Valentines Day Birdwatching Trips Tour But The Weather Was Not Lovely

Common Crossbill - we find great birds even in the worst weather!

Mark has been on our trips before and had wanted to arrange day out for him and two friends but sadly the pandemic put pay to the plans. At last we had been able to find a date we could all make – 14th February 2022 Valentine’s Day! Perhaps not the most romantic thing to do go looking for birds but it was a date we could all make.

We all met a Llandudno West shore at 8am and it was cold and blowing a gale not ideal for finding birds but at least the heavy rain of earlier had stopped, for now. We headed south down the Conwy Valley sadly the scenic views were denied us as the cloud was right down and it started to rain again. Two main target birds had been requested to look for – Hawfinch and Goshawk – we do like a challenge but in this weather? So first stop was to look for Hawfinch and at least it was fairly sheltered from the wind here though the rain kept coming and going. A good number of birds were about and we watched Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches feeding but no Hawfinch. But we don’t give up easily so kept scanning and scanning then bingo there was a Hawfinch amongst the other finches on the ground wow! We all enjoyed pretty good looks through the Leica telescope before the bird moved off out of sight into a hedge. Soon after another Hawfinch was spotted in a bare tree and the scope was quickly on this bird which was more in the open and in better light. Luckily the Hawfinch was in the mood to pose and allowed everyone plenty of time to enjoy super views. With rain now pouring down again it was time to move on and try for target bird number two, Goshawk.

Again we were denied the beautiful scenic views as the rain hammered down and the mountains vanished in the low cloud. Reaching the forest the rain had at least eased and we made a quick stop to watch some Siskins and a lone Lesser Redpoll as three Ravens flapped overhead. Reaching “the” spot to look for Goshawks it was pouring down, again, so we sat in the car and waited. At last the rain almost stopped and Alan jumped out and scanned just in case a bird was daft enough to be flying and almost at once a Goshawk! This huge hawk was seen skimming over the trees and actually coming towards the car, panic as the other all clambered out but sadly the raptor had dropped into the trees before anyone else got on it, cruel luck. We did see some distant Crossbills but that was it and the rain now turned to sleet and heavy sleet at that so we moved on.

We looked for the wintering Great Grey Shrike at a nearby area of moorland but the conditions were grim with very strong winds out here perhaps not surprising that a bird that likes to perch on top of small trees was nowhere to be seen. We were just about to move on again when we had a real surprise a ringtail Hen Harrier glided over the moor! Wow this was most unexpected in February and as always with these beautiful rare birds a real thrill to watch. The Hen Harrier slowly worked its way low over the heather and then landed out of sight and we thought that was that. But just as we were about to move on the bird of prey was back up and allowed us another prolonged view all be it through sleet!

At the visitor centre mugs of hot chocolate and cakes went down very well indeed after a bitter cold morning. Wonderful views of Bramblings were also very welcome along with lots more Siskins and Coal Tits. On the adjacent lake we added Great Crested Grebe and Tufted Duck to our rather low day list but hardly surprising given the awful weather.

We decided to return to “the” Goshawk site and try again for this most wanted bird but the weather was still terrible. We did see Fieldfares, Redwings, and more Common Crossbills including a male posing well for us and more Ravens but no hawk. Then at last there was a glimmer of brightness in the sky and a Common Buzzard soared low over the trees – we had hope! We all scanned the lightening sky and then yes at last a Goshawk we could all see! This huge female bird was at first low over the trees and tricky to get onto but then slowly climbed higher and through the scopes we all enjoyed great views a huge success given the terrible weather we had endured all morning. It was wonderful to have time to soak up the views of this wonderful bird which so often is just glimpsed as it melts into a forest. A second Goshawk this time a male joined the female and we were treated to more looks at these “ghosts of the forest” such fantastic birds.

Very pleased indeed we headed off but had only gone a mile or so when Alan paused to scan a clearing in the forest in case any birds were about. Amazingly a female Goshawk came over the trees against the blue sky and again we all enjoyed good views – like buses these birds!

Back down to sea-level we braved the gale to scan the lagoons at RSPB Conwy from a viewpoint having to really hang on to the scopes to stop them blowing over – wild weather. A Scaup was a great bonus bird to pick up here amongst all the reserve regulars and a fly-by drake Goosander was also a little unexpected.

Time for one last stop before heading back to Llandudno, at the Little Orme and even before we arrived we watched a Peregrine Falcon power over the beach, wonderful to see. The gale force winds were even stronger here and it was actually difficult to stay on our feet! We didn’t stay long in these terrible conditions but we did manage to see Red-throated Diver, Common Guillemot, Fulmar, Shag and several Atlantic grey seals.

All in all a fun day with great company despite the awful weather, it is all about the right mental attitude – enjoy the day whatever it throws at you!

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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