Yorkshire Birdwatching Trips Tour For Two 25 To 29 September 2023 The Full Story

RSPB Bempton Cliffs is a wonderful place to visit and always a warm welcome.

We had arranged to meet Andrew and Roger at RSPB Blacktoft Sands at the start of their Yorkshire Tour for Two Guests months before the date of the tour. We always enjoy visiting this great reserve where there is a warm welcome and plenty of birds. Andrew and then Roger arrived nice and early and it was great to see them both again. We checked in at the reception hide after watching a male Marsh Harrier over the car park and had a chat with Ian who was on duty. Two more Marsh Harriers hunted over the reedbeds as we chatted. The majority of the waders were being seen from the Singleton Hide so we set off there first. When we reached the hide it was pretty much full, but we found a little space and enjoyed the sight of lots of waders. As Ian had reported, there was a great selection of birds and we quickly picked out Curlew Sandpipers, Spotted Redshanks and Common Greenshanks. As Alan scanned through a group of Ruff a smaller wader was feeding amongst them. The scope stopped scanning, the heart rate increased, had it really got a red cap? Just at that moment the whole flock flew! No!

We could calm down once the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper had been photographed, this one taken by Roger.

A frantic scan of the now-landed waders but no sign of the bird, had Alan imagined it? Doubts were certainly creeping in – was it a weird small Ruff, or a trick of the light? Wait. There was the bird again, this time feeding away from the main flock on an area of slightly drier mud. Now more adrenalin overload, it surely had a red cap! Panic to get Ruth, Andrew, and Roger on the bird, still not saying out loud what was going through Alan's mind. Ruth grabbed some digiscope images and Alan looked at them carefully, oh wow, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper!! A mega rare bird from Siberia and we had just found it.

Alan announced the discovery to the packed hide and was met with stunned silence though lots of scopes swung to follow the directions. Ruth got some slightly better pictures through the scope and we showed the folks closest to us what we were talking about. Alan was now on the phone to the reserve and told Ian of the amazing discovery and then onto Rare Bird Alert so others might have a chance of seeing the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. What a fantastic start to our tour and what a thrill to find such a rare bird! It was wonderful to watch this mega rare bird feeding alongside more familiar Ruff and Dunlin and help folks in the hide get on to the bird. Alan had only seen one once in the UK before many years ago at Foryd Bay near Caernarfon. Both Ruth and Alan had been lucky enough to see many of these smart red-capped wader overseas, but it was a completely new bird for Andrew and Roger. As birders began to arrive to see the exciting rarity, we made room in the hide and left elated at our start to the tour.

We visited the Marshlands Hide still on a massive high and here enjoyed wonderful frame filling views of Common Snipe in the afternoon sunshine. Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, lots of Eurasian Teal here too along with Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and more Marsh Harriers. We then headed for Beverly and settled into our lovely hotel our base for the trip.

We spent the next five days birding the area within roughly an hours drive of Beverly. Spurn Bird Observatory area was visited twice and both time we enjoyed seeing the eclipse drake American Wigeon on Kilnsea Wetlands also here we saw a first winter Caspian Gull, a Little Stint, Spoonbill, Avocets, great looks at Pink-footed Geese, lots of waders, ducks and gulls, a really great spot. It was especially good on our first visit, as we arrived at the hide torrential rain began but we were dry and had lots of birds to watch.

Spurn around the Discovery Centre and Crown and Anchour had very few passerine migrants, westerly winds not helping. Still plenty to see of course with masses of waders on the adjacent Humber Estuary along with a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Marsh Harrier, numerous Common Kestrels, small passage of Barn Swallows and House Martins, warblers and thrushes were totally absent! We did do some sea watching from the Narrows and had good looks at Arctic Skuas, Red-throated Divers, Common Guillemots and Razorbills and a flock of Pink-footed Geese far out over the sea.

Our second "mega" bird of the trip - Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Long Nab.

