Iolo Williams Five Day Best Of North Wales Tour 4 To 8 March 2024




Come and join Spring Watches Iolo Williams for superb birds, wildlife, and cake, in North Wales!



We enjoyed a wonderful five days with Iolo running one of our popular Best of North Wales Tours. We all met at the Princes Arms Hotel, in the Conwy Valley at mid-day on the 4th of March. Lorna, Steven and Francis, Bill, Scott, and Alun were all excited at the prospect of five days of bird and wildlife watching. The excitement soon started, a pair of Peregrine Falcons were seen over the valley almost immediately! These were quickly followed by two sightings of a female Goshawk in the warm sunshine – what a perfect start to the trip!


The wonderful view from the hotel - Goshawks, Peregrines, Buzzards and Red kites!



After a lovely lunch we checked a site nearby for Hawfinch but sadly no luck, these rare finches have been very hard to find this winter. But we did enjoy a lot of colourful birds here including a beautiful pair of Bullfinches, Goldfinches, Siskins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, and a handsome Nuthatch. A Grey Wagtail added to the colour, a Sparrowhawk flew over our fifth raptor of the trip already, and we watched Redwings feasting on ivy berries.

Next, we headed north to RSPB Conwy where the sun had gone in and a cool wind had picked up, but no rain! Lots of birds to enjoy here on the lagoons with ducks being well represented. We had super views of smart Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, along with both Great crested and Little Grebes. Time for one more stop on the way back to the hotel, a viewpoint overlooking the Conwy Valley where we watched Red Kites, Buzzards, and more.

In the evening, we did the checklist before dinner and then enjoyed a wonderful meal and lots of laughter.

The morning of the 5th dawned beautiful with clear sky and no wind, perfect. We scanned the river in front of the hotel before breakfast enjoying the beautiful view.

After a delicious breakfast we headed towards the Isle of Anglesey making a stop on the way at Llanfairfechan. We scanned the sea and beach here and enjoyed some great birds including Common Eider, Red-throated Diver, and Great Crested Grebes.



Then onto Anglesey and first stop at Beddmanarch Bay where there were lots of birds! Three Slavonian Grebes were perhaps the highlight but we also enjoyed a lot of waders and Pale-bellied Brent Geese. At nearby Holyhead Harbour we eventually tracked down smart breeding plumaged Black Guillemot along with a Razorbill and Shags. We also tucked into lovely Victoria sponge made by Scott’s wife – cakes are always very welcome on our tours! Then up to RSPB South Stack to take in the spectacular scenery and watch Red-billed Chough swoop along the cliffs. A Northern Fulmar put on a super flying display here too, Stonechats showed off on the heathland where Iolo pointed out “witches knickers” fungus on the gorse.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Treaddur Bay and then searched the rocky shoreline here for Purple Sandpipers, we were very lucky and soon found them. Even better there were two full summer plumaged adult Mediterranean Gulls here showing very well, such stunning birds!

A short drive took us to a place where we watched a pair of Little Owls in the afternoon sun, another wow moment. A large flock of Fieldfares were feeding here along with a few Redwings. As we turned away from the Little Owls a Short-eared Owls drifted right past us so close! Amazing timing! Luckily this beautiful bird turned and came back allowing us all fantastic views, just breathtaking! What a wonderful few minutes everyone was elated.

We then visited Malltraeth Marsh and enjoyed a long walk across this wonderful wetland. Luckily there is a cycle track through the area making the access very easy. We hadn’t walked far when we spotted a Merlin on top of a hawthorn bush. This pocket-rocket of a raptor posed in the afternoon sun. The telescopes allowed great views for everyone, a rare opportunity to see one still. We also enjoyed watching Reed Bunting, Lapwing, and Redshank. But there was one more bird we hoped to see and carefully scanned the area as we walked deeper into the marsh. Time was ticking by, and we knew we would need to head back soon. One more area, and yes! Greenland White-fronted Geese showing amazingly well in the glorious sunshine. These globally very rare birds showed off in an area with short grass so we could even see their legs – so often in tall grass masking many of their features. Probably the best ever views we have enjoyed of these beautifully marked geese. A wonderful end to a remarkable day.

Another beautiful morning on the 6th of March, so lucky with the weather, clear, dry, and calm. The pre-breakfast birding produced a great variety of species including a pair of Mandarin duck on the river. After a lovely breakfast we again tried for Hawfinch. Lots of birds here and lovely to see so many colourful finches, time ticked by but no Hawfinch. Then just as we were thinking we should move on, Hawfinch! A beautiful male dropped down amongst the other birds, panic as we tried to ensure everyone saw this amazing bird. Sadly, the big, billed finch flew up and out of sight before everyone got a look in the telescopes. A tense wait followed, then there it was again on the ground in full view, wow! This time the male Hawfinch stayed put and everyone was able to enjoy wonderful views through the superb telescopes, wow!



Climbing up in altitude we visited a stunning viewpoint where we could gaze across the whole of Snowdonia – one of the best views in Wales in our opinion. As we drove up into Clocaenog Forest Alan spotted a bird in larch tree off to the right of the road, quick change of direction and we stopped close to the tree. Luckily the bird was still there – a Common Crossbill! Amazingly lucky to spot one as we drove past, and this lovely bird posed for us all. As we enjoyed the Crossbill in the warm sunshine, Iolo shouted Goshawk! Sure, enough a female Goshawk circled behind us against the blue sky before drifting off east – the wow moments just kept coming! Next, we headed for a welcome cuppa and loo stop where we watched Siskins and Redpolls.

