Iolo Williams North Wales Birdwatching Trips Tour 28 October To 1 November 2023

Come and join Iolo Williams here in North Wales for great wildlife, great fun, and great cake!

We always love our tours with our great friend Iolo Williams, we met at the Princes Arms Hotel, in the Conwy Valley, in time for lunch on the 28th October. Tim and Chris, Mathew, Sue and Ian, and Sally were joining us for the five day tour. After lunch we headed north to RSPB Conwy and visited the Tal-y-Fan hide. Lots of birds to enjoy here, in the afternoon sunshine. A Greenshank was on the deep lagoon with two Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Oystercatchers, and Lapwings. Lots of Teal here and we picked out a juvenile drake Garganey here, a rare bird in North Wales at any time of year and a late record at this time of year. We enjoyed great views of this subtle little duck as it fed with Teal.

It was a real thrill to see a Short-eared Owl on the first day of the trip! Libaray picture.

We then visited a viewpoint overlooking the Conwy Valley and river where there were lots of birds. Mistle Thrushes were feeding here and amongst them beautiful Redwings. A flock of Greenfinches here, good to see, as these birds have declined hugely, perhaps a sign of a recovery? But it was the birds of prey that stole the show here. Common Buzzards were perched in oak trees with one of these large raptors allowing super views in the telescopes. Red Kites also showed well with at least fifteen of these beautiful birds in the area. Iolo picked out a female Marsh Harrier, a rare bird here, sadly this bird only showed briefly. But soon after a juvenile Hen Harrier appeared – wow! Amazing to see two species of harrier at one site in North Wales. Luckily the Hen Harrier was in the mood to show off and came closer and closer, a superb bird. The Hen Harrier quartered the marsh back and forth, occasionally twisting and turning down into the reeds in pursuit of prey, what a thrill to watch. A Peregrine Falcon was spotted on a pylon and as we watched the raptor tore across the marsh but stooped out of sight, it then flew back having missed its intended prey. Another thrilling sight. Then things got even better, Short-eared Owl! This beautiful bird flapped slowly over the reedbed in the late afternoon light – wow! We had never seen a Short-eared Owl here before. A wonderful start to our five-day tour.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed the first of our delicious dinners, the food on our North Wales tours is another real highlight.

Birdbox Kingfisher Lackford Lakes

A Kingfisher before breakfast is the perfect start to any day. Libaray picture.

On the 29th of October we had a short walk before breakfast by the Conwy River opposite the hotel. Plenty of birds here with the highlight being a Kingfisher feeding by the left bank of the river. We also watched a Mandarin duck amongst the Mallard flock, first we have seen here for some time. A small flock of Fieldfares flew in, and one landed in view, then a gang of Long-tailed Tits popped up as we headed back for a wonderful breakfast.

Ogwen Valley August 1

Wonderful wildlife and stunning scenery on our North Wales Tours - come and see.

After our delicious breakfast we headed south through the Conwy Valley, looking wonderful with the autumn colours, and then north through the Snowdonia Park – stunning scenery. At Bangor Harbour it was clam and bright with plenty to see, six Goldeneye were loafing on the calm sea, Red-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes were further out. Ruddy Turnstones were roosting on the pier, Redshank, Oystercatchers and Great black back Gulls were roosting on the harbour wall. On the far side of the Menai Straits Cormorants and Shags were roosting on the rocky shoreline along with Little Egrets. A flock of Dunlin swirled around the harbour catching the autumn sun, a lovely sight.

A short drive took us to Caernarfon where we stopped to admire the impressive castle at the mouth of the river Seiont, we picked out a smart adult Mediterranean Gull here. West then to the mouth of Foryd Bay where we watched Common Snipe, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Ringed Plover, and Shags. There were close views of Turnstones and Dunlin along the shore between the castle and the bay.

We could see a huge flock of Golden Plover in the distance over Caernarfon Airport so headed over there, we the added promise of a hot drink and a loo! The Golden Plover swirled above us against a blue sky, breath-taking stuff. Lots more to see with Lapwings, Curlews, Stonechats and Buzzard all enjoyed as we enjoyed our hot drinks in the sunshine. At the nearby beach we scanned offshore, but the swell made it tricky to pick out birds. We did mange to see Red-throated Divers, Shags, distant Common Scoter and a three Gannets flew past. The sky was turning black and large drips of rain began to fall, time for lunch. We had a great meal at Braf Café, at Dinas Dinlle where there was a warm welcome and great service.

