A Fantastic Five Day Best Of North Wales Tour 6 To 10 May 2023

Red-billed Chough were just one of oh so many highlights on this wonderful tour.

We love running our five day Best of North Wales Tours, so much variety of bird life and scenery to enjoy and always something unexpected. We met up with our lovely guests – Rob and Jane, Sue, Alun, Julie, and Dave – at the Princes Arms Hotel in the Conwy Valley in time for a lovely lunch. The hotel overlooks the beautiful Conwy River and valley so there is plenty of wildlife on the doorstep and all the rooms have stunning views. We enjoyed super views of two Common Sandpipers, including one perched in a gorse bush, something you don’t see every day. Peregrine, Red Kite and Common Buzzard were seen from the front of the hotel – perfect location.

After lunch we headed north a short way to RSPB Conwy to enjoy lots of birds on and around the shallow lagoons. A pair of Great Crested Grebes displaying was probably the highlight here, it was good to see a drake Eurasian Wigeon, Dunlin and nesting Little Egrets and Grey Heron by the Conwy Estuary.

On the way back to the hotel we made a short stop at a lovely viewpoint overlooking the Conwy River. A lovely surprise here with a flock of sixteen Whimbrel in a sheep field right by the track. These Arctic breeding waders pausing on their migration north. Sadly, heavy rain sent us hurrying back to the minibus.

We all enjoyed a delicious meal in the evening, at the hotel, the food on our tours is another of the many highlights.

On the 7th of May we did an optional pre-breakfast walk along the river opposite the hotel and a real surprise with four stunning drake Mandarin showing very well. A singing Sedge Warbler also posed for us on top of a willow.

After a wonderful breakfast, all cooked to order, we set off west towards Anglesey making a stop at the seaside village of Llanfairfechan along the way. Bar-tailed Godwits showed very well on the edge of the rising tide along with lots of Oystercatchers and six smart Dunlin in full breeding plumage.

We then headed across Anglesey to RSPB South Stack where it was rather foggy, such a shame as it is a beautiful location on a clear day. Luckily, the fog wasn’t low enough to shroud the sea-bird cliffs and we were able to see our hoped-for birds, all be it in rather poor light. Masses of Common Guillemots throng the cliff ledges along with smaller numbers of Razorbills. Fulmars cruised below us, and a pair of Red-billed Chough swooped past calling. After a good bit of scanning, we picked out wonderful Atlantic Puffins on the sea below the cliffs and enjoyed super views through the telescopes.

This wonderful Black Guillemot showed off for us - photo by Dave Carlsson taken on the tour.

A short drive took us to Holyhead Harbour where hot drinks went down well as we watched rather distant Black Guillemots and closer Shags. Drinks downed we moved to the other side of the harbour and enjoyed superb views of nesting Black Guillemots. These dapper birds were showing off on the harbour wall, on the water, and in their nest holes and everyone was thrilled to have such great looks.

A really lovely lunch went down very well indeed at Catch 22 brassiere at Valley, a real favourite of ours. Full of great food we headed north to Cemlyn Lagoon to enjoy the fantastic spectacle of the tern colony. But we hadn’t gone far when a real shock – a Hen Harrier flying alongside us! A crazy record for May on Anglesey, this species should be in the uplands at this time of year.

Walking out along the shingle ridge at Cemlyn we enjoyed super views of Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns and then great excitement when a very rare Roseate Tern was picked out on the main island – wow! We also walked out onto the adjacent headland where we enjoyed watching Northern Gannets whizz past along with Black-legged Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns. Four Atlantic grey seals basked on the rocks just offshore and a beautiful emperor month was enjoyed by the path. A gorgeous full adult Mediterranean Gull posed by a small pool what a fantastic looking bird.

Just time for a quick stop at RSPB Cors Ddyga on the way back and lots of new birds for the trip here. Stunning Northern Lapwings had fluffy chicks on the special created wet fields here, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall all showed off along Reed Buntings and singing Cetti’s Warbler. A wonderful day.

On the 8th of May it was very wet at first light, so we opted not to go for the river walk before breakfast but plenty to see from the shelter of the hotel porch. Common Sandpipers, Mandarin, Grey Heron, and a wonderful Song Thrush in full song just a few of the pre-breakfast birds.

What a fanrtastic start to the day - Dipper posed for us - photo by Dave Carlsson.

After breakfast we headed into the hills for another complete change of habitat and luckily the rain had eased to a drizzle. A very short drive and we had lovely views of a pair of Dippers on a fast-flowing stream – perfect start. Alongside a wooded stream we enjoyed prolonged views of a Tree Pipit and heard both Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart singing but neither showed.

A morning coffee and cake stop went down well and with perfect timing the rain had stopped completely as we emerged from the café. Into an area of upland forest and we didn’t have to wait long for our hoped-for target bird – Goshawk. First a male and then a female Goshawk flapped slowly over the forest allowing a good look at these brutes of raptors. We had another two sightings along with at least three Sparrowhawks, multiple Common Buzzards, and a pair of Ravens over the area. We also had wonderful long looks at Common Crossbills in the telescopes including a very handsome red male. A Cuckoo called but sadly we couldn’t locate it, but lovely to hear.

