Optimistic Birdwatching At RSPB Conwy In North Wales Was Great Fun

Robin at RSPB Conwy

To really enjoy Bird Watching it helps to be optomistic - Robin at RSPB Conwy.

It’s always fun sharing birds with other people, and even more so when they are new to birdwatching. Everything is exciting, and you see even the commonest birds through their fresh eyes.

Alan and I had been invited by a lovely friend, Sarah, to lead a group of nine ladies on a birdwatching walk. The ladies called themselves the Dyffryn Conwy Optimists and they met once a month, each member taking their turn to organise the outing. This month was Sarah’s turn and she wanted to take them birdwatching. With a name like the ‘Optimists’ how could we resist? A birdwatcher is the very definition of an optimist, heading out never knowing exactly what may be about but always positive that there will be something exciting.

RSPB Conwy November 2017

The date was fixed in the diary. All week leading up to our outing the weather was warm and sunny, but the day for our birdwatching walk dawned grey and blustery with the threat of showers. Typical! However, we were meeting the Optimists, so surely things would improve?

We met the ladies at RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve. This was the first time some of them had ever been birdwatching, so we started with basics. First: binoculars. We’d brought some spares with us and soon everyone was kitted out with a pair. Next: clothing. Given the rainy forecast Alan and I were in our full waterproofs, but the ladies were more optimistic, of course, and content with light rain jackets. Ready to go, we headed out onto the reserve to see what birds we could find.

In fact, we only got as far as the toilets and coffee shop! However, over a hot drink, we started with our first birds as two Little Egrets stalked through the shallows in front of the coffee shop. The ladies practised their binocular skills and we pointed out how the birds shook their bright yellow feet in the water to flush out any fish lurking in the shallows. Cue ‘oohs’ of delight at this fascinating behaviour played out right before us. How appropriate that Little Egrets should be amongst the first birds we see on an RSPB reserve, given that it was the decimation of Little Egrets caused by the abhorrent trade in feathers for fashionable Victorian ladies’ hats that was the spur for the creation of the RSPB itself.

Teal pair April 2018

Ducks are a great place to start with folks new to bird watching colourful and easy to see - Teal.

Coffee finished, we headed for the first hide though it was hard to walk past the Robin that perched on a branch at head-height and fixed us with its beady eye. Note to self: always have sunflower hearts in a pocket when out on a birdwatching walk! At the Tal-y-Fan hide overlooking the two freshwater lagoons we set up our telescopes and started pointing out the different species of birds to the ladies. There were the perfect number of birds here, not too many species to overwhelm but just enough variety to provide interest and an ID challenge. We started with the ducks and right in front of us were Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler; it was fun picking through the individual birds and pointing out the key features for each one. There was an excited buzz through the group as everyone played ‘Spot the Difference’. Nobody was worried whether they knew the bird names or not, everyone simply enjoyed looking and watching, absorbing the colours, shapes, patterns and behaviour played out before them. With a Common Snipe and two juvenile Black-tailed Godwit also in view, we started discussing wading birds and how each occupies its individual niche according to bill and leg length and feeding style. Our telescopes really came into their own to give the ladies an intimate view of these birds, and it gave us a thrill to hear their amazement at the intricate cryptic plumage of these birds, a real reminder to look and absorb, not just tick off and run.

Chris and Mel Redshank 1

Common Redshank are wonderful waders to share with folks - just look at those legs.

From the Carneddau Hide, we were treated to views of Tufted Ducks diving in the deeper water while a family party of Pied Wagtails enthusiastically bobbed and chased insects on the mud. At first glance, there didn’t seem to be much else about. The lush vegetation on the islands in the lagoon provided cover for any lurking birds, and each island wore a skirt of grey mud and stones. But of course, in the company of optimists there was bound to be something new and exciting to see, and sure enough, as soon as we focused the telescopes on those islands, a different world was revealed to us. The mud and stones became a seething mass of birds packed tightly together in the lee of the islands. Most of the grey stones were in fact Redshank, and our Optimists encouraged each other to share the amazing telescope views of those signature red legs. Then one lady spotted something small and brown running between the Redshank. Was it a mouse? No, not a rodent but a Dunlin, and again the excitement levels rose at seeing this pocket-sized bird pottering amongst red-legged giants and everyone helped everyone else to get a good view.

What a lovely group of people to enjoy wonderful birds with.

It was amazing how quickly the morning passed by simply watching birds and sharing the joy. Soon lunch beckoned and together we totted up the species seen. Even at our easy pace we had a surprisingly high tally for the morning. More importantly, however, we’d all enjoyed superb views of the birds, and our own pleasure had been multiplied many times over by the excitement of our group of beginner birdwatchers. Hopefully we’ve sown a seed that will grow into a new hobby, and we’re optimistic that our ladies will visit the reserve again.

Ruth Miller

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.

Contact us

* * *



Our Tweets

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. See our Cookie Policy for further details on how to block cookies.
I am happy with this


What is a Cookie

A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is a piece of data stored by a website within a browser, and then subsequently sent back to the same website by the browser. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember things that a browser had done there in the past, which can include having clicked particular buttons, logging in, or having read pages on that site months or years ago.

NOTE : It does not know who you are or look at any of your personal files on your computer.

Why we use them

When we provide services, we want to make them easy, useful and reliable. Where services are delivered on the internet, this sometimes involves placing small amounts of information on your device, for example, your computer or mobile phone. These include small files known as cookies. They cannot be used to identify you personally.

These pieces of information are used to improve services for you through, for example:

  • recognising that you may already have given a username and password so you don’t need to do it for every web page requested
  • measuring how many people are using services, so they can be made easier to use and there’s enough capacity to ensure they are fast
  • analysing anonymised data to help us understand how people interact with our website so we can make them better

You can manage these small files and learn more about them from the article, Internet Browser cookies- what they are and how to manage them

Learn how to remove cookies set on your device

There are two types of cookie you may encounter when using our site :

First party cookies

These are our own cookies, controlled by us and used to provide information about usage of our site.

We use cookies in several places – we’ve listed each of them below with more details about why we use them and how long they will last.

Third party cookies

These are cookies found in other companies’ internet tools which we are using to enhance our site, for example Facebook or Twitter have their own cookies, which are controlled by them.

We do not control the dissemination of these cookies. You should check the third party websites for more information about these.

Log files

Log files allow us to record visitors’ use of the site. The CMS puts together log file information from all our visitors, which we use to make improvements to the layout of the site and to the information in it, based on the way that visitors move around it. Log files do not contain any personal information about you. If you receive the HTML-formatted version of a newsletter, your opening of the newsletter email is notified to us and saved. Your clicks on links in the newsletter are also saved. These and the open statistics are used in aggregate form to give us an indication of the popularity of the content and to help us make decisions about future content and formatting.