Iolo Williams Best Of North Wales Birdwatching Trip 11 To 15 July 2022

Come and join Iolo Williams, of BBC Spring Watch, here in North Wales for fantastic wildlife and fun!

Our Best of North Wales tours with TV presenter Iolo Williams are always so much fun and packed with wildlife – we run these five-day tours throughout the year.

We all met at The Princes Arms Hotel in the beautiful Conwy Valley at mid-day and enjoyed the views across the Conwy River to the hills beyond. After a lovely lunch we headed north the short distance to RSPB Conwy Nature Reserve. It was very warm, and we headed for the shade by the “pond dipping pool” to try something new. A friend of ours Marc Hughes had discovered an amazing moth on the reserve recently – a Lunar Hornet Moth – which looks just like a large hornet! We had a secret weapon supplied by Marc – moth pheromone that attracts the species or so we were told! Pheromone placed by a willow tree, as suggested, and we waited, and waited but no lunar hornet moth was attracted. Un-deterred we moved further onto the reserve and tried again. We waited and waited but no sign of the wanted moth.

Luckily there was plenty of wildlife to see and we enjoyed lots of birds on the lagoons where the water-levels were the lowest we have ever seen them.

Heading back towards the car park we tried one last time for the moth close to where we had first tried. It was now really hot but luckily the area was shaded and Iolo headed off in search of ice-cream as the rest of us waited for a moth, more in slim hope than expectation. No sooner had Iolo disappeared from sight than a “hornet” flew in! At first we were shocked to see a hornet so close but then of course we remembered we were looking for a lunar hawk moth! And there it was right next to us and then there two this was amazing! These weird and wonderful moths look for all the world like hornets though they are harmless moths that mimic the look of a hornet to deter predators. Luckily Iolo appeared with ice-creams for everyone just at that moment and we all marvelled at this amazing creature new for all of us!

We had a number of sightings of Kingfishers on our pre-breakfast walks at the hotel - library photo.

On the 12th of July – another very hot day – we began with a pre-breakfast walk by the Conwy River opposite the hotel. This proved to be wonderful with a Kingfisher posing for us allowing prolonged views in the telescope. We also watched a Mandarin Duck, scarce bird in this area, on the clam waters. Then back for a delicious and huge breakfast.

Black Guillemot

We enjoyed super views of Black Guillemots at Holyhead and at the Great Orme - library photo.

We then headed over to Anglesey and were very surprised to encounter a few spots of rain and could see low cloud ahead, the forecast had promised a heatwave! At Holyhead Harbour it was grey and cool but the hoped-for Black Guillemots were showing very well and the toilets were open! With the cloud right down over Holyhead Mountain we changed plans and headed north to Cemlyn Lagoon where the weather was much better and we had super close views of Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns at their breeding colony. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was a nice bonus bird along with an early Greenshank here and we also watched Atlantic grey seals just offshore.

The weather had improved so it was back through Holyhead and over to RSPB South Stack – but oh no thick fog! We decided to keep going but when we reached the reserve car-park visibility was just a few yards, not good. Iolo set off down the hill below the parking area and was soon back with good news it looked like it was clearing. By the time we reached the viewpoint at the cliff top it was a different day! The fog had melted away and we could see thousands of birds, talk about good timing. With the great visibility birds came thick and fast including a “circus” of Atlantic Puffins – the collective noun for Puffins. Super views through the telescopes along with Chough, Razorbills, Common Guillemots and Northern Fulmars – what a fantastic place.

Red squirrels were up next, and we spent the rest of the afternoon enchanted by the so beautiful mammals right at our feet! So many of these gorgeous animals entertained us and what a thrill to have them come so close. Many thanks to our great friend Hugh for helping us have such fantastic views and learn so much about these rare animals. What a privilege to spend time in the presence of these so special animals. Everyone was buzzing on the drive back to the hotel with all the amazing sightings we had enjoyed.

Iolo with a beautiful small elephant hawk moth at the hotel.

On the 13th of July we again had a short pre-breakfast walk by the River Conwy and enjoyed more views of Kingfisher – two this time. Iolo had put out his moth trap overnight and we opened the trap and enjoyed seeing a variety of moths including Small Elephant Hawk Moth - beautiful.

After another lovely breakfast we headed off east and over to RSPB Burton Mere Nature Reserve. One of our friends, Tony, was on hand when we arrived and helped us all see some wonderful birds. A near breeding-plumaged Spotted Redshank was close to three male Ruff as a Great Egret posed on the pool left of the reception hide. We enjoyed a lovely long walk to the Border Hide and back in the hot sunshine. Iolo was pointing out butterflies and flowers along the way and there were lots of birds to see including Marsh Harriers, a lone Avocet, lots of Black-tailed Godwits and more.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant overlooking Parkgate Marsh and then a lovely walk, south, along the sea-front. We had not gone far when we spotted a Marsh Harrier flushing up flocks of Starlings and waders from the marsh. Then a Peregrine Flacon shot into view at high speed and mobbed the harrier, wow! But it got better, the Peregrine was then attacked by a Hobby! This was just fantastic bird watching as the two falcons twisted and turned through the air, breath-taking stuff. Further along we watched Little Ringed Plover and Greenshank on the small pools and had super views. A Water Rail was much shyer and only popped into for a few seconds.

