A Shrike Makes A Wonderful Start To Our Day Five Of Our Tour For Two

Flambrough Head Yorkshire 2017 2

Flamborough Head in the sunshine where the Red-backed Shrike was.

Our plan on day five of our Tour for Two with Mike and Rachel was to visit RSPB Bempton cliffs nature reserve – a new place for our guests and a chance for Mike to do some bird photography. As we enjoyed breakfast on this sunny morning news came in of a Red-backed Shrike at Flamborough Head just south of Bempton Cliffs, hmmm, we decided that we could look for the shrike after going to the cliffs and set off north.

As we neared Flamborough Head, we had to drive fairly close to reach Bempton, a message came through saying the shrike was still present. This proved too much of a temptation and we went for plan “B” and diverted to Flamborough Head. Arriving in the lighthouse car park we could see a few birders on the cliff path to the north – the area where the shrike had been seen so set off to join them. As we walked Alan scanned the slope below the cliffs ahead and saw the Red-backed Shrike briefly before it dropped into dead ground, whew, still here. We joined three other birders on the cliff path and were very surprised to hear they had not seen the shrike! Odd. We walked on another fifty yards or so and looked down and there was the juvenile Red-backed Shrike sitting up in full view in the sun! Once Mike and Rachel were both enjoying telescope views Alan dashed back and got the other birders who hurried to see this scarce migrant. The bird showed off, as shrikes often do, sitting on top of brambles and stocks on the sunny sheltered slope below us, up where we were it was pretty windy. Two more birders approached from the north and were surprised to hear us say the shrike was here, they had missed it earlier and assumed it had gone.

Red backed Shrike Blakeney

A juvenile Red-backed Shrike - not the bird this one from our libary taken in Norfolk.

Offshore a number of gulls were feeding below us mostly Common Gulls but we picked out at least three Mediterranean Gulls and an adult Kittiwake. We also noted on the sea Red-throated Diver, Razorbill, Common Guillemot and two Shags, two Eider flew south over the gull flock. A few migrant birds were also “coming in off” from the North Sea with Skylarks, Song Thrushes, Redwings and a single Fieldfare – we felt for these small birds battling this head wind to reach land.

Pink-footed Geese arriving from the north over Flamobrough Head - wonderful sight & sound.

We enjoyed a hot chocolate at a cliff top café sitting out in the sunshine out of the wind and it felt lovely and warm with the blue sky above and blue sea below us. A walk down to the point next and we scanned the sea more in hope than expectation with the strong offshore wind. But as so often with birds if you don’t look you don’t see and we saw mammals! Offshore we saw dark shapes break the surface – harbour porpoises wonderful! There were at least eight of these super marine mammals out in the choppy waters. While scanning for the porpoises we saw more Red-throated Divers, Mediterranean Gulls, Razorbills, Common Guillemots, and then two more divers were seen flying south, big birds these, and we got them in the scopes quickly, these were Black-throated Divers! They soon swept past the headland and we turned back to the car and headed for RSPB Bempton Cliffs. But we didn’t get very far, Alan shouted “Swans!” and there against the blue sky were eight Whooper Swans flying low south over the headland, wow, more migration. We watched the Whooper Swans fly out over the sea to the south, perhaps next stop Norfolk? We walked on but only a few steps before the sound of Pink-footed Geese stopped us and had us looking up again, a big skein of these wonderful birds were coming over from the north and what a wonderful sight and sound they made.

One of the late young Gannets still showing lots of down at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.

Finally we made it to RSPB Bempton cliffs where it bright but very wind, an offshore wind sadly so little migration or seabird passage. However, plenty of birds here to enjoy and the Gannets were the stars of the show. We were surprised to see some young Gannets still on their nests and some still with down rather than feathers – we wondered if they would make it being such late hatchers? The views of the Gannets coming and going to the cliffs were fantastic and Mike was busy with his camera and loving it! The coastal scenery here is breath-taking with the huge white cliffs rising sheer out of the North Sea. A Kestrel hovered right over the path and allowed us superb views as it searched for voles. In the scrub near the RSPB visitor centre we saw a few birds despite the near gale force wind, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, lots of Tree Sparrows, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and plenty of Goldfinches. It was way past lunch time, again time had flown by so fast, and we headed for Flamborough to a favourite eating place, Seabirds – where else after visiting Bempton? We just made in time before they stopped serving lunch and enjoyed a lovely meal and it was great to be out of that wind.

With the afternoon already “eaten” into we headed south back to Hornsea Mere and a different area of the lake from our previous visits. Sadly the wind was really strong here too and made birding really difficult as most birds were hunkered down out of sight. We tried one last place, the seafront at Hornsea but it was a rather disappointing place, guess we are spoilt coming from Llandudno – such a beautiful place. We scanned the sea but very few birds were visible a few distant Red-throated Divers the best. So we headed back to base to pack before heading for home the following day.

Come and join us for a “Tour for Two” – very small group just two guests with two guides, tailor made itinerary, low risk in these COVID-19 times and of course lots of birds and an excellent chance of enjoying them all. Do drop us a line and we can make all the arrangements be it a day trip, two days, three day or as long a tour as you wish. Our recent Tours for Two have visited the Highlands of Scotland, North Wales and the Yorkshire coast and we are planning many more! Let us know where you would like to go and we can put together a proposal perfect for you.

We are so lucky to have so many species and habitats within easy reach here in North Wales we would love you to join us for one of our Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trips days out. We expect to enjoy a lot of birds during these relaxed pace tours and we can tailor make the day to suit you.

We would love you to join us on our Birdwatching Trips in the future just drop us a line to arrange a custom tour and please see our tours pages for set departure trips. If you have any questions at all please fire away here….


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds in beautiful places with you soon!

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