After lunch, the rain thankfully now stopped, we headed back over to Foryd Bay and enjoyed thousands of birds! Huge flocks of Wigeon were resting on the tidal flats and amongst them beautiful Pintail and lots of Teal. Greenshank strode through the shallows and big flocks of Lapwings looked stunning. Goosander and Little Grebes fed in the river channel along with Little Egrets. Then suddenly the birds were in the air in panic, was there a Peregrine about? No, a dog, completely out of control some half a mile from its idiot owner who had no control over the creature. The large dog tore back and forth across the whole area chasing thousands of birds into the air. No sooner did the birds land the dog chased them again, and again, this went on for some twenty minutes! Horrible to witness, sadly the owner was on the far side of the bay so we were unable to remonstrate with the fool.

On a happier note, further around the bay we enjoyed wonderful close views of Brent Geese feeding close to the track. We picked out four dark-bellied Brents amongst the huge numbers of pale-bellied birds, the dark-bellied are scarce visitors to North Wales. We also watched Bar-tailed Godwits feeding amongst Curlew and Oystercatchers. Three Red-breasted Merganser dived for fish in the channel where another Greenshank fed. We took the scenic route back through Snowdonia as the coast road had huge traffic jams, sadly the scenery was draped in low cloud!

On the 30th of October we again had a short pre-breakfast walk by the Conwy River, certainly gives you an appetite for a delicious breakfast. We then headed over to the Isle of Anglesey. First stop was at RSPB Cors Ddyga, a freshwater marsh, where we walked down to the bridge over the Cefni River and back. So many birds here! The flooded fields were busy with ducks – Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall, Wigeon, two Tufted Duck unusual here, and a beautiful drake Pintail dropped in. Lots of Common Snipe were on the move whizzing low over the marsh and huge flock of Black-tailed Godwits roosted on a small island, some 300 birds packed shoulder to shoulder. Two Marsh Harriers hunted the marsh on our left as Ravens flapped over. Stonechats, Reed Buntings, and Meadow Pipits all showed well and even a Cetti’s Warbler put in a brief appearance. As we left, we picked out a lovely Whooper Swan with a group of Mute Swan – a great visit to this amazing reserve.

We made a quick stop at Beddmanarch Bay, loos, and added Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Great Crested Grebe to our day list. Then it was on to RSPB South Stack where we spotted two Red-billed Chough over the fields along the approach road, fantastic! The birds flew towards the cliffs and we had an idea where they were going. A few minutes later we were all enjoying superb views of these amazing corvids in the sunshine, a real thrill. The Chough then flew up and circled above us giving their wonderful “cheeow” calls to complete the full experience, perfect. The scenery at South Stack was stunning with sunshine and blue seas, Gannets flew past and Common Guillemots bobbed about on the sea, Raven overhead and Stonechats on the gorse. Iolo pointed out some interesting fungi known as “witches’ butter” yes you guessed it, it is bright yellow. A lovely lunch at the Sea Shanty in Trearddur Bay went down very well indeed, again great service here.

We then went to meet our great friend Hugh, also known as “the squirrel whisperer”, in a lovely, wooded valley. As we parked, we saw a Sparrowhawk soaring above us and a Jay flapped past. A lovely walk up the valley, pausing to watch Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits and then we met Hugh. Immediately we saw beautiful red squirrels just feet away, magical! Hugh certainly lives up to his nickname. The red squirrels put on an enchanting display, and we were all thrilled to watch these animals so close. Hugh is also an expert on these wonderful animals and chatted about all aspects of these native mammals answering everyone’s questions in detail, a magical afternoon. Of coursed there were more birds too, superb views of Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal Tits and Great Spotted Woodpecker all added to the experience. Huge thanks to Hugh, we will be back.

October the 31st started damp so we didn’t do a pre-breakfast walk but still enjoyed some birds from the front of the hotel – Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail, Coal Tit and Goosander. Luckily after our lovely breakfast the rain had all but stopped and we headed south down the Conwy valley. A quick look by the village stream produced close Grey Heron and a pair of Grey Wagtails. At a lovely spot by the main Conwy River, we enjoyed a lot of birds feeding in the trees. Mistle Thrushes were busy eating berries and joined by Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, some beautiful Redwings, and a male Blackcap showed briefly. Finches were here too with a good number of Greenfinches and smaller numbers of Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Then a male Hawfinch landed in the bare branches of an oak tree, wow, what a stunning bird. Sadly, the Hawfinch quickly moved on, as they so often do.

