Some Black Gold On The Local Patch Today Great Orme 9 January 2021

A wonderful surprise find on our lockdown walk - a Black Redstart libary photo.

After a day of grey sleet and bitter cold rain on the 8th January it was so lovely to see blue sky and no wind this morning. So of course it was another lockdown walk on the local patch the Great Orme here in Llandudno, North Wales. Turning right out of the front door we headed down towards the pier but had only gone about one hundred meters when a small bird flew across the road almost above us at roof top height. This Robin sized bird appeared to land on the apex of the house roof to our right but just out of sight, a smart few steps backward and we could see the bird on the roof top with it tail quivering in the sunshine – a Black Redstart! What a wonderful bird to find so very close to home and what luck with the timing, after a few moments the bird dropped over the roof and was lost to view. We had a walk around the area scanning the roofs but no further sign though a Red-billed Chough flew above, calling, against the cobalt blue sky.

We are so very lucky to see Red-billed Chough on most of our walks from home.

Down at the pier we quickly saw a few Turnstones but again only small numbers and also added Oystercatcher, Curlew and Common Redshank to our walk list along with a Rock Pipit down at the water’s edge. Out in the bay, east of the pier, our regular Great Northern Diver was on the calm sea along with three Red-throated Divers and two Great Crested Grebes. Just west of the pier seven Common Scoter were loafing on the millpond like water and plenty of Shags dived for fish but just one Great Cormorant. On the cliffs above the Atlantic Fulmars were again on their ledges “chuckling” away to themselves and a Peregrine tore along the skyline but was soon lost to view. A female Stonechat fed on the sunlit grass slope just below the Marine Drive and a little further along a gang of Atlantic grey seals were relaxing on the stony beach where a Great black backed Gull was clearing up after the seals, yuck, but guess the gull has to eat.

Good to see lots of Shags along the coastline AKA "otter"!

A long spell with few birds followed as we walked in the shade of the cliffs but we did pass three teenage girls who pointed down at the sea and shouted “look another otter there!” of course we looked and saw a Shag on the sea just below us all, hmmm, interesting mis-identification! Would not have guessed that one if we had just been told by the girls they had seen an otter and “another otter” at that! Reminds me of a lady that phoned me whilst I worked for the RSPB to say that she had picked up an exhausted Cape Petrel, a seabird never recorded in the UK, when asked to describe the bird she gave a very good description of a Cape Petrel! This was amazing news and myself and fellow RSPB staff member Trevor rushed over to the lady's house and there in a cardboard box was the bird. Trevor and I exchanged glances in a who is going to tell her kind of way, the bird in the box was not a Cape Petrel at all but a feral pigeon albeit a black and white one!

A Cape Petrel at sea somewhere between Argentina and the Antarctic.

Back in the present, on reaching the viewpoint over the lighthouse cliffs at first we saw no birds, where last time there had been hundreds of Common Guillemots. Then we saw them, hundreds of them, flying low over the sea! A wonderful sight as the huge flocks of Common Guillemots swirled around just offshore but this time did not come and land on the cliff ledges. Amazing to go from zero to hundreds of birds in an instant.

We climbed up onto the limestone pavement area on top of the headland and added Raven and Meadow Pipit to our day list and watched two more Stonechats in the bright winter sunshine. Following the stone wall that borders the local nature reserve from the sheep farm, we passed the cemetery and half way tram station and dropped back down into Llandudno. As we carefully made our way down the very steep slope towards home four Red-billed Chough circled above us calling loudly, what a lovely end to a great walk.

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