Custom Tour For Two North Wales And A Little Beyond 17 To 21 February 2024

Black Grouse May 2016 6

Wonderful views of Black Grouse were just one of oh so many highlights on this Tour for Two.

We met Andrew and Dave, on the 17th February and enjoyed lunch together before heading out on the first of our birding adventures. First stop was at Llanddulas Beach to look for the two wintering Surf Scoters. Sadly, the wind had picked up making viewing conditions tricky. But we did see lots of Common Scoter but difficult to pick out anything different amongst them in the choppy seas. We did mange to see Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes here. A report of a flock of Waxwings nearby had us looking for those but sadly no sign sadly.

With rain now coming down we headed for RSPB Conwy here the hides gave us some shelter from the strong winds and rain. Plenty of birds here and we boosted the trip list nicely. Ducks were represented with beautiful Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, and Shelduck.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a viewpoint in the Conwy Valley to watch Red Kites gather before going to roost. Wonderful to see these beautiful birds of prey in good numbers, once so rare in the UK. Several Buzzards and a gang of 17 Ravens were enjoyed too.

The birding started pre-breakfast the next day, the 18th of February, when Alan spotted a female Goshawk soaring over the Conwy Valley! Luckily this brute of a raptor showed for a long time allowing us all good telescope views. After a delicious breakfast, we headed for the Isle of Anglesey at first stop at RSPB Cors Ddyga. The reserve has quickly become a firm favourite on our tours as there is always so much to see here. So many ducks on the flooded fields a real bird spectacle. The birds here are close and the views just wonderful, drake Pintail frame filling in the scopes – oh yes! Lots of Common Snipe here and again the top of the range scopes allowing every feather detail to be enjoyed. A Great Egret towered over the Little Egrets, a Reed Bunting posed for us, a flock of Skylarks flew over, where to look next. Loud calls alerted to us a big flock of Pink-footed Geese flying low and dropping down into nearby fields. Alan spotted a Merlin whizzing low over a wet field and luckily this pocket-sized raptor landed in a tree.

We drove north and were very lucky to spot a beautiful Short-eared Owl from the moving car! This amazing bird flew back and forth over an area of rough grassland and gave a superb performance a real wow moment. Just a few yards further on and another emergency stop! A flock of ten Red-billed Chough were feeding close to the track and allowing us super views. These wonderful corvids were feeding avidly and didn’t seem to notice us watching them. Nearby a lovely Little Owl posed for us in the sunshine, another fantastic bird.

We made a quick stop overlooking the Inland Sea where we watched a flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Red-breasted Mergansers, a single Common Scoter, and Goldeneye. A delicious lunch at the “Sea Shanty Café” went down very well indeed.

First stop after lunch and the good birds just kept coming! Lovely views of two Purple Sandpipers in the sunshine, not always easy to find a low tide. We visited RSPB South Stack, more for the stunning scenery than the birds though two more Chough were seen. At nearby Holyhead Harbour we had great looks at a Great Northern Diver and a handsome breeding plumaged Black Guillemot.

At nearby Beddmanarch Bay there were lots of birds! Huge flocks of waders, lots of Pale-bellied Brent Geese, ducks, and gulls. We also picked out three Slavonian Grebe in the lovely afternoon light. This day was going amazingly well! We still had time to call in at RSPB Valley Lakes where we saw our first Coots and Moorhens of the day and heard a Water Rail calling.

We then headed for home with just enough time to make a short stop back on the mainland at Llanfairfechan promenade where we added Red-throated Diver and Common Eider to our very impressive day list.

Back at the hotel we went through the checklist and found we had recorded a total of 99 bird species on the day! Fantastic.

An early start on the 19th of February, we met in the hotel car park at 6am listening to a Tawny Owl calling – good start. We then headed up into the hills and just over an hour later we were watching the fantastic sight of displaying Black Grouse wow! Such beautiful birds and they make such wonderful sounds as the light came up allowing to see more detail of these most wonderful birds. At least fourteen male Black Grouse were strutting their stuff, a really thrilling encounter with fantastic birds. We also enjoyed seeing at least six Red Grouse here. Lower down we stopped to watch a Dipper on a fast-flowing stream.

A cooked breakfast went down very well indeed after our early start and the chilly conditions up on the hills. But the birding didn’t stop, we watched beautiful Yellowhammers as we ate.

