A Wonderful Day Best Of North Wales Tour In Sunshine 10 February 2024

Black Guillemot

We are so lucky to have Black Guillemots within walking distance of home, beautiful birds!

A wonderful calm and bright day boded well for a good trip on our Best of North Wales tour on 10th February. Sadly, two of our guests had cancelled due to the poor BBC weather forecast which was, as so often, completely wrong the forecast 20cm of snow was actually about 1cm! Perfectly understandable folks would not want to travel to North Wales on the 10th in the weather that was forecast. Alan picked up Mark, who had struggled through the non-existent snow to reach Llandudno the day before, from his seafront hotel in Llandudno at 8am. The birding started at once, Alan had spotted a dark duck in the bay opposite the hotel. Scope quickly on the bird – drake Common Scoter a good record here! Ruddy Turnstone at Llandudno Pier next then onto the Great Orme. Northern Fulmars flew on their stiff wings back and forth allowing wonderful views and great comparison with the Herring Gulls. Three Fulmars were on the ledge just above Alan and Mark and frame filling views were enjoyed in the telescopes. A Peregrine Falcon was higher up the cliff – what a magnificent bird! A Black Guillemot bobbed about on the calm sea and there were plenty of Shags here and Mark picked out a Grey Heron hunched on the rocks below. Birds were coming thick and fast!

Loud “cheeow” calls announced the arrival of a pair of Red-billed Chough on the cliff face so close – brilliant! But what followed next was amazing, a full-scale fight between the two Chough and a pair of Jackdaws! The dispute seemed to centre on the ownership of a hole in the cliff, presumably both pairs of birds wanted ownership. This was no brief scuffle, the four birds fought for at least ten minutes! An amazing piece of behaviour to watch and at such close range! Eventually the Chough got the upper hand and took possession of the hole, hopefully they will nest here, be lovely to watch them at such close range.

Further around the Great Orme headland there were hundreds of Common Guillemots back on the cliffs, a further four Black Guillemots, a raft of Razorbills on the sea and unexpectedly a flock of Black-legged Kittiwakes on the water – an early return for these breeding birds? A Kestrel posed briefly on a rock here too.

Next stop was a viewpoint overlooking the Conwy Estuary and the adjacent RSPB Conwy reserve. The view was stunning with Conwy Castle and the mountains of Snowdonia as a backdrop. The tide was high pushing birds off the estuary onto the lagoons of the reserve. New birds for the day came thick and fast again! Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, handsome, Red-breasted Mergansers all showed well in the telescopes. Curlew, Common Redshank and Oystercatchers crowded together on the island in the lagoons.

Then Alan and Mark headed up into the hills enjoying breath-taking views of Snowdonia in the sunshine – wow! A Dipper posed at the top of a waterfall on route to a vast conifer and moorland area. Alan had a particular spot in mind and wanted to by there by 11am. The weather was still fine with broken cloud and great visibility from the vantage point. Mark had asked about the possibility of seeing a Goshawk and Alan thought this was the best place to look. There were lots of birds to see, hundreds of Fieldfares were in the area with even more Starlings, Ravens flapped over “cronking” away, Common Buzzards were plentiful, a Kestrel posed in the sunshine, a distant Red Kite drifted behind the trees, a pair of Sparrowhawks gave an adrenalin rush but only briefly! No Goshawks. Luckily Mark was happy to be patient and the two birders continued to scan, a Common Crossbill posed on top of a conifer and the Sparrowhawks showed again. Then Alan spotted a raptor moving right to left over the forest, another adrenalin surge, Mark was quickly on it and yes, they had a Goshawk! Patience rewarded. This brute of a raptor was picking up speed with deep wing beats and swept across the bright sky, wow, but it got better, the hawk attacked a second Goshawk! What a thrill as the two apex predators fought in mind air. They were coming closer but dipped behind some trees, oh no, but out they came again! The birds broke away and one bird came closer and closer, through the scope the beautiful eyes could be seen as it closed fast! Wow what a view of this sought after raptor. The Goshawk was in view a long time as it moved across the forest back the way it had come leaving Alan and Mark elated!

Lunch was calling and enjoyed while watching Siskin and Redpoll at close range, and Mark had good views of Victoria sponge cake, briefly! Just up the road they stopped to scan an area of moorland that borders the forest and Mark spotted a female Goshawk low over the heather! Amazing. This monster hawk was again in no hurry and prolonged views were in enjoyed as it circled low down and occasionally gave deep slow wing beats before eventually powering off across the forest where it briefly joined a male Goshawk before both were lost to view in the trees, another wow moment. Leaving the uplands, they headed north to the coast with the intention of looking for two rare Surf Scoters seen off the beach at Llanddulas. As they neared the spot Alan had a hunch that the rare ducks might have moved further east, as the last report had mentioned they were drifting that way. Stopping to the east of Llanddulas at a different beach they were pleased to see one of Alan’s friends, Graham, already scanning offshore. Sadly, no sign of the Surf Scoters but Graham did have some Velvet Scoters in his scope! Wonderful and a new bird for Mark, the light was superb, and it was possible to see all the details of these large sea-ducks. Then Graham announced I have the Surfs! Sure, enough there were two handsome drake Surf Scoters close to the Velvet Scoters! Again, the beautiful light was wonderful to highlight the details of these impressive, rare visitors from North America. The two white patches on their heads and the yellow-orange bills really shone in the afternoon sun, another wow moment! Also offshore here were hundreds of Common Scoter, Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Time for one more stop before heading back to Llandudno, a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the Conwy River and valley. It was sheltered here and even some warmth in the sun, with snowdrops in bloom it really felt spring like! Not many birds here on this occasion but a handsome drake Goosander cruised the calm waters of the river, six new arrived Lesser black back Gulls were amongst Herring Gulls on the riverbank and beautiful Lapwings looked amazing in the sunshine. Plenty of Red Kites here and a few Buzzards too making for a lovely end to the day.

On the way back to Llandudno Alan and Mark could not resist just one more quick stop, at the viewpoint overlooking the Conwy Estuary again. In just a few minutes they added three more species for their already impressive day list – Pochard, Little Egret and amazingly their first Mute Swans!

Such a wonderful day and a huge thanks to Mark for his great company, we look forward to more birding 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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