New Years Day 2021 Local Birding Here In North Wales In Lockdown

Great Orme

Happy New Year from the Great Orme, Llandudno - going to be here a lot early 2021.

New Year’s Day is always a great fun time to go birding, especially if you keep a list of birds you enjoy each year – every species is new for list! Well this year was like no other ever experienced as we are back in COVID-19 lockdown restricting travel to the local area only so no dashing around North Wales to build a big list. But it was a new challenge to find out what could be seen local on the first day of the year 2021, and we are all hoping it will be a much better year than COVID-19 ravaged 2020 but it will be some months yet at least before we can get back to some sort of “normal”.

Jackdaw was one of the first birds we saw in 2021 in Llandudno.

So New Year’s Day 2021 and the first lockdown walk of the year on the Great Orme. Stepping out of the door it was obvious that there were very few birds about, most likely a result of the numerous fireworks that disturbed the area late into the night. We have often noticed this here and in Scotland how few birds are about in urban areas after large firework displays surely time to stop most fireworks and limit them to organised displays only? Anyway back to the walk and Herring Gull and Jackdaws were seen between home and the pier. At the pier we had to scan hard to find Turnstones and Redshank but it was good to see the Great Northern Diver in the bay just east of the pier. Also offshore we added Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe and Common Guillemot along with plenty of Shags. Sadly no Fulmars on the cliffs where there had been plenty the day before, victims of the fireworks most likely and no sign of any Peregrines either – not good for the year list.

Even more unusually no Rock Pipits or Stonechats along this first stretch of the Marine Drive or any sign of the often present Red-billed Chough, should we just go home and try again tomorrow? Then a Peregrine tore along the cliffs above us and that seemed to signal a better run of luck with Rock Pipit appeared almost at our feet, then a Stonechat and offshore Common Scoter and Common Eider both flew west past the headland.

You can usually rely on seeing a Stonechat on the Great Orme, until you want to!

Another rather barren spell followed as we climbed up from the Marine Drive, past the cemetery and Pink Farm, a Common Kestrel was the highlight on this section it seemed birds had decided to have the day off. The area near the Copper Mine produced a nice Great Spotted Woodpecker but not the hoped for Greenfinch or Goldcrest, it was cold and windy not helping. We headed for home dropping down by the Ski Slope and here it was sheltered and we caught up with Goldcrest and Coal Tit and at last two Red-billed Chough flew over. A bit lower down again and two more, or the same, Chough were feeding right by the path always a delight to watch these wonderful corvids.

Back home and we thawed out and grabbed a bite to eat before heading out again. Our great friend Marc Hughes had found a Water Pipit not far away at Glanwydden Lane, south of Llandudno, and had seen it again that morning so that was a great bird to add to the 2021 list, we hoped. Walking up the muddy track to where Marc had seen the pipit new birds came easily, a Common Buzzard in a field with lots of gulls but all species we had seen earlier, then Pied Wagtails – amazing our first – a flock of Long-tailed Tits, Rooks and more unexpected a Moorhen on a tiny pond. Reaching the spot, a very muddy corner of a muddy field we scanned the area but only two Meadow Pipits, frustratingly. We kept looking and added Linnet and Grey Wagtail to the year list and were just thinking of giving up but decided on one more good scan of the spot where Marc had seen the bird and there it was! The Water Pipit stood up on the top of a furrow in the mud and posed nicely just long enough for a really good look before melting back into the grass, no doubt it had been feeding there the whole time. A super edition to the 2021 year list and a great find by Marc, we just had time to add Pheasant to the list before heading for home with the light fading, an enjoyable start to the year. We totalled up the day list and it came to 72 species not bad so close to home and still lots more to look forward to.

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