This page is a brief guide to the wealth of opportunities for bird watchers in Llanfairfechan and the surrounding area.
Llanfairfechan provides some of the best birdwatching in north Wales, and is a superb place to spend a few hours. At various times of the year, many people are attracted by the prospect of seeing lots of different species of sea-birds and waterfowl, and a good place to start is the promenade itself.
On still calm days, particularly at the weekend, you may well notice ranks of birders looking through their telescopes. This is one of the very best places to see a range of birds like Red Throated Diver, Red Breasted Merganser, Great Crested Grebe and Common Scoter. Also present are smaller numbers of Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Eider, Razorbill, Goldeneye and Black Guillemot, and also a regularly wintering American Black Scoter. It is important to remember that the birds are usually very distant and a telescope is a necessity. It also needs to be a windless day, and the tide must be in. Finally, patience is required, and each time you visit you will find yourself being able to put names to birds which are more and more distant. Like anything, practice makes perfect! And don’t be afraid to ask someone with a scope what they are looking at, although they may be just as unsure as you!
From here it’s worth a quick look at Afon Du – the stream which runs through the village. It regularly hosts Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Mallard and Grey Heron, either here or perhaps slightly further upstream either side of the A55 overpass. The area of beach by the stream outfall often has a high tide wader roost consisting mainly of Redshank and Oystercatchers, with a few Dunlin, Curlew, Ringed Plover and Knot mixed in.
From here there is a very pleasant walk along the shoreline to an area of saltmarsh half a mile west called Glan y Mor Elias, which can host a real bird spectacle. Wheatear can be seen in some numbers in the grass of the adjacent fields, or on the rocks adjacent to the pathway. Again, high tide is best, when huge flocks of Wigeon, Teal and Pintail are present. It is also a good spot for Black Tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Little Egret. There is usually a large flock of Linnet feeding on weed seeds. The Sewage Works beyond here are a traditional site for wintering Firecrest, however although they no longer occur with any regularity, it is still an excellent spot for Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail, etc.
Just to the west is the excellent Madryn reserve with 3 hides and 2 pools, one freshwater, one tidal. Again, high tide is best here. The first hide here is the best place to see Slavonian Grebes offshore, up to 3 are sometimes present. Shoveler are often on the pool, along with many Lapwing and Snipe. From the 3rd hide, Little Egret, Greenshank and Little Grebe are often visible. Skylarks can be heard high up in the sky from spring onwards through the summer. Other small birds such as Goldfinch and Whitethroat can be seen.
The shoreline and stream outfall at Abergwyngregyn is another brilliant place to see a similar range of species to Madryn. Dipper are usually on show here. You’re also sure to see something of interest on the lovely walk up the valley through the Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserve, to Aber Falls.
Nant y Coed reserve at the top of the village is a great place to see specialist woodland species in the summer – Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Redstart. It is possible to walk from here over the top to Rowen in a couple of hours, encountering on the way Wheatear, Meadow Pipits, Chough, Red Grouse, Ring Ouzel, Grasshopper Warbler and Whinchat.
Conwy RSPB is is less than 15 minutes’ drive away (approximately 7 miles), just off the A55 at Junction 18 and provides 3 hides plus a shop and café – for details of regular events phone 01492 584091.
North Wales Wildlife Trust have a fantastic reserve called The Spinnies at Aberogwen, just east of Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. There are two hides, one which also backs onto the shoreline of the entrance to the Menai Strait. This is the best place that I know to see Kingfisher, although of course in the natural world nothing is ever guaranteed!
Mike Duckham (RSPB, Conwy Reserve)