Yorkshire Tour For Two With Totally Unexpected Birds 5 to 9 July 2021

We never ever dreampt that we would see a Black-browed Albatross on our Yorkshire Tour for Two!

We have done many wonderful Birdwatching Trips with Barry and Wendy so we were looking forward to another in Yorkshire this time one of our Tours for Two so just the four of us. We had arranged to meet at RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the first day around lunch time but plans changed! Amazingly a Black-browed Albatross had been seen on and off the last few days at RSPB Bempton Cliffs just a mile from where we were staying so a re-think on the meeting place was quickly done.

Puffin July 2017 2

For once for the Atlantic Puffins were not THE stars of the show at RSPB Bempton Cliffs - close second though.

We arrived late morning at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and the car park, overflow car park and over over-flow car park where all just about full but thanks to RSPB volunteers martialling the parking we soon found a space. Grabbing binoculars, scopes and camera we headed for the cliffs, we agreed with Barry and Wendy we would see them along the cliffs looking for the Albatross rather than hang around waiting for which ever couple arrived second. We could see a group of birders all looking in the same direction and hurried to join them. Now is there anyone we know in this crowd? Yes! Wendy was right in front of us and Barry had a prime spot with telescope set up and even better was watching the Black-browed Albatross! Panic as we scrambled to look in Barry’s scope and yes there was a magnificent Black-browed Albatross amongst the hundreds of Northern Gannets on the cliff – a dream start to our Tour for Two in Yorkshire! Now we could relax and soak up the views of this giant out of place seabird which should be in the southern hemisphere what a fantastic rarity and a new bird for Barry and Wendy who have seen a huge number of birds in the UK. Then the Albatross launched itself into the air and became a very different bird indeed, from a huge black and white lump with an enormous beak it became a graceful seabird master of the air in effortless flight! Jaw-dropping to witness this on a sea-cliff in Yorkshire in the sunshine and the first bird we had really looked at on the Tour for Two! The bird did a few slow circuits of the bay below the cliff it had been on and slowly moved off north past us allowing plenty of time to enjoy this chance of a lifetime moment, just awesome.

Bempton Cliffs view arch 1

Barely able to believe what we had just seen we headed back to the cars for our picnic lunch – good timing as it poured down soon after we reached the car park. Food eaten and rain stopped we walked back to the cliffs to enjoy the rest of the fantastic seabirds and stunning scenery RSPB Bempton Cliffs has to offer. Thousands of Gannets breed here and the views are nothing short of spectacular the birds are so close. Lots of Atlantic Puffins here too along with Common Guillemots, Razorbills, Northern Fulmars, Black-legged Kittiwakes all showing off along the cliffs and making a fantastic sound scape - just wonderful.

We then took a very short drive down to Flamborough Head and watched more seabirds including additions of Eurasian Shag and a flock of Common Scoter flying north. Looking out from the headland it was a bird motorway offshore thousands of auks, Gannets and Kittiwakes pouring past at high speed to and fro from the nesting colonies at Bempton. Some of the birds were stopping to feed in feeding frenzies over the water with the Gannets plunging in like giant darts to grab fish just so exciting to watch. Both Rock and Meadow Pipits were feeding along the cliff top and Atlantic grey seals bobbed about in the water below. In the evening we enjoyed a lovely meal and relived the amazing birds we had enjoyed what a start to our Yorkshire Tour for Two.

On the 6th July we were, amazingly, again off in search of a very special bird indeed – Western Rufous Turtle Dove – a very rare vagrant from Asia. This beautiful bird, very similar to our own European Turtle Dove, had been seen in gardens at Kilnsea, north of Spurn Point.

On the way south towards Kilnsea from Bempton we stopped off at Hornsea Mere where there plenty of birds and we really boosted the trip list with ducks, geese and grebes. A lovely surprise was a first-summer Little Gull feeding over the lake along with some Common Terns. A Common Sandpiper flew in but there was very little edge for waders here. Just as we were leaving a stunning Barn Owl floated over the fields in the warm sunshine – what a fantastic bird.

A very special bird indeed to see in a back garden and a new one for all of us in the UK.

We continued on towards Kilnsea not far but a very slow twisty road and eventually arrived and parked in the town square. We could see other birders walking back towards us but the news was not good the bird had shown recently but had flown off and lost to view. Oh no! We cursed the fact we had made that stop at Hornsea Mere. We looked around the area but no sign and worse still there was no public access on this day to the garden where the bird had been seen recently as on other days previously. In the garden of the house next to the one where the Western Rufous Turtle Dove had been seen a lady was tending her flower beds and we got chatting about flowers not birds! But she then asked if we had seen the dove and we related our tale of woe and she immediately invited us into her back garden where she thought we might be able to see the rarity, how lovely. Well the view from this garden was so much better than from the road in front of the houses but still no dove to be seen. We waited heart leaping every time a Collared Dove flew in but no sign of the bird. Then out of nowhere it was there! Western Rufous Turtle Dove showing right out in the open on a bare branch and we punched the air with delight! We really thought we might have missed this fantastic rarity and here it was posing for us just fantastic and following so close behind the Black-browed Albatross. Through the scopes we could see every tiny feather detail of this so beautiful rarity and we thanked the lady so much and made a good donation to Spurn Bird Observatory. Another amazing day and we hadn’t even had lunch yet!

