A Few Highlights From An Amazing Five Day Best Of North Wales Tour 11 To 15 September 2021

Little Stint juv Sept 1

A juvenile Little Stint was a wonderful way to start our latest Birdwatching Trips tour.

We have recently finished a wonderful five day Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips tour and it proved a fantastic trip.

On day one, after lunch at the Princes Arms Hotel, in the Conwy Valley, we visited RSPB Conwy where we were soon enjoying views of a juvenile Little Stint all the way from Siberia. This minute wader was busy feeding on the edge of the shallow lagoon on the reserve. We also enjoyed a Spotted Redshank roosting amongst a flock of Common Redshank, tricky to see when fast asleep but much easier when it woke up and showed the distinctive face pattern and that lovely needle-like bill. Back at the hotel we all enjoyed the first of four wonderful dinners we certainly did not go hungry on this great tour.

On the 12th of September there was an optional pre-breakfast walk by the Conwy River right outside the hotel and this gave a great start to the day list. After the first of four wonderful breakfasts, enjoyed watching the bird feeders outside the hotel window, we headed for Anglesey.

Our lovely group enjoying RSPB South Stack on the Isle of Anglesey.

On the way to the Isle of Anglesey we made one stop on the mainland at Llanfairfechan where we quickly added Common Eider to our trip list and lots of Oystercatchers. First location on Anglesey was RSPB South Stack where Red-billed Chough were soon added to the list and as always a joy to see. Next came fantastic views of a pair of Peregrine Falcons on the cliffs with both birds in the same scope views just fantastic.

At nearby Holyhead Harbour we managed to find a lone Black Guillemot out in the bay but the views were not the best given the distance and choppy water. The next bay around the coast provided frame filling views of Mediterranean Gulls and it was great to compare them with the Black-headed Gulls alongside them.

We enjoyed wonderful views of Golden Plover - photo by David Carlsson taken during the tour.

Then we headed north to Cemlyn Bay on the north coast of Anglesey and enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the lagoon. On the west side of the lagoon we found a beautiful flock of European Golden Plover that allowed wonderful views as they fed unconcerned by a pool – what gorgeous birds. A sea watch from the beach was rather slow but a single Arctic Skua did fly west though rather distant, a pod of Risso’s Dolphins were exciting to see though.

News of a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at nearby Amlwch town had us heading over there next. The bird had been seen near the port so we made our way towards that part of town but Alan spotted a large flock of Common Starlings on wires down a side street in a housing estate and thought it was worth stopping to check them just in case. Everyone bailed out and Alan almost at once picked out the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling amongst its common cousins! Then no sooner seen the birds all flew but luckily dropped down out of sight in the estate so we all hurried after them! Amazingly all the birds were feeding on a grass verge right by the road and there amongst them was the Rose-coloured Starling and the views were just fantastic.

The juvenile Rose-coloured Starling really showed off - photo by David Carlsson taken on the tour.

Time for one last stop, at Traeth Dulas, where we enjoyed super views of three Greenshank amongst other waders roosting on the saltmarsh at high tide.

On the 13th another pre-breakfast walk got the day off to a great start, including seeing a Kingfisher, before we drove north to the Great Orme. Fantastic views of a pair of Peregrines were probably the highlight on the headland but we also found a few migrants including Blackcap and Common Whitethroat.

We then headed west to Caernarfon where we enjoyed super views of the impressive castle and a flock of Goosander before following the coast road west to Foryd Bay. Huge numbers of birds at this fantastic sight and included a newly arrived flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese all the way from Arctic Canada, hundreds of Eurasian Wigeon, lots of Pintail and a hunting Peregrine Falcon that tore across the area. At nearby Dinas Dinlle a big pod of bottle-nosed dolphins stole the show putting on an amazing show with some of animals leaping clear of the water – we watched them for ages. Northern Wheatears were along the fence lines here and we watched four Sandwich Terns close to the beach – surprisingly the only ones seen on this tour.

The Garganey we enjoyed at RSPB Conwy always a great bird to see here in North Wales.

On the way back to the hotel we had time to drop in at RSPB Conwy which proved a very good move indeed! A Garganey was showing well on the deep lagoon and at one point the Little Stint was feeding right next to this rare duck! Not often you can watch a Little Stint and a Garganey together in North Wales. Just as we were driving out of the reserve Alan spotted some “white blobs” in the distance on the bank of the Conwy Estuary and jumped out to check them out with the telescopes, it was as he thought two Great Egrets another addition to the trip list!

RSPB Conwy looking great in the autumn sunshine - we were so lucky with the weather!

