For those who missed this in the press, here's the media release that announced the arrival of our new Wildlife Experience Officer.
A brand new role has been created at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, to engage people with the natural and cultural heritage of the site, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery fund.
Joanne Allen, from Hull, has been appointed as Wildlife Experience Officer at the nature reserve near Bridlington, and has already started developing an exciting programme of events, ready to kick off when the new seabird heritage centre opens its doors in spring 2015.
Jo has always had a keen interest in wildlife conservation and studied for a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour before going on to gain a MSc in Conservation Biology earlier this year. She has been active in a variety of voluntary roles within the conservation sector over the past few years and is also secretary of the East Yorkshire Bat Group.
Jo said: "I’m really excited to be a part of this amazing project. The new centre, alongside a broader events programme, will enable people to gain a better understanding of how the RSPB gives nature a home at the UK’s largest mainland seabird colony. In future there’s going to be even more happening up on the cliffs, so watch this space.”
The full-time role, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been created to connect people with the natural and cultural heritage of Bempton Cliffs. Through a variety of engaging events, from exhibitions to wildlife-based activities, the plan is to inform and engage visitors and locals alike, ultimately inspiring them to take action to safeguard the coast and the cliffs around Bempton.
Jo will also lead the Learning Team. The reserve already has over 1300 student visits from schools across the country during the spring and summer terms. It is hoped more local schools will be encouraged to visit when the redevelopment work is complete.
Site manager, Keith Clarkson, is delighted with the new appointment. He said: “Expanding the team obviously gives us a great opportunity to encourage more visitors to the reserve. This is as good for the local economy as it is for our own plans to make people passionate about the wildlife on their doorstep.”
The redevelopment of the Bempton Cliffs visitor experience, which started at the beginning of September, is taking place thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Bempton Cliffs was awarded £639,700 to revamp and improve its visitor offer to provide people with the opportunity of experiencing the UK’s largest and most accessible, mainland seabird colony.
The reserve and main car parks will be closed until 1 March 2015, but public footpaths will remain accessible to keep updated on progress visit www.rspb.org.uk/bemptoncliffs, or follow RSPB North Yorks & East Riding on Facebook or @Bempton_cliffs on Twitter.
Jo worked with us this summer as a Membership Development Officer and was on hand for a puffling rescue and release.
You'll be pleased to know there is still some semblance of normality on the reserve while our redevelopment project picks up momentum.
Our volunteers are continuing to visit the site to make sure the bird feeders are topped up and check out which visiting migrants have stopped off in the Dell for some much needed R&R (see our recent sightings blog).
The vols are also keeping an eye on how the work is progressing and the latest pics from Allan Dawson show there's plenty happening.
Earth moving machinery is shifting soil at a rapid rate (which were hoping to use to form a bund and a new wildlife habitat) and walls are being reduced to rubble.
One thing we won't miss is our old car park. We've patched it, repaired it, resurfaced it and finally we're renewing it (as well as extending it). So there'll be more room and no more pot holes.
Gone (for now) is the small bird feeding station adjacent to the visitor centre. Creating homes for birds and small mammals is integral to our plans so the area surrounding and leading down to the new centre will include welcoming habitats and ideas that you can replicate in your own back yard or garden.
Looking back from the corner of the old visitor centre, it's hard to imagine that in six month's time this space will contain a brand new seabird heritage centre. Roll on Spring 2015.
PLEASE NOTE, RSPB BEMPTON CLIFFS VISITOR CENTRE FACILITIES WILL BE CLOSED FROM 1 SEPT 2014 TO 1 APRIL 2015 FOR MAJOR REDEVELOPMENT. PUBLIC FOOTPATHS WILL REMAIN ACCESSIBLE.
Well the Visitor Centre may be closed for renovations but that certainly has not put a damper on bird numbers at the reserve.
Over the last two weeks a plethora of species have been seen across the reserve, with one locale in particular proving to be especially productive. The Dell (the small but heavily treed and “shrubbed” depression which greets you as you approach the fork in the road at the entrance to the reserve) has been a hotspot for species such as Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff , Yellow-browed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher and even the diminutive Goldcrest; all frantically feeding and flitting from branch to branch as they stock up on fat reserves before continuing on their migration.
(Yellow-browed Warbler - David Aitken)
(Spotted Flycatcher - David Aitken)
The Hawthorn and Gorse bush-lined nature trail has also been productive, