Yorkshire Seabirds Waders And So Much More Tour For Two 3 To 7 July 2023

Gannets on cliffs 1

Wonderful Northern Gannets at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast.

Sally arrived here in Llandudno and then we drove east to Chester and picked up Alison from home. We all headed towards Yorkshire for our “Tour for Two” – always a popular trip and one we love to run.

The journey over The Pennines was a bit slow but we made it, arriving in time for an early lunch at RSPB Old Moor. It was raining here so we didn’t venture out to the hides but headed off to another RSPB site nearby. Here the rain had stopped, and we walked towards the wetland. We didn’t get far, a Garden Warbler was spotted in a willow by the path and then Blackcap and Common Whitethroat quickly followed.

At the wetland we quickly found the birds we really hoped would be there – two beautiful Black-winged Stilts. These delicate waders with their impossibly long legs strode around in the shallow water allowing us super looks. There was much more to see here, Avocets showed off in the afternoon sun along with stunning breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, a Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper, and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover were all enjoyed.

Black winged Stilts Thai 2017 1

Those legs! Black-winged Stilts we enjoyed seven on day one - library photo.

A short drive took us to another RSPB wetland where amazingly we saw more Black-winged Stilts. These normally very rare visitors to the UK are increasing in recent years and even breeding, almost certainly a result of the climate chaos and the resulting rising temperatures. Indeed, the Stilts at this second location were a nesting pair with at least three recently hatched young. Black-winged Stilt chicks are so cute, fluff balls on impossibly long legs with huge, long beaks, just wonderful. Lots of other birds here too with breeding Avocets and a Common Ringed Plover amongst the waders. Very happy indeed with seeing seven rare Black-winged Stilts on our first afternoon we headed for Buckton near Bempton our base for the next four nights.

That evening we all met up with our friends Angela and Lesley at the North Star Hotel for dinner. A lovely meal was enjoyed, and Angela brought us up to speed with all the happenings at RSPB Bempton cliffs where she volunteers and is a font of knowledge about the area.

Bempton Cliffs

Spectacular scenery and wonderful birds at RSPB Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire.

On the fourth of July we headed down to nearby RSPB Bempton Cliffs to enjoy the fantastic spectacle of the “seabird-city” always a wonderful experience. Even before we reached the car park, we stopped to watch a Marsh Harrier hunting over the fields. At the car park we watched Tree Sparrows, always a treat for us to see, none in North Wales these days sadly.

Down at the cliffs it was a case of where to look first, so many birds here just wonderful. The Northern Gannets are one of the many attractions here and these magnificent seabirds can be enjoyed on mass and at eye-level, cameras were very busy. Atlantic Puffins were also nesting along the spectacular cliffs and lots of ooh’s and aww’s were heard from the visitors admiring them. Add to these two wonderful species thousands of Common Guillemots, Razorbills, Black-legged Kittiwakes, a few Northern Fulmar and spectacular scenery and you have an amazing morning.

We had lunch at nearby Flamborough Head and then walked down to the Lighthouse where we had wonderful views north and south along the Yorkshire coast. Offshore thousands of seabirds were passing the headland, to and from their breeding colonies at Bempton Cliffs and on the headland itself. In the water below the cliffs, we watched lots of Atlantic grey seals some of which were hauled out on the rocks. Both Rock and Meadow Pipit were new for the trip list, and we watched a male Yellowhammer in the hedgerow near the light.

On the 5th of July we headed south from Buckton and our first stop was a Hornsea Mere, a wonderful freshwater lake on the west side of Hornsea town. It was a bit breezy but there was plenty to see as we scanned the lake with our telescopes. Star bird here was a Wood Sandpiper out on one of the islands with Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatchers. Lots of new species for our rapidly growing trip list including Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Lesser Black Backed Gull, and another Marsh Harrier was great to see.

We then drove further south to Spurn Point and stopped at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust visitor centre. A loo and a brew were welcome here and some people managed cake too. We then walked down to “the narrows” where the sea has broken through the peninsula and cut off Spurn Point from the mainland. On the mudflats here there were lots of waders – gorgeous Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Curlew, Lapwings, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatchers – great selection for early July. Sand Martins were on the move along the peninsula moving north, no idea why! Five Mediterranean Gulls were seen including a very close look at a first-summer bird.

We enjoyed our lunch at the visitor centre, overlooking the canal scrape, where Little Egrets fed, and a Kestrel hovered over the bank. As we ate, we heard news of a Spoonbill at Kilnsea Wetlands. That was just where we had planned to go after lunch so what great timing! As we walked to the car, more news, a Temminck’s Stint had just been found at Kilnsea Wetlands, wow. We walked a little faster.

