A Wonderful Encounter With Arctic Visitors On The Great Orme 17 March 2021




We enjoyed a delightful encounter with these gorgeous Snow Buntings today.



An early start and with our Welsh COVID-19 restrictions slightly eased it is possible to drive around the Great Orme here in Llandudno, stay local within five miles of home where possible is the current advice.

Not that we drove very far, first stop was below the cliffs on the Marine Drive where we watched Northern Fulmars sweep back and forth on their so stiff wings and Rock Pipits perform their display flights. Then a large Peregrine Falcon swept into view and at first we assumed it was “our” female but as the raptor turned we could see this bird was brown – a bird from last year’s breeding season – and we wondered if it was the young female that fledged from the nest here or perhaps a bird wandering looking for a vacant territory? We didn’t have long to ponder as “our” male shot off the cliffs above us and attacked the intruder female with real venom! The young female was in no mood to flight and fled at very high speed over the horizon! Now this led to more speculation, where was “our” female and why hadn’t she joined in the attack on the intruder? We know from many previous incidents that she is very aggressive and is usually the quicker of the pair to launch an attack on another Peregrine daring to encroach on her air space. Perhaps she was busy sitting on eggs already? We will have to have keep a close watch and see if we can work out if that is the case, early for this pair but we know of other pairs with eggs already.

Razorbill Bempton

Wonderful to see so many sea-birds back at the cliffs on the Great Orme, libary photo.



Further around the headland the sea was carpeted in birds off the main sea-bird breeding cliffs literally thousands of birds! What a wonderful sight, huge numbers of Common Guillemots, hundreds of Razorbills and Black-legged Kittiwakes loafed on the water with more auks on the cliff ledges. We also picked out six Black Guillemots amongst the mass of feathered bodies in view – all looking good for the coming breeding season. A pair of Common Eider flew west low over the water but we didn’t linger very long as a bitter cold northerly wind was coming off the sea.

Up on the limestone pavements a few birds were on the move despite the chilly temperatures with gangs of Meadow Pipits heading low west over the headland and amongst them a flock of nine Skylarks, fourteen Siskins and six Linnets – the latter two species both new for our “2021 Great Orme Year List” but sadly no sign of any Northern Wheatears which should be due any day. We did hear that a Wheatear had been seen to the west near Aberdaron in Gwynedd this morning.



Walking up the cairn on the limestone pavement we looked for the group of Snow Buntings, resident here for nearly two months but no sign of them. We kept looking and suddenly there they were flying low and fast towards the cliff edge. The four birds flew over a ridge and were lost to view so we followed and soon located them on a rocky outcrop and all busy preening. By inching closer we enjoyed a wonderful encounter with these most delightful visitors from the Arctic, the buntings were so busy sorting out their feathers they completely ignored us and we soaked up the views and took way to many photographs. Sadly the grey sky and early morning light were not ideal for photography but hopefully the shots here convey just how wonderful Snow Buntings are. After watching this quartet of delightful birds for ages we slowly back away leaving them still in exactly the same spot. We walked around the limestone pavement area in case any migrant birds were about but we didn’t find any. A pair of Red-billed Chough showed off feeding on the path just in front of us and we again just soaked up the views. Then back home for much needed hot drinks and a second breakfast.








This pair of Red-billed Chough were wonderful to watch after our Snow Bunting encounter.



Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!

info@birdwatchingtrips.co.uk

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.





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