On the 14th after another lovely pre-breakfast walk and delicious food we headed into the mountains of Snowdonia. At the first stop we scanned a scree slope and almost at once saw Red-billed Chough – scarce birds in the uplands so a great start. Then Alan spotted movement near a rowan tree and shouted “Ring Ouzel!” a bird that has been really hard to find on recent tours so we were all thrilled to hear the shout. But it got better, much better, we counted eight of these “mountain blackbirds” on the hillside what a fantastic encounter. The Ring Ouzels were moving around between the rowan trees and a grassy slope to the right and through the Leica telescopes we had super views. The ouzels were really showing off and everyone soaked up the views and then watched more Chough what a start to the day! Unheard of before today we left the site with the Ring Ouzels still in view – we don’t normally enjoy such prolonged encounters with these shy mountain thrushes.

Four of the eight Ring Ouzel enjoyed in the mountains of Snowdonia - photo by David Carlsson.

We then dropped down to the coast and over to Anglesey and Penmon Point where we enjoyed morning coffee in the warm sunshine. Not a huge number of birds here but the scenery was stunning and we did see a pair of Chough, Ravens, Shags, Common Guillemots and Gannets. Just to the west we called in at Pemon Priory where we looked around the well and dovecote seeing Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Great spotted Woodpecker and several Chiffchaff. A quick photo stop at the famous village with the longest name in the UK – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – was fun and not easy to get the whole sign in one photo!

We enjoyed our rather late picnic lunch in glorious sunshine at RSPB Cors Ddyga and then walked to the River Cefni through the reserve. Loud calls from a Raven overhead had us looking up and we were surprised to see a Hobby with the huge crow! This falcon is very scarce here in North Wales and it was difficult to work out who was mobbing who as the two birds twisted and turned together against the cobalt blue sky.

Down to the nearby Cefni Estuary the tide was flooding in and pushing birds towards our viewpoint – perfect timing. It was a real surprise to see a Green Sandpiper, a wader we usually associate with freshwater habitats, out on the estuary and a new bird for our impressive trip list. On the adjacent Cob Pool the afternoon sun lit up the birds in the most beautiful light. Here we enjoyed three views of a Kingfisher, truly dazzling in the sun, Black-tailed Godwits, gorgeous Common Snipe, lots of Dunlin and Common Redshank along with Pintail, Wigeon and Teal. Then Nigel spotted a stunning male Marsh Harrier and we had superb views of the colourful bird of prey as it slowly circled in the warm sunshine what a wonderful end to the day!

Fog lifting off the Conwy Valley photograph taken from our lovely hotel.

The weather forecast for the last day of the tour, the 15th, was for fog and sure enough dawn saw the Conwy Valley shrouded in fog. Only Nigel joined Alan for the pre-breakfast walk, hardly surprisingly as visibility was down to less than 50 meters but as they walked out onto the river bank it did lift somewhat and their efforts were very well rewarded. A Dipper whizzed past them along a stream that feeds into the Conwy River near the hotel and the two birders crept forward hoping to see this wonderful bird again. What a surprise they had not one, not two, not three but four Dippers were feeding together in the small stream! This was just fantastic and the first time we have seen or heard of four adult plumaged Dippers feeding together, perhaps two very well grown young still with their parents?

We enjoyed spectacular views of Red-billed Chough - photo by David Carlsson taken on the tour.

With the fog still clinging to the valley and hills a change of plan was called for the planned uplands morning was changed for more time on the coast. Arriving at the Great Orme it was a completely different day – glorious sunshine and flat calm just perfect. The birds matched the weather with totally fantastic views of Peregrine Falcon – full frame in the telescope below us – and at the same time a wonderful Black Guillemot on the millpond like sea and again frame filling views through the scopes so much better than our earlier encounter. Up on the limestone pavement we enjoyed the best views possible of Red-billed Chough so close and in the morning sunshine the just shone! We encountered a record number of these scarce corvids on the headland an amazing count of twenty-seven! Add to these beautiful Stonechats and Wheatears and it was a very memorable visit to this beautiful headland.

We headed back to the Conwy Valley – the mist having now burnt off – in the hope of finding a very elusive bird indeed the Goshawk. Within minutes of getting out of the minibus Ruth spotted two birds of prey circling against the blue sky, could they be? Scramble to set up the scopes and yes Goshawks two of them a male and female sparring and showing off for us all just magical and so lucky! The Goshawk stayed in view for ages mock attacking each other over and over again just brilliant to watch, people even began to watch a Common Buzzard soaring nearby rather the hawks they had been in view for so long! Goosanders showed well on the river and both Red Kite and Sparrowhawk showed briefly and then a female Goshawk, presumably the same bird from the earlier encounter soared over a nearby wood and again treated us to prolonged super scope views just fantastic! No better way to end a Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips five day tour than with super views of one of the toughest birds to find – Goshawk.

It was then back to the hotel and a farewell lunch before the guests made their way home, huge thanks to Kevin, David, Nigel, Ray, David and Yasuko for their wonderful company and we really hope we can enjoy more birds with them all in the future. Also a huge thank you to David Carlsson for allowing us to use his wonderful photographs here in this bird blog you can so much more of his work on his Flicker account here https://flickr.com/photos/129242234@N08/ do take a look!

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 soon.

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