Sunday, 10 April 2016

A Chance Skydance Encounter

The first week of the Easter holidays was my usual holiday visit to my Grandma's located in the beautiful countryside of North Wales. I couldn't wait to get out out birding around the area and visit some of my favorite sites in Wales. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and was already out and about on Monday, firstly visiting Lynn Brenig. 

This birding site is really high above sea level and is great for watching migration. When I first arrived there the weather was so nice that I decided to do a bit of gull watching; my highlights were 2 Yellow Legged Gull, which were really nice as it was the first time I've seen them in Wales. There was also some nice spring migration as well, with plenty of Sand Martins flying over and a few Swallows as well.


After a good look around the main lake, I went for a walk around the surrounding moorland to see if the Hen Harriers had returned yet. After a good couple of hours of searching, watching, waiting and listening,  I didn't have any luck; however I did get a few spring migrants that are travelling on to breeding sites. Everybody seemed to have been seeing Wheatears and I hadn't seen any yet. Thankfully I managed to get some great views in some fields just off the moorland from Llyn Brenig. There were at least 6 Wheatear and some White Wagtail around as well.


Due to some heavy rain the following couple of days, I couldn't really get out anywhere, however on one of the days my Grandma had visitors. The dad of the family that visited is called Alex Laude and it turns out he knows BTO's Ieuan Evans as they were at university together, so we had lots to talk about.  

Anyway lets get back to birding. On Wednesday I persuaded my Grandparents to take me to Llandudno for the day to try and get some more spring migrants coming in off the Irish sea. It was blowing 50mph winds and there wasn't a bird in the area apart from a single Ring Ouzel, which was of course fantastic to see.

Anyway the star bird (or birds) of the week came during the drive home....

Whilst driving back over some moorland, I noticed a pale bird hawking low over the moorland, I told my Grandpa to stop the car and focused my binoculars onto it and realised immediately that it was a male Hen Harrier. A much browner bird soon followed, the female. So I knew that already at least 2 Hen Harriers on this moorland had paired up.

Male & female Hen Harrier

The male bird especially gave fantastic views, which I have only ever seen a handful of times before. I'm more used to seeing them over winter on the Wirral at Parkgate, but those birds have tended to be juveniles or females.


Hen Harriers are amazing raptors and certainly my favorite of them all. The skydance performed by the male really does make you pause for breath and you forget everything whilst you are watching. The moorlands would never be the same if we lost these spell binding birds.

I must say a massive thank you to my Grandma and Grandpa for taking me to all these fantastic places. It was an amazing week.

Hen Harriers are at risk of going extinct as a breeding bird on the English moors. Only 6 pairs breed last year and we are yet to see what happens this year.  We are seeing worrying declines in far too many of our native species. On the 19th April I am planning a twitter storm to raise awareness for the need to think and plan much further ahead. If you have a Twitter account, please sign up to the Thunderclap by clicking here


  1. Lovely account, Findlay, and brilliant photos. Am very envious of what you saw.

  2. Lovely account, Findlay, and brilliant photos. Am very envious of what you saw.

  3. Great stuff Findlay.
    You're having better luck than me while I'm here; still no Ring Ouzels or Hen Harriers. I'll keep looking :-)

  4. I loved reading your account of your birding whenyou wre at your grand parents. You were very fortunate to see the ring Ouzel and the Harriers. Have a great week ahead.

  5. I was wondering who Lynn Brenig was, Fin, until I saw the second mention without the second 'n' - then the penny dropped, as they say!!

    What a fantastic privilege to see a pair of Hen Harriers. As I wrote those words, I realised that it shouldn't be that way. We should be able to visit a suitable habitat and EXPECT to see such birds. It's people like you who who could make that happen.

    You're a very lucky young man, having wonderful Grandparents in such a beautiful location - take good care of them!

    Best wishes to you, Harley, and your mum and dad - - - Richard

  6. A great account of your trip to Wales Findlay. Any day that includes seeing a Hen Harrier becomes special and also one to remember, filed away in the grey matter to be retrieved on a less happy day.

    Look after your grandparents as they obviously love you a great deal.

  7. Hello, it is cool to see the Harriers. I love to watch them hunt. It is a shame they are endangered there. Sounds like a great visit with your grandparents. Happy Wednesday, have a happy day!

  8. one of my favorite birds. Thanks for sharing :)