One morning we headed north, past our intended destination of RSPB Bempton, to Long Nab. We parked in a lane and walked down to the coast path and turned south following the path for some five hundred yards. We joined a small group of birders staring intently into a small gulley with some bushes. Good news, the hoped for Eastern Olivaceous Warbler had been seen but wasn’t in view at the moment. The sun was breaking through the cloud and there was no wind, ideal conditions for viewing and then there it was! What a great bird, now warblers are not everyone’s cup of tea but an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is another mega rare bird in the UK and actually looks better in the field than in the bird guides, honest. This bird is long, long beak, long wings, long tail which it pumps and flairs as it moves through the bushes. At times the rarity climbed right on top of the bushes and really showed off much to the appreciation of the small crowd. It also was a bit of a shape shifter as it could raise its crown feathers making it steep forehead, as it should be or could flatten the crown when it look more reed warbler like. The views of this rarity, a new British bird for us all, were amazing and far better than we had hoped for. We also watched Blackcap and Chiffchaff here, three species of warbler! A lovely male Stonechat posed here too. It was nice to visit a new site that we had heard lots about in the past.

For a rare warbler it showed off very weill indeed, photos by Ruth.

At RSPB Bempton Cliffs we enjoyed the spectacular scenery and were surprised to see so many Northern Gannets still showing very well. Tree Sparrows were showing very well and in good numbers – always great to see these once common birds doing well somewhere. A Short-eared Owl drifted over the fields north of the Visitor Centre, always a thrill to see. We looked hard for migrants around the trees and bushes but drew a blank. Alan had predicted there would be a Red-eyed Vireo in the bushes here… and the following week there was! It was lovely to catch up with our great friend Angela at Bempton Cliffs and we look forward to meeting up again at Christmas at The Grant Arms Hotel in the Highlands.

We did some sea watching at Flamborough Head and did pretty well given the less than favourable winds. We picked out a juvenile Sabine’s Gull on the sea with a small flock of Black-legged Kittiwakes, a nice long look at a juvenile Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skuas, lots of Red-throated Divers and Gannets, small numbers of Common Scoter. Below the cliffs we watched Common Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags on the sea and Merlin shot along the cliffs.

Hornsea Mere is a lovely site and one morning we stood on the south shore scanning the big lake. At least six Little Gulls were the highlights here as they fed over the water, landing on the surface at times and perching on buoys. Water Rails squealed from the reeds. Plenty of ducks on the lake too and at least two Cetti’s Warbler sang but remained unseen.

Spotted Flycatcher was a lovely unexpected bird at Tophill Low Nature Reserve - photo by Roger.

We also visited Tophill Low Nature Reserve run by Yorkshire Water, a wonderful wetland reserve alongside a huge water-treatment plant. At the reception hide we were greeted by a mass of birds on the reservoir right in front of us. So many ducks, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Eurasian Wigeon and Teal, Gadwall and Mallard. Ruth picked out a Black-necked Grebe amongst the Great Crested Grebes – a nice bonus bird. A mixed feeding flock in the trees nearby contained two Spotted Flycatchers, and a Marsh Tit both wonderful birds to see. On the scrapes we had super views a Garganey along with seven Green Sandpipers, a Common Sandpiper and lots of Common Snipe. A wonderful male Marsh Harrier drifted past one of the hides and we heard a Tawny Owl calling.

This Garganey dropped in while we were at Tophill Low Nature Reserve, photographed by Roger.

On the last morning we visited North Cave Wetlands, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve, a huge area of reclaimed gravel pits. We visited three of the hides here and enjoyed the autumn sunshine and so lovely to have a calm day with no westerly winds. Huge flocks of Pink-footed Geese passed over and Red Kites were on the move with at least nine moving south. Staying with birds of prey a juvenile Peregrine showed off in the top of a dead tree allowing super scope views and we watched a Hobby hunting over the reserve always a thrill to see these diminutive raptors. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at a nearby pub before we said our farewells and headed for home. Many thanks to Andrew and Roger for their great company and making some great memories together, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper will live long in the memory and be talked of often.

We have the following exciting Birdwatching Trips coming up in 2024 we would love you to join us.

February - Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 17th - Wednesday 21st February 2024 - four places available

April - Extremadura, Spain with Iolo Williams, Sunday 28th April - Friday 3rd May 2024 - one place available

June - Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 15th - Wednesday 19th June 2024 - four places available

September - Best of North Wales Birdwatching Trip, Saturday 7th - Wednesday 11th September 2024, four places available

November - Iolo Williams North Wales Wildife Tour, Monday 25th - Friday 29th November 2024, three places available

December - Winter Wildlife of North Wales with Iolo Williams, Monday 9th - Friday 13th December 2024, four places available.

We run our Birdwatching Trips throughout the year a mix of set departure tours and custom-made trips perfect for you! 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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