Saturday, 11 May 2013

The spring so far - 2013

March 16th, 2013

Target bird on the Orme early morning was Wheatear. My average earliest date over the past 20+ years has been March 16th so today was as good a day as any for seeing my first of the year. With the first Orme record of the year appearing over a week ago when Ray Tilsley had one on March 8th, and a record of one from Cwm Prysor on the very early date of March 2nd, I half expected one today. I wasn't disappointed either with a lovely male near the cairn - a very blue and white bird, very different to the 'Greenland' birds that pass through next month.

Apart from some lovely Rock Pipits (below) and Meadow Pipits displaying, and a few Redwings in the gorse, the limestones were pretty quiet. A scan of the sea produced many flocks of Common Scoter moving west. I soon realised that this was an unprecedented movement with literally thousands of seaduck passing the headland and landing on the sea to the North West of the Orme. It didn't take long to pick out a few Velvet, with seven in total picked up in three groups. As the flocks began to reduce in size and frequency I noticed a 'white' duck followed one group. As it approached I was thrilled to see that it was a drake Long tailed Duck; I think this is my first for the Great Orme - bingo! Several Great crested Grebes, Red throated Divers, Auks and Red breasted Mergansers off here too. The scoters seemed to drift west towards Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan - an opportunity to score with a Surf Scoter off here perhaps?

This morning's early Wheatear - on the western cliffs by the Cairn.

At least eleven Rock Pipits counted around the Marine Drive, many of which were displaying.

March 17th, 2013

I got caught in a blizzard on the limestone pavements this morning - quite an experience. It felt more like the Arctic Tundra rather than the Orme! A single Chiff-chaff was in the Hawthorns - my first of the year here. Five Fieldfare were grounded in the snow storm, but soon took off high to the north as the sky cleared. A single Black Guillemot, again my first of the year was close inshore below the lighthouse. Later, during a run around the Marine Drive I was accompanied by flive superb Bottle nosed Dolphins just offshore and a little while later a couple of Porpoise by the pier.

One Purple Sandpiper remains at Rhos on Sea with 100+ Turnstones and as I walked back home from a family walk a scan of the breakwater produced a fine drake Eider. I popped down in the car but failed to find the Eider again. However, three lovely Common Scoter were on the breakwater along with 20+ Wigeon. Ten Red breasted Merganser and 3 Red throated Diver were also offhsore. 3 Grey Plover were nice to see roosting at high tide.

Unfortunately on closer inspection the female Common Scoter seemed to have fishing wire wrapped around it; perhaps the reason it was so close inshore?

You can see the fishing wire wrapped around the breast of the female. The last Common Scoter I had on sitting on the breakwater had a plastic drink bottle wrapped around its neck!

April 4th, 2013

A fine male Black Redstart was on the Great orme this morning. It first showed at point blank range on the wall by the hawthorns but unfortunately flushed when it saw me and flew to the boulders in the sheep field. Although distant it could be seen hopping around this area. Our variation of Black redstart is called Phoenicurus ochruros ssp. gibraltariensis the males of which show a sooty black cao, back and lower belly. Last week I was struck by how different the Iberian sub-species looked Phoenicurus ochruros ssp. aterrimus; it was jet black in comparison, especially on the back and lower belly.

Two bad pictures I know but the difference can be seen below. The Portuguese bird was taken last week at Europes most south-westerly point, Cape St. Vincent, while the second photo shows a Great Orme bird taken in the last week of March, 2012.

There's also a female Black redstart on the Orme at the moment above the Gun-site, while 6 Northern Wheateasr and 5 Sandwich terns were the only other birds of note this morning.

 Phoenicurus ochruros ssp. aterrimus - Cape st. Vincent, Portugal March 2013

Phoenicurus ochruros ssp. gibraltariensis - Great Orme , March 2012

April 6th, 2013

Two Black Redstarts were on the Great Orme today - a male on the cliffs at the very end of the gunsite track. The bird could be seen distantly from the path but could be heard beautifully as it sang during the windless afternoon. A female bird was also reported.

Two Ring Ouzels have spent the last few days on the western cliffs. To see these birds it's best to nestle down in amongst the cliffs and wait and they soon pop out of the crevices and feed amongst the scree.

A Woodcock showed well along Llys Helyg Drive giving a couple of flybys in the bright sunshine. Early morning saw an arrival of thrushes overnight with six Blackbirds and three Son Thrushes in the heather and gorse at the far end of the limestones. As the sun came up they took to the skies and flew high south-east over Llandudno. Five Wheatears, three Siskin and a Great Tit were the only other migrants present.

South-easterly winds tomorrow. Hopefully the start of the migrant rush!

