Trip reports

Mini-bus Trip for the Black Grouse Lek

Mini-bus Trip for the Black Grouse Lek
View from the Great Orme (Photo: Peter Berrill)

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Everyone was chatty, traffic was minimal and we sped along the M6, A5 towards Wrexham.

The lek was in the area of the Llandegla Forest - more of a mountain biking centre than an RSPB reserve, but the hide had been set up overlooking the heather moorland and we walked up slowly through the forest listening to the dawn chorus, enjoying the freshness and sunshine of the early morning. Our guides took us to the hide from which almost immediately six or seven Black Grouse could be seen. There were two groups, and although at some distance they could be seen well through the scopes. Quite a performance, white tails fanned they strutted their stuff stomping about the lek vying for "top bird" spot . I didn't see any female birds but no doubt they were there quietly observing this macho display under cover of the heather - whether they were impressed or not we shall never know!

Having watched for a good while, we made our way back by a different route getting excellent views of Siskin, Redpoll, amazing male and female Crossbills, Brambling, Goldcrest and for some, Common Sandpipers. Our guides were knowledgeable and happy to share views through their scopes and they led the way back to the centre where many of us indulged in breakfast - bacon batches and coffee.

Then it was on to RSPB Conwy stopping for a brief sea viewing at Rhos and Pensarn. We had a good two hours at Conwy - some of us made it round the reserve, some did their birding from the hides. For those that had missed the Common Sand one showed extremely well along with nine or ten White Wagtails whilst the estuary held huge numbers of Curlew and Shelduck.

Having had lunch we then drove on to the Great Orme; a huge limestone outcrop just to the west of Llandudno.
The first attempt to reach the top proved abortive - the slope was so steep we all had to get out in order for the bus to cope with the gradient! Anyway it was the wrong road and with some skilful manoeuvring Pete got down the slope again, collected us and we set off up the winding cliff route to the top.

What a superb place it is - despite the number of people the view from the top along the North Wales coast is fantastic and by walking 100 metres you can easily lose the crowds.

We sat for a while taking it all in whilst others ventured downslope to the first lot of fields - and there they stopped. From the top we waited for them to move on but nobody reappeared .. so we too went down, and there close for all to see was a Chough, its long curved red bill probing the grass for worms together with foraging male and female Wheatears.

Then it was decision time .. to walk to the end of the Orme as far as the limestone pavements where possibly Ring Ouzel and Redstart had been seen, or to stay closer to the car park. For some there was no question and we set off along the cliff path invigorated by the whole setting. On reaching the pavements we split up to give a broader coverage of the area - the birds could be on the cliffs or in the fields.

It was Jim who spotted the Ring Ouzels .. he was perched up on a boulder scanning carefully to get a better view and there they were - on the far side of the field by a low rocky outcrop being hassled by a Magpie. The Ouzels were not spooked by this but it actually helped to push them out on to the open grass or on to the top of the rocks. What splendid birds they are, and how great to see them on migration northwards to their breeding grounds .. these two were looking very smart and showed broad clean white gorgets as well as some of the silvery streaks along the wings.

The journey back was beset with heavy traffic on the A55 but once on to the M6 there was little congestion. What a splendid day starting with the Black Grouse and ending with Ouzels and Choughs - a fitting finale to what was Pete's last trip at least for some time. It goes without saying that we all wish him well and hope that his trip to Turkey proves to be just as amazing as it sounds from the planning.

Our thanks to him for all the great weekends and daytrips .. we look forward to another maybe sometime in the future.

Janet Matthews