Saturday, 8 June 2013

Sublime Subalpine - Great Orme 8th June

It's been a long hard spring on the Orme with not many migrants and only a few expected goodies turning up - Dotterel, Firecrest and Lapland Bunting. I was about to give up for the summer to be honest, however yesterday's Paddyfield Warbler on Bardsey gave me the boost for one last push on the headland.

The morning started well with a nice singing male Whinchat in the cemetery and a couple of Willow Warblers that looked new arrivals; things were looking up. I walked along the wall towards the limestones, checking the bushes as I went. A nice Goldcrest was an unusual June migrant and again gave me some hope that migration wasn't over. As I approached the main patch of hawthorns a small grey warbler flew into a hawthorn and immediately flew out and back along the wall from where I had come from. The brief view was enough to excite me and I retraced my steps. The Goldcrest was still present and I decided to attract it closer with a bit of pishing. What happened next, I didn't expect. A head popped out of the nearest hawthorn.........Subalpine warbler!

Luckily Pete Alderson was in the cemetery so I phoned him. I didn't actually see the bird again in the next 20 minutes as I waited for him to arrive. And as I had only seen the head, I started to doubt myself. I'm sure the bird uttered a quiet but harsh 'teck' sound from deep within the bush so was confident it was still there.

Pete arrived and after a short wait, the bird performed well and a few pics were obtained. Rob Sandham then jogged up the path and the bird showed well to the four of us present.

This is the first record for the Great Orme, and the third for the county of Conwy. The other two were in a Llandudno garden in May 2000, while the other was in Penmaenmawr, also in May 2000. Just six have been recorded in North Wales outside of Bardsey, which holds the monopoly on the species with an incredible 26 records! Surely the best site in the UK to see this species. This bird, follows hot on the heels of the popular Uwchmynydd male in April of this year.

Just goes to show, even when you feel like giving up, the good one might be around that next corner.


  1. Oh the joys of local patching - brilliant find Marc!!

    Surely time the Great Orme Bird Observatory was given official status?

  2. Not sure about the acronym for the Great Orme Bird Obs Andy - GOBO! However, if Marc thought it was a good idea, I'm sure there would be room for a third Observatory in Wales. To find out what is required to apply for Observatory status see

    Steve Stansfield writing as Chair of the Bird Observatories Council.

  3. Cheers Steve, We have mused over the acronym previously. There's a couple of terrific areas for mist netting and potential for a helgoland on private land although both wont be to everyone's cup of tea. Plus it needs ringers. I'm getting there slowly but still a couple of seasons off a mist net. Then I can give it more time and look into other areas. I've got permission for two rides and spring trapping at the moment. You never know though maybe one day!

  4. I've always said it would be good to gather bird data 'observatory style' on the Great Orme. At present, only a few birders regularly patch the Orme and there is no real recording system. It would certainly be a dream to set up GOBO and with Rob getting there with his ringing licences, it may be a possibility in the future with a bit if commitment and hard work. It might help knowing the Chair of the Bird Obs Council ;-)

  5. And it's a huge place so scope for more ringers/birders! I remember going on a few ringing demos with the YOC led by Dr Stuart Thomas. These were down by the reservoir, probably the best spot on the Orme and sadly inaccessible but that's what sparked my interest and it will be a dream setting up the nets as a ringer myself and hopefully inspiring others. Funily 20+years on i'm back in touch with ST exchanging our latest highlights. Anyway thread hijacked sorry Marc not taking away from yet another great find. One of the next likely though along with Bluethroat + Greenish. Save a couple for the net though!

  6. It would be good to catch up with Rob n Marc and have a chat about this. Maybe on Bardsey one weekend in August or September. Come over on Friday night and go back Sunday?

  7. Now that's an offer definitely worth considering :-) cheers Steve