Worlds End at dawn
After a brilliant day with Alan Davies (The Biggest Twitch) previously I opted to take advantage of one of his trips to watch the Black Grouse lek in North Wales.
I met Alan at 5am and we made the short journey up on to the top of the Moors. We arrived at the lek in darkness but the noise of the Grouse bubbling call was extremely loud - so loud you would estimate there were at least 30-40 birds however we counted 13 in total as the light lifted slowly. It was interesting to watch the jousting at close quarters. The dominant males in the middle of the lek appeared more interested in their own superiority and completely missed a rare appearance of a female bird on the edge of the lek. During the lek a Red Grouse and a Red-legged Partridge appeared, obviously to see what all the fuss was about. It was definitely a session of birding I will never forget, simply awesome.
As we drove to the other side of moor we saw another two Red Grouse fly across low and quickly whilst a Whinchat was calling loudly and sitting up wanting to get noticed. Once parked up and refreshed with a Hot Chocolate (luxury birding, I know) we walked up through the moor for a higher view. At least another 15 Black Grouse could be picked out at various points whilst a great range of woodland birds were observed here and slightly further down the valley including Cuckoo, Tree Pipit, Redstart, Coal Tit, Dipper, Stonechat, Crossbill, Raven, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Stock Dove.
After a rather hearty full welsh breakfast (whilst watching Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Buzzard) we headed through Betws y Coed and stopped off to watch Dippers and Grey Wagtail riverside. The birds offered superb views and were just happy carrying on their daily business.
Our final stop was the beautiful old glacial valley called Nant Ffrancon. As soon as we arrived numerous Wheatears were picked up and the call of Ring Ouzel rang round the valley. We watched a male and female Ouzel on the steep banks of the valley whilst a Raven was making it very difficult for Common Buzzard. In a area of small trees a returning Garden Warbler sang his heart out in the company of the Willow Warblers.
As we headed back round in a circle we picked up around 20 Sandwich Tern feeding off the sea front at Ross, no doubt they will be heading to Cemyln Bay on Anglesey.
This rounded off a brilliant day and I'd urge anyone to look up the Biggest Twitch. Alan and Ruth know every bit of North Wales and I enjoyed the fact I could take in the stunning scenery instead of concentrating on the driving.