Trip Report: Llandegla, North Wales, 24th March 2024

This trip requires an early start to give the best chance of seeing Black Grouse at their lek.

This certainly was the case on this trip and six of us arrived before 7.30am and easily located the lek, of ten birds, close to the side of the road. Whilst we were there the birds flew off twice and immediately returned both times to continue their displaying. We couldn’t see any reason for this as there was no visible disturbance and everyone there had stayed in their cars.

We eventually left the lek and drove down to World’s End for a stroll down the road with a good view of the valley and nearby largely conifer woodland. We were again in luck with short-lived views of a few Crossbills and Siskins. There were also two Mistle Thrushes nearby singing from the treetops one of which flew closer to us.

On our return to our cars we were joined after 9.30 by the five later arrivals who had not seen the Black Grouse as the birds had dispersed at some point after we left the lek. We had earlier actually heard the unmistakable bubbling sound of more Black Grouse at World’s End but unfortunately they were out of sight with no chance of seeing them.

The weather was windy and fairly cold but we did get quite a bit of sunshine so we set off on a walk along the road as far as the treeline down the Offa’s Dyke path and back again (about 3 miles in total). We had excellent views of Red Grouse and also a Red Kite in addition to expected moorland species such as Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Raven, Kestrel and Stonechat.

After lunch we headed back to a couple of sites near the lek to see if we could relocate any Black Grouse. We were out of luck – these birds are notorious for melting away into their moorland and farmland habitat once they have left the lek.

All the birds we had seen earlier were displaying males and I don’t recall ever seeing a female either around Llandegla. A peregrine flew above us at one point and at the last site we visited we did see a few Wheatear including a couple of stunning male birds.

The weather had improved quite a bit so the four of us remaining decided to visit Burton Mere Wetlands on the way home for a welcome cup of tea in their new cafe and some leisurely birding in the evening sun.

David Knass

Photo credits: Thanks to Vicky Harper for the Grouse (Black and Red), and to Richard Stephenson for the Wheatear.