At Kilnsea Wetlands we walked towards the hide and a local birder, on a bike sped past saying “stint may be a Baird’s Sandpiper!” we walked a little faster. Arriving to join a small group of birders there was an excited buzz as it was thought the wader could well be a very rare Baird’s Sandpiper. After much discussion and looking at photographs of this tiny rather distant wader it was agreed by all that it was in fact a Temminck’s Stint – all be it a very odd looking one with mud covered legs! We are all always learning when it comes to birds that is for sure.

Much easier to identify was the young Eurasian Spoonbill also on the pool at Kilnsea and we enjoyed frame filling views at it fed in the shallow water. Also on the pool were Avocets, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, both Common and Little Ringed Plovers. A juvenile Yellow Wagtail landed on the bank of the pool where it was joined by a stunning canary yellow male Yellow Wagtail.

We then walked out the short distance to nearby Beacon Ponds where we watched the nesting Little Terns both over and on the beach. These tiny seabirds are so beautiful their yellow bills and white foreheads. We also enjoyed seeing a flock of 23 Little Gulls on the shoreline of the pond along with Sandwich and Common Terns. A smart adult Mediterranean Gull was resting on an island along with more Avocets. What a wonderful place Spurn is!

On the 6th of July we headed north from Buckton towards Scarborough and a large, forested area where a viewpoint overlooks a valley and the distant moors beyond. We spent the morning here scanning the sky for raptors and enjoying the forest birds around us. It is beautiful spot on a warm summer day complete with benches to relax on between sightings. Goshawks were stars of the show on this year’s visit here with three sightings of these powerful birds of prey. We also watched lots of Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel but sadly no Honey Buzzards on this visit. Common Crossbills showed off very well indeed allowing frame filling views through the telescopes. A Spotted Flycatcher was a lovely surprise seen on top of a pine at more or less eye-level – a first for 2023 for us all.

We enjoyed our lunch at a café on the edge of the forest and then drove the short distance to Filey Dams another Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve. This is a small reserve on the outskirts of Filey and has three hides overlooking a freshwater lake. Plenty to see here, and very close to the hides always nice. A Green Sandpiper was feeding at the edge of a reedbed and was joined by a Common Sandpiper – nice to compare the two species side by side. A pair of Avocets had one chick – so cute with its already upturned beak. We also enjoyed wonderful views of a Stock Dove perched in a dead tree, we liked this little reserve and will be back.

Puffin July 2017 3

Such a joy to share the fantastic seabird city at Bempton Cliffs here an Atlantic Puffin.

Late afternoon we again revisited the seabird city at RSPB Bempton Cliffs where we again marvelled at all the birds living out their breeding season on the huge cliffs. It was lovely to share views of the birds, particularly the Puffins, with other visitors. The views through the top of the range telescopes are mind-blowing and it was wonderful to see folks’ reactions to the superb views.

In the evening we drove to a restaurant for our dinner and had super views of a Cuckoo right by the lane we were driving along! A real wow moment and such a thrill to see a Cuckoo in July. Then on the way home we enjoyed lovely views of a Little Owl sat out in full view, another wow moment.

On the 7th of July we sadly said goodbye to our wonderful accommodation in Buckton – a lovely stay and we will be back. We then drove to RSPB Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve near Goole. It was great to catch up with our old friend Stuart who works at the site. We then visited three of the hides and enjoyed wonderful birds. Waders put on a great show including a lovely black Spotted Redshank, two Greenshank, six Green Sandpiper, beautiful Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings, Common Snipe and Curlew – a great selection and all very close. A male Bearded Tit put on a wonderful show hopping along the base of the reeds often in full view in the sunshine! The views of this so often difficult to see species were fantastic through the telescopes some of the best we have ever had! Also, at this great reserve we watched Marsh Harriers, a family of Pochard – our first of the trip – and Long-tailed Tits.

We enjoyed a really lovely lunch in nearby Howden before tackling the Friday afternoon traffic home. A really great Tour for Two – huge thanks to Sally and Alison for their lovely company, it was a real pleasure, and we hope to see you both again soon.

Alison commented “You are great hosts and make a birdwatching trip so much more than just that.

Thank you both for your excellent organisation and planning that make your trips run so smoothly and your encyclopaedic knowledge of the world of birds that makes each outing so interesting. It was lovely to have time to observe all the birds at Bempton and amazing to see so many different species as we travelled around, the bearded tit yesterday was a highlight but then as I think back so were several others that we saw. I have yet to view my photos on the computer, that may have to wait for a rainy day! The food was great too, thank you for finding so many good eateries for us.

I am looking forward to going to Norfolk with you in October 2024 but hope that I will be able to see you again before then.”

Sally commented “Thanks for all your patience, sharing of knowledge, your good humour and generosity of spirit and support to others too all week , and trust you have a relaxing couple of days before your next trips.

I would love to join you in Norfolk next year, so if you still have availability for trip, could you let me have details please? If not, please put me on any waiting lists that come up if possible!”

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