July 2021

As I was overnighting in Darlington on the final day of June I decided as I was nearly half way to Bempton that one journey to see a bird wouldn’t be the end of the world. Only one flight in three years and a big reduction in car miles staying local but the Black-browed Albatross has a certain desirability. So despite the crowds, which I largely avoided, I headed down for a couple of hours. It’s an utterly surreal experience watching an Albatross hanging in the wind before surging across the skies with barely a wingbeat through a Gannet and Auk-filled seascape. I may never see one again but the sheer majesty of this bird’s aura will live long in the memory.

The following day working out of Darlington a Fea’s-type Petrel was picked up at Flamborough in the morning and I thought here we go again another was going to slip by and missed off Newbiggin as others have done in the past due to work or family committments. However this individual seemed to be on a go-slow in the morning and as the day progressed and it was tracked up the East Coast there appeared to be a good chance I could finish at 15:00 and get back up in good time to be in with a shout. In the event this turned out to be extremely fortunate as there’s little doubt that this bird was actually a Soft-plumaged Petrel – the first ever for Britain if accepted by BOURC/BBRC albeit identified from images immediately after the event. I’ve written a few words about how the day panned out here and here’s a heavy crop of how it appeared in my 400m lens as it glided past in all it’s full breast-banded glory (proper record shot stuff).

Thursday 8th I caught up with the itinerant female Ruddy Shelduck at Castle Island, a ginger sleeping blob on the edge of the island. A couple of days later a hike into the Cheviot foothills produced two juvenile Common Goldeneye on a small upland pool, whether dispersed from a nearby breeding site or a new site entirely remains unknown. A short visit to Newbiggin on 13th was uneventful with just a Whimbrel and 9 Mediterranean Gulls of note.

It was 22nd before I was back in the field with another sortie to Castle Island, the Ruddy Shelduck remained as did the summering Mandarin but best bird of the late afternoon visit was an adult Yellow-legged Gull at the east end of the island amongst 400 Herring/LBBG.

A quick stop at Cooper’s Kennel Flash on 23rd revealed a single Green Sandpiper on a rapidly drying flash. A summering Pink-footed Goose was nearby at Bothal Pond.

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