Day Three Of Three Day North Wales Tour Valleys Forests Streams

Hawfinch Roy de Hass

Tony and Eva had three target species including the elusive Hawfinch.

We met Tony and Eva at their Llandudno hotel for the third and last day of their three day custom Birdwatching Trip of North Wales. There were three species of bird that they particularly wanted to look for today, Goshawk, Hawfinch and one of their real favourite birds Dipper, so no pressure! We headed south down the Conwy Valley and within minutes we were watching a muscular female Goshawk – so, so lucky! This huge hawk was soaring above us and sparring with a Herring Gull, superb to see the Goshawk flying with a familiar species, it really brought home just how big a female Goshawk is. The gull broke away, lucky to leave unscathed? The hawk soared and then moved off south leaving us elated, what a fantastic start to our last day and of course on of the target birds already in the bag.

Next stop was a beautiful fast flowing stream in the hope of a second of the target birds, Dipper. We scanned the rocks mid-stream and saw a lovely Grey Wagtail but nothing Dipper shaped.

On again and a try for the third of the “most wanted” the Hawfinch. We parked and walked alongside a river, we had gone perhaps fifty yards when Ruth spotted a Hawfinch! This brute of a finch was on top of a bare tree just ahead of us, panic as we got the bird in the Leica telescope. Luckily the Hawfinch was happy on its lofty perch and we all soaked up frame filling views. A second Hawfinch flew in and joined the first so we now had a male and a female in full view posing in the open for us just wonderful! If you have not seen a Hawfinch they are gorgeous birds and have the biggest bills, those massive beaks can crush cherry stones, easy to believe when you see them. Our second big chunk of luck, could we keep this up?

We headed further south towards a forest where we hoped to find more finches. On the way we stopped to check a fast-flowing stream, no Dipper, then another stream, no Dipper. We did stop to watch stunning Red Kites always a thrill to see.

Crossbill flock on bog

Crossbills are never easy to see so we were very lucky indeed.

Arriving in the upland conifers we had not even stopped the 4x4 when Ruth spotted a Crossbill, just what we were looking for! We piled out and had a brief view of the bird on a larch tree before it flew taking seven more, unseen, Crossbills with it! We were thrilled to see these scarce nomadic birds and so quickly. We were just about to get back in the car when we heard the “chup-chup” calls of the Crossbills, they were back! We enjoyed wonderful frame filling views of these cross-billed finches. Not often you can see the tips of the bill crossed over, it certainly makes a difference having superb Leica optics to enjoy the birds. Next up was a very welcome hot chocolate and we enjoyed watching lots of birds coming to the feeder’s right outside the café window. Dozens of Siskins were coming and going and a stunning Brambling flew in and joined them, a real wow bird. We had a look around the moorland bordering the upland forest but apart from a pair of Mistle Thrushes and a few Ravens it was bird less, time for lunch! But before that we checked a fast flowing stream but no Dipper! Then another, but no Dipper!

We knew just the place that Tony and Eva would love for lunch, an art gallery with a great café! They loved it and really enjoyed looking at the paintings by local artists as the meals were prepared. We all enjoyed the great food and then we set off again for more birds. We knew yet another place we could try for Dipper and we were driving towards that spot when Alan saw a Dipper! Luckily we found a place to pull in safely and hurried back to look at the river. Whew! The Dipper was still on the same rock and showing off nicely. All target birds well and truly in the bag and huge smiles all round! A pair of Goosander also showed off next to the dapper Dipper.

With the Dipper done far sooner than we had hoped we headed for the coast and Bangor Pier. We scanned the choppy Menai Straits, the body of sea water that separates the mainland from the Isle of Anglesey but no sign of the recent Red-necked Grebe here. Quite a few birdwatchers looking but none had been lucky. It was cold out on the pier in the wind but we did see some birds including Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and Turnstones.

We drove back east to RSPB Conwy where it was still windy and cold but it was bright. Lots of birds for our day list here as this was the first freshwater wetland of the day. Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal and Common Snipe were all enjoyed. But the main event was still to come, Starlings. Huge numbers of Starlings are coming in to roost in the reed beds here and we had planned to finish the tour with a murmuration. The Starlings did their stuff and there were lots of “ooohhhh” and “aaaahhhhs” as the mass of birds swept back and forth over the lagoons making amazing shapes just like a bait ball of fish! An ariel ballet that played out right in front of us, the performance interrupted by a Sparrowhawk attacking the Starling what a wonderful end to three bird-filled days!

We would love you to join us here in North Wales for an exciting Birdwatching Trip, we have space on our next five day Best of North Tour running from Saturday 2nd March to Wednesday 6th March 2019. Come and join us for wonderful birds, beautiful scenery, great hotel, lovely food and lots of fun! Please email us here for details of this and all our tours….

We look forward to sharing great birds and wildlife with you soon!

Black Grouse May 2016 2

Black Grouse just one of the 120 species you can expect to see on our March trip.

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