“I’m a birder, not a twitcher. They’re different things.” I always tell people when they call me a twitcher. However that has now changed, well slightly. On Monday I went on my first ever “twitch” to see the Desert Wheatear at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Although I wonder if you can still call it a twitch seen as it’s been there for nearly two months now.
I arrived in Bempton around quarter to eleven, the walk up to the reserve normally takes around 25 to 30 minutes. When I got to the reserve I checked the board to see what else had been around. Four harbour porpoises bad been seen off the cliffs. I headed to the area where the Desert Wheatear was usually showing and managed to see my first for the years of gannets, guillemots and shags. Another first for the year was fulmars, I really like fulmars yet have a hard time picking them out during the busy summer months at Bempton. However this time they nearly had the cliffs to themselves so was easy to pick them out and made me feel foolish for not finding it easier to see them in previous years. I saw something in the water popping up and down, at first I thought it was the shags however on closer inspection it was a cetacean, I didn’t know what a harbour porpoise looked like at the time but as they’d been seen I was willing to bet it was one of those. I’ve now got small Collins book on Whales and Dolphins and can confirm it was one, not a dog in a wetsuit as some suggested…
There were a few other people stood around in groups at various points among the cliffs waiting for the wheatear to appear. Eventually it came out and a group spotted him. They signaled that it had popped up and like dirty twitchers we all picked up our gear and hurried along to the spot. The Desert Wheatear popped off a fence to the ground and quite happily hopped along feeding on the ground, really showing itself off. It got so close you could have got some really good pictures if you had a camera. (I didn’t but pinkcuckoos did when she went) It must have come within two feet of one lucky couple. Excellent bird and well worth the train fare. Whilst we were all drooling over this tiny bird a kestrel hovered above the cliff edge in a desperate plea for attention. Sadly apart from me, nobody gave him any.
Checking the train times I could make the next train after a quick visit to the feeding station to finally get a greenfinch for the year. I got off at Bridlington and decided to see if I could see any Purple Sandpiper. Headed to the harbour area and walked on the beach. Trudging slowly over wet sand I checked to see if anything good had been washed up on the beach, apart from a shells of razor clams (some in great condition), plenty of mussels [ED: a bit like this blog’s author ;-)] and bits of crab there wasn’t much. Sadly there was lots of bits of plastic, which reminded me that I need to get on with going to a beach clean. I did remove some broken fishing line from the beach though, like a hero! Running around the beach were various gulls, turnstones and oyster catchers. In fact there was so many turnstones I practically tripped over and squashed along as I headed to where the beach meets the harbour wall to see if there were any Pursanders (Purple Sandpipers) about. There was!!! Along with a knot! I took a picture but I don’t think you can see anything. (Sorry about the photo quality uploaded them off my phone on to wordpress and it’s compressed them)
After watching waders for a bit I decided to go and look what was about in the harbour. More pursanders on the mud along with two dunlin, a barnacle goose of dubious origin and this little beggar
Notice it only has one foot! I think it’s a bit of a celebrity in Bridlington and is quite tame. It obviously gets fed by visitors as when I put my hand into my pocket and made a rustling sound it looked at me all interested. I was worried I didn’t have any food to give it at first, then I remembered I’d bought some sausage rolls from Bempton’s village shop and still had the bag in my pocket. I emptied the crumbs onto the wall and he soon came to eat.
After feeding Terry the Turnstone I walked along the north beach past empty rides and amusements. I really do like beaches and sea fronts in the winter. With nothing about I decided to head off to catch the train home. I’ve boosted my year list to 68. It was 45 at this point last year so doing a bit better but got some early seabirds. Collected two lifers (Knot and Desert Wheatear), fed a turnstone and went on my first twitch. Not a bad day.