April 13th, 2013

Many more birds on the Great Orme this morning. Highlight of the morning were excellent point blank views of a Grasshopper Warbler in the dead bracken behind the churchyard. Five Tree Pipits 'buzzed' overhead during the morning with one grounded bird also behind the churchyard. Northern Wheatears were on the move with several waves of birds appearing. At least 50 birds were present, possibly many more. Amongst them were a couple of fine Greenland birds, stunning in the early morning sunshine. 500+ Meadow Pipits were present with birds seemingly everywhere at times. A nice movement of 25+ Goldcrests were on the headland with several birds making their way along the stone wall and most gorse bushes containing at least one bird. The first hirundines of the year up here consisted of six Swallows through and a couple of Sand Martins. Four Redwing, 2 Fieldfare and 3 presumed 'continental' Song Thrushes were resting before flying high in to the sky and continuing on their journey. Three Willow Warblers were new in and were joined by a few singing Chiff-chaffs. A White Wagtail was picked out amongst the six Pied Wagtails seen while a few Redpoll and Siskin passed overhead.

A Golden Plover called over head and presumably came down in the sheep fields, while a male Yellowhammer flew west without stopping. Two lovely Black Guillemots were close in below the cliffs and look set to breed. 15 Magpies were possibly migrants as were the 24 Woodpigeon, 2 Mistle Thrushes and 2 Collared Dove flying west. Surprise of the mornings sessions was a female Pheasant lurking deep in a gorse bush at the north end. Where had it come from or going to?

 Looks like Black Guillemots are breeding once again on the Great Orme with up to three pairs being seen below the lighthouse area this week. The two above were seen from the limestone pavements and could be picked out at some distance.

I didn't expect this beady eye peering back at me as I peered into a gorse bush on the limestone pavements. I have seen the odd one in the farm area of the Orme but can't ever recall seeing one on the limestones. I later flushed it again from the bracken above the churchyard. Had it 'come in off the sea'? !!l

April 17th, 2013

A superb early morning walk on the Great Orme this morning saw hundreds of birds on the move. Mike Nesbitt had seen and photographed a Dotterel on the limestone pavements last night and hopes were high that it was still there. Alean arrived with a tour group and we set off it different directions in search of our quarry. Within minutes I almost trod on the lovely little plover as it ran up the path in front of me. Result! I was soon joined by Alan, the group and Pete Alderson and we watched the male Dotterel perform in front of us. Unfortunately it wasn't seen after we had seen it with a Sparrowhawk getting the blame for spooking it and making it take flight.

Tree Pipits were buzzing overhead and as many as seven passed over during the next hour amongst the many Meadow Pipits. Ring Ouzels were putting on a good show with at least five birds present in the sheep fields; their chack, chacking call giving away their presence. While watching the Ouzels, Alan called out a nice female Black Redstart amongst them. The bird was still present at 10am when Julian Wheldrake saw it. A few Swallows passed west as did a group of 15 Siskin and some Chaffinches.

As I returned to the car to get to work, Wheatears were pouring in from the sea. At least 20-30 birds were around the car park with over double that around the headland. At least one of the birds was a cracking male 'Greenland' Wheatear.

Yesterday, Pete Alderson had stonking views of a Short eared Owl as it sheltered from the wind amongst the grass tussocks on the pavements.

Always a thrill to see. Hopefully not the last of the spring. A nice bright female would be good.

April 20th, 2013

A beautiful morning on the Orme today with perfect light and calm winds. Highlight was a cracking male Lapland Bunting that flew low over the north end, calling at 10am. It sported a jet black throat and upper chest and gleaming white belly. Five Ring Ouzels were in their usual spot, ranging from the hawthorns to the boulders in the sheep fields. Chris had another three in Bishop's Quarry! Two Common Redstarts were present, my first up here this year, while a female Black Redstart continued the excellent run of this species on the headland in 2013. Three Tree Pipits flew over while other migrants included 4 White Wagtails, 40+ Wheatears, including several 'Greenland' type birds, small groups of Siskins and Redpolls and a scattering of phyllosc warblers and Goldcrests. A female Merlin has been present for a few days and put in the briefest of appearances this morning and Rob Sandham scored with a male Yellowhammer at the summit.

Yesterday a lone Bonxie flew west after a timely text from Henerz said one had passed the Little Orme. Probably the rarest of all 'Orme' sightings over the past week was a lone Greylag Goose that flew in off the sea and continued west over the sheep fields yesterday!

 A very bluey grey looking female Black Redstart on the limestones this morning. A male Redstart had been in exactly the same spot an hour earlier.

 One of two stonking male Redstarts that graced the Orme this morning.

 This has to be one of the best year's for Ring Ouzels for many a year. The birds can be quite distant at times, feeding around the boulders in the sheep fields.

 Yesterday's Orme mega; my first Greylag Goose up here for three years!

The afternoon was spent searching Cemlyn for the elusive Golden Oriole. A split second flash of bright yellow was all I got. However, up to seven cracking Mediterranean Gulls more than made up for the disappointment of not seeing the Oriole well.

April 21st, 2013

In comparison to yesterday's lovely morning, today saw a cold brisk wind blowing from the south and low single figure temperatures. That didn't stop a few birds arriving with the Orme's first two Whitethroats of the year; a male and female in gorse on the limestones. Highlight was a lone Cuckoo that appeared from nowhere being chased by Jackdaws and quickly disappearing over the sheep fields. Two Ring Ouzels remain by the hawthorn behind the stone wall while a single male Redstart was at Pink Farm. 40 + Wheatears were dotted around as were the 250+ Meadow Pipits. Four Tree Pipits overhead and 10+ Willow Warblers present.