Little Gull 2016 1

Adult Little Gulls are such wonderful birds in breeding plumage.

A short drive took us to Spurn just south of Kilnsea and we parked at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust visitor centre. The centre overlooks the adjacent Humber Estuary and we added a good number of waders to our fantastic trip list. Birds on the estuary included Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, both Grey and Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot. We walked a little way south seeing Little Gulls and Common Scoter over the North Sea but we were sent hurrying back to the car by a very heavy rain shower. We ate our packed lunches in the car and by the time we finished the rain had stopped and the sun was back out. Now at Kilnsea Wetlands we soon enjoyed amazing looks at an Eurasian Spoonbill very close to the hide along with superb views of Little Gulls both on and over the pools here – mostly stunning adults in beautiful breeding plumage. A Mediterranean Gull here too along with Black-tailed Godwits, Common Sandpiper and Yellow Wagtails what a super little man made wetland. A short walk took us to Beacon Ponds where more waders with a flock of Dunlin, most in breeding plumage, Common Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers and a stunning full breeding plumaged Red Knot actually looking red! Also wonderful to see here was the breeding colony of Little Terns such rare birds in the UK now due to disturbance of their beach breeding sites.

Tree Sparrow Bempton 1

So lovely to see Tree Sparrows a species we don't usually see in North Wales.

On the 7th of July we went to RSPB Blacktoft Sands where we had planned to start this Tour for Two before the wonderful Albatross intervened and changed all that. As always lots to see at this great site on the south bank of the River Humber – Tree Sparrows were in the car park always lovely to see, lots of Marsh Harriers including recently fledged juveniles and two Barn Owls were visible in a nest-box. From the first hide we visited we watched six Green Sandpipers feeding in the shallow water along with Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets and had superb views of Bearded Tits feeding at the base of the reeds often out in full view – just fantastic. Another hide produced a really long look at a Bittern in flight as it flapped over the huge reed-bed just amazing to see. A female Pochard with five young was lovely to see as these are rare breeding birds here in the UK. We enjoyed a really delicious café lunch in nearby Howden before a short drive to North Cave Wetlands Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve a huge area of reclaimed gravel pits giving hope for the future. The reserve always has plenty of birds and we watched Avocets with young, beautiful breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, Common and Green Sandpipers and more. Some torrential showers slowed the birding somewhat and we were very glad the reserve had hides to shelter in. Two Marsh Harriers hunted over the reeds as we made our way back to the car park and then back north towards Bempton.

On the 8th of July we had a complete change of habitat visiting two areas in North Yorkshire first a forested area then moorland. Walking through the forest we quickly added new species for the Tour for Two with Coal Tits and Goldcrests and then the forest opened up to reveal a fantastic view across valleys and more woodland what a brilliant spot. This area is great for looking for raptors but does require patience so we came prepared with camping chairs, drinks and snacks. We scanned the huge vista before us and it wasn’t long before a Goshawk soared into view allowing prolonged looks at this most impressive bird of prey. Then a long spell with no raptors at all – most unusual for this site on previous visits we have been kept busy with birds up most of the time all be it mostly Common Buzzards. There were of course other birds to see including Common Crossbills, Bullfinches, Siskins and Willow Warblers all new for the trip list. Then Wendy picked out a second Goshawk that stayed in view for ages and we all enjoyed great views but still very few Common Buzzards and not a single hoped for Honey Buzzard. We called it a day and enjoyed a lovely pub lunch just down the road.

In the afternoon we drove a little further north onto the North York Moors sadly much of this area is given over to the evil so called sport of Driven Grouse Shooting so very few birds of prey here sadly despite vast areas of suitable habitat. But we did see lots of Red Grouse including plenty of juvenile birds but rather sad to know many will be slaughtered on the 12th of August when the grouse shooting season begins what a waste of beautiful birds. We did enjoy hearing Skylarks singing overhead and a Whinchat was a great addition to the trip list as were three Common Snipe flying up from next to a footpath across a moor. It was certainly great to see different habitats and landscapes on this Tour for Two and what a varied list of birds we enjoyed a total of 120 species.

On the morning of the 9th July we all enjoyed breakfast together and then Barry and Wendy headed for home as they had a lot on and were keen to avoid the Friday afternoon traffic jams. Huge thanks to Barry and Wendy for their wonderful company on this custom tour for two. We would love to put together a perfect custom Tour for Two anywhere you would like to enjoy great birds and wildlife. We have run our popular Tours for Two in the UK to North Wales, Norfolk, Suffolk, Somerset, Yorkshire, Isle of Mull and overseas including Borneo so if you have an idea for a custom Tour for Two do just drop us a line and we can do the rest!

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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