After a hot drink and loo stop, complete with wonderful views of Siskins on the feeders we headed for the forest. It was rather grey and gloomy, the sun having gone in, so hopes of soaring raptors were not high. We did have good views of a Buzzard overhead, a hovering Kestrel, and a few Ravens. Then we heard “chip, chip” calls – Crossbills! Now where were they? We scanned the trees and Iolo spotted them; telescopes were quickly on these large finches. Luckily no rush, the birds were feeding on pinecones and stayed in view for ages. Occasionally the flock of Crossbills took flight, circled around, and landed again, only then did we see just how many there were – some sixty birds! We also watched beautiful Fieldfares, Mistle Thrushes, and Meadow Pipits before heading for lunch.

After lunch we headed north for the coast and the beach at Llanddulas. The light wasn’t the best here sadly and the huge flock of Common Scoter was very distant. Luckily a small group of Common Scoter were fairly close in allowing great views with the telescopes. Also offshore we watched Red-throated Divers, Razorbills, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Great Crested Grebes.

A quick look at Glan Conwy gave us lovely views over RSPB Conwy, Conwy Castle, and the mountains of Snowdonia beyond. Plenty of birds here too and we boosted our daily list by a huge amount with ducks, waders, egrets and more.

Time for one last stop back at the viewpoint over the Conwy Valley, less birds than on our previous visit on Saturday but plenty to see. Two Goosander were on the river below us along with Little Grebes, Teal, Lapwings and Curlew. Greenfinches were in the trees along with Mistle Thrushes, and Redwings. Red Kites gave wonderful views including one bird in an oak tree eating something that looked disgusting! But the kite swallowed the lot, yuck. Common Buzzards also showed off as Ravens soared over the valley. It looked like that was that, then we spotted a ringtail Hen Harrier over the marsh, always a wow bird! The harrier was always a bit distant, but the high-powered telescopes allowed us prolonged views. As we watched this rare raptor hundreds of Starlings poured into the reedbed to roost, a great end to the day.

The 1st of November and our last morning of the trip, pre-breakfast was rather damp, but a Kingfisher flashed across the river and a Nuthatch was around the trees by the hotel. After another superb breakfast we headed north to the Great Orme at Llandudno. It was grey with spots of rain in the air but plenty to see. The famous Great Orme goats showed off very well, Common Guillemots, Razorbills, a Kittiwake, Gannets, Cormorants and Shags were all offshore. We scanned the cliffs for Peregrine Falcons but sadly no luck. A Kestrel hovered above us allowing super views and a huge Raven came down on the wall very close to us! This huge corvid entertained us for a good while bouncing around making an amazing array of calls, just wonderful. The Raven was rewarded with Walker’s shortbread biscuits which soon disappeared. Just around the corner we watched Atlantic grey seals just below us, what a wonderful sight. Then the rain came in, so we hurried to the café for hot drinks and excellent cakes. The rain stopped by a strong wind was now blowing so we headed back, round the headland it was more sheltered, so we stopped for one last look for Peregrines. Iolo spotted one, so walked closer for a better view. What followed was an incredible spectacle! Not one, but two Peregrine Falcons flew off the cliff and the smaller male grabbed the prey the large female was carrying! Both falcons then tumbled down through the air locked together! Wow! We thought they would dash against the rocks, but the female managed to crash land on a ledge below us, crazy. Both birds were soon in the scopes and the female had her wings spread, mantling the prey to keep the male off it. Then both birds were flying again, this time apart, and the female landed above us, and the male landed just a foot away from here. The telescopes were again on the birds and we all soaked up fantastic views, what a thrilling end to our five day tour.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a lovely lunch before we all headed for home. Huge thanks to Sue and Ian, Sally, Chris and Tim, and Mathew for their wonderful company and we hope to enjoy more adventures with them all again. A huge thanks to all the lovely folks at the Princes Arms for looking after us so very well.

We would love to join us on our Iolo Williams North Wales tour in February 2024, a wonderful time to visit this beautiful area. February is the time of year to look for Goshawks and Hawfinch along with some 100 over species of birds! Lots of wonderful food too, including cake of course. The tour runs from 17 – 21 February 2024 and is based at the Princes Arms Hotel in the Conwy Valley, email us below for details.

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….

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

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