Got up, dropped Rachel off at work, and then drove down to Bempton. My reason for going to Bempton was simple, it was only just daybreak, and Bempton was the closest place I knew that was retaining its Short-Eared Owls. Here at Scarborough we’ve had plenty turn up, but they disappear inland pretty sharpish.
I got to Bempton just after sun-up, and walked past the visitors centre, which was closed, and immediately saw a Short-Eared Owl hunting over the longer grass behind the building. Unfortunately, with the sun just peeking above the horizon behind it, it was impossible to get any pictures or footage, so I just enjoyed it. After ten minutes or so, the owl dropped into the corner of the field nearest the cliff and just disappeared. I never saw it again.
I went for a walk along the cliffs, spotting Great Black Backed Gulls and Herring Gulls flying just below me. Large flocks of Rock Doves/ Feral Pigeons kept flying out from the cliff, but, though I looked for Peregrine, I could see no reason for them to have done so. As I was walking along, I scared a bird up from the path in front of me. Unfortunately it was about eight metres ahead and the sun was behind it, so I couldn’t get an ID on it. It promptly dropped over the cliff and was lost from view.
After an hour or so I head back to the car park, thinking that I could stop off at Filey on the way back. I was halted, however, when I noticed the sightings board which I had ignored earlier. DESERT WHAETEAR it said, in letters of drywipe ink. It was dated yesterday. I hadn’t checked the Rare Bird Map for a few days, and so had no idea that the bird was here. Immediately I began to think of the bird that I had scared up from the path. It would be Wheatear-type behaviour to favour the barer ground of the path rather than the longer grass either side. I decided to head back down to the cliff path.
After another hour, I had seen nothing of interest. More birdwatchers had turned up in decent numbers, all hoping to to see the bird. The wind was pretty strong, and was heading south-east. After another hour people were muttering that it could easily have hitched a lift with the wind and be long-gone by now. People started to trail away back up the path. Just then, my keen eyes spotted a passerine come up from over the cliff and drop in the stubble next to the path, about twenty metres up. I ran up towards it, telling the birders I went past that I had seen something and pointing out the rough area. Just then, the bird popped up again, and another birder got on it this time as well. As we got close it became apparent that this bird was the Desert Wheatear, and a stunning male in pretty much summer plumage at that. After a few minutes of watching it flew onto the fence at the side of the path, then off across the stubble. I was commended on my sharp eyes by two other birders, and awarded with a cup of tea at the visitor’s centre.
On the way back to Scarborough I saw a Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels cross the road, as well as a flock of geese near Flower of May. I pulled over and scoped the pond from my car, spotting a single Greylag Goose, a flock of Canada Geese, two Barnacle Geese, and at least twenty White-Fronted Geese. Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all.
Some of you might wonder where I was, with my nice non-italicised text. Not looking at a dirty twitchers bird is where. Although it is a sexy bird. Therefore I hate James. Plus he saw herring gull. The lucky bastard.