Two Day Custom Birdwatching Trips Tour North Wales 10 And 11 January 2022

Hawfinch Roy de Hass

We enjoyed fantastic views of Hawfinch along with another 98 species of bird!

We picked up Dave and Donna from their hotel at 8am on 10th January and headed for the Isle of Anglesey, first stop on the east coast at Benllech. Sadly the light was awful with grey low cloud and despite the fairly calm sea it was tricky to pick out birds. We struggled on and did see some of Donna and Dave’s target birds – Common Scoter, Eider and Red-throated Diver but we would have liked better views. We also saw Common Guillemot, Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Great Crested Grebes and lots of Shags – not a bad start. As a bonus Ruth spotted a lovely red squirrel in the trees just behind the beach.

We changed sides, from the east of Anglesey to the west, and a muddy field near Valley where luckily the hoped for Cattle Egret was with the cows. The weather was worse now with drizzle and even worse visibility but we also saw six Little Egrets and a flock of Skylarks.

At nearby Beddmanarch Bay we had a wonderful selection of waders feeding on the mudflats and it was great to able to compare the species side by side. Lots of Dunlin were feeding here along with Knot, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits, Common Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatchers. In the channel we picked out Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye, a Mistle Thrush flying over the estuary was a surprise here.

On again just along the road to Holyhead Harbour and we quickly found the target bird – Black Guillemot and had good scope views of three birds. A wonderful Great Northern Diver was further out in the harbour and we also enjoyed Little Grebes and Grey Herons here.

A short drive to RSPB South Stack where the fog had closed in sadly so we couldn’t see the spectacular views but we did enjoy fantastic close prolonged views of a pair of Red-billed Chough always a thrill to see. Donna managed to spot a Rock Pipit in the fog somehow!

At a nearby rocky bay we had hoped to find another target bird for the day – Ruddy Turnstone but amazingly not one at this usually “nailed on” site but we did see six Purple Sandpipers so much rarer! A lovely lunch and welcome hot drinks went down very well indeed.

We then switched again and headed to the south-west corner of Anglesey hoping for better weather but sadly not. But the birds were amazing and we marvelled at a huge flock of beautiful Redwings so close, a few Fieldfare amongst them. We saw Goosanders a scarce bird on Anglesey a lovely drake Pintail before the jaw dropping sight of thousands of gorgeous Golden Plover!

Last stop of the day was at RSPB Cors Ddyga where the water levels were very high indeed and there were hundreds of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler all so close. Amongst the ducks were lots of Lapwings and Black-tailed Godwits. We were treated to a breath-taking finale for our first day, two Merlins chasing one poor Skylark in the sky right above us! Luckily for the lark the Merlins turned on each other and fought as the Skylark slipped away what a fantastic sighting!

Day two and we picked up Donna and Dave and headed straight for the Great Orme to tidy up some unfinished business from day one. Luckily the Ruddy Turnstones were on show where they usually are, whew, bogey bird laid to rest, now move on! We had fantastic views of Northern Fulmars both on the cliffs and whizzing overhead, a close encounter with a rock dropping Raven luckily it missed the car, watched Atlantic grey seals on the beach below us before heading off south.

In the Conwy Valley we had an amazing sighting of Dipper, not only very close in great light but prolonged views and it was singing! Just one of those amazing wildlife moments when time stood still and we all soaked up the moment. Nearby we were so, so lucky to almost immediately see a Hawfinch! These bull-necked finches can be so tough to see but here was a stunning male on top of tree showing off! The views through the Leica telescopes were fantastic seeing every feather detail another wow moment. We saw at least three of these rare finches, in the trees on the ground and in flight just fantastic birding!

Driving south again stopped to admire the stunning views across the Conwy Valley to the mountains of Snowdonia and a flock of roadside Fieldfares looking fantastic in the winter sun.

Into Clocaenog Forest and we soon came to quick stop when we saw Common Crossbills on tree tops, brilliant! A little further and we reached an area of clear-fell and heather moorland where an elusive Great Grey Shrike had occasionally been seen. Twice before this winter we had managed brief views of this rare bird but of course today no problem! Within a minute we saw the shrike and soon had it in the telescopes for good if distant views. Next came one of those which way to look moments, a flock of Common Crossbills landed in the trees behind us as we enjoyed the shrike. Luckily on this occasion the beautiful Great Grey Shrike stayed in view for ages and we watched it hunting, dropping down from the top of bare tree into the heather only to pop back up on top just wonderful.

The Great Grey Shrike was too distant for good photos but great scope views.

Time for lunch so we headed for the Visitor Centre but before food we checked the bird feeders to the right of the building and enjoyed super looks at Bramblings such gorgeous finches. As we ate lunch we met two friends, Dave and Mick, who said there was a Willow Tit coming to the feeders left of the building – big news in North Wales these days a species that has almost vanished sadly. Within moments there was the Willow Tit showing off in the sunshine a fantastic bonus bird!

We headed back to the coast and Pensarn beach where the light was not as good as we had hoped but still spectacular numbers of Common Scoter here. On again a short way west to the Little Orme and we were back into the lovely sunshine. Walking to Angle Bay we looked down on an Atlantic grey seal colony over one hundred of the wonderful animals. The seals were great to see but not our target, no sign of the hoped for juvenile Iceland Gull sadly, so Alan moved around the bay to get a different angle and there was the gull! This rare visitor was stood on a rock at the water’s edge and had superb views through the telescopes. Dave noticed how pale pink the legs and feet were and the fact we could see the nails were jet black – amazing to see such detail. The Iceland Gull was playing a game of “chicken” with the tide, waves were crashing over the rock around its feet but it would not move. As the tide rose the waves were breaking over the gull, crazy bird! We also enjoyed Chough, Stonechat and Red-throated Diver here.

Just time for one last site – RSPB Conwy – in beautiful late afternoon sunshine the views across the estuary to the mountains and Conwy Castle stunning. Of course plenty of birds too and a real boost to our already impressive day list including Scaup, Great Egret and Goldcrest.

What a wonderful two days with Dave and Donna 99 species of birds enjoyed in beautiful scenery and at a pace that allowed us to really enjoy each species. Some very special birds in the list too such as Chough, Black Guillemot, Great Northern Diver, Golden Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Dipper, Hawfinch, Common Crossbill, Great Grey Shrike and Iceland Gull – show casing what a wonderful place North Wales is to enjoy birds. We look forward to more adventures with Dave and Donna in the future…

We would love to put together a custom Birdwatching Trips tour perfect for you please just drop us a line and we can do the rest…

We look forward to enjoying great birds and wildlife with you soon.

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