North Wales - Sunday 20th November 2016

We went abroad for our November trip – to Wales!

31 intrepid birders waited for our coach, bracing themselves against a cold wind and in drizzle wondering what the weather had in store for us today on a multi-stop trip.

Our first stop was on the promenade at Rhos-on-Sea where we hoped to find a Purple Sandpiper. We stepped from the lovely warm coach into a bracing cold wind and immediately heard the cries of seaside birds, Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls. This started our day list and we quickly added Curlew, Greater Black Backed Gull, Redshank, Ringed Plover, and Common Scoter and Cormorant out at sea. A Common Gull was included in the fly-past of birds. No Sandpipers though but thousands of rocks well disguised as these birds!

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We moved on to our second destination, the Conwy RSPB reserve and were met by a Ranger who checked us in, handed out maps and told us what we would have seen 'if only we had been here last week'! The weather however, was much improved; we were out of the wind and in warm sunshine. Most unexpected!

We split into various groupings and began to explore the reserve while being supervised by a very friendly Robin. The majority went to the Cuddfan y Carneddau hide where a Ranger was pleased to show a perched Kingfisher. Then the prize of the day, a Water Rail calmly strode into view and pecked in the mud before flying off into the reeds and leaving us with a Moorhen. Despite the sun being at an awkward angle we quickly added various ducks and waders to our day list. Amongst others we saw Grey Heron, Teal, Little Egret, Shelduck, and Black Tailed Godwits standing about among the Lapwings.

Generally we continued to make our way on the longer trail around the lagoon stopping at the hides and adding the more common birds (known as 'the usual suspects') to our day list. More notable species were Wigeon, Teal, Pochard, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Pochard, Wigeon, and Great Spotted Woodpecker. One of the special items was what can only be described as a flock, about ten, of Snipe on the main island. A Buzzard circled above us and there was also a flock of Linnets on the island.

On the latter stage of the walk we met the estuary of the River Conway with the tide racing in and spotted a Rock Pipit.

The distant views from the reserve were magnificent with the golden autumn trees in full colour in the bright sunshine and the mountains of Snowdonia covered in snow.

We then moved on to our third stop, the promenade at Pensarn for a bit of sea watching. This is a bit of an acquired taste for which a telescope is almost an essential tool. However, we did discover that there were hundreds of Common Scoter out in the bay as well as Cormorants, Guillemots, and Great Crested Grebes. There were also quite a few little black or white dots out there for which we couldn't agree identification. We did however, get a close fly-pass of a small flock of Dunlin.

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We then moved on to our final destination of the day, Rhyl Dock and the Boating Lake. The island on the lake was a popular roost for Oystercatchers and Lapwings although the latter were very restless and kept flying about joined by a Golden Plover. From the old dock bridge we added a Greylag Goose to our list. It was getting rather murky by now but we were kept amused by a large number of Starlings that were settling on the rigging of the boats by the harbour.

There was a total of 58 species on our day list and very surprisingly we didn't see a Wood Pigeon or a Mute Swan [there was a group of 6 mute swans on the river by Conwy Castle – Ed.].

Incidentally one of our group asked how to tell the difference between a Goosander and a Merganser and were told that the latter had a scruffy head. Scruffy indeed!! He had spent the whole morning in front of the bathroom mirror getting his quiff like that and thought that he looked very elegant! I hope that the females agreed!!

Photos by Chris S & Robert D

CHRIS S

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