Marvellous Migration On The Local Patch Great Orme 23 March 2021

Wonderful to have Lapland Buntings so very close to home here in Llandudno, photo by Marc.

Another early start to be on the limestone pavement area of the Great Orme here in Llandudno, North Wales, the sky was grey and a cold wind whipped across the open ground. Should have stayed in bed was the first thought that went through my mind but pulled on gloves and woolly hat and headed up the hill towards the cairn where the Lapland Buntings had been seen, a second bird had join the first one yesterday. Scanning the favoured area of limestone pavement no sign of any birds at all and then a lady appeared with three dogs and chose the very spot to do some dog training, all for dogs being well trained, but why right on this spot? Really should have stayed in bed!

Marc, fellow Great Orme birder, came up the hill and we checked the sheltered side in the hope of our first Northern Wheatear of 2021, one had been seen here yesterday evening, not a bird, really should have stayed in bed. We headed back up to the bunting spot but the lady with the dogs was still there and we thought no chance of the birds being there but wait movement just in front of one of the dogs Lapland Bunting! Oh two Lapland Buntings even better these mouse like birds scuttled ahead of the dogs but luckily did not fly off we even got the lady to see them though not sure she was impressed with two small brown “mice” running away through the rocks? We enjoyed wonderful view of these Arctic buntings as they fed unconcerned amongst the rocks and as we enjoyed them we heard another Lapland Bunting calling above us! Both the birds on the ground froze and stretched up as if to say “where are you” but the third bird flew over and away, amazing what must be passing over!

Always a huge thrill to see the first Northern Wheatear of the year, Spring has arrived photo by Marc.

We walked back down the sheltered side of the slope, where we had been a little earlier and were amazed to see a Northern Wheatear, a fine male, hopping about exactly where we had looked for one earlier. But there was more not one but five of the “bandit-masked migrants” were feeding here out of the cold wind, how things can change so fast at migration time. Meadow Pipits were now on the move too after very few in the first half hour or so hundreds were now passing south-west over the headland. Then Marc picked up a big flock of birds approaching from the east, Woodpigeons, not very exciting you might think? But for us they really were, no honestly, we do not see much in the way of Woodpigeon migration here despite our birding friends in South Wales often recording huge movements on days we do not see a single one! As the flock moved closer we were not the only eyes to spot this unusual event, high above a Peregrine Falcon was hanging in the wind almost motionless waiting for a target and a big flock of plump Woodpigeons was irresistible and the falcon torn across the grey sky like a fighter jet heading to intercept incoming enemy aircraft! The speed of the Peregrine was just jaw-dropping it was amongst the pigeons in seconds scattering the flocks and diving after one of the birds but the chase took the raptor and intended victim out of sight below the cliffs but what a heart thumbing moment to witness! More and more flocks of Woodpigeons moved over the headland pretty sure the biggest movement here I have seen, Marc counted at least 620 moving west hindered by numerous Peregrine attacks though we did not see a single kill, but we did pick out a single Stock Dove come in off the sea amongst one of the Woodpigeon flocks a rare sight here on the Great Orme.

Part of the mobile menu for our local Peregrines this morning - Woodpigeons - photo by Marc.

In the scattered hawthorns and gorse bushes we found a few grounded migrants including a Fieldfare, a Chiffchaff, Goldcrests, male Reed Bunting and Chaffinches with more passing over with the addition of Siskins and Pied Wagtails. The Meadow Pipits just kept coming the whole time with hundreds passing west – wonderful to see so much migration so early in the Spring.

Wonderful sky over the Great Orme this morning with "spotlights of sun" photo by Marc.

Heading back to the cars a Peregrine tore low over the limestone pavement and joined a second bird over the sheep fields and both birds then attacked a third Peregrine in mid-air! Spectacular flying! The female of the pair, larger, then struck the third bird and the clung to each other in mid-air falling towards the ground! Wow! Rare to see such physical contact in Peregrine disputes and luckily both birds separated before hitting the ground and the intruder flew low west at super speed leaving the bird in control of their airspace, more breath-taking stuff!

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!

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

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