The chicks are sat with their mouths wide open and the adult Guillemots have their wings spread out on the cliffs in an attempt to cool down. I am down to only wearing 2 layers of clothing rather than 6 plus thermals. This can only mean one thing....Summer has finally arrived at Bempton!
The Guillemot and Razorbill chicks (otherwise known as Jumplings) have been jumping for a while. There are fewer and fewer of these birds on the cliffs. Before they all left we spent an evening at Grandstand Viewpoint at Bempton Cliffs Reserve with a spectacular sunset and some delicious pizza, watching the Jumplings jump. Whenever a chick looked like it was going near the edge to jump, there were shouts vaguely describing where it was to other people watching "on that rock with that bit of rock sticking out". Most of the time the chick would ponder about it for a while. Meanwhile staring down your scope at this, you could hear other people muttering things from an encouraging "come on, you can do it" to an impatient "oh just jump already!". Then it would ping off the cliff, some falling in style out from the cliff face and some falling directly down and hitting off the cliff, only to plop into the sea and pop up again next to its dad. followed by some relieved shouts of encouragement from us spectators.
Myself, the Visitor Experience Interns, the Seabird Researcher, and Masters student Ruth.
Photo by: Ian Hopgood. Can you spot the chick?
The seabird season has reached its peak and is fast coming to an end for the Guillemots and Razorbills. Although I’m sure the chicks jumping from the cliff down into the sea far below are hoping it’s only the beginning and not the end.
Unfortunately for some of these brave chicks who take the plunge it is the end (photo below). They jump at dusk going into nightfall to avoid predators and the father will accompany the chick out to sea to attempt to protect the chick from hungry Herring Gulls, juvenile Greater Black Backed Gulls and even a Great Skua.
Photo by: Ian Hopgood. Great Skua eating a Guillemot Chick
We have seen Great Skuas on several occasion at Bempton Reserve this year so far. I have seen them on two occasions and both times they have been feasting away. Once on a Guillemot chick (above) and the other time on a Kittiwake as shown below.
Photo by: Tony Coombes. Great Skua eating a Kittiwake
To swiftly move onto a less gory topic. As I have spend nearly everyday since mid April staring at different cliff faces I have noticed some bizarre things when it comes to nesting Seabirds. At the start of my monitoring when the Gannets were bringing in nesting material. I saw building material being brought in ranging from lolly sticks to plastic wrapping. I then looked closer and noticed a significant amount of man made material made up the nest.
Gannet nests which have created with a significant amount of rope and fishing line.
Kittiwakes build their nests out of vegetation and mud stamped down with a cup on top. If the nest has not disintegrated over the winter, then both adults will add onto last years nest when the breeding season comes around again. The nest you are about to see has survived for an unbelievable number of breeding seasons. We don't know how many years exactly but it is looking pretty precarious.
The Leaning Tower of Kittiwake Nest
Finally, to finish off, I present to you a very confused Kittiwake. In May a Guillemot or Razorbill laid an egg in a Kittiwake nest. For one reason or another the Bird abandoned its egg and the Kittiwake won its nesting site. When the egg appeared, the Kittiwake padded around the nest, glancing at it with a very confused look. We thought it would kick it out of build over it. No, the second photo was taken over 5 weeks later!
Photo by: Michael Babcock. Taken on 11th of May
Photo by: Michael Babcock. Taken on 19th of June
Time for a quick update on our resident swallows. We think the chicks are about 2 weeks old, and there are at least 5 of them in the nest, one of them being quite a lot smaller than the others. Swallow chicks fledge at around 17-24 days old, so they won't be here for that much longer! You can easily while away 5 minutes just watching the adults swooping up to the nest to feed them, and seeing their little faces popping up does not get any less cute.
Check out their snazzy haircuts!
"What are you looking at?"
All photos by Jo Allen
If you’re thinking of making a trip up here this month, you’re making an excellent decision! June is probably the best month of the year to visit, as the cliffs are now full of chicks large enough to see with the naked eye. Over the noise of the kittiwakes and gannets, you can just about hear their cheeping sound all over the cliffs.
There was a flurry of excitement at the center earlier this week, as we got word that a group of 11 Bee-Eaters were seen flying over the headland towards Bempton Cliffs. Sure enough, many lucky visitors and volunteers caught a glimpse of them as they flew over the reserve. We’ve also had several sightings of Great Skuas passing through during the past week. More often than not they've been seen floating on the sea munching on a Kittiwake that got a bit too close.
Spotted flycatchers, reed buntings, corn buntings, linnets and whitethroats have all been spotted in the surrounding grassland, and a grey partridge has again been seen on the nature trail. Our resident barn owl can still be seen hunting around the center in the early evening, and a peregrine falcon has been spotted more and more regularly hunting over Staple Newk. The swallows nesting next to the visitor center entrance now have either 3 or 4 chicks, and can often be seen being fed by one of the adults.