Superb Start To Three Day North Wales Custom Birdwatching Trip Day One 15 March 2019

RSPB Conwy

We had arranged with Lisa and Mark for a three day custom Birdwatching Trip here in North Wales. They had travelled up, from London, the evening before so we decided on a 7am start so they could at least have a little sleep!

The Grey Phalarope, shocking photo in poor light, great scope views!

As luck would have it a Grey Phalarope had been found, at dusk, the previous day at RSPB Conwy so easy to decide where to go first! We walked down to the viewing screen off the boardwalk and met friends Dylan and Richard who were already watching the Grey Phalarope, big smiles all round. This tiny grey and white wader was swimming amongst Gadwall and Shoveler, bringing home just how small phalaropes are. This rare visitor, blown in on the gale force winds, was feeding away amongst the ducks and we had great views through the Leica telescopes. What a wonderful bird to start our three day custom Birdwatching Trip with!

Lots of other birds here too of course and we had great views of a smart drake Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, both Great-crested and Little Grebes. Nice to see other local birders arriving to enjoy this lovely little wader, as we walked back to the car.

This lovely Skylark showed off for us this morning.

Then it was back to what had been plan A, before news of the Grey Phalarope broke, and we headed for the moors. Luckily it was clear, if windy, on the heather moorland and even though were much later than our usual visits here we soon found grouse. First a lovely male Red Grouse showing off near the track, a new bird for Lisa so she was thrilled with such a good view. Further over the moor at least three male Black Grouse, not leking but good views through the telescopes. As we watched these gorgeous birds a Peregrine soared over the area with two Common Buzzards above the falcon. As we headed back across the uplands we stopped to enjoy lovely views of a Skylark close to the car. A wonderful breakfast disappeared very quickly and we were back out to look for more birds.

Next stop was at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and as always a lot of birds to see here, luckily the forecast rain had not arrived, though it was very windy. As we entered the visitor centre we met our great friend Tony, he had good news a Cattle Egret was viewable from the path south of the building. We hurried out again and we were soon watching this stocky yellow-billed egret feeding with a gang of Little Egrets. It was good to see that the Cattle Egret was moulting into breeding plumage with a buff crown.

Back at the visitor we marvelled at the number and variety of birds on the shallow pools and wet grasslands in front of us. Some sixty Avocets were sheltering from the wind and several hundred Black-tailed Godwits were in view. A big flock of Pink-footed Geese were on the grassland beyond the pools along with Grey-lag Geese and many Lapwings. Lots of ducks too including many Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon all feeding in the lagoons and on the grasslands a wonderful sight.

A short walk took us the Marsh Covert hide where we watched five Spotted Redshank, sheltering from the wind, with many more Redshank and a few Black-tailed Godwits. Gangs of Grey Herons were hunkered down at the edge of the pool like old men waiting for the wind to drop. We heard singing Chiffchaff and Cetti’s Warblers but neither was seen in the gale. Just as we reached the visitor centre, again, the rain lashed down, luckily just a heavy shower.

Today's Short-eared Owls just a tad far for our bridge camera but you get the idea.

On again this time to Parkgate Marsh on the Dee Estuary where we parked overlooking the huge expanse of marsh. We scanned the vista and soon saw flocks of Pink-footed Geese and a Great white Egret, this time a very tall, long-necked, yellow-billed egret, three species in one day! We didn’t have to wait long for our first raptors either, a Kestrel flew over and then a Marsh Harrier flew over the grassland. Then a Short-eared Owl! Wow! This wonderful bird really showed off in the afternoon sunshine, always such a thrill to watch Short-eared Owls. And we did! A second bird joined the first and brief fight broke out very close to us, fantastic. One of these gorgeous birds landed on a wooden post right in front of us and the views through the Leica telescopes were just brilliant. The owls then landed out of sight, leaving us elated at this wonderful sighting. We scanned some more and glimpsed a male Hen Harrier in the distance, a second Great white Egret, two more Marsh Harriers and a Stock Dove. Then Lisa spotted a male Hen Harrier off to our left but moving towards us, superb. This “grey-ghost” of a bird skimmed over the marsh and came closer and closer. This wonderful bird came right past us, so close, in the sunshine and we all thrilled by such amazing views of this beautiful and sadly so rare bird. We all agreed best ever view of a male Hen Harrier!

Few better birds than an adult male Hen Harrier, just breath-taking!

On our way back to Llandudno we made a brief stop at Llanddulas where we scanned the sea and saw Common Scoters, Red-throated Divers and a single Razorbill.

A really wonderful day full of great birds and lots of laughs, come and join us soon for the very best Birdwatching Trips. Please email us here to arrange your very own trip…..

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds like these with you soon!

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