Long time…

Been so long since I last got out birdin’ that I’m struggling to remember which end of my binolikars to peer through.

In a way this was quite helpful today as I had a look offshore from Ainsdale for an hour at lunchtime, lured out by the drizzle and brisk force 4 W/SWly.

Everything was distant – just like looking through the wrong end of my bins.

A meagre high tide was a good two hours off, but it was pleasant enough scanning the waves and murky horizon, my mind wandering further south and west, west, west.

15 Manx Shearwaters went through south, mostly at long range and in small pulses, the largest group featuring six birds.

About 200 Common Scoter were playing hide and seek in the swell, and the waves probably concealed more of them as they rode out the Irish Sea rollercoaster in the shallows.

Numbers usually start to build up again from July.

Quiet otherwise though, and no sign of any Sandwich Terns, suggesting recent reports from Hightown do indeed appear to indicate the late summer roost has relocated to the north bank of the Alt.

On the upside hirundines are beginning to gather around the office again (absent in today’s high winds though), with 30+ Swallows and one or two Sand Martins perching up on the buildings and wires in the last week or so.

This late summer gathering didn’t happen in 2019 or 2020 and I have hopes they may tempt a marauding Hobby, which has happened a few times in years past.

No Hobbys yet though, but the Kestrels are conspicuous, gorging on summer invertebrates on the frontal dunes.

This young male was perched up on Toad Hall for a few minutes yesterday – intrigued to see it was a ringed bird.

No threat to the hirundines of course, but the long-staying albino Starling looked a tad nervous.

Local or a summer wanderer? The bracelet looked shiny and new – any thoughts from anyone in the SWLRG?

Taking the rays

At first this Swallow appeared to be sunbathing on the office roof at Ainsdale a few days ago – in fact it was doing precisely the opposite, as it fluffed up in a bid to cool down, tilting over on the hot felt.

One of the breeding pair which arrived late this year but got down to business fast, they often perch outside my window, and in this instance roll to fluff up and presumably regulate their temperature – funny I never thought of Swallows getting too hot before…

Fledged youngsters already, with another brood on the way, it was a relief to see them back after they last bred in 2018.

YouTube clippage of a “sunbathing” adult here.

….and three cheers for the albatross as it flew back onto the cliffs at Bempton again today!!!

Well, why wouldn’t you go back?

Another early start east for my second visit to Bempton’s Black Browed Albatross, which was hidden in a fold of the cliffs when I arrived this morning, but mercifully took to the skies again an hour or so later.

Magnificent – aerial alchemy as it circled the cliff face around Staple Newk beneath me, soaring over the arch and wheeling back in to repeatedly drop its big splitty splatty pink feet like a 747 lowering its landing gear as it comes in – but Gannet Air Traffic Control was having none of it, and the poor beast kept having to swing back out inshore before sweeping around to the cliffs again…

The albatross sliced through the skies with barely a movement of its wings, a giant amongst the blizzard of Bempton’s summer residents.

After a spell resting offshore it finally managed to find a space on the crowded ledges and began pulling up vegetation and moving around earth with that dirty great bill – I hope it made itself comfortable.

I left it rooting about on the ledge and headed out.

Will I be back again? You bet your sweet ass I will – what a bird!!!

Motored down the coast to Easington, where on a warming afternoon after the morning showers at Bempton, I threw myself on the kindness of strangers and scrounged a Swaroful of the meena Oriental Turtle Dove from a back bedroom window.

The dove looked like it was going to explode from a surfeit of seed – but when you’re a mega rare you’re allowed to indulge in gluttony I guess.

Flight – or at least take-off – appeared that it may pose an issue.

I’ve seen orientalis Oriental Turtle Dove in the UK before, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of insurance in case the races ever get split (and memories of that bird are more of a blur than my “through the window” shot of today’s critter above).