In Search Of Albert Yorkshire Custom Tour For Two 4 to 8 July 2022 Fantastic birds

One of the thousands of Northern Gannets we enjoyed on this custom tour for two.

We arranged to meet Len and Howard on day one of their custom Yorkshire Tour at Potterick Carr Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve 4th July 2022. We had originally agreed to meet them at RSPB Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve but news of a very rare breeding bird at Potterick Carr meant a quick change of plans!

We arrived at Potterick way ahead of the arranged meeting time to allow us to check out the situation and ensure the birds were still here. Luckily the pair of Black-winged Stilts were indeed still on the reserve with their four young, a fantastic record in the UK. It was a good half our walk each way from the car park to the birds and then back but we made it just in time to meet Len and Howard.

After a quick lunch we set off to admire the long-legged rare waders and enjoyed super views. The male Black-winged Stilt had several fights with Northern Lapwings that strayed to close to the young stilts. Wonderful to see these Mediterranean birds strutting around a shallow pool in Yorkshire and even better with young! Great to report all four young still doing well in late July.

We then headed off to the Yorkshire coast and RSPB Bempton Cliffs where another very rare bird was being seen, a male Turkestan Shrike a very rare visitor to the UK from the east. The bird information services told all visitors to park at the RSPB car park and then walk the two miles or so to the bird. As we had already done a lot of walking Alan dropped off Ruth, Len and Howard as close as possible to the bird along the approach road to the reserve and then went on to park. The lane towards the farm where the shrike was hanging out held singing Yellowhammers always a lovely bird to see and hear. Alan managed to catch the others up and then all four reached the farm where the shrike had been seen. The farmer was charging £10 a head for access to his land, reasonable we thought and good for birders to help farmers.

Bird watching takes us to some strange places - a pile of junk in a Yorkshire farm yard!

Sadly, even after paying the £10 each no sign of the bird. A small group of birders were stood on one side of a clump of bushes, but the bird had not been seen for over half an hour. We waited but no luck, Alan decided to look on the other side of the bushes and after a few minutes out popped the shrike! Dashing back, he called the others over to the spot, but the shrike had vanished again, only Alan and one other chap had seen it! A tense wait ensued with birders now looking on both sides of the bushes, they knew it was in there. Time was running out a table was booked for dinner, and it was a very long walk back to the car, a plan was needed. Alan, who had at least glimpsed the bird, was despatched back to the car having checked with the farmer it was ok to drive to the end of his lane to collect the others. By the time Alan returned the other three were in the lane all smiles the bird had shown pretty-well and all were ready for dinner. What a start to our pre-booked Yorkshire Tour For Two!

What a stunning bird! Turkestan Shrike an incredibly rare visitor to the UK!

On the 5th of July all four headed down to nearby RSPB Bempton Cliffs to enjoy the seabird city and hoped to see the famous Black-browed Albatross, Albert as he is known, which had returned to the cliffs for at least its third summer. This year however it had proved very unpredictable spending long periods of time out at sea. The good news was there was so much to see at the cliffs even without Albert. Thousands and thousands of Northern Gannets nest here and the views of these birds are fantastic. The birds fly past at eye-level wowing visitors and land on the cliff tops just yards away impossible to have better views. Add to this so many Atlantic Puffins, Common Guillemots, Razorbills and Black-legged Kittiwakes it is a mind-blowing place. Tree Sparrows are another great bird to enjoy here and they saw lots and a distant Corn Bunting on some wires.

Well we kind of saw Albert but not the real thing sadly.

It was less windy than the previous day and we heard that the Turkestan Shrike was showing well at times and as it was only a mile away another visit seemed a good idea. Sadly no sign of the shrike on arrival it had been showing very well! But plenty to see while waiting, lots of Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers, much better views of Corn Buntings, a wonderful Little Owl in a barn roof and two Yellow Wagtails. Then the shrike was spotted, but a long way off on a hedgerow, luckily the shrike soon moved closer and closer until it flew in and landed right next to the small band of birders. What a fantastic bird in the sunshine and so close, well worth coming back for a second look.

Flambrough Head next just a few miles along the coast and a stunning location with cliffs and coves. Shag and Rock Pipit were new for the already impressive trip list. Hundreds of Gannets were passing the headland along with Kittiwakes and all three species of auks. Then we heard news that “Albert” had been seen from a boat north of Flambrough Head so we dashed to North Landing to see if it might still be offshore. We scanned and scanned checking through the masses of Gannets but sadly no Albatross.

Back at base we picked up a flat tyre that rather scuppered our plans!

On the 6th July Ruth stayed behind to fix the tyre on the 4x4 and Howard very kindly agreed to use his car for the day. Len, Howard and Alan drove north to an area of forest to look for raptors. The viewpoint gives a panoramic view and is ideal for looking for soaring birds. Despite what the guys considered good conditions few birds of prey were on the wing. But persistence pays off with this type of birding and by keeping scanning the vast skyscape a good list was put together. Common Buzzards, not surprisingly were the commonest species but Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and then at last a male Honey Buzzard all be it distant was added. This wonderful bird was quickly followed by a soaring Goshawk and then a little later by a second view of a Honey Buzzard. It wasn’t all about birds of prey a European Turtle Dove flew over the valley, several sightings of Common Crossbills, Siskins, Coal Tits, two Treecreepers and Goldcrests were all new birds for the trip in addition to the rare raptors.

