This photo was taken yesterday from the back door of the visitor centre. I've looked at it several times now and every time i've noticed a different number of birds! How many can you see?
(Photo taken by Nick Turver 26th Nov 2010)
If you're planning to come out of your lovely warm homes this weekend and visit RSPB Bempton Cliffs then please do, we will welcome you with open arms and a cup of tea! Please keep an eye on the weather though, as our cliffs can be a wild and unforgiving landscape in wintry weather.
The visitor centre opening times are 10am-4pm from November to February but if conditions are particularly bad then we may close the centre early. If in doubt please feel free to ring the visitor centre on 01262 851179 and check.
Also in this cold weather please remember the birds in your own gardens. Fresh, unfrozen water is vital to the survival of birds during icy conditions and high energy food such as fat balls and black sunflower seeds will help them to stay warm and healthy. Please visit the following website for more advice on feeding birds this winter: http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/whatfood/index.aspx
The RSPB shop at Bempton Cliffs sells a wide range of bird food and feeders at a range of prices and the friendly staff in the centre will be happy to give you a helping hand in choosing (and lifting!) the food that you need.
All that said, a wintry landscape is a beautiful thing, so wrap up warm, put some boots on, and venture (carefully) out into the great outdoors. We look forward to seeing you out there.
(Photo provided by Nick Turver)
A short while ago an injured hedgehog was found on our reserve. Our site maintenance volunteer team noticed the little creature whilst they were working on some fencing and decided that her injury was severe enough to warrant an emergency trip to the vets. On close inspection it was noticed that a fishing hook was stuck in her side and that it would need to be carefully removed.
The team left her with the vets to be treated and returned a week later to check on her progress. The hook had been removed and she'd been given a course of antibiotics. She was definitely a lot more perky too! The vets explained that she was healthy enough to go back on to the reserve, but that she was a little underweight for this time of year and that if possible it would be good if someone could look after her and feed her for a few days.
Last night she stayed with me and i must say, she's pretty lively! Her bedroom for the night was a big box in my conservatory and her evening meal was a well chopped-up packet of chicken flavour catfood and a couple of worms. She seems to have a bit of a rockstar streak in her because soon after i left her i heard noises from the conservatory that sounded like she was trashing her bedroom! When i went to have a look she had upended her water bowl, walked food all over her blankets and ripped up her newspaper carpet.
I checked in on her again before i went to bed and she seemed to have settled down so i closed the lid on the carboard box, taped one end shut (leaving the other un-taped so that she would have plenty of air) and shut the conservatory door. This morning i opened the box lid to find the room re-trashed and Marjory missing....
When i looked more carefully around the conservatory, i noticed a puddle on the floor and little footprints leading towards my tennis raquet in the corner. When i peeked behind the raquet i found Marjory clurled up and sleeping off the previous nights rowdy behaviour. I have no idea how she got out of the box, which i thought was pretty secure, but i managed to get her back into it and drive her back to work this morning. She must have got the munchies on the way though because at one point i heard chewing noises and looked over to find a little nose poking out from beneath the blanket and onto the food saucer i had left in.
So Marjory is tucked up safely at the RSPB office at the moment. We'll keep you updated on her progress and let you know when her band, the White Spikes, are touring the area. If anyone has a spare packet of cat food lying about (chicken is her favourite) then we're sure Marjory would appreciate it. You can drop it in at the visitor centre during opening hours (10am-4pm) and we'll pass it on to her.
For the past few days Bempton Cliffs has had a bit of an unexpected visit from large numbers of guillemots. The birds, who normally call the cliffs home between late March and July, have been perching on the cliff side, swooping over the crashing surf and bobbing about on the sea. The only reasons we can think of for the guillemots' impromptu arrival are bad weather out at sea or poor food supply. We're hoping it's the former at this stage.
Good numbers of fulmars have also been spotted on and near the cliffs and windy conditions are giving them a really good excuse to put on some aerial acrobatic displays. We're not sure how long the birds will stay, so if you get a chance to come down to the reserve then it could be worth coming in the next few days. The visiting seabirds are all easily visible from Grandstand and Bartlett Nab viewpoints, which are both only a short walk from the visitor centre. If you want to check that the guillemots and fulmars haven't flown back out to sea, then call 01262 851179 before you make the journey out.
We've also had a reported sighting of a short-eared owl on the reserve. It was seen last Thursday and we're keeping our eyes peeled in case it has decided to stick around for the winter. If you see it let us know!
Excuse the length of this post, I got a bit carried away! If you’re interested in the willow warbler then skip to paragraph nine, otherwise, read on…
When our seabirds leave the Bempton cliff side at the end of the breeding season, the reserve often feels a little bereft. If you look carefully though there is still plenty to see, its just that after the sheer spectacle of 250,000 screaming seabirds, everything’s a bit harder to spot!
Recently I went out on to the reserve with a target of seeing four different birds on a short walk. It might seem like a low target but I’m not an experienced birder and the weather wasn’t particularly nice! I set off on the discovery trail, turning left out of the back door of the visitor centre, past Pallas’s patch and up the side of the pond. The first bird I spotted was an easy one, the tree sparrow.
Bempton has around 30 pairs of breeding tree sparrows and they really like to make themselves known, especially early in the morning, when the noise they make can drown almost everything else out.
I carried on down the back of the field and turned right between the fence and the scrub line. During the early autumn, the bushes in this area were laden down with berries, but now they’ve been totally stripped and the birds have moved on to different food sources. A solitary blackbird hopped around under some hawthorn and became bird number two on my list.
I kept walking down the path until I came to the meadow. A small brown bird was startled by the noise I was making with my big clumpy walking boots and flew off low over the long grass. I tried to tiptoe after it but I probably sounded like an elephant to the bird. Despite the fact that I couldn’t identify it, I decided to count it as my third sighting (I was clutching at straws at this point).
I reached the cliff top path soon after that and quickly spotted a small group of feral pigeons swooping and diving between outcrops. Now most people aren’t that impressed when they come to the coast and see a bunch of pigeons but if they actually watched them fly then they might be surprised. The sheer speed at which they move is impressive for a start and the agility they need to avoid crashing into the cliffs is incredible.
I walked shoulder to wing with the pigeons for a little while before turning right into the sunflower field. A few weeks earlier the heads were still brimming with seeds but large goldfinch numbers and strong winds seemed to have emptied them somewhat.
I reached the Dell area, and was going to pass by it when I spotted a tiny movement in one of the trees. Another little brown bird was sat on a high branch. This one, however, considerately stayed still until I’d had a chance to notice a few identifying features. The bird had pink legs, a very pale creamy brown breast and slightly darker wings. It also had a pale supercillium. It was all ruffled up so it was hard to judge how big it was, but in this state, it looked sparrow sized so it was perhaps a bit smaller.
After pouring over the British Birds guide in the visitor centre and re-describing and discussing it at length, my colleagues and I concluded that it was a willow warbler. It is not a common occurrence for a willow warbler to be in the north of Britain at this time of year, so feel free to be skeptical, but it really was the only thing we could come up with.
You may have noted that this was the fifth bird I had seen on the reserve, which means that I met my original target of four. However, I have failed to even get round to mentioning the two male pheasants I saw tussling in the car park, the blue tit sat on a bird feeder or the barn owl that I saw from the visitor centre window.
I was pleasantly surprised that by putting in a little effort, it was possible to have a really interesting walk that included eight different species of bird, none of which were sea birds. I’m pretty sure that anybody, of any skill level, could do the same if they tried, so that’s my challenge to you: beat eight birds in one walk and let me know…