Sunday, 30 May 2010
Next weeks Radio Cymru programme 'Galwad Cynnar' was recorded on the Orme this morning and has a bit about the local birdlife, plants and history. Programme is next Saturday between 6.30 and 7.30am.
Saturday, 29 May 2010
2 Spotted Flycatcher, 3 Wheatear and a singing Tree Pipit was the best of the rest. The Tree Pipit may well be a breeding bird as a pair have nested here for the past two years. The male Bullfinch was still present and it is good to see that the Coal Tits have reared two young in the churchyard.
It's a funny time of year as most bushes are deadly quiet, but the end of May and beginning of June can be the month for that one rare bird to appear. As they say....the big one always travels alone....!
Friday, 28 May 2010
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
On Friday Julian Wheldrake had the follwoing on the Little Orme - Blackcap 2, Whitethroat, Willow warbler 2, chiffchaff, Rock pipit 2, Sparrowhawk, Fem kestrel, Buzzard 2, Raven 9, Chough, Sandwich tern 7
He also reported the following but in his own words was probably underestimating:-
Fulmar nests 7, Kittiwake nests (Angel Bay) 29, Cormorant nests 63.
Also had a fox (vixen) which froze when it saw me instead of running off so I assume it had young around. Butterflies seen were common blue, orange tip, meadow brown, green veined white, large white and common tortoiseshell. A good number of early purple orchids also on show along winding track down from top quarry.
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
afternoon update - no sign of the Melodious warbler for the rest of the day. Julian Wheldrake saw 11 Whitethroat, Garden warbler, Redstart, Goldcrest, a steady flow of Swallows and House Martins, 3 Mistle Thrushes, 3 Kestrel, Peregrine and 2 Willow Warblers while searching for the Hippo.
Sunday, 16 May 2010
Friday, 14 May 2010
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Here are a few videos for you to watch from the last few mornings on the Orme. The first is of the mini tornado and the second is of a male Whinchat on the wall on the limestone pavements.
Water Spout off the Great Orme
Male Whinchat on the limestone wall - May 2010
Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Picture was taken with my phone so don't quite produce the full spectacular effect!
A Willow Warbler was found at the end of the pier by a school pupil from Ysgol San-Sior. After recovering it flew off into Heulfre Gardens none the worse for its ordeal while trying to escape the weather. Hail stones, tornados and bright sunshine all mixed into a few minutes!
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Tom Gravett had a male Whinchat by the limestone car park a little later.
Monday, 10 May 2010
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Nothing prepared me for the five minutes of madness by the Pink Farm though. A single Crossbill was the first for the year up here, calling its sharp notes as it flew over head. Asd I was trying to locate it in the sky, I became aware of a soft pipping rolling call coming from my right - Dotterel! I scanned the sky trying o locate the birds without success, then another call. This time two birds flew from the ridge some 50 yards away from my and passed at eye level over the ields and over the cemetery towarsd the limestones. At last - a bird I'd been hoping for since the middle of April. I'm sure there were more than wo birds, as the first calls I heard certainly came from birds fling north and the other two that I saw followed in that direction. Just as I was feeling smug with myself, a Yellow Wagtail started calling overhead and flew pretty close over the fields. A fine male again and making it one of the best years up here for this species.
The walk back was fairly quiet, but it was great to meet up with big John Roberts, a true gentleman of the birding world and always ready to stop and have a chat. I left the headland at 9.30am, feeling as though I'd done a good days work on the patch.
Saturday, 8 May 2010
Friday, 7 May 2010
Thursday, 6 May 2010
I forgot to mention a couple of birds seen earlier in the spring and I apologise to the finders.
A cracking 1st winter Iceland Gull was found in Llandudno Bay at the base of the Little Orme on March 31st by Julian Wheldrake. Thankfully I was close by and managed to connect with the bird before it flew over the Little Orme to the Penrhyn Bay side. It was then relocated here for a few minutes before again moving on west. I wonder if it was the one that turned up on the Wirral a few days later?
A Red throated Pipit was reported by Peter Alderson on March 19th. This bird quickly moved on but a bird was photographed on the same day that could have been a trap for the unwary. Below is an article I have written for Birding North West about the bird.
An Orange-breasted Meadow Pipit on the Great Orme, March 2010 – a possible trap for the unwary.
A Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus was reported on the Great Orme on March 19th 2010. The bird had been seen briefly by Orme regular, Pete Alderson above the cemetery and he had put the record out via Rare Bird Alert and Birdguides.
Unfortunately, due to the time of day, most locals were at work or were birding elsewhere so the bird did not receive the attention it deserved. Luckily a visiting birder was on site and managed to secure a picture of a pipit showing an extremely orange breast which was presumed to be the bird that Pete had seen earlier. The bird was not heard to call and moved on through quickly, disappearing before others arrived.
The pictures taken of the Great Orme bird certainly shows a distinct bird, one that would warrant close scrutiny by any birder. However, apart from the rich, orange tone to the breast, all other characteristics point to it being a Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis.
Although the original finder is quite sure that the bird photographed was not the original bird reported, it does serve as a reminder that these orange breasted Meadow Pipits can be a trap for the unwary.
In March 2004, I stumbled across a similar bird at Morfa Madryn NR which at got my pulse racing and the fuzzy photos I took were certainly a talking point at the time amongst the local birders. I tried hard to turn the bird into a Red-throated Pipit without success. It was then, as I researched the identification of this bird that I first came across the so-called race whistleri, a form that I had never heard of before and that could apparently be found in the western parts of Ireland and Scotland.
