Just as the lockdown began to be eased, an albatross appeared in the skies above Bempton Cliffs. It is said that if an Albatross follows your ship it is a sign of good luck. So perhaps the appearance of this legendary bird from the Southern Ocean is an omen for the summer ahead?
As good fortune blesses our unseasonably windswept town, we can but hope that no one shoots the Albatross and, in the manner of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, we become becalmed in a new lockdown.
An Albatross was spotted at Bempton on Thursday, prompting hundreds of birdwatchers to descend on the RSBP’s reserve. Craig Thomas, the chair of the Flamborough Bird Observatory, told the Yorkshire Post that the bird was thought to be about eight years old and might be the same bird that briefly visited Bempton in 2017.
The sighting of an Albatross is a rare event. These spectacular birds, with a wingspan of up to eight feet, usually live on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia in the South Atlantic. Indeed, there is even an Albatross Island near South Georgia. The islands are some 8,000 miles from Britain. They are governed by the United Kingdom and form two of the fourteen British Oversea Territories that are scattered across every ocean in the world.
Albatrosses do occasionally turn up in British waters after flying thousands of miles off course. One of the best known was Albert the Albatross who lived for many years off the Shetland Islands. He turned up in Scotland in 1967 and spent forty years vainly looking for a mate from the Firth of Forth northwards, before finally settling on Sula Sgeir, a tiny Atlantic rock between the Outer Hebrides and Shetland. Albatrosses can live for seventy years, so the latest arrival at Bempton could be with us for a long time. However, the likelihood is that he will move on in search of a mate. However vain that task might be in our northern waters.