A seabird that is so rare in the Northern Hemisphere there are only thought to be two recent examples recorded in Western Europe appears to have made its summer home at Bempton cliffs.
The Black-browed Albatross was spotted last year for several days from the cliffs at Bempton and caused huge excitement amongst birdwatchers and also nature lovers throughout the country.
But this year, the huge seabird seems to have made the seas around Bempton cliffs its home, and tens of thousands of twitchers and members of the public have flocked to the RSPB Reserve to witness the amazing animal.
Mark Thomas, who is an expert on birds and is often seen around the cliffs recording bird numbers and ringing them for research was about to complete his book – Birds of Buckton – when the Albatross arrived.
“This is by far the best bird I have seen in 30 years of birdwatching.” enthused Mark.
“Seeing it effortlessly cruise along the cliffs will live with me forever, especially so at Buckton where I have spent thousands of hours watching birds.
“The bird has brought enormous amounts of joy to the British birdwatching scene and I hastily added a page to my book prior to it going to print.” Mark explained.
“In recent years up to two individuals have been recorded in Western Europe, with one bird – an adult – summering on coastal lagoons on the island of Sylt, Germany, when it was often seen loafing in company with Mute Swans.”
“Both of these individuals have made occasional forays over the North Sea and turned up for often very short visits to RSPB Bempton Cliffs Reserve in 2016 (an immature bird), 2017 and 2020.” added Mark.
The brief sightings have tantalised birders – with most observers arriving too late. This all changed in July 2021 – when presumably the same adult as in 2017 and 2020 – was seen and photographed off Flamborough Head.
“News was broadcast late that evening, but by dawn hopeful birders began searching and successfully located the bird off Staple Newk at RSPB Bempton Cliffs.
“It remained there all day, putting on quite a show and delighting the masses. In the afternoon it flew NW along the cliff face and into the Buckton recording area, where it sat on the sea for over four hours before flying back to RSPB Bempton Cliffs to roost. It was again present at the reserve the next day before vanishing for a few days – returning again between 4th – 6th July. A truly remarkable event witnessed by large numbers of delighted birders, tourists and locals.” added Mark.
Regular RSPB visitor Roger Darvell has proved that patience pays off after he photographed breathtaking close-up images of the seabird.
“I was at the Staple Newk viewpoint when the bird landed close by for about 2 minutes.
I’m usually quite unlucky when it comes to being in the right place at the right time.” explained Roger.
Maria Prchlik, the Bempton based Communications Officer for the RSPB, said: “Obviously once the news got out, birders from far and wide headed to the reserve in their hundreds. We’ve not spoken with every visitor but, according to the Welcome Team, we definitely had folk from as far away as Plymouth and Brighton make the trip.
“There was also a tweet that suggested Bill Oddie had been to see the bird.
“Everyone who saw it sensed the specialness of the moment. Being there to witness this spectacular ocean wanderer glide past the cliffs had a profound effect on people, even bringing some to tears. One volunteer reported the bird ‘bombed’ those standing on our Staple Newk viewpoint and described it as simply unforgettable.” continued Maria.
“Who knows how long this will continue. But we’ll enjoy every minute while we can.” added Maria.
BBC Countryfile were also filming at RSPB Bempton when the Albatross was in the area – causing much excitement for the presenters and crew. The show, which was broadcast on 18th July, showed Bempton and Flamborough at their very best, with stunning film of the scenery and wildlife despite the weather being damp and misty.
Local nature enthusiast Kevin Groocock who writes for his daily blog and website the Bempton Birder (www.rugbybirder.blogspot.com) was also delighted after he captured the Albatross on camera.
“I was thrilled to finally see and capture some close images of this amazing bird. It’s size just makes you think WOW! It is a magnificent sight as it glides past you at eye level or low over your head. However, seeing an Albatross in the northern hemisphere is tinged with sadness in the knowledge that is a lost bird and may never regain its normal life or habitat in the southern hemisphere.”