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King of the cliffs

2021 has already been a crazy year regardless but in terms of rare birds turning up in the UK it has been an expectational year although we still have the autumn and winter to bring even more delights.

But one bird in particular has stole the limelight over the course of this summer and without a doubt will be many people's "Bird of 2021".... The Black-browed Albatross at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. This individual quickly named "Albert" having first appeared this year on the 28th June and leaving on the 27th September.

The Black-browed Albatross as a species is usually found gliding across the Southern Oceans with breeding colonies on islands such as the South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, but these large birds with their huge wingspan up to 7ft can wander the oceans far and wide in search of food. Over the decades there has been sightings of Black-browed Albatross in the North Sea, with the famous bird that summered on the island of Unst, Sheltand from 1972-1995 which could quite possibly be the same bird that summered at Bempton this year given as a species their natural life expectancy is 70 years old. Although most sightings of this species in British waters are whilst seawatching, meaning that most people have never been able to connect with this iconic, almost mythical species in Britain.

"Albert" soon got into a pattern when arriving at Bempton having made brief visits in the past few years, whereby it would go fishing for a couple days and then rest on the cliffs amongst the breeding Gannet colony for days on end. Unlike others I played the long and painful game and didn't see Albert until the 14th August having been busy all summer and worrying when the bird would leave I was definitely relieved to finally see it although it spent the entire time sat on the cliffs, where my photo below shows (phone-scoped using a Zeiss Harpia 85 scope and Samsung A40 phone).

I ended up seeing the Albatross on two furthermore occasions, on the 10th September when twitching the Green Warbler at Buckton nearby (a small wood warbler-looking species which can be found around Afghanistan & Iran) where after a patient wait the Albatross flew around at eye level giving excellent views and finally on the 18th September with my dad who by this stage still hadn't seen the bird.

Who knows, maybe this could be the first of many years that "Albert" will return to RSPB Bempton?!

Thank you to Nathaniel Dargue for allowing the use of the following superb photos of the Albatross he took at RSPB Bempton Cliffs on the 9th July where it flew by at eye level.

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