Trip reports

Yorkshire Trip 13th - 16th June 2015

Puffin with sandeels in beak

Monday, 22 June 2015

Day One
After a year of planning the date of our much awaited trip to Yorkshire had finally arrived.
It was a dry start to our drive to our first destination, RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the River Humber. However rain quickly started to fall and there were fears that we would have a wet start to our Yorkshire Break. As we approached RSPB Blacktoft Sands the rains started to abate. Our visit had been eagerly awaited as the recent sightings page on their website had indicated that a pair of Montagu's Harriers had nested there and had been seen daily. Hopes were raised that we might be fortunate enough to see this rare bird. We were soon based in a hide from which we were assured that we would be able to see the harrier and we were not disappointed. Really good views were seen with the assistance of one of the members of staff who spent her time pointing out the bird. For the majority of the 40 members it was a life tick. What a start to the holiday!
Further highlights of this visit were marsh harriers performing their food- pass in flight and a barn owl quartering over the fields. In total 60 species of birds were recorded by the group. The question was would the other venues be able to match this? From here we had an hour's drive to our hotel in Wetherby which was to be our base for the next three nights. Some of our group left the hotel to have a look around Wetherby and returned with tales of kingfisher, goosander, grey wagtail and house martins just five minutes walk away by the bridge that crossed the River Wharfe. This bridge became a popular venue for early morning and evening walks for people trying to get more birds for their list and also became a draw for the Bat enthusiasts in the group who were not disappointed.
Day Two
After a journey of an hour we arrived at RSPB Salthome a new venue for most people. However the weather was not kind as there was drizzle in the air and a large drop in temperature from the previous day meant that it felt really cold .This venue is a green oasis as it is surrounded by old industrial areas. Our arrival caused a bit of a stir as due to a typing error they were expecting us on June 14th 2016. However the staff reacted brilliantly and we were soon ushered into a room where we were given a brief talk about the reserve and two volunteers offered their services and led the party on a two hour walk around the reserve.
After our visit we drove a short distance to Seal Sands where we saw harbour seals resting on the sands as well as a number of additional birds. On our walk back to the coach we crossed water which was so clear that we could see an eel moving about on the sandy bottom. This led to Tony Banks serenading those within earshot with a song about jellied eels to which Gill Page responded by serenading him with a song about worms. In total the group saw 68 varieties of birds at the two venues. Everyone agreed that RSPB Salthome was a special reserve and one that everyone should visit if they had the chance.
Day Three
The venues for today were probably the most eagerly anticipated as we were visiting RSPB Bempton and Flambrough Head (North Landing)
Our journey to Bempton was almost uneventful apart from the coach struggling to get up a very long steep hill which got longer and steeper as we travelled along it. Len our driver blamed it on the hearty breakfasts that everyone had been enjoying at the hotel. Even though it was Monday RSPB Bempton was extremely busy with many people on the viewing platforms. However views of one of our target birds, the iconic puffin were soon had by all. Some were also fortunate to have excellent views of a puffling. Bempton provided us with not only spectacular views of seabirds such as gannet, razorbill, guillemot, kittiwake and fulmars flying but also dramatic views of cliff faces full of birds and scenic views of the bays toward both Filey and Flamborough.
After lunching at Bempton we made the short coach journey to our next destination Flamborough Head North Landing. It was almost deserted compared with RSPB Bempton and this freedom of space allowed us to have even better views and probably more numerous views of the Puffin.
Walking along the cliff tops we had close viewings of yellowhammer, meadow pipit, skylark, linnet and a fly pass by a peregrine falcon. One of our target birds at Flamborough was the shag. It had been elusive until it was finally spotted when a female member of our group made an unfortunate statement. I will leave it to your imagination, but there was much laughter. In total the group saw 45 species of bird which included many life time ticks for some members.
Day Four
Our final day! After loading the coach we set off to drive to RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor. As with all our venues we were made to feel welcome. We asked where the bullfinch could be seen one of our target birds of the day. We were shown the window behind the receptionist and there on the feeders straight away was the bird. We were also entertained by a rat which showed its dexterity by climbing up and into a feeder and proceeding to eat the seed provided for the birds. This day was proving to be the hottest of the trip and coat and jackets were removed . There was a piece of exciting news that a gull billed tern had been sighted from one of the many hides. Several members of the group rushed to the hide to try and see it but by the time they arrived it had moved off again. In all 51 species of bird were recorded
Opinion was divided whether the Montagu's Harrier or the Puffin had been the "Bird of the Holiday" as people were torn between the rarity of the harrier and the popular appeal of the puffin. Forty people started this holiday as mainly strangers but finished as good friends and asked where are we going next year. Watch this space and keep looking on the website
In all 98 different species of birds were recorded on the holiday:
Little grebe, great crested grebe, fulmar, gannet, cormorant, shag, little egret, grey heron, mute swan, greylag goose, Canada goose, shelduck, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, shoveler, pochard, tufted duck, goosander, red kite, marsh harrier, montagu's harrier, sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, hobby, peregrine, pheasant, water rail, moorhen, coot, oystercatcher, avocet, ringed plover, grey plover, lapwing, black tailed godwit, whimbrel, curlew, redshank, common sandpiper, little gull, black headed gull, lesser black backed gull, herring gull, great black backed gull, kittiwake, sandwich tern, common tern, guillemot, razorbill, puffin, rock dove, stock dove, woodpigeon, collared dove, barn owl, swift, kingfisher, skylark, sand martin. House martin, meadow pipit, grey wagtail, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, stonechat, blackbird, song thrush, Cetti's warbler, sedge warbler, reed warbler, whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, bearded tit, willow tit, blue tit, great tit, magpie, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, linnet, bullfinch, yellowhammer, reed bunting.
Stuart Banks