Best Of North Wales Five Day Tour, Day Three: Great Orme Llanddulas And More 15 February 2023

Black Guillemot

Black Guillemots are very handsome birds - wonderful to see them in their breeding plumage.

Another Woodcock watch before breakfast was again successful and a Tawny Owl was calling at dawn. A lovely breakfast was again enjoyed before we headed out.

We made a short stop overlooking RSPB Conwy and the Conwy Estuary and quickly enjoyed a lot of birds including the female Scaup on the deep lagoon.

Fulmars 1

We enjoyed super views of Northern Fulmars on the Great Orme.

Then north to Llandudno and the headland of the Great Orme, a wonderful location to enjoy birds and wildlife. It was a bit grey and windy but luckily, we were on the sheltered side of the massive limestone headland. Northern Fulmars flew and back and forth above us and gave their wonderful laughing calls. Shags were on the sea below us and then we picked out three handsome Black Guillemots already in their smart breeding plumage of black and white. A Peregrine Falcon showed off for us, both in flight and on the cliffs and always a thrill to watch. Further around the headland we watched a huge herd of Atlantic grey seal hauled out on a beach as the weather went downhill. We opted for a hot drink at RSPB Conwy – which was very welcome – as we warmed up we had exciting news. Our great friend John was just along the coast and watching two drake Surf Scoters, time to drink up and hit the road!

We enjoyed these very views of the Surf Scoters and Velvet Scoters - photo by Tony Pope many thanks for allowing us to use it here.

A few minutes later we were at Llanddulas beach looking for scoter. There were small groups of Common Scoter dotted about on the fairly calm sea and a smart drake Red-breasted Merganser. Another bird watcher told us the Surf Scoters had drifted east so we scanned that way, boom! Two adult drake Surf Scoters were close inshore and showing well, we had been looking too far out! Totally amazing to see Surf Scoters this close to the shore, so often miles out and very hard to pick out, here every detail visible. Even better the Surf Scoters were in the company of three Velvet Scoters and again amazing views of these scarce sea-ducks, just wonderful. We could even see the red legs of the Surf Scoters when they rose up on a wave, none of us had ever seen that before. Our friend John returned to the beach to check we had found them and it was great to catch up and share this superb birds together.

Just along the coast at Kinmel Bay we almost immediately found the hoped for male Snow Bunting on the beach. This delightfully confiding bunting allowed us fantastic views as it fed in the sunshine on the edge of the dunes. Further out on the beach we watched a lovely flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and nice selection of waders including Ringed Plover and Ruddy Turnstones. As we walked back to the minibus, we had super looks at three Stonechats and confiding Meadow Pipit. There was a café right next to where we had parked so we decided to give it a go for lunch. What a very pleasant surprise the food was great and service quick, perfect, we will be back. Even better, as we came out of the café a lovely Black Redstart was perched on the fence bordering the dunes – wow! What a fantastic day already and it was only just after lunch.

We headed inland to the vast Clocaenog Forest, and the first stop was at Llyn Brenig where sadly the bird feeders have not been maintained. Usually, a lovely place to watch Siskins up close but not one to be seen or heard sadly. Just down the road we did come across a big flock of Fieldfares with a few Redwings amongst them. We drove to one of our favourite spots in the forest and scanned the huge sky above. Common Buzzards and Ravens were up soaring and then a Sparrowhawk so we were hopeful other birds might show up too. Chup-chup calls from the nearest pine trees drew our attention to Common Crossbills feeding on the cones and with them were Siskins! Then what we had hoped for appeared over the trees – Goshawk! A huge female Goshawk flapped slowly towards us, fantastic to see this muscular hawk so soon after seeing the tiny Sparrowhawk. Luckily the Goshawk stayed in view for ages circling against the blue sky allowing everyone multiple looks through the telescopes. The views were mind-blowing not only prolonged but close and in superb light, we could see the yellow legs and feet! Breath-taking stuff and then a male Goshawk rose up from the forest below the female – what a day!

We took a scenic route back to the Conwy Valley seeing more Buzzards, Ravens and Red Kites. The dinner that night tasted even better after a spectacular day packed with amazing birds.

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