Since the king eider deigned to visit our reserve earlier this week, we've had a few other, less royal, ducks checking out the cliffs. A group of seven eider were seen paddling southwards on Wednesday and then yesterday there was a flurry of activity when two long-tailed ducks were spotted by one of our volunteers just off Bartlett Nab. Those who rushed down to see them needn't have bothered though because the pair were obviously making a day of it down at the base of the cliffs. They stayed from mid-morning to mid-afternoon and delighted many of our visitors.
Shags have been rather ubiquitous of late too, with small groups of four and seven having been observed on the water near Staple Newk in the past few days. This morning I also saw two flying in a southerly direction whilst I was carrying out some gannet monitoring. For those who get confused easily (like me!), shags can be distinguished from the similar cormorant by their steep foreheads and smaller, slimmer bodies. We’re actually quite lucky that a small number choose to nest here each year, as most of the UK population is found at fewer than 10 sites.
Although the puffins are now on their way out, we’ve had a large number of sightings in the past few days. It’s hit and miss but if you’re patient then you might just be lucky. As well as seeing the shags this morning I also saw a raft of 11 puffins in the water at Staple Newk and 5 puffins on the cliff from New Roll Up. The quail also made themselves known in the fields next to the cliff top path and the fledgling tree sparrows on the visitor centre roof made me and a number of other visitors smile.
Our roving site warden, Zoe, spotted 15 whimbrels over the cliffs today. Whimbrels are large, wading birds that breed in the north of Scotland and winter in South Africa. We're getting towards the time of year where the more and more migrants will be passing through or over our reserve, so keep your eyes peeled if you visit!
Perhaps the confusing weather that we have experienced of late has caused a little bit of confusion in our wildlife… This weekend a young puffling was found one and a half miles inland at a factory on Jewison lane in Bridlington. Nobody knows how the 5-6 week old youngster got there but it was lively and healthy enough to resist rescue for several hours. A local wildlife rescue expert was contacted for advice before it was decided that the seabird was fit enough to be released at Flamborough, the nearest suitable site. This time the puffling made no mistake in flying straight out to sea and we hope that’s where he or she stays!
Whilst most of this weekends visitors journeyed to Bempton in their cars, a number of visitors took the scenic route and arrived by sea. An inquisitive king eider made the long swim from Filey Brigg to check out the cliffs near Jubilee, whilst a seal and a porpoise did a leisurely tour of the length of the reserve.
Another visitor that dropped in to the reserve seemed to have come to sample the delicacies that can be found at the bird feeding station. A great spotted woodpecker was seen there yesterday as well as the more regular linnets, tree sparrows and robins. A cuckoo was also seen and heard this weekend and, whilst we have had cuckoos on the reserve in the past, this is the first one to have been heard this year.
You will be glad to hear that all four of our swallow chicks successfully fledged this week. On Tuesday morning we were holding our breath, waiting for the first bird to take the leap of faith, and by Wednesday the nest was empty. Whilst we were very happy that everything had gone so well for them, we were also left feeling a little bereft. So imagine our joy when, on Thursday morning, we went to open the centre doors and noticed all four lined up on top of the servery hatch. They quickly flew away on seeing us but later in the day had returned to the nest and were shouting for their parents to bring them food. The weather on Thursday was rather wet, wild and windy so we think they must have decided to stay in for the day and let their parents do all the hard work!
Today’s weather is much warmer and calmer. The centre is bustling, the birds are sunning themselves on the cliff side, or in the water, and the puffins are still out in force, showing off to the visitors. Yesterday we heard a marvellous story about a group of eight puffins landing on the grassy cliff edge in front of a small (but hardy) group of visitors. Wilder weather tends to lead to closer encounters with the seabirds, as the wind buffets them about more and they have less control over where they land. Sightings of non-cliff dwelling birds have also been good, with a kestrel being spotted in the farmland adjacent to the reserve, several whitethroats being seen in the hedgerows and a stonechat being reported near the visitor centre.
In other news, this weekend marks the beginning of the summer holidays for all of the lucky schoolchildren out there. To celebrate this, every Wednesday here at RSPB Bempton Cliffs there will be a ‘Wild Wednesday’ event. Activities will include nature trails, arts and crafts, and poetry and creative writing events. The staff are looking forward to the fun and games almost as much as the children will be, so you can be sure of a friendly and enthusiastic welcome.
A gentleman came in to the visitor centre here at Bempton Cliffs today with this interesting question. However, when none of the staff or volunteers could come up with an answer, he provided us with his very own idea. He and his friends had invented the term 'canteen' to describe a flock of these interesting birds whilst on a visit to another reserve. Personally i think it's quite clever (and funny) but i wondered if anyone knew of the true term? If there doesn't seem to be one then i for one will definately be adopting 'canteen'!