I haven’t had a holiday as such since my long weekend in North Norfolk back in January 2009 with some of the crew of UK Bird Photographers.net, but because – what with the iredeemably contrary weather up here and a lack of the birds I want to shoot – I’ve decided that I deserve (need!) a week away.
To that end (don’t laugh!) I’ve booked a hotel – the Mont Millais – in Bridlington!
I know, I know – I’d be better off bringing a bucket and spade than a camera – but here’s the thing: Bridlington Bay is a very big, very long stretch of beach, and it must be possible to find a quiet spot somewhere with a few waders on it.
I’m not after Serengeti-like hoards of birds like you sometimes encounter at Titchwell (although hand on heart, the day I spent lying on my belly at “Titch” while hundreds and hundreds of Knot casually strolled up to me and around me as if I wasn’t there, was one of the best bird photography days of my life and I’d love to do that again), but I’ve never really cracked that clean, uncluttered bird’s-eye-level wader image I love so much.
My local beaches aren’t flat enough or clean enough (seaweed and coal dust!) for this shot to work – I’ve come close before, but not quite – and I can’t believe that somewhere in the miles and miles of sand south of Bridlington I can’t find a spot with a few confiding Turnstones, Sanderling, Dunlin or Knot and no people or dogs...
But the thing about Bridlington is that Flamborough Head is just around the corner, Bempton is seven minutes up the railway track, and Filey is only about another fifteen minutes further.
I know that I’ll have missed the breeding birds at Bempton, but it’s still a great place to do the kind of wandering about with a camera I enjoy so much, and there might still be a few Gannets about, which will do nicely.
Besides, there are resident Tree Sparrows and – being where it is – the chance of pretty much anything else fetching up. I really enjoy that “strolling from bush to bush” approach (that’s the birder in me!) and Bempton lends itself very nicely to that.
Flamborough Head is of course, a magnet for birds and for birders/photographers. I’ll be honest and say that the winds next week don’t look ideal for blowing in rarities, but again, you never know. Flamborough has a wide variety of habitats too, so there may well be Short Eared Owls about, along with birds of prey like Marsh Harriers, Peregrine Falcons and whatnot – all of which I saw on my last trip to Flamborough. Even if I can’t photograph ‘em, I’ll enjoy seeing ‘em.
I’ll certainly visit Filey too, because the Brigg is usually pretty reliable for waders. A pal of mine, Marcus Conway – E-Birder – has taken some stunning pictures of Knot on the Brigg, and I aspire to emulating them. Filey is another spot where anything can blow in on an easterly, so – who knows? – I might even get my Wryneck next week!
I’d also thought about booking a place on the Yorkshire Belle RSPB boat trip from Bridlington while I was down there. Typically though, I’m travelling down the day after one of the scheduled trips, and travelling back on the same day as the next!
Maybe there are other trips out of the harbour though – I’ll check that out when I get there.
Just inland from Bridlington there are ponds, country parks and the like, which will offer more options should I get bored with the seaside. There’s even an Owl Sanctuary – although I’d have to be pretty desperate to opt for that..!
All in all it should be a pleasant few days – the weather’s looking good (apart from showers on Thursday) and I need the break, really.
So – watch this space. With a bit of luck I’ll actually have some images worth posting in a few days.