A short drive took us up hill again and into the vast Clocaenog Forest and we had a particular spot in mind. Scanning around at first it seemed very little was moving but we kept at it, scanning and re-scanning the vast sky above the sea of conifer trees. First a Common Buzzard, then a Raven, more Buzzards, more Ravens, good sign if these birds were up soaring, maybe others would follow. Ruth spotted some Common Crossbills in the treetops and scopes were quickly on them, wonderful birds. As we watched through the scopes a female Goshawk glided low over the treetops beyond the crossbills! What were the chances of a Goshawk flying through our view while we were watching Crossbills? Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long for the next sighting of a Goshawk, in fact not a Goshawk, but a pair of Goshawks. These fantastic birds of prey then put on a wonderful display over the forest. We all had telescopes, and all were able to follow the birds across the sky as they displayed, and soared, what a thrilling encounter. This was no quick view both birds remained in view for over forty minutes – just mind-blowing easily our longest ever view of the muscular raptors. We also enjoyed watching large flocks of Fieldfares here. We enjoyed a welcome hot drink, while watching Redpolls and Siskins, before heading north to the coast.

Back at Llanddulas beach we saw three birders with scopes set up scanning the sea and thought they may have the Surf Scoters. Sadly, no sign of the North American ducks though lots of Common Scoter here. After some hard scanning Alan picked out a small group of Velvet Scoters and close by were the two drake Surf Scoters, whew! Now to get Andrew and Dave onto them, not easy given the choppy sea and the fact that the birds were drifting west. But was worked hard and eventually everyone, including the three original three birds, all saw the birds.

Ruth had seen what she thought was a Waxwing fly over the road just east of Llanddulas before we turned off for the beach car park, so we decided to have a look around. No sign of any Waxwings but we did spot some bushes with berries on close to where Ruth had seen her bird, big coincidence? We scanned some more, but no Waxwings. We were just about to give up when we spotted a small flock of Waxwings in flight over the fields close to the berry bushes, wow! Luckily, the Waxwings landed in a tree, and we quickly had them in the scopes, amazing! These beautiful birds flew back to the berry bushes in the hedge where they were a little closer. Great end to a wonderful bird filled day.

On the 20th of February we headed east for the Dee Estuary. Arriving at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands Nature Reserve there were lots of birds on the lagoon in front of the visitor centre, wow! It was a case of where to look first as we all called out exciting birds, Avocets, Ruff, Barnacle Geese, Marsh Harrier, what a wonderful reserve. Lots of Pink-footed Geese were on the move and some were on the ground in the fields beyond the lagoon. Lots of ducks here too and a big flock of Black-tailed Godwits.

We headed out onto the reserve and walked towards the viewpoint overlooking the adjacent Dee Estuary. Along the boardwalk we heard several Cetti’s Warblers singing their explosive songs, hidden in the reeds. A Marsh Harrier soared above us as more “V” formations of Pink-footed Geese flew over calling excitedly. As we neared the viewpoint two birders were watching something in a grass field, a beautiful Green Woodpecker! This wonderful bird really showed off feeding on the ground probing for food with its strong bill. From the viewpoint we could see a distant flock of Whooper Swans and the high-powered telescopes allowed us to see their yellow bill markings. Great Egrets strode around on the marsh below us and many thousands of Pink-footed Geese were feeding out on the marsh. Two Egyptian Geese fed in a nearby field and a Raven looked down from a tall bare tree.

All to soon it was time to head off to Parkgate Marsh and the Boathouse Restaurant for lunch overlooking the vast marsh. More Pink-footed Geese here and a pair of Stock Doves but the weather closed in and after our lovely meal we decided to head back west.

We checked an area near Halkyn where a flock of Waxwings had been seen recently but no luck in grim weather. A stop overlooking RSPB Conwy boosted our day list nicely, but the weather was grim, so we moved on.

We visited a spot where we had put down seed to attract finches and there were lots of birds feeding here. A real riot of colour with Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and Siskins along with Coal, Blue, and Great Tits all here. Sadly, no Hawfinches which have been attracted to this spot in the past. With rain again sweeping in we headed back to the hotel and saw the fields opposite were now flooded, so much rain!

We awoke to torrential rain on the 21st of February but luckily by the time we finished breakfast it was “only” steady drizzle, so we headed for the coast and the Great Orme at Llandudno. Luckily the rain had all but stopped by the time we reach the headland. A mixed flock of Ruddy Turnstones and Common Redshank roosted on the rocks. Fulmars whizzed overhead and some landing on the ledges allowing wonderful views. A Rock Pipit posed for us, and a Peregrine swept along the cliffs. Offshore we enjoyed a great selection of seabirds with Gannets, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Common and Black Guillemots, Cormorants, and Shags.

We tried the finch feeding spot again but still no Hawfinch but lovely to see all the birds here enjoying the food. We headed back to the hotel and enjoyed our lunch before Andrew and Dave headed off for home. A really wonderful Tour for Two and we enjoyed a very impressive 126 species of birds and some wonderful sightings that will live long in the memory. 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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