Then deep into the forest and within a few minutes we were watching another Goshawk! This muscular raptor soared low over the forest and allowed us all plenty of time to watch it, such fantastic birds. Plenty of Common Buzzards up soaring too and we enjoyed a lovely walk in the sunshine. Then back for lunch where the Siskins and Redpolls were joined by three lovely Brambling! These finches have been very scarce in North Wales this winter so great to have such close views of these colourful birds.

We then headed north to the coast and Llanddulas where we looked at huge numbers of Common Scoter offshore. The light was perfect, and we could easily pick out females from males despite a little choppy sea. But try as we might no sign of the hoped-for Surf Scoters – a rare visitor from North America. We decided to move to another vantage point just to the west. We again set up the powerful telescopes and again scanned through the big flocks of Common Scoter. Five Velvet Scoter were picked out and great to see these scarce birds in the afternoon sun. Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers and Shags were all on the sea here. Then persistence paid off and Scott spotted the two drake Surf Scoters, yes! Once found we were all able to enjoy repeated views of these rare ducks with their white head patches and orange and yellow beaks. Wonderful birds on this beautiful sunny day.

We called at a viewpoint over the Conwy Valley on the way back to the hotel and enjoyed watching Red Kites, Buzzards, Ravens, and Mistle Thrushes.

On the & 7th we again enjoyed pre-breakfast birding by the river below the hotel and Iolo picked out a Chiffchaff in the willows – first one for the year – always great to see. The very same bush also attracted a lovely Goldcrest. A handsome drake Mandarin also showed well on the river along with beautiful Grey Wagtails.

After another wonderful breakfast we headed through the heart of the Snowdonia National Park, Snowdon itself was under cloud but the drive through the mountains was stunning.

Then across the Menai Straits on to the Isle of Anglesey and a quick loo stop. A short drive took us to the RSPB Cors Ddyga Nature Reserve, always a wonderful place to visit. We had a long walk here to the Cefni Estuary and then towards Malltraeth and back. It was a lovely morning and felt warm when out of the east wind. Lots of birds here and we had superb views of so many ducks on the wet grasslands along with beautiful Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Snipe and Dunlin. Marsh Harriers, at least four birds, swept over the area and treated us to some spectacular “sky-dancing” where the bird hurls itself across the sky – breathtaking stuff! A singing Cetti’s Warbler popped up and showed amazingly well, probably the best view we have ever had of this usually elusive bird. Reed Bunting, Fieldfares, Stonechats, two Cattle Egrets, and a Great Egret all added to the wonderful array of birds.


It is lovely to spend time with Hugh - red squirrels and Robins!



After a lovely lunch we headed for a meeting with our great friend Hugh Rowlands AKA the squirrel whisperer, as name by Iolo. As we walked through the woodland to meet Hugh we had two brief views of two red squirrels, along with Goldcrest and Jay. We met Hugh and immediately we were surrounded by red squirrels! What a magical experience, it was wonderful to see the delight on everyone’s faces! These oh so cute animals are so relaxed around Hugh despite being completely wild animals. We enjoyed the closest possible views of these beautiful animals as they fed and chased around us. Hugh is a font of things red squirrels and we learned so about these rare native animals. Plenty of birds here too and it was lovely to have such close views. A Robin fed from Hugh’s hand so lovely to see a wild bird so at ease with a person. Time had flown by and said our thanks and goodbyes to Hugh and headed back to the hotel.

The 8th of March 2024 was the last day of the five day “Best of North Wales Tour” with Iolo Williams. We did a little pre-breakfast birding by the river but there was a cold east wind, though the drake Mandarin duck showed again.

After another superb breakfast we headed for the Great Orme at Llandudno. First stop we enjoyed very close views of Redshanks and Turnstones roosting at high tide. These birds were hunkered down against the bitter cold wind, but it was still dry. The scenic Marine Drive was closed to traffic as an advert was being filmed here! Very frustrating. But we could walk along, we enjoyed fantastic views of the local pair of Peregrine Flacons hunting over the cliffs – spectacular stuff! The speed of the falcons as they stopped was mind-blowing. At one point both birds pursued a Snipe high in the sky above us but somehow the wader managed to evade the stoops of both the raptors, a very lucky Snipe indeed. After a chat with the film crew we were allowed to drive around the headland but the strong wind made birding very hard. We did have super views of a confiding Rock Pipit, a pair of Chough, and offshore Gannets, Kittiwakes, Common Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags. But the cold wind was grim, so we opted for hot drinks and cake at RSPB Conwy! Of course, we also checked out the birds on the lagoons. Plenty to see including smart Pochard, Tufted Duck, five Red-breasted Mergansers, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, and Shoveler.


A moving moment in RSPB Conwy car park as Iolo presents Alun with his "Hawfinch Spotter" badge!




The "Curse of the Hawfinch" was finally broken for Alun after many terrible years!



Sadly, it was then time to return to the hotel for lunch where the tour concluded. A wonderful five days, and no rain, with so many wonderful sightings, so many laughs, great food, and the best company! We really do hope we will see Steven and Francis, Scott, Bill, Lorna, and Alun again on our tours – what a wonderful group to spend time with enjoying North Wales at its best! 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….

info@birdwatchingtrips.co.uk

We can then make all the arrangements for your perfect Birdwatching Trips tour.



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