide was very high so not a huge number of birds but that said we picked up some very good ones. Four adult Mediterranean Gulls were on the water, before flying west, beautiful pale gulls in the sunshine. A female Red-breasted Merganser showed nicely and Great crested Grebes were in the bay, waders flew in and landed on a spit, Grey Plovers, Turnstones, Knot and a single Bar-tailed Godwit, very nice. As we left we spotted Ringed Plover and Dunlin amongst the shingle, they blended in so well we almost missed them.

Into nearby Holyhead and we immediately found the hoped for Hooded Crow, this smart looking corvid was on top of a lamp-post and we enjoyed really close views. Next we were very lucky again, quickly finding a flock of twenty Purple Sandpipers roosting on rocks really close, wonderful views. Twenty was a really good count of these wintering waders, numbers are declining here in North Wales.

RSPB South Stack next but it was very windy so very few birds showing and again no auks on the cliffs sadly. We did see some Chough in flight and a lovely pair of Stonechat near the cliff top and of course breath-taking views of the sea-cliffs, always worth seeing. Then down to Holyhead Harbour where thankfully much less wind. Scanning the harbour we soon saw Black Guillemots, with at least five of these handsome auks here. Two Common Guillemots were nice to see too as there had been none on the cliffs. On again to the Inland Sea where three drake Scaup were a nice bonus, these diving ducks are scarce visitors to North Wales and showing well in the bright sunshine. A Merlin shot over the inlet but was so fast not everyone managed to see it. We tucked into a great pub lunch all those birds had given us all a real appetite even after our hearty breakfasts with added Goshawk!

We then headed south to a freshwater lake where it was windy again and the sun had gone. A pair of Goosander were our first of the trip and a Chiffchaff was in the willows along with a Goldcrest. We had hoped to see the huge flock of Golden Plover in this area but sadly not a single one, perhaps they had migrated north in the warm weather last week? Malltraeth next stop where we enjoyed wonderful views of Pintail, surely one of the most beautiful ducks? We also enjoyed watching Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Little Egret and close views of Redshank here. In the nearby forest we picked up some woodlands birds and on the small lake here Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Little Grebes.

Just time for one more stop overlooking Malltraeth Marsh, a flock of swans were on the wet fields below and with the telescopes we could see a Whooper Swan amongst the Mute Swans nice bird to finish the day. Back to the hotel for another wonderful dinner, we did the checklist for the day and were very pleased with 88 species enjoyed including some really special birds.

Best Of North Wales Five Day Tour Day Four 5 March 2019

Black Grouse May 2016 6

One of THE birds to see in the UK - displaying Black Grouse - just fantastic!

An early start, on day four of our tour as we headed for the moors, to look for some very special birds indeed. After a first breakfast we left the hotel and drove up on to the moors, we knew just the spot and within seconds of stopping we were all enjoying the wonderful spectacle of displaying Black Grouse! We set up the telescopes and had frame filling views of these most stunning grouse. All males, we rarely see females at the “lek” this early in the season they were showing off strutting their stuff and making wonderful noises. This is one of nature’s most amazing spectacles and everyone should see it at least once. As we watched the sun crept down the hillside and lit up the Black Grouse making them look even better if that was possible? Their necks were beautiful royal-blue and the red “comb” over the eye just glowed in the morning sun, wow, wow! Not only Black Grouse here, as we soaked up the spectacle Red Grouse called their “go-back, go-back” calls and we saw two fine males in the heather looking stunning in the sunshine, very special birds indeed. We enjoyed drinks and snacks on the moor before heading down.

Spotted Redshank Sept Titchwell 1

From dispalying Black Grouse to masses of waders including Spotted Redshank we give you variety!

At RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve we enjoyed more coffee, always welcome after our early start. A mass of birds were on the man-made pools in front of the reception hide, a real case of where to look first. A flock of sixty Avocets were right in-front of us looking wonderful in the sunshine. A Marsh Harrier drifted over the pools causing mass panic amongst the masses of wildfowl and waders, luckily soon calming down again. Pink-footed Geese were feeding at the back of the pools and Paul spotted three Egyptian Geese beyond them. Back on the pools we watched Shoveler, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and lots of Black-tailed Godwits. A single Ruff joined one of the flocks of Black-tailed Godwits and a Spotted Redshanks strode through the shallow water.

A short walk us down to the Marsh Covert hide and here we watched a lovely Great White Egret amongst a gang of Grey Herons. We were very pleased to see five Spotted Redshank, on the pool here, feeding amongst a flock of Common Redshank. A stoat shot past the hide at high speed always great to see this wonderful mammal. We walked on to the Inner Marsh Farm hide, seeing a Cetti’s Warbler briefly on the way, and enjoyed lots more birds in great light. Again Black-tailed Godwits were showing very well along with lots of Lapwing and small numbers of Dunlin. Two Golden Plover were picked out amongst the Lapwings; we were delighted to see these lovely waders as we thought we had missed these.