After a great pub lunch near the forest it was back to Buckton and a walk along the lane near base, it was very windy now so not many birds showing but some nice views of Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Common Whitethroat and Stock Dove.

Ruth returned with the 4x4 now back on four wheels and we headed back to RSPB Bempton Cliffs to try again to see Albert the Albatross but no sign sadly though of course the seabird city was again a fantastic sight, sound and smell! It was fantastic walking the cliff top path seeing so many birds so close.

After three days and no Albatross Alan decided a change of tactics was required and was out at 5am as the others still slept. A Peregrine Falcon was hunting feral pigeons along the cliffs at Bempton as he arrived – a good sign perhaps? He hurried along the cliffs to “the spot” where we a volunteer at the reserve had told this was the only place to see Albert from if he was on the cliff. Rather breathless Alan scanned the cliffs and there amongst the Gannets was a Black-browed Albatross, Albert was at home! Fantastic but no time to enjoy this spectacular seabird Alan was running back to car and dashing the short distance to Buckton.

Albert in flight! Black-browed Albatross at Bempton Cliffs July 2022 - photo by Paul Graber.

The others were out of bed fast and ready to go and then it was back to the cliffs. A tense fast walk to the spot, would Albert still be there? Thankfully this fantastic lost seabird was in exactly the same place, whew! Now all could relax and enjoy this amazing sight of a Black-browed Albatross thousands of miles from its home. After a while Albert started preening, attended to his “bathroom” needs, poor Gannets below, stretched those magnificent wings and after teasing everyone a few time – lift off! Oh wow what a magnificent sight those nine foot wide wings were awesome. This magical bird circled several times almost landing again three times before it glided along the cliff and was lost to view, wow, wow, wow!

Albert crusies the cliffs of Bempton wowing the birders - what a bird! Photo by Paul Graber.

After a well-earned breakfast, it was south to Hornsea Mere and viewing from the south bank put the sun behind everyone and lots of birds in front. Two Little Gulls were lovely to see here along with lots of ducks and several Common Terns. On south again as a busy day ahead.

The slow road down to Spurn Point was indeed very slow so it was time for lunch when we reached the Crown and Anchor Pub, ok an early lunch but breakfast had been early too! Full of good food a visit to nearby Kilnsea Wetlands next to take advantage of the high tide. These man made pools were busy with birds as so often the case and it was where to look first. A flock of Common Redshank also held breeding plumaged Dunlin amongst them and beautiful breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits rested near a gang of Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Both Mediterranean and Little Gulls were amongst their commoner cousins. But the real star of the show here was a male Ruff in pristine full-breeding plumage a real wow bird.

A short walk from here to Beacon Ponds was well worth while to view some sixty Little Terns on the shoreline a wonderful sight. More waders here too with Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover.

Back to the car and a short drive to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust visitor centre at Spurn. From here a walk to the narrows and back, looking out to Spurn Point in the distance proved worthwhile with stunning Golden Plover on the saltmarsh and lots more waders on the mudflats beyond. All to soon it was time to head back to Bridlington for a lovely last night meal. But the birds were not over yet as they drove back towards Buckton a Barn Owl floated along the lane ahead of the car. Everyone jumped out and luckily this most gorgeous owl came back over the adjacent field giving amazing views in the dying embers of sunlight. It got better, a second Barn Owl quartered the field on the opposite side of the lane this one against the setting sun, oh wow, just perfect. What an end to a very special day indeed!

The 8th July was the fifth and final day of our Custom Tour For Two in Yorkshire and we headed west to North Cave Wetlands Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve, an inspiring reserve created from gravel workings. Lots of birds here in the hot sunshine though Eurasian Wigeon and Little Grebe were the only additions to the trip list. On again to RSPB Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve and here a wonderful selection of birds were enjoyed! Spotted Redshanks were one of the first birds we enjoyed – roosting in front of Marshlands Hide – and Green Sandpipers soon followed five of the smart migrant waders fed around the shallow pool. These lovely waders were joined by Black-tailed Godwits, Common Redshank and superb close views of Common Snipe. Bearded Tits also gave super views in the telescopes as they fed at the base of the reeds sometimes coming right out into the open on the exposed mud – fantastic! Marsh Harriers also showed off including recently fledged juveniles both over the reeds and sitting up in bushes. A Bittern lifted from the reeds but only showed very briefly.

A wonderful, late, lunch was enjoyed in nearby Beverley before it was time to head home after an amazing bird filled custom tour. Yorkshire really is amazing in July! Our custom tour in 2021 coincided with the Black-browed Albatross and a very rare Western Oriental Turtle Dove at Kilnsea what will 2023 bring? Come and join us for the very best Birdwatching Trips.

Huge thanks to Len and Howard for their great company and look forward to more adventures together in the Highlands of Scotland later in the year. To book your custom tour or any of our set departure trips please email us here….

We can then make all the arrangements for your perfect Birdwatching Trips tour.

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