We had a great lunch, with Siskins and Redpoll coming to the feeders at the café. Then we visited the local pair of Ospreys, sadly the rain had returned so not much activity at the nest, but we could see the female incubating the eggs. We then headed for an area of moorland where we had lovely views of Northern Wheatears and a very special moment indeed. We had just parked and were getting out of the minibus when Alan was shouting “Hen Harrier! Male sky dancing! Get out fast!” Everyone tumbled out as fast as possible and stood in awe of this fantastic bird throwing itself across the sky above the heather. Totally amazing. So very lucky to see this spectacle, sadly Hen Harriers are rare birds in the UK. The “grey-ghost” as male Hen Harriers are known dived and then rose again in a crazed flight across the moor time and time again. We were all totally elated and buzzing after such a fantastic encounter.

On the 9th of May we again began the day with a walk along the river near the hotel. Oh, how lucky we were, not one but two otters were in the river as we came out of the hotel! Not only that but they stayed around for a while allowing us wonderful views, and photos, just brilliant. Such a fantastic experience to watch otters in broad daylight and pretty close too. We were again buzzing with excitement. A singing male Common Redstart showed off in the morning sun, but nothing could out do the otters.

One of the two otters that we encountered before breakfast - photo by Dave Carlsson taken on the tour.

After breakfast we headed east for the Dee Estuary and RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, a real favourite reserve of ours. So much to see from the reception hide it was difficult to move on. A male Marsh Harrier cruised over the reedbeds; gorgeous Pied Avocets strode through the shallows alongside flocks of brick-red coloured Black-tailed Godwits. Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Shelduck were all on the shallow lagoon here.

Cetti's Warbler showed very well indeed - photo by Rob Beynon taken on the tour.

We walked to the border hide stopping many times along the way to admire a flying Spoonbill, a posing Cetti’s Warbler they just don’t do that normally, Long-tailed Tits, a singing Willow Warbler, and listened to a “reeling” Grasshopper Warbler that refused to show. At the border hide we caught up with the Spoonbill and had super views.

This Common Whitethroat popped up at Burton Mere Wetlands - photo by Rob Beynon taken on the tour.

A delicious lunch was enjoyed at Parkgate Marsh overlooking the vast expanse of the Dee Estuary. Here we could carry on bird watching over lunch, perfect. At least five Great Egrets were out on the marsh along with Marsh Harriers, Skylarks and Stonechats. After lunch we walked north to the Old Baths car park and again scanned the marshes seeing similar species with the addition of a Stock Dove and lots of Meadow Pipits and a second Spoonbill.

On the way back we stopped at Llanddulas beach and scanned the sea. At first it seemed bird less but we kept looking and picked out small numbers of Common Scoter and Great Crested Grebes on the water. We also watched Gannets, Kittiwakes and Sandwich Terns flying west past the beach.

On the 10th of May, sadly our last day of the five-day tour, we again had an early morning walk but sadly no otters this time. We did enjoy watching a juvenile Grey Heron in a nest begging for food from its parents. A male Reed Bunting sang from a willow bush and a drake Mandarin added a splash of colour on the river.

We certainly ended the tour in great fashion - Peregrine by Dave Carlsson.

After another superb breakfast we headed north to the Great Orme at Llandudno where it was a lovely day. Northern Fulmars were on the cliffs and whizzed above our heads, wonderful views. A Rock Pipit posed on the stonewall and Shags were out of the water on a rock below us. But two other species totally stole the show – Red-billed Chough and Peregrine Falcons. The Chough gave us a wonderful display, swooping all around us and landing on the grass slopes in the sunshine and calling loudly – what a thrill to witness. We were about to move on, having unusually not seen a Peregrine when we had the most amazing sightings. The male flew in and landed on the cliff, in the sunshine, just above! Totally frame filling views in the telescopes – just wow! Then the female landed above him – more super views – then both birds were off like rockets! A Collared Dove was flying along the cliffs and both falcons were like fighter jets intercepting a enemy plane! The speed was just amazing the poor dove was taken by the male Peregrine who eventually landed on a ledge and plucked the prey. The female Peregrine again laned above us and after a while the male brought the prey to the nest and was joined by the female who took the dove, wow! What a thrilling spectacle and yes we were all buzzing again!

Red-billed Chough doing a "nappy" change on the Great Orme - photo by Dave Carlsson.

The Great Orme also gave us lots of seabirds – Black and Common Guillemots, Razorbills, lots of Kittiwakes, Cormorants and Shags – Stonechats, Atlantic grey seals, and lovely wildflowers but the Choughs and Peregrines were the stars.

Superb views of Peregrines thrilled us - photo by Rob Beynon.

A quick stop on the way back to the hotel provided us with super views of a singing Common Redstart – a gorgeous bird and a Common Gull, not at all common here in May.

Back at the hotel we all enjoyed a lovely lunch before sadly saying goodbye. A really great five days packed with birds and wildlife and a lot of laughs. Huge thanks to Rob and Jane, Sue, Alun, Julie, and Dave for their great company we look forward to more adventures together.

We run our Birdwatching Trips throughout the year a mix of set departure tours and custom-made trips perfect for you! To book your custom tour or any of our set departure trips please email us here….


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