Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs
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Bempton Cliffs

  • Migration round-up - October 2015

    Welcome to the third migration round-up of the autumn, this time for the month of October. As in previous summaries, as part of the same area (and only a short walk west of the reserve!) we've included neighbouring Buckton in our summaries to give a better overall picture of what's happening locally. So, with potentially the most exciting month in the migration calendar upon us, did October flatter to deceive, or did it live up to the hype and deliver on its promises? If you thought Bempton was all about seabirds, you might want to think again.....
    Firecrest (Paul Reed)
    It all started promisingly enough, with five Common Buzzards in the area, 94 Pink-footed Geese heading south from their Arctic breeding grounds, and three Yellow-browed Warblers - tiny Siberian sprites that are becoming a regular fixture of the autumn here at Bempton - in the Buckton area, all on 1st. A good smattering of migrants over the next few days included several Stonechats, Redstarts, commoner warblers, single Pied Flycatcher and Whinchat, several Bramblings and a nice influx of Ring Ouzels, peaking with seven at Buckton and three at Bempton on 6th.
    Great Grey Shrike (Mark Thomas)
    The star birds of the first week, however, both stayed a few days and allowed plenty of admirers to catch up with them - a superbly tame Lapland Bunting on the reserve for several days from 5th, and a Great Grey Shrike at Buckton. Not a bad first week! Four Wheatears on 8th still had a long way to go, but 430 Pink-feet on the same day were almost back on their wintering grounds; four each of Ring Ouzel and Stonechat and a White Wagtail added more quality, and the second week of the month still had plenty more in store. A Great Northern Diver off the viewpoints on 9th was the first of several sightings, the same day a Short-eared Owl in off the sea provided a suitably vivid image of continental immigration, and two new Yellow-browed Warblers materialised, at the reserve and Buckton respectively.
    Lapland Bunting (Dave Aitken)
    Several more Ring Ouzels arrived over the coming week, plus a Whinchat and a few more Stonechats. A Little Owl at Buckton was unusual on 11th, but the day was more notable for the first major influx of Goldcrests, with at least 90 there (40 of which were ringed). Hard though it may be to believe, these tiny, delicate little migrants routinely make North Sea crossings, often in seemingly deadly conditions...
    Yellow-browed Warbler (Mark Thomas)
    Another Yellow-browed Warbler on the same day was followed by two more - on the reserve and at Buckton - on 12th & 13th, with a Firecrest also in the mix - well worth meticulously checking through those 'crest flocks, then (and the best was yet to come). Bempton hosted a new Great Grey Shrike on 14th (found by warden Dave Aitken) - and with the first half of the month already having provided a fantastic array of land-based migrants, much more would surely be a luxury. But with the weather system fixed in a very promising position (easterly winds from a long way away), there was no time for laurel-resting, and October turned out to be the month that kept on giving...
    Olive-backed Pipit (Lee Johnson)
    The 15th was one of those cracking autumnal days you dream about as an east coast birder, and RSPB's Mark Thomas must have been pinching himself to make sure he was awake at Buckton - not content with trapping and ringing an Olive-backed Pipit, he also caught a Pallas's Warbler, found a second, and had tasty back-up in the shape of Snow and Lapland Buntings, one Long-eared and three Short-eared Owls, 90 Goldcrests and a Firecrest.
    Pallas's Warbler (Lee Johnson)
    Classic late autumn incomers the following day included Water Rail, Woodcock, 200 Redwings and a whopping 250 Goldcrests in the area, with another Firecrest and 15 Barnacle Geese on 18th. A quiet few days followed - the first and last time in October that could be said - but a Siberian Chiffchaff on the reserve on 23rd kicked off another run of quality birds, and was followed by a Black Redstart in Bempton village on 25th, two more Lapland Buntings at Buckton on 26th, a locally super-rare Spotted Redshank at Buckton pond on 30th, and - just to round things off perfectly for staff and visitors alike - a superb Hen Harrier hunting gracefully around the Seabird Centre on 31st. It'll take a lot to beat all that next year, but you never know.....
    Mark James Pearson
    Special thanks to Flamborough Bird Observatory - for daily sightings, see here.
    Black Redstart (John Beaumont)
  • Winter and Wildfowl

    Greetings from Bempton Cliffs. November is upon us, the nights are drawing in and before you know it will be the New Year. Don’t worry if you haven’t made a trip up to Bempton yet this year though, we have a series of great events planned during the winter months. Every Friday until the 5th of February we will be hosting a special guided walk. Through November these will be focusing on the spectacular geology of the reserve. There’s more to those towering chalk cliffs than you might think. Why not join our walk leader, Paul Hildreth, to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the cliffs that house over 250,000 seabirds. I’ve tagged along on one of these walks myself and I can tell you that it is well worth making the effort to come and join in. I learned more in that hour and a half than I have in a very long time. Have I mentioned that a hot drink and a slice of cake are included in the price?

    The geology of our cliffs is fascinating - Steve Race

    We’re catering for the youngsters too. We will be hosting six sessions of ‘Nature’s Little Helpers’ throughout the winter. You can attend one session or all six but if you come along to all of them your family will have everything required to give nature a home in your garden.

