Lockdown Birding Returns So Back To The Local Patch The Great Orme

Estonia Whooper Swans

Certainly did not expect to see Whooper Swans on our lockdown walk - libary photo.

Now that the whole of Wales is back into full on lockdown, despite the fact that our area here in North Wales has a very low infection rate, it is local birding only for the foreseeable future. Our great friend Ken Croft sent a message to say he had enjoyed 49 species of birds on his lockdown walk from home over at Holyhead on Anglesey. This was an impressive total and of course had us thinking how many species could we enjoy on a walk from home we thought 49 was way out of our league but wanted to know how many we could see. So yesterday, the 22nd December 2020, we headed out from our home here in Llandudno to walk on the Great Orme and see what we could find.

Raven in flight

Ravens are wonderful birds and we are lucky to see them most days here - libary photo.

The Great Orme is basically a bit chuck of limestone sticking out into the Irish Sea covered mostly in short grass so not a huge variety of habitats and no freshwater at all. But it is beautiful and the views are stunning so never a problem spending time on this wonderful headland. Our walk got off to a great start as we stepped out of the front door a Fulmar glided to and fro from the cliff above our street and this was quickly followed by a Chough soaring over the same crag and a Raven “cronking” past wow! The street also provided our first Herring Gulls, Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Feral Pigeons and Collared Doves, eight species in as many minutes keep this up 49 be easy!

Robin at RSPB Conwy

Robins always make you smile any day and today was no exception - libary photo.

Reaching the promenade we added House Sparrow and then a small patch of scrub produced Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock and Blue Tit and on the beach our first waders – Oystercatchers. By the pier we quickly saw Turnstones looking for food on the rusted barnacle encrusted legs of the Victorian structure. Out in the bay it was great to see the Great Northern Diver, seen a few days ago, was still present and a really good addition to our fast growing day list. More scanning of the water produced Great Crested Grebes and Shags but no Red-throated Divers, auks or Cormorant all birds we often see here, that’s birding for you unpredictable. Speaking of which just as we turned to walk on three large birds swept into view flying over the Little Orme towards us Whooper Swans! Wow! A fantastic sight to see these winter visitors sweep over the sea-front hotels of Llandudno and then swing west over the town just such beautiful birds and a very unexpected addition to our walk list.

Along the cliffs of the Marine Drive we scanned for “our” resident Peregrines but sadly no sign despite a lot of looking. Great black backed Gulls were on the rocks below us and nice to see a Little Egret fishing in the rock pools here along with Common Redshanks. Offshore we caught up with Red-throated Divers at least three birds out on the calm waters. We continued along the Marine Drive and Ruth took one more scan of the cliffs and somehow managed to spot the head and shoulders of a Peregrine just visible on a ledge way above us, that was some spotting. We had super close views of Rock Pipits and a single Meadow Pipit along this stretch but no sign of the so often present Stonechat here. At the corner of the Marine Drive a good long scan of the sea really paid off adding some great birds. Breeding plumaged Common Guillemots were feeding fairly close to the cliffs and a single winter plumaged Razorbill here too and at last a Cormorant! Two Common Gulls flew slowly west and it was more common birds that soon followed with an adult drake and an immature drake Common Eider west followed by a lone Common Scoter whizzing low over the grey sea. A gang of Atlantic grey seals were hauled out on their favourite beach and very vocal moaning and groaning away wonderful animals.

Took some finding today but Stonechat did make it onto the list - libary photo.

Bit a stretch without many new birds but we did finally see a very smart male Stonechat a species we very rarely miss on our walks here on the Great Orme. Climbing up from the Marine Drive to St. Tudno’s Church we saw our first Woodpigeon of the walk but the bushes here were bird less, on ward we went, taking the footpath past towards Pink Farm we noticed a pair of Chough feeding amongst a flock of Jackdaws and as we watched these wonderful birds a Mistle Thrush landed on a nearby fence post, another new bird for the walk. This was followed by a fly over Goldfinch, also new, but new birds were now few and far between in this sheep grazed area.

At the Copper Mines there is small area of trees and bushes and these often hold a few birds and thankfully today was no exception. Our first Great Tit was in a hawthorn bush with Blue Tits and a Wren. Next up was a tiny Goldcrest feeding amongst some ivy and quickly followed a Greenfinch amongst a flock of Goldfinches and then we heard the distinctive “kek” of a Great Spotted Woodpecker’s call. But no sign of the handsome bird despite a lot of scanning of the tree trunks, we were about to head on when the woodpecker swooped in and landed in view – a female bird, lacking any red on the head.

We decided to head back home via the ski slope above Happy Valley and this proved a great move as we came across a lovely Fieldfare on the cliff edge high above the town and this wonderful thrush showed very well. Dropping down into a small wooded area we found Coal Tit and a then a lovely surprise a Treecreeper a bird we seldom see on the headland. As we got closer to home we heard a Chough calling and saw a single bird feeding on a grassy slope above us and as we commented that we don’t often see a single Chough three more birds called right next to us! These fantastic corvids were feeding in a tiny field right next to the path and we enjoyed the most wonderful views of them probing around with those long red bills just fantastic! A lovely end to our walk and when we got home we totted up our list of birds and were very pleased to see we had enjoyed 47 species! A really great total for a big lump of rock in December.

Come and join us for a “Tour for Two” – very small group just two guests with two guides, tailor made itinerary, low risk in these COVID-19 times and of course lots of birds and an excellent chance of enjoying them all. Do drop us a line and we can make all the arrangements be it a day trip, two days, three day or as long a tour as you wish. Our recent Tours for Two have visited the Highlands of Scotland, North Wales, Norfolk and the Yorkshire coast and we are planning many more! Let us know where you would like to go and we can put together a proposal perfect for you.

We are so lucky to have so many species and habitats within easy reach here in North Wales we would love you to join us for one of our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips days out. We expect to enjoy a lot of birds during these relaxed pace tours and we can tailor make the day to suit you.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips in the future just drop us a line to arrange a custom tour and please see our tours pages for set departure trips. If you have any questions at all please fire away here….


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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