A milestone birthday and the arrival of a superb new addition to the Hunt/Farrell clan meant the weekend saw some pretty heavy celebrations, and there was certainly no call for any sudden movements yesterday.
Wonderful fun, and I have to hand it to young Alice – hitting the pub before you’re two days old hints at a character adventurous far beyond her tender years.
Suitably recovered, but with precious little sleep I was picked up by Duncan “Skip” Rothwell (with Tropical Thomason and Mike Stocker in tow) in the middle of the night this morning (I’d forgotten what 4am smells like), and only really woke up as we dropped the windows to the biting cold wind high above World’s End in North Wales an hour or so before dawn – the dark was already full of the weird, bubbling calls of Black Grouse, and as the light improved we were treated to 27 Blackcock displaying and fighting like crazy – the funkiest chickens this side of the prairie, flashing their Persil-white backsides and strutting like there was no tomorrow.
…exposure settings to maximum, blat blat blat from the car as the Black Grouse entertained us for an hour and a half…
Just remember to stay in the car at all times up here and you’ll enjoy a marvellous show on the moors above Ruthin.
We had another 12 lekking birds further along the road and could hear more bubbling away hidden on the slopes.
A grey morning loomed as Duncan drove down off the tops, past Betws-y-coed, and an obligatory stop off for sausage, egg and bacon barms, before a break to clean sausage, egg and bacon off our optics.
Fed and watered, the sun began to break through and Red Kite, Buzzard and loads of Ravens took to the air.
Crossing the Conwy Valley we arrived at Llanbedr-y-cennin, where after a bit of hunting we managed to catch up with at least three stonking Hawfinches, always shy and wary, including one bird that briefly joined Chaffinches on the deck.
Crazy bird, crazy bill.
Dunno why, but they always remind me of the Soup Dragon.
Redwings, drumming Greater ‘Pecker, Siskin and more Ravens and Red Kite here as the big orange thing bathed the countryside in (almost) spring sunshine. We pushed on to the coast to catch the tail end of the high tide at Llanfairfechan, but there was a bit of a chop on, and we only managed to score 5+ Red Throated Divers, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Razorbill, 2 Kittiwake and 15+ RB Mergs.
Raising the stakes we barrelled off to a hush-hush slope in another universe, home to a male and female Dartford Warbler that played hide and seek in the heather as Red Kites and Chough passed overhead.
A day of wonders to be sure, but it wasn’t over yet, although a detour to Rhos-on-sea produced just two Purple Sandpiper with Turnstones etc and no sign of the wintering Black Redstart by the Monkey Puzzle Tree or anywhere else on the front for that matter.
With time running out, Duncan steered us back onto the A55 east, our trip back home delayed by a call at Kinmel Bay, for a Snow Bunting that gave itself up amongst the pebbles, but only after it had made us walk further than was really necessary.
Reed Bunting, Skylarks and a startlingly beautiful full-on adult summer plumage Med Gull were here too.
Thoroughly spiffing stuff – thanks to Duncan, Trops and Mike, and to all those exciting birdies.
Quality birding – one day all Mondays will be made this way.