    Speaking of activities for kids, October half term has come and gone and despite the weather doing its best to deter visitors we still had plenty of families coming to enjoy a day out on the cliffs. We provided a series of activities for children to get stuck into during their visit. My personal favourite was creating a journey stick, a simple and fun way to create a memento of your visit.

    Enjoying their journey sticks - Sarah Aitken

    This young lady got stuck in to all three activities - Sarah Aitken

    Also in half term we once again played host to Leanne Beetham, who goes by the name of Lippy Art. Leanne is a talented artist who creates her artwork by holding her paintbrush in her mouth. She came to us during the height of summer and returned again recently to gather inspiration and sell her wares.

    Leanne, and friends, hard at work - Chris Calow

    Leanne during her summer visit - Maria Prchlik

    Exciting news for anybody who is planning to visit us between now and 29th February next year! Entrance to Bempton Cliffs during that time is absolutely free! What a bargain. It’s all part of our plan to attract more visitors over the winter. That’s not all that we’ve done to create a fantastic visitor experience, one corner of the visitor centre has been turned in to a cosy cafe, complete with ‘roaring’ fire.

    Who wouldn't want to warm their hands in front of the fire? - Chris Calow

    By now you’re probably ready to hear about some of the wildlife we’ve seen on the reserve since my last blog. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. We’re continuing to see redwing and fieldfare in good numbers, along with another winter visitor which for many years has been my bogey bird. Finally though I can put that hoodoo to rest because on the 11th November I managed to see my first ever Brambling. They’ve been seen frequently on the reserve for the last month or so, I’ve just always been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but finally I managed to see one. I guess I need a new bogey bird now. Any suggestions?

    Two very well camouflaged brambling - Tony Mayman

    On the 1st November we had a truly excellent sighting for the reserve in the shape of a Richard’s pipit. The bird was first sighted in the morning by Grandstand viewpoint before disappearing for a number of hours. Fortunately, news of the sighting had spread by this time and the bird was relocated in the afternoon having moved up to the Dell, at this point we were able to confirm that this was indeed a Richard’s pipit.

    At this time of the year sightings of hen harriers start to become more common along the coast. The birds are moving away from their normal upland habitat in order to spend the winter in comparatively warmer locales. It was on the 31st October that we had our first sighting of the year, a ringtail bird was sighted on the reserve briefly during the day and then again at the end of the day by volunteers Leo Kokoszko and Michael Butler. It was several days before we had another sighting, and what a sighting it was. The Bempton management team came steaming out of their meeting to announce that there was a hen harrier giving great views out of the back of the visitor centre. Management meetings happen every week but such good views of a hen harrier are few and far between. There was one further sighting on the 6th November when a bird was seen over cliff lane. Here’s hoping for more sightings of this wonderful raptor in the coming months. 

    Hen harrier - RSPB Images

    One of my favourite things about this time of year is the movement of wildfowl and we’re starting to see evidence of that. Common scoter were seen heading south in small numbers on the 6th November. At least 50 pink-footed geese were seen flying south on the 1st November, with larger numbers being sighted in the following days.

    Pink-footed goose - RSPB Images

    The most impressive movement of wildfowl so far, in my opinion, came on the 11th November when just as the day was drawing to an end we were treated to a flypast by 45 majestic whooper swans. A further 16 followed the next day. Seeing these magnificent pure white birds fly past the visitor centre over the blue of the north sea is truly a sight to behold. For those of you who are only familiar with the mute swan regularly seen in parks throughout towns across the country the whooper swan is a far wilder animal than it’s orange billed cousin. It may well be one of my favourite winter visitors, then again, I say that about everything.

    Whooper swan - RSPB Images

  • Caring kids help RSPB Bempton Cliffs


    Youngsters from North Frodingham Primary School have chosen RSPB Bempton Cliffs as their Charity of the Year.

    The 13 pupils, all aged between three and five years old, in the Foundation Stage Unit decided to support the East Yorkshire Coast’s popular nature reserve after seeing news coverage of a gannet rescue on the cliff face.

    Teacher, Tracey Stainton, said the whole class was really concerned about the plight of the seabird which was tangled in fishing wire and dangling from a ledge on the 400 feet high cliffs:

    ‘The photos made a really big impression on them and they wanted to help in their own small way.  From a teaching perspective, choosing the RSPB was a good move as it also ties in with the study of endangered species which we’ll be doing in the spring.   This has become even more pertinent with the recent announcement that puffins have been added to the IUCN’s ((International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.’

    The children have already started their fund raising activities and their efforts to date have raised £14.20.   A cheque for this amount was presented to Sarah Aitken, Bempton Cliffs’ Visitor Experience Officer, when she joined the class for a singing and storytelling session.   She was assisted by puppets, Peter Puffin and Gary Gannet and related the tale of The Lonely Puffin before handing our stickers and pin badges to everyone. 

    Sarah said:

    ‘It’s wonderful that such young children have taken an interest in helping give nature a home.   They are the next generation of conservationists and who knows, one day they could be working on the reserve that their donation is helping to protect.   We’d like to say a massive thank you to the entire class and we’d love to show them around the nature reserve next Spring. 

      North Frodingham Primary School