Thursday, 15 July 2021

Black Browed Albatross at Bempton

 Albatrosses have been regularly in the UK for most of my lifetime but have always been very tricky to connect with. The most reliable, a Black Browed appeared most years in a Gannetry until the early 90's and it or another was seen intermittently thereafter for many years. Since 2017, when one appeared on the cliffs at RSPB Bempton for a month or so and subsequently around Heligoland and Sylt it has been easier for European birders to see, though not always relaible in it's appearances.

There were reports earlier this year that the regular bird had been attacked and presumably killed by White Tailed Eagles so it looked like it was game over for the foreseeable future. So it was a bit of a surprise when one (presumably the same bird) had reappeared at Bempton at the end of June.

Like last time it seemed to linger among the Gannets but wasn't seen every day. It seemed to spend a few days away from the cliffs, presumably feeding and then return for a while, and as a result a lot of people had to make several trips to see it. The best advice was to wait until it had returned, and if it was still present at sunset, to get there for first light the next day (mind you that was also the case with the Lizard Brown Booby two years ago, and we dipped). My problem of course was that I am only free on Sundays making it extra tricky, but Colin called as he had a couple of days free. As it returned Tuesday evening we went for it.

Colin arrived Wednesday morning (barely) and we left shortly before 1am and arrived at Bempton around 0430. There were already a lot of cars in the car park, it was starting to get light and it was also cold, windy and misty. It was only a short walk to the viewpoint accompanied by the noise of the Gannets, Kittiwakes and auks, and the small group had the Albatross in view in their scopes so it wasn't hard to get views ourselves. Unfortunately it was some way off on the cliff edge, and with the poor light difficult to photograph well, but it was always on view for the three hours I was there (Colin spent some time in the car resting). Most of the time it was shuffling around in its favoured spot, occasionally bickering with nearby Gannets, but for a few amazing minutes it was in flight dwarfing everything around it.

It was wonderful to see the large numbers of Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Kittiwakes as well, and I did spend a lot of the three hours just scanning below and around me enjoying the experience. Shortly after 0730, I phoned work, told them I wouldn't be in and returned to the car for something to eat and drink.

We stopped off at Kilnsea near Spurn and spent some time at the wetlands, Beacon ponds and the village. There were a few decent year-ticks to be had-Spoonbill, Scaup and Little Terns being the most notable, but the Rose Coloured Starling was presumably hiding in one of the gardens out of view.

A final rest stop was around an hour at the south end of Rutland Water. Here it was warm and sunny, with plenty of butterflies and dragonflies flying. The female Osprey was sitting by the nest, the juveniles having fledged and I eventually located the male bird hunting over a more distant bay. Otherwise it was a bit quiet, I had hoped there would be a bit of mud around with some waders,though there were a few Curlew and Redshank-which the female Osprey took exception to, flying around. It would have been nice to have explored other parts of the reserve, but it had been a very long day and we were shattered.

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