Then back to Trefriw for another amazing dinner and lots of laughs around the table a perfect end to a special day.

On the 14th of July we headed south from Trefriw and climbed up above the Conwy Valley where we enjoyed superb views across Snowdonia. We also watched two Red Kites wheeling over the fields just below us so close we could see every feather, so beautiful.

We were so lucky to enjoy wonderful views of Spotted Flycatcher a rare birds these days - library photo.

A minor road took us further south and frequent stops added lots more birds – a family of Common Redstarts, Lesser Redpolls, Willow Warblers, Stonechats and singing Skylarks. A refreshment stop proved inspired, not only drinks and a loo but more wonderful birds. A Spotted Flycatcher posed on a wire, a rare bird these days and a thrill to see. It got better when we watched this lovely bird fly to a nest and feed chicks. Then Iolo was calling out “Dipper!” and sure enough in the stream right behind us an adult and juvenile Dipper showed off just fantastic! Add to these sightings Red Kites, a family of Long-tailed Tits and two Blackcaps – an amazing coffee break!

It is wonderful that we can now enjoy breeding Ospreys here in North-East Wales so close to home.

Next we headed into Clocaenog Forest it where it was very hot, Iolo searched for adders while we all watched birds of prey, a distant Osprey, a Sparrowhawk, a Kestrel and lots of Common Buzzards. Sadly it was to hot for adders and we headed for cold drinks and lunch at the visitor centre. Lots of lovely Siskins on the feeders here to entertain us over our meal. A short drive to the Osprey viewpoint on Llyn Brenig and we could see at least one of the young birds on the nest with an adult. It was baking hot so we headed back towards Trefriw making a few bird stops on the way including a real surprise a posing Wood Warbler and then headed for a tearoom at Llanrwst by the Conwy River for more drinks and cake!

If it is a tour with Iolo you just know there will be cake - usually lots of cake!

On the 15th July it was Iolo, Janet, Sian and Alan that were up at 6.30am for the usual pre-breakfast walk, others were packing as it was the last day of the tour. As the three walked out on to the river bank Sian asked Iolo “when do we see an otter then?” jokingly, Alan replied “right there!” Iolo and Sian were stunned but sure enough two otters were in the river downstream of the three! What fantastic timing! Even more fantastic was the fact these two wonderful animals were in no hurry and were busy feeding away total oblivious to the excitement they were causing on the river-bank. A text to the others a few hundred yards away had folks panicking to get down and try and see these superb animals. No need to rush, amazingly, the mother and well grown cub otter stayed in view and slowly came closer and closer! The views were wonderful and through the telescope just awesome. The otters climbed out on to the bank regularly allowing even better looks and munched fish and eels and even rolled together playing in the shallow water. As if it could be possible it got better, a Kingfisher landed above the otters and followed them along the river bank! After a spell-binding forty, yes 40, minutes the otters turned around and headed back down stream leaving everyone totally elated. How did that wonderful breakfast taste after wildlife watching like that? Superb that is how good. No wonder we love staying at The Princes Arms Hotel.

We then drove north to the Great Orme at Llandudno where the wildlife did it’s best to compete with the fantastic early morning. We watched four Peregrine Falcons, a family party, six Black Guillemots, a pair of Chough and so many more birds. Ann spotted a harbour porpoise just off the rocks – exceptional to see one that close, we looked at butterwort a carnivorous plant and marvelled at a leaf-cutter bee flying around with a large piece of cut leaf – amazing.

All to soon it was time to head back towards Trefriw but just time for a quick stop at a beautiful 13th century church overlooking the Conwy River. Here we were thrilled to see four more Peregrine Falcons – again a family – tearing around the sky just breath-taking flying. We also added our last new bird for the trip – Common Gull – giving a very impressive 116 species of birds for the tour fantastic for July! North Wales really does have year-round birds and wildlife to enjoy, come and join us.

What a really lovely group of people to share wonderful wildlife with - huge thank you to all.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a lovely lunch, seeing Peregrine number nine from the table before the tour concluded. Huge thank you to Paul and Ann, Fiona, Janet, Sian and Lorna for their wonderful company so, so many laughs! And of course a big thank you to Lindsay and Ann at The Princes Arms Hotel for looking after us so very well. Can’t wait to be back. Our next Best of North Wales tour with Iolo with availability is 12th – 16th December 2022 come and join us.

Please drop us a line and we can make all the arrangements…

We look forward to sharing the very best of North Wales with you!

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