North West Wales

Llandudno bird-spotters book place in records

Biggest Twitch
Image caption Ruth Miller and Alan Davies bird-spotting in Ethiopia

Many people get itchy feet, but it was more a case of twitchy feet for one bird-loving couple.

Alan Davies and Ruth Miller put everything into a record-breaking bird-spotting trip - even the funds from the sale of their home.

They travelled to 27 countries and saw 4,341 types of birds, beating the previous record of 3,663.

The couple, from Llandudno, Conwy, are launching a book about their round-the-world year-long adventure.

Mr Davies, 49, and his 45-year-old partner gave up their jobs with the RSPB and spent a six-figure sum on the expedition.

"We had a three-bed family house with garden and now we live in a small flat," she said.

"Once we started thinking about it, we couldn't find a good reason for not doing it and we wanted to do it while we were still young enough.

"So we both gave up our jobs and put everything into it.

"We had emails from all around the world from people saying we were living their dream, so there was no going back."

The idea came after a trip to the British Birding Fair in Leicestershire, which Ruth describes as "the birders' Glastonbury".

They set off on 1 January, 2008 and returned on December 31, clocking up the record by October.

"The biggest highlight was seeing the world record-breaking bird in Australia," said Ms Miller.

"It was a species of parrot called a blue bonnet and we were on a golf course in a town called Griffon when we saw number 3,663.

Image caption The couple spotted this crimson-breasted shrike in South Africa

"The nicest bit was that we were in Australia with a very good friend of ours called Iain Campbell. He was the one who suggested we made it a record-breaking adventure so it was lovely to be with him!

"One of the lowlights was that our car got broken into in Vancouver, which was quite unexpected, and cameras and money were stolen.

"Also, Alan suffers from sea sickness and we had to do a number of trips on the sea. But seeing the birds made it worthwhile."

One of the couple's favourite birds was a wandering albatross, which has a 3m wing span.

"We were fortunate enough to see it alongside our boat," she said.

"As part of our work with the RSPB we have both been involved in the Save the Albatross campaign and were able to see the efforts of that campaign being put into practice."

Since returning home, they have run birding tours in north Wales and other parts of the UK and plan to offer overseas tours next.

They are already aiming to break their own record.

"There are around 10,000 bird species in the world and we saw 4,341, so there are plenty more to go," she said.

"We had to take some countries off our itinerary in 2008 so we would like to spend some time in Borneo, where there are very exciting birds called pittas, which are birds of paradise and quite an exotic species."

Ruth and Alan's book, The Biggest Twitch, will have a Wales launch at Conwy RSPB on 5 September.

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