Ruff Start To A Great Day In North Wales 25 January 2018

Hawfinch Roy de Hass

We met Becky and Paul at RSPB Conwy at 9am and headed for the loos! After their long drive they were needed. Of course the birding started too, a large flock of Lapwing were flying over the reserve and Alan picked out a single Ruff amongst the beautiful black and white waders. Ruff are very rare birds here in winter so a super start.

We then headed into nearby Llandudno and to a very unlikely birding site. It was a rather grim narrow alley, behind some houses in a very ordinary looking suburban road. Why had we come here we could see our guests thinking. They soon found out the hoped for Rose-coloured Starling was in a bare tree above us! Just like that, brilliant. This very rare visitor had been visiting the area for some time but often absent for long spells so we were very lucky. This very lost bird allowed us super close views, preening, drinking and generally showing off.

Super views of the Rose-coloured Starling in the back-alley.

Next we visited the Great Orme, Llandudno, a large limestone headland and always lots to see there. We were soon enjoying great views of Shags, Oystercatchers and Redshanks, with many Fulmars on the cliffs just above our heads. A female Peregrine was picked out on a rock below the skyline and we enjoyed great views through the Leica telescopes. It was a bit of a surprise to see many Common Guillemots, in breeding plumage, back on their breeding ledges. We also watched Great crested Grebes, Stonechat, Rock Pipit and Raven.

South down the Conwy Valley we stopped by the Conwy River. Only just out of the car Ruth saw five Hawfinch flying over the river. Unfortunately these large finches flew out of sight. We walked by the river and scanned the trees, again and again. Then a Hawfinch flew in and landed in the top of a bare tree. Panic as scopes were quickly trained on this big beaked bird. But surprisingly the Hawfinch stayed put and we were able to soak up the views of this beautiful, colourful male. We were able to share the bird with others and were thrilled it stayed in view so long.

We had a lovely café lunch and then drove back north up the Conwy Valley to a view point. Here we had a panoramic view across the valley and an area of water-meadows. Lots of birds here. Hundreds of Lapwings were a wonderful sight and big flocks of Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls loafed on the incoming tide. Two Red Kites floated over the ridge along with plenty of Buzzards, a Kestrel and several Ravens. Six Goosander were on the river along with Teal and Little Grebes. As we left a monster of a female Goshawk tore across the sky scattering gulls and corvids everywhere! One Carrion Crow had a very lucky escape as the powerful hawk stooped straight down at it, breath-taking stuff!

We ended the day exploring RSPB Conwy where the very high tide had pushed many birds off the estuary onto the reserve lagoons. A Black-tailed Godwit was roosting with Curlews on the islands. Plenty of wildfowl here too, both Goosander and Red-breasted Mergansers, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and a smart pair of Goldeneye all showed off for us. A gang of Common Snipe were on the end of a small island and we enjoyed super looks through the scopes. A gorgeous male Bullfinch posed for us and a Sparrowhawk shot into a bush where it was just visible.

As the light faded we were treated to one more special moment, thousands of Starlings coming into roost. These amazing birds preformed a magical aerial ballet for us, twisting turning and forming shapes in the sky, what a way to end the day!

Huge thanks to Becky and Paul for their wonderful company and we look forward to our next Birdwatching Trip together.

We would love you to join one of our tours, please email us here and we can make all the arrangements…

We look forward to enjoying great birds and wildlife with you soon.

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