Yorkshire Autumn Migration Special Birdwatching Trips Tour

Flambrough Head Yorkshire 2017 2

We have just returned home to Llandudno, North Wales after four days enjoying great birds in Yorkshire. We often visit this wonderful part of the UK in the summer to enjoy the amazing seabird spectacle on the cliffs and to enjoy Honey Buzzards inland so decided to try an Autumn tour. Very glad to report that this new tour was a huge success and we will certainly be offering it again in September 2020.

On Saturday the 14th we travelled over to Yorkshire picking up Alun, Liz, Andrew and Ray on the way and then meeting up with Peter and Bryan at our first birding venue. RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the Humber Estuary is always a great place to see lots of birds and it certainly got the tour off to a wonderful start! Within minutes of arriving we were watching Tree Sparrows at very close range in the warm sunshine. We visited the hides here and watched wonderful waders including Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Little Ringed Plover. Marsh Harriers hunted over the reed-beds and a Water Rail showed off at the base of the reeds.

News of a rare White-rumped Sandpiper had us checking the map and we were delighted to see the bird was pretty close to our route to our hotel! We were off in the hope of seeing this vagrant from North America that had been seen at Tophill Low Yorkshire Water Nature Reserve. We arrived just as the volunteer was closing up the visitor centre but the chap was very helpful indeed and gave us directions to the hide where the bird had been seen, but no reports since early afternoon. We hurried down to the hide that overlooked a shallow pool with plenty of birds and the light was perfect. Luckily a local birder was in the hide and told us the sandpiper was still here, whew! We were soon enjoying great looks at this long-winged wader feeding with two Dunlin. What a great bird for day one of our Yorkshire tour.

Poor photo of a great bird - White-rumped Sandpiper at Tophill Low.

We then drove over to our hotel ideally placed between Flamborough Head and Spurn Point, both top birding sites. The food was great with hearty Yorkshire helpings – ideal after a full day enjoying great birds.

Early on the 22nd we were heading north to our first stop, Hornsea Mere, a freshwater lake just inland from the coast and always has plenty of birds. As we arrived we saw a flock of Little Gulls flying off east and we hoped some more would be on the lake, there were, 2,300 of them! What a fantastic sight, we think of Little Gulls as rare birds and here were thousands of them! There was so much more here and we stood with the sun behind us soaking up an amazing array of wonderful birds, a few of these included Kingfisher, Wheatear, Greenshank, Goldeneye and unexpectedly a Dark-belllied Brent Goose that flew in with Greylag Geese.

After a great full breakfast we visited Flamborough Head and soon found two Whinchats near the lighthouse always lovely birds to see. We did some sea-watching in the warm sunshine seeing Arctic Skua, Red-throated Divers, lots of Gannets, auks and Kittiwakes. Moving further west along the headland we visited a small wetland where we enjoyed close views of Pink-footed Geese, a lovely Grey Wagtail and another Whinchat.

Next stop RSPB Bempton cliffs for tea and delicious home-made cakes then down to the cliffs to have eye-to-eye views of Gannets, just wonderful. We checked the bushes around the visitor centre and were rewarded with Redstarts, Whinchats and a splendid Lesser Whitethroat. A brilliant day with so many great birds.

On the 23rd we headed south and first stop was at Easington where we looked for migrants near the gas terminal, attracting the attention of the Police guarding the plant! We had brief views of a Yellow-browed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wheatear and a gang of Mediterranean Gulls in a ploughed field. A great full breakfast tasted so good after our early morning birding then we headed down to Spurn. Lots of birds in the fields north of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust visitor centre including a Corn Bunting, Whinchat, Linnets, Skylarks and Tree Sparrows. At the end of the road we watched masses of waders being pushed towards us and we had great fun comparing the species in the perfect light. Flocks of Knot, gangs of Sanderling and smaller numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover and a Turnstone. A Peregrine Falcon tore into the flocks of waders sending them into the air in a wonderful display, not so wonderful for the Redshank that the Peregrine took! As we walked back north we noticed a large white bird flying towards us – Great White Egret – this huge heron flapped slowly over us, brilliant.

Kilnsea Wetlands next and the hide gave us great views over the shallow pools where hundreds of birds were resting. Lots of Redshank and Knot and amongst them Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit and a late Avocet. More Mediterranean Gulls here and a flock of Pink-footed Geese all seen very well in the lovely sunshine. Out at Beacon Ponds more waders including very close views of Knot and more Grey Plover.

After tea and cake we walked down to the sea-watching hide seeing a lovely Wheatear on the beach. Not a huge amount moving over the sea but we did see a number of Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe, Little Gulls and another Mediterranean Gull. A beautiful breeding plumage Red-throated Diver was on the sea pretty close in and we enjoyed super views through the telescopes. A great day in the Yorkshire sunshine.

On the 24th we headed west, in the rain, to RSPB St Aidan’s Nature Reserve not far from Castleford a new reserve for us all. A Long-billed Dowitcher had been seen the previous day and we hoped it would still be there. Luckily the site manager had arrived well before opening time and was very helpful indeed, telling where the best place to look for the bird was and almost as important opening toilets early for us!

We walked down to the open muddy area where the dowitcher had been seen but sadly no sign of the rare American wader. Plenty to see at this great reserve and we enjoyed frame filling views of a juvenile Hobby, a Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Great White Egret, Kingfisher, Ruff, Green Sandpiper and heard Bearded Tits calling from the reeds. We were disappointed not see the rarity but loved the reserve, it was raining hard as we reached the minibus and thoughts were on a late breakfast and drying out. Just as we were getting into the bus a local birder called over that the dowitcher had been seen on the far side of this huge reserve and helpfully told us how to drive around to the spot. We found the spot but the hide was locked and no other birders in sight, it was pouring down but we all stood scanning the lake getting soaked but no rare wader, again! Now we were really soaked and very hungry so we found a great place to eat, drink and dry out.

We decided to give the Long-billed Dowitcher one last chance and went back to the locked hide, this time just Alan went out in the heavy rain but no luck. Then a local birder arrived and kindly let us join him in the hide, a great view point over-looking the pool but no rare bird. We did see a Whooper Swan, Green Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and lots of wildfowl. Then a real surprise a juvenile female Goshawk swept past right in front of the hide, wow! This big muscular raptor was carrying prey but sadly was soon lost to view behind willows.

We headed back to St Aiden’s for one last look there, sadly Bryan had to head for home, just as the rain was easing off. As we walked down towards the pool we had great views of a Green Woodpecker, always a super bird to watch. As we approached the pool just one wader was at the water’s edge, could it be? Telescope quickly focused and huge relief the juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher was there! Fantastic, we thought we had earned that bird after all that scanning and getting soaked. Luckily once found this brilliant bird showed off beautifully really close. A great looking wader as described by Alun as a “kind of cross between a snipe and a godwit” yep, that’s about right. We were so happy to have finally tracked this wonderful rare bird down. We headed back to the visitor centre for a welcome hot drink then just one last bird for the trip a Swift over the car park! We had enjoyed 124 species in just four days and had a lot of fun. The journey home was a bit tougher with torrential rain, huge traffic jams on the M62 and a puncture, but we kept thinking of all the wonderful birds we had enjoyed.

More poor photos, sorry it was very wet, Long-billed Dowitcher.

We would love you to join us on one of our wonderful Birdwatching Trips tours, lots of birds, lots of fun, small groups, great food and lovely places to stay we know you will love every minute. Please see our tours pages or drop us a line here for more details….


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you soon!

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