We moved on down to nearby Burton Marsh where it was pretty windy but we did see a nice “ring-tail” Hen Harrier, distant Marsh Harrier and a Peregrine. Time for lunch! We had a lovely lunch at Ness Gardens and then drove north to Parkgate Marsh on the Dee Estuary. Here we scanned the huge marsh and soon spotted a Short-eared Owl far out in the grass, no sooner spotted than the owl moved out of sight, frustrating. We scanned some more, a “ring-tail” Hen Harrier was spotted low over the marsh and this rare raptor put on a superb display back and forth over the marsh a real thrill to watch. Hen Harriers are sadly much rarer than they should be due to illegal persecution on Driven Grouse Moors, a scandal of our times. A Great White Egret flapped over the marsh and landed in view, at one point being in the same telescope view as a Little Egret. Two Merlins then flew across our view, wonderful “pocket-rocket” raptors and hard to follow they moved so fast! One of the Merlin landed in view way out on the marsh but even in the Leica telescopes it was a rubbish view! Alan then spotted another Short-eared Owl amazingly close in the grass, amazing, had it been there all along? Presumably it had, we turn the telescopes on this wonderful bird and we enjoyed great looks. But it got better; suddenly the owl was in the air in the sunshine and coming even closer! Wow! What a wonderful view of Short-eared Owl as it slowly flapped past us, just breath-taking, it then landed again to our right in almost full view and cameras were in over-drive. As we watched the owl a gorgeous Red Kite flew low over-head another wow moment. Time to head for home, what a wonderful day!

Back at the hotel we went through the check-list and found we had enjoyed 83 species of bird, brilliant, and what quality.

Best Of North Wales Five Day Tour Day Five 6 March 2019

Our last day of our five day Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, today the tour finished after lunch at the hotel. We awoke to torrential rain, not good at all. Despite the down pour we tried some pre-breakfast birding from the porch of the hotel, not surprisingly, not much to see though we did watch Nuthatch and Long-tailed Tit on the feeders. Another very tasty breakfast went down very well indeed and then we headed out. Luckily the rain had just about stopped, whew! A short drive and we parked near the Conwy River and as we were all getting out Alan spotted a Hawfinch, our target bird here! Not one, there were six of these bull-necked massive-billed finches in a bare tree showing off, wow! We quickly had the Hawfinches in the telescopes and everyone had superb views as the finches moved around in the tree tops. What a fantastic start to our last day.

Next stop was a viewpoint overlooking RSPB Conwy where we set up the telescopes and scanned the lagoons and adjacent estuary. Lots of birds here! It was high tide so many birds had been pushed off the estuary and onto the reserve. Waders included Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Curlews. Wildfowl were well represented too with Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Shoveler. A Sparrowhawk flew in landed in a tree; Brain was very pleased as he had missed the previous ones we had encountered.

On again to the Great Orme where it was sheltered and felt warm in the weak sunshine, this was more like it! Turnstones were roosting on the rocks just below us lovely to have such good views. A Red-throated Diver was fairly close in and through the telescopes we enjoyed great views. We watched a pair of Peregrines high on the cliffs where lots of Fulmars were coming and going. As we watched these birds we spotted a male Wheatear on the cliff top, wonderful to see our first of the Spring. Luckily the improved weather meant that the seabirds were back on the main nesting cliffs and we enjoyed a lot of birds here. Hundreds of Common Guillemots were shoulder to shoulder on the cliff ledges. Many Razorbills were on the sea below the cliffs and three lovely Black Guillemots amongst them. Lots of Kittiwakes were also on the cliffs along with Cormorants and Shags. Further offshore we watched Gannets diving for fish and a flock of Common Scoter resting on the calm sea.

Heading back to the hotel we had time for one more stop, at the viewpoint overlooking the Conwy River by a beautiful church. Sadly, the weather had reverted to dawn type, pouring rain, yuck. We gave it a go, using large umbrellas to keep the rain off the telescopes. Our persistence was very well rewarded a gorgeous male Hen Harrier was on a log below the church! We could hardly believe our eyes, such a wonderful bird to finish the trip on.

Back to the hotel for a lovely lunch and to tot up the final checklist, on our last half day we had seen an amazing 74 species and this brought the total for the trip to 123 species, very happy with that.

As everybody was getting ready to leave we added one species! A pair of Mandarin duck on the River Conwy below the hotel superb! So adjusted the totals to 75 and 124, even better!

Huge thanks to Val, Paul, Wilf, Ray, Brian and Rita for their wonderful company, enthusiasm and good humour and we look forward to enjoying more birds with them in the future. Also huge thanks to Lyndsay and Anne at the Princes Arms for looking after us all so well and all the delicious food!

Check back soon for more blogs about our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips.

Come and experience North Wales for yourself and enjoy the wonderful variety of birds, the beautiful scenery, great food and great fun!

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