07 December 2008


I was right about RSPB Conwy - we didn’t see too many birds there yesterday. We did see some quality birds though! In the 2½ hours that we spent on the reserve Lynda & I recorded a total of 40 species. The weather, though very cold, was also great for birding. The light was superb, there was little or no wind and as a result the birds we did see tended to show well.

Conwy Castle & RSPB Reserve.

We arrived at Conwy at just before 11:00am and were met by a reserve warden who handed out maps, reserve passes and also informed us that the Firecrest I was so keen to see hadn’t been seen all day. It wasn’t the news I wanted to hear and, with all due respect to said warden, I didn’t take too much notice of it anyway. My feelings towards wardens are, I’m sad to say, a little tainted at times after I found a Great Northern Diver at Cley NWT reserve many years ago. I reported it to the warden on duty only to be told “You must be wrong. We don’t get those here.” - the bird was reported a number of times, by other birders, over the coming days! Birds can, and will, turn up anywhere.

After moving off from the coach, and onto the reserve, the Firecrest took around 10 minutes to locate. At first I was aware of it calling, then I got a very brief view of what I thought was the bird in flight, shortly after that the little beauty was feeding just feet away from us. Firecrests are always colourful little things but yesterday’s bird was possibly the best I’ve ever seen, maybe due to the quality of the light. The only minor complaint I have is that the bird was so full of energy that I had no chance of getting any photos! It just never stopped moving!

Whilst looking for, and watching, the Firecrest we also located a Wren, a number of Dunnock, a couple of Goldcrest, 6 Long-tailed Tit, numerous Blue Tit, 3 Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, 2 Siskin and also 6 Goldfinch. The Siskin stayed still for a little longer than the Firecrest and so I was able to get my ‘scope and camera trained on them long enough for a few quick photos.


Visits to the hides and a walk around the perimeter path of the reserve gave good views of the two lakes and also the Conwy estuary. Birds of note here included 4 Little Grebe, 2 Little Egret, 10 Shelduck, c60 Teal, 7 Shoveler, 2 female Goldeneye, 4 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Water Rail and 55 Lapwing. A group of 10 Black-tailed Godwit flew onto the reserve from the estuary and a single Kingfisher was seen perched on the edge of the reed bed. I also managed a count of 60 Snipe on one of the small islands near to one of the hides.

View over Conwy RSPB reserve.

After arriving back at the reserve shop and café at the end of our walk I decided that I had just enough time to try for one more look at the Firecrest before our coach moved on to Llanfairfechan. The Firecrest showed well but I had to move on quicker than I thought - another bird had been located that I wanted to see, Siberian Chiffchaff. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert (far from it!) on the various “splits” of Chiffchaff but I have to say that the bird we saw yesterday certainly did seem to fit well with the “tristis” form. As with all birding - you make your own rules about what, and how, you list such birds. I have this down as “Chiffchaff - probable tristis.

Llanfairfechan was even quieter in terms of the number of species seen, just 28, but again it was the quality of birding that made the long trip worth while. The sheltered bay, and calm sea, made it reasonably easy to pick up Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser. Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper were all seen within just a few yards of the sea wall as the tide came in.


A couple of Common Gull were fighting for bread amongst the Herring and Black-headed Gulls that were being fed on the lake in the park, where Mute Swan and Mallard were also noted. A walk along the sea wall added Redwing, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Greenfinch to our list. A little time sat scanning the sea also provided me with a single Black Guillemot as it flew by. Walking back to the coach as the sun set turned up what was, for me, an unexpected bird when we spotted a Dipper feeding in a small river just a few feet from the car park and only around 100yds from the sea. Unexpected it may have been but it was a rather nice way to end the day.

Llanfairfechan view.


Today, even though I really should have stayed home in the warm to try and shake off the remnants of my MAN FLU, I took a drive over to Belper in search of Waxwings. A group of 5 birds have been feeding in a car park in the town for the past couple of days and the possibility of adding this species to my “10-Mile List” was just too tempting.

I stood around in the freezing cold for almost an hour before a couple of Waxwing came to feed. They stayed for around three or four minutes before flying off again. They didn’t return during the following hour so I came home again! Yes, I would have liked to have watched the birds for longer but at least this time I did get to see them.

Whilst stood around waiting for the Waxwings I also noted a further 21 species - not bad for a car park in the middle of town. The most unexpected bird was a male Blackcap that was feeding in the same tree as the Waxwings. No doubt this little warbler was none too happy with the temperature this morning, still below freezing at 10:30am, and was wishing it had chosen to move on to warmer climes at the end of the summer!

Waxwing takes my “10-Mile List” count to 136 species for the year. Will this prove to be the final new species of the year?


  1. Black Guillemot and Purple Sandpiper are good records for Llanfairfechan. This area of Wales is very dear to my heart, and a great place to go birding in winter.

    Well done on the Waxwings.

  2. Glad you saw the firecrest and the interesting chiffchaff here on Saturday. Great that you got photos of the siskins too.

    Best wishes

    Julian Hughes
    (Warden, RSPB Conwy)

  3. I always enjoy your photos of birds and the landscape as well. Thanks for putting them in your blog.

    Nolika XX