It was extremely timely then, that the following year, Richard Porter wrote an article in Birding World about an ‘Orange-breasted’ Meadow Pipit he had seen on Blakeney Point, Norfolk in March and discussed several other birds seen in the British Isles that showed similar features.
In the article it noted that Cramp et al. (1988) gives the range of whistleri as Ireland and western Scotland. It describes it as
‘ on average deeper and redder olive-brown above [than nominate pratensis], and with slightly heavier black streaks; streaks on underparts similar to typical nominate pratensis from Scandinavia, but ground colours on chest sides of breast, and flanks markedly deeper, cinnamon-buff. East from western Scotland, populations gradually paler, and birds from USSR on average paler and greyer than Scandinavian ones, but difference very slight. Birds from Iceland and Greenland similar to Scandinavian birds, not to whistleri. Population from western Ireland an average slightly darker than those from western Scotland and hence sometimes separated as theresae, but differences slight and variation within Britain and Ireland gradual, thus theresae does not warrant recognition.
Cramp et al. also states ‘In fresh plumage from August to mid-winter, noticeably more richly coloured than nominate pratensis, being more rufous above and much less white below, with pink-buff (not yellow-buff) suffusion. Such birds can look startlingly different from more olive or paler brown individuals of nominate pratensis and may resemble A.travialis [Tree pipit] and A.cervinus [Red-throated Pipit]’.
His conclusion was that these distinctive birds were difficult to assign and could possibly be richly coloured whistleri race birds at the extreme end of the form, or that they were individuals of Meadow Pipits showing erythrism (excess red pigmentation). As I was convinced that it was a bird of this type that I had seen at Madryn, I began to take particular note of Meadow Pipits as they passed through each spring as well as having a good look at Meadow pipits while visiting the west of Ireland and have come across birds showing a buffy orange tone on a few occasions, especially in March or early April. However, I have not seen a bird as extreme as the 2010 Orme bird. In Porters article, he notes that McGeehan or Mullarney had never come across such an extreme bird as the Blakeney Point bird in their native Ireland, strengthening the thought that these birds have a pigmentation irregularity.
When I received the photographs of the March 2010 Orme bird, I was annoyed that I hadn’t seen the bird and had a chance to study it. I put the photographs on Birdforum.net, Surfbirds forum and the North Wales Bird forum in the hope of generating some interest. There was a rather muted response, the vast majority being in favour of whistleri Meadow Pipit. Some readers had also posted references of similar birds such as one seen in Cambridgeshire during the same month. One photo was posted by Steve Fletcher from Spain showing an even more distinctive bird than the Orme individual; one that would send most birders pulses into overdrive.
Wherever these Meadow Pipits come from, they are certainly very interesting and remain a huge trap for the unwary. It is interesting that most birds are seen in March and early April, several weeks before the first Red-throated Pipit is seen in the United Kingdom. As for the original bird seen by Pete Alderson, we will never know, but as a Red throated Pipit was seen into December at Ballycotton, Ireland last year there is always a chance that an over-wintering bird may pass through early with Meadow pipits. However a brightly coloured throat and chest is not enough to clinch one and a full suite of features would have to be noted in a claim. The heavily streaked rump, the black and white mantle stripes, the yellowish base to the bill and of course the unique drawn out ‘psssiihh’ call would all have to be included in a notebook description, or even better a photograph to quash any doubts.
Porter R. 2005 Birding World Volume 18 number 4
Alstrom P and Mild, K. 2003. Pipits and Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America
Cramp S. et al 1988 The Birds of the western Palearctic Vol. 5
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Monday, 3 May 2010
The spring has been a mixed bag with a couple of decent birds, a steady trickly of migrants and some very quiet days!
Below are a list of first dates and highlights so far this spring:-
Corncrake - one on April 22nd (the first seen in the UK this year!)
Blue headed Wagtail (below) - one on April 24th
Common Redpoll - one on April 24th
Firecrest - one on April 29th
Wheatear - March 17th with 7 birds. Steady passage with maximum of 40 on April 24th
Ring Ouzel - male on March 27th follwoed by 14 birds (ringed bird left (Rob Sandham)
Willow warbler - 7 on April 10th with steady passage until now - max of 25+ on April 25th
Tree Pipit - 2 on April 11th, max of 15 on April 24th
Redstart - 3 males - April 11th, 24th and 25th.
Yellow wagtail - four birds so far - April 11th, 24th and 2 on 28th
Grasshopper Warbler - first on April 11th with 12 records so far
Swift - 2 on April 23rd
Swallow - first on April 10th
House Martin - first 2 on April 24th
Sand Martin - 2 on April 10th
Whinchat - one on April 25th and 2 on May 2nd
Garden Warbler - first 2 on April 25th
Whitethroat - first 2 on April 25th
Black cap - first 12 on April 25th
Cuckoo - one on April 29th
Sedge Warbler - first on April 29th
Six Golden Plover have been seen over the past few weeks, while many hundreds of Lesser Redpolls have been on the move with a maximum count of 65 on April 10th.
Offshore highlights include 10 Eider on May 3rd and 52 Sandwhicj Tern on May 2nd.
This Sparrowhawk has been terrorizing the migrants on the limestones! Chough, Peregrines, Stonechats, Skylark and Auks can all be seen with ease at the moment.