East Yorkshire

Posted on 6 September 2010, 22:05

Well I enjoyed that..!

Bridlington was always really just going to be a jumping-off spot for visits to other venues, but I have to admit that I quite liked the town itself. Yes, it’s literally a place of donkey rides on the beach, fairgrounds, and sticks of rock at every turn, but the beach itself went on forever – and without dogs – and even though there were plenty of holiday-makers about it was still possible to find the odd bird to point the camera at, mainly Turnstones of course, but also the odd Knot and Purple Sandpiper.


Turnstone, Bridlington


Turnstone, Bridlington


Turnstone, Bridlington


Turnstone, Bridlington


Knot, Bridlington


Knot, Bridlington


Knot, Bridlington


Knot, Bridlington


Knot, Bridlington

There were – obviously – gulls all over (including a piratical Herring Gull that mounted a precision low-level raid on the fish in my tray of – delicious! – fish and chips!) and some interesting House Sparrows that had apparently taken residence in the local fishermens’ crab pots.


Herring Gull, Bridlington


Herring Gull, Bridlington


House Sparrow, Bridlington

There was even a “real” Barnacle Goose in the harbour.

Having arrived and familiarised myself with the town on the Monday, the next day, my first full day was – well – a mistake, best chalked up to “it seemed like a good idea at the time…”: I decided it would be fun to have a walk to Flamborough Head.

The distance as the crow flies wasn’t bad – about five miles or so from the hotel to the lighthouse at “Flam” – and I had proper walking socks and shoes on. And a fat lot of good they did. I still ended the day with ruined feet – I even had bloody great blisters on the tops of my toes, for Pete’s sake!

Because of this I didn’t actually do the place any justice, preferring to head back rather than “do” Flam properly. But while I was there I did pick up this juvenile Stonechat (unfortunately against the background of the lighthouse):


Stonechat, Flamborough


Stonechat, Flamborough

Heading back, I came across this Fulmar:


Fulmar, Flamborough


Fulmar, Flamborough

It surely seemed spirited enough (I approached it to make sure it wasn’t obviously injured or otherwise incapacitated in some way I could help with: it reacted very vigorously to my attention, and did eventually fly off) and – once I was satisfied that it wasn’t moribund I felt OK about taking a few pictures.

I also got to explain a few fascinating Fulmar facts to a couple who were walking the clifftop path. They loved the idea that Fulmars are “mini Albatrosses” rather than seagulls!

Of course, the very next day Flam produced an Eastern Oliveaceous Warbler but while I’d have loved to be around anyway when it showed up, I wouldn’t/didn’t twitch it…

The next day (and Friday) saw me at Bempton Cliffs for Gannets and Tree Sparrows, neither of which I’d ever photographed, and Fulmar, which I just like shooting. Another glorious day weather-wise (the whole week was fantastic, even though there was too little wind for the Gannets to perform in, unfortunately) but Mission Accomplished, as far as I’m concerned.

I had a specific wish to do something a bit different with the Gannet images. Pretty much every Bempton Gannet in flight shot has the bird either against the sky or the sea (believe me, I checked three years’ worth of Gannet pictures on Birdguides and on Birdforum before writing this!), and practically none actually put the bird against the landscape – the cliffs: well, that’s what I decided to try for.

It’s much harder than it looks.

I got the images I wanted though, pretty much. I think that this approach provides a context which is lacking when the bird is against the sky or sea, and while some are better than others, I’m quite happy with how these images turned out, all told.

I enjoyed the challenge too, because while it’s pretty easy to catch a Gannet in flight (they’re big birds, and although they fly quite fast, they’re predictable), selecting and locking onto a bird, getting good AF and framing, and then picking just the right moment to trigger the shutter, when the bird is over the geology for no more than a second or so was hard work.

And utterly addictive – I came home with about 20 gb of Gannets!


Gannet, Bempton


Gannet, Bempton


Gannet, Bempton


Gannet, Bempton

Of course, putting some of the birds against the sea was unavoidable, and images are none the worse for it, really.


Gannet, Bempton


Gannet, Bempton

The Tree sparrows were harder though – plenty of ‘em at the RSPB building, but they’re nervous. Even so I got a number of images I was pleased with, such as these:


Tree Sparrow, Bempton


Tree Sparrow, Bempton


Tree Sparrow, Bempton

And of course, the Fulmars are always good value – again I’ve picked these three images because they’re a bit different to what I’ve photographed previously, and again are a challenge to image well:


Fulmar, Bempton


Fulmar, Bempton


Fulmar, Bempton

On Thursday I decided on a 2 hour afternoon trip out to Bempton on the Yorkshire Belle, the same boat that hosts the RSPB cruises. But because this wasn’t a birding cruise per se there was no chumming and therefore no Skuas or Shearwaters: I did see a few distant Arctic skuas, but nothing I could photograph. To be honest though, I enjoyed the break from waving the camera around, using the time either side of the boat trip to catch up on some important postcard writing and souvenir buying..!

A word of caution about the Yorkshire Belle… It is apparently “tradition” to have folk musicians on boats sailing out of Brid harbour. I had no problem with the idea of a fiddle player being on this cruise working through a few traditional sea shanties, fisherman’s songs and the like.

The guy we got really didn’t click with me at all: traditional songs are one thing, but this fella insisted on also churning out such incongruous ditties as Peggy Sue and other, more contemporary, pop tunes – and it was just wrong somehow!

Worse (for me anyway) is that – as an erstwhile “serious muso” myself – I have an extremely well developed sense of pitch: a note need only be a tiny fraction of a tone out and it’s like someone dragging fingernails down a blackboard for me. Well this guy’s fiddle playing intonation was appalling – and I had over two hours of it! It might have been OK in the context of him playing traditional tunes – somehow that “worked” – but not with the more modern stuff, especially as his voice was actually pretty good and in tune.

You have been warned..!

As I suggest above, I had a return visit to Bempton on Friday, for more of the same as on Wednesday, and that brought a very enjoyable week to a close: no rarities, but I really appreciated the break (the hotel, the Mont Millais was fine, even though the single room I had epitomised the phrase “compact and bijou” – but it still had a double(ish) bed and an en suite, and was clean, comfortable and well turned out) and I came away with a few new species to add to my image collection.

Nice part of the world, East Yorkshire, and I can see me heading back down there.

I’ll close by pointing something out. All of these images are – as near as dammit – full frame, with only very minor cosmetic/compositional cropping. I mention this just to remind people that while it’s great to have 840mm or more of usable focal length at your disposal, you can do surprisingly well with “only” 400mm simply by picking your subjects well and knowing enough about them to allow yourself a close approach.

I actually ended up with a great many images where Turnstones, Knot and Gannets were too close to focus on or too big in the frame to be of any real use!



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