Eagles Harriers Hawks Kites Buzzards And Falcons In North West Wales

Seeing a Hen Harrier over the wild landscapes of North Wales is always such a thrill! Photo Frank Wildman.

A wonderful time in the uplands of North-West Wales today, July is often thought of as a rather quiet month for birdwatching but that is not the case at all. July is an exciting month with many breeding birds having fledged young, many of our seabirds still around our coasts and the start of autumn bird migration. An early start this morning to meet friends, Ivan and Rose, at 8am up in the hills. Driving up into the mountains it did not look good with low cloud down below the level of our meeting place! But it's always good to stick to plan “A” so we continued to climb up very steeply into the mist-covered hills and hope for better weather to come. The gorse bushes were covered in spiders' webs and each was like a lattice of delicate silver decorated with sparkling drops of dew, just beautiful.

Great to see so many birds today many with young here a male Stonechat.

The track levelled out and now it was possible to peer through the mist should any birds be close enough to see, the sharp bends and steep hill had meant you needed to really concentrate on driving! A male Stonechat posed on a fencepost, a few Meadow Pipits flitted about on the track side and a Skylark flew up and off into the murk. Reaching the small parking area, where Ivan and Rose were meeting us, it was even thicker mist, we were hardly able to see a thing. But slowly it began to lift and it was worth getting out to have a scan around the whole fifty yards that were visible! A few more Meadow Pipits and another Stonechat, then another brown bird landed on top of the heather fairly close, another pipit? No, a Grasshopper Warbler sat out in full view, amazing! Never an easy bird to see and one that doesn’t often show off like this, just brilliant.

The weather slowly kept on improving and the mist lifted revealing a few glimpses of the beautiful surroundings. Ivan and Rose arrived and now it was a fairly decent morning, so glad that plan “A” had been stuck to. We set off from the parking area following a good track, we kept scanning the clearing hillsides and ridges for birds of prey but none were moving. Stonechats kept popping up and it was great to see so many juvenile birds amongst them. Plenty of Meadow Pipits too and a few Skylarks one of which showed well on the track. Linnets were here too and again juveniles amongst them, it has been a great breeding season with so many young birds!

A Common Buzzard circled over a hill and then a distant Kestrel flew over quickly followed by a Red Kite over the area we had just walked across, the raptors were waking up! More scanning paid off and we spotted a raptor over a heather-covered ridge off to the left. Wow, a wonderful female Hen Harrier floating over the purple heather in the sunshine with a now blue sky above, it doesn’t get much better! Just superb seeing such a beautiful raptor in such a stunning location in the sunshine and with great company. The Hen Harrier drifted back and forth allowing us a great look of this marvellous bird and as we watched a second raptor rose over the same ridge and we were thrilled to see a female Goshawk! What a brilliant dilemma, which bird to concentrate on? The Hen Harrier or the Goshawk? So exciting to have not one but two of these rare birds of prey in view at the same time, so lucky. We got our breath back and heart rates down and carried on keeping scanning. Ivan spotted a beautiful Whinchat on top of a gorse bush by a tumbling stream and we enjoyed beautiful looks in the bright warm sunshine. The views were now just breath-taking and many photographs were taken in the glorious weather cobalt blue sky with white fluffy clouds and perfect reflections in the pools here just perfect conditions now.

Stunning landscapes in the sunshine

Loud calls drew our attention to two Peregrine Falcons tearing across the sky, what a thrill to see another species of bird of prey! The hills of North-West Wales are a wonderful place to enjoy birds in their natural habitat. No Driven Grouse Shooting here just a wonderful population of birds and wildlife living very happily as they have for a very long time before man ever thought of killing wildlife for fun. On the walk back we stopped to watch lovely ringlet butterflies, a large freshwater leech amazing creature, a male Lesser Redpoll, a whole family of Reed Buntings including three recently fledged Reed Buntings, lots more Stonechats, Ravens “cronked” overhead. Another beautiful Red Kite showed off in the sunshine, what a stunning bird. While watching this beauty more loud calls alerted us to more Peregrine Falcons, three this time. Two juveniles and an adult female were hurtling across the sky screaming as they went, wow, fantastic seeing so many raptors on one walk! The family of Peregrines put on an amazing show directly above us, neck straining stuff keeping them in the binoculars as they played chase back and forth right above us.

Oh, you might be wondering where we saw eagles in North Wales? Well we did, thanks to Ivan’s identification skills, four them in fact. Yes, we did, F15 United States Air Force F15 Eagle fighter jets tearing over the mountains in and out of the clouds but nowhere near as impressive as all the wonderful raptors that we had enjoyed!

So what do you do after such a wonderful amazing time in the hills of North Wales? Go to a wonderful tearoom of course and well worth the drive to get there, Tu Hwnt i'r Bont by the bridge in Llanrwst alongside the Conwy River. This wonderful place has recently reopened following lockdown and great to report they are a wonderful example of how to operate in these post lockdown times. Customers are shown to outside tables, via hand sanitizer, and the menu is on clear easy to read blackboards and staff take the orders at the table. Top marks to the team at Tu Hwnt i'r Bont, we will be back soon! Many thanks to Ivan and Rose for the lovely lunch and great fun company today. Oh, by the way, we also saw another bird of prey from the lunch table: a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by House Martins, what a day for raptors.

Here are a few of Ivan's photographs taken on today's outing.....

The three Peregrines right over our heads, wow!

Ringlet butterflies making more ringlet butterflies.

Something we rarely see in North Wales: a leech!

A male Stonechat, one of many we enjoyed today. For more of Ivan's photos follow @nitroshutter on Twitter.

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 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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