Most handsome bird prize went to the three 'northern' Golden Plovers that circled the headland for ten minutes, uttering their mournful calls.

First Whitethroat on the Great Orme this year - well done him for winning the race north!

April 25th, 2013

Loads of birds on the Great Orme limestone pavements early this morning. 3 Grasshopper warblers reeled away; two in the gorse at the north end and one in the gulley. A single Sedge Warbler was also skulking about in the gorse along with 20+ Willow Warblers, 3 Goldcrests and a Whitethroat. A dapper male Redstart was in the Hawthorns, it's been a good year for this species already! Eight Tree Pipits included five together on the ground near the north car park while 30+ Lesser Redpolls were part of the first largish movement of this species of the year. 15 Dunlin were a surprise with ond bird displaying in flight! A Golden Plover was alos present while a Ring Ouzel was reported later in the morning.

Highlight for me though was the large movement of Wheatears; an amazing 130+ moved through before 8.15am. The movement must have kept on going through the morning as I counted 15+ come in off the sea along Colwyn Bay Prom at lunchtime.

April 27th, 2013

A lot quieter on the Great Orme this morning due to the cold North easterly wind. However, perseverance paid off with a very showy Whinchat on fence wires above the cemetery. The bird fed on the floor and kept watch from the fence oblivious to the fact I was close by admiring it. A nice male Ring Ouzel was by Bishop's Quarry and gave close flight views flying from gorse bush to gorse bush. 2 Tree Pipits and 30+ Wheatears left over from Thursday's fall of migrants. Alan had 3 Black Guillemots amongst the breeding Auks.

 What a little superstar this dapper male Whinchat was this morning, Certainly made going up there on a clod bleak morning worthwhile.

Spent late morning with Rob and Iwan putting nestboxes up at Pensychnant Nature Reserve. Rob's been hard at work making all kinds of boxes and is spending his weekends distributing them to suitable areas. Three male Pied Flycatchers, 2 Redstarts, 2 Cuckoo, Whitethroat and Great Spotted Woodpecker all present on the reserve.

April 28th, 2013

Another morning with a cold blustery wind putting pay to any big numbers of numbers. However, a nice Cuckoo was around the Churchyard and showed well at times, even uttering a soft subsong on occasions. A Grasshopper Warbler was flushed from the gorse at the north end and showed well but briefly. The male Redstart was still by the hawthorns while yesterday's male Whinchat showed by the gulley. Number wise, 30+ Wheatears was notable as was the 200+ Goldfinches that flew west with a few Siskin and redpoll.

Only a few records of Cuckoo are reported on the Orme each year. This is the second seen in the space of the week.

May 2nd, 2013

A quiet morning birdwise on the Great Orme, probably due to the glorious weather. A couple of hours before work produced very little until I returned to the car to find a dapper female Black Redstart feeding under the vehicle! 2 Tree Pipit and 30+ Wheatear also present up there this morning.

May 5th, 2013

After three almost birdless mornings, today was much better. You could hear a pin drop up there as the sun rose with near calm conditions. Birds had arrived overnight and I used my 'pocket counter' to tally up the Wheatears as there were a fair few around. Five hours later and having covered most parts of the Orme, the tally had reached an impressive 156 birds, most of them Greenland types. Amongst the fall, a fine Whinchat was by the churchyard while two bright male Yellow Wagtails were in the sheep fields. Warblers were represented by a Lesser Whitethroat singing from the hawthorns and a single Sedge Warbler near the Old Cafe. Four Crossbills flew over, much lower than they usually do and shwoed that one was a male and the others female type birds. An excellent count of 13 Tree Pipits flew over head as did a fine male Yellowhammer, one of the first birds of the day as the sun appeared over the horizon. 500+ Hirundines moved through during the morning, mostly Swallows. Siskins and Redpoll were plentiful with all landing being Lessers. A Common Sandpiper calling overhead was unusual too. Days like this make the quiet ones worth while!

May 11th, 2013

This morning was blustery, cold and quiet for the first three hours of light. A lone Swift and 2 Black Guillemots were the highlights and I wish I'd stayed in bed. I returned to the car and grabbed my flask for a final five minutes sat on the picnic tables at the north end. Rain was in the air and the wind increased even further. Suddenly four Redpolls battled their way against the wind, flying in off the sea straight in front of me....lesser, lesser, lesser..... Common! A cracking large, pale bird with nice pale cheeks and white rump and tramlines. As I lifter my camera, they lifted into the air and away they went with the wind. Almost immediately a Yellow Wagtail started calling from behind me and a quick scan revealed two cracking male birds, perhaps the two that were seen last weekend and on and off during the week. As I enjoyed cracking views I became aware of a crest calling from the northern most gorse bush. The pulse quickened as thoughts turned to my first Firecrest of the year. A few seconds later this was confirmed as a super little jewel of a bird performed well in the, by now, driving rain. As I watched a strange moment when a Grey Heron flew in off the sea, struggling against the wind before landing on the limestones. I've seen them fly over before, but this was the first I'd seen land on the pavements!