Global Birding Big Day Here In Very Wet North Wales 8 May 2021

Avocet Titchwell

One of our first birds on the Global Birding Big Day - Pied Avocet - wonderful in any weather.

We do love a bird race, trying to see as many species of bird as possible in a given time, and we were really looking forward to being part of the Global Birding bird race to raise funds for Birdlife International. Well we were looking forward to the event until we saw the weather forecast for 8th May – torrential rain all day. But it was a global event with teams out looking for birds literally all over the world so no chance of a date change, rain or no rain the race was on.

Find out all about the Global Birding Big Day here...

The streets of Llandudno provided our first bird, Herring Gull, under the street lights.

The alarm went off at 3.45am and we stumbled about getting our kit together for the Global Big Day – rain was bouncing off the windows seems the weather forecast was right sadly. Out into the dark and Herring Gull instantly became bird number one for our bird race and quickly followed by a singing Blackbird as we reached the car. The rain was really torrential as we drove east towards Shotwick on the Welsh – English border a great place to start a bird race on the edge of the Dee Estuary. The rain seemed even heavier, was that even possible, as we got out and headed along the path that borders RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands - part of the reserve lies in Wales.

Wood Sandpiper 2016 1

A fly over Wood Sandpiper was a great "bonus bird" in the torrential rain - this one enjoyed in Finland.

The conditions were just awful for birding not only the heavy rain but it was windy to far, far, far from ideal for seeing birds. But the race was on and we needed birds quickly, peering through the rain covered scope we could make out Avocets on the flooded fields – a great bird to see in North Wales – along with ducks and geese. A distant Little Owl was a lovely surprise and a fly over Cattle Egret was another “bonus” bird. We were now soaked and had not added anywhere near as many birds as we had hoped for and began to trudge back to the car. Just then a wader rose up from the reserve and flew over our heads a Wood Sandpiper wow! A scarce migrant and certainly a bird we had not even considered possible for our bird race list – birding keeps surprising us and that is one of the many joys, getting soaked to the skin is not one!

Whinchat male May 2015

A beautiful Whinchat was a great addition to our sodden list and a new bird for our 2021 list.

With the heater and fan on full blast inside the car we headed for the hills and more bad weather – we now had low cloud to contend with along with torrential rain and wind! We struggled on and managed to add both Red and Black Grouse to our slow growing list. A smart male Whinchat was lovely to see close to the car, we were reduced to birding from inside the conditions so bad.

Dropping off the moors we were at least below the cloud and somewhat sheltered from the wind though the rain kept hammering down. We did find Dippers along the torrent of a stream and good to see a Kestrel in a tree not weather for raptor spotting for sure. A deli provided very welcome hot food and drink and on the adjacent river we picked up Grey Wagtail and Mandarin even a late breakfast can be an opportunity on a bird race!


Always wonderful to see Yellowhammer in North Wales even in the pouring rain.

We then headed north and picked up two lovely male Yellowhammers as the rain just kept falling. Reaching a lovely woodland we were at least a little sheltered from the worst of the rain and “our” Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers did not let us down, also our Tree Pipit and Redstart site turned up the birds and it was time to head to the coast.

First stop at Aber Ogwen and we quickly saw both Curlew and Whimbrel on the mudflats and a gang of Eider resting on the rocks. A large flock of Sandwich Terns were huddled together on the estuary - unusual to see here perhaps a result of the awful weather? It was good to add Common Gull to the Global Birding day list a winter visitor here in North Wales.

Puffin Hornoya

Any day you see an Atlantic Puffin is a good day and as always brings huge smiles.

Then it was onto Anglesey where at last the rain finally stopped but a gale force wind was now blowing! At Holyhead no sign of any Black Guillemots at our most reliable site so we tried another and immediately saw one of these lovely auks and as a bonus picked out two Dunlin resting on a seaweed covered rock. Then on to South Stack where it was hard to even stand let alone see birds the wind was so strong! But we battled on and had a great spell of luck picking up Puffin, Razorbill, Common Guillemot, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake and Rock Pipit in a few hectic minutes! Now we just needed to find a Chough and just as we said that “cheeow” calls and a pair of Chough swooped over the cliffs and what a fantastic sight watching them ride the gale just superb birds!

Next we headed to the north coast of Anglesey and Cemlyn lagoon where we tucked into cheese and Marmite sandwiches and more hot chocolate – very important to feed the birder during a bird race it is a very long day and energy levels need to be topped up regularly. We quickly added Common and Arctic Terns and a lovely adult Mediterranean Gull on the lagoon then headed out to the headland. The wind was crazy strong but offshore so next to no seabirds passing sadly but we did find two Sanderling on the beach – such lovely birds and a nice addition to the day list.

It was early evening and we had one more site to visit, Cors Ddyga RSPB reserve where we added more species even though we had been birding for about thirteen hours in mostly terrible weather. A pair of Little Ringed Plover were great to watch chasing each other around on the wet fields and a stunning male Marsh Harrier hunting over the reserve was our last bird of the Global Birding Big Day – 114 species of birds recorded in North Wales in dire weather showcasing just how good this area is to enjoy birds.

The event was designed to raise funds to fight the slaughter of our migrant birds and it would be wonderful if you could help with this fight. It is very easy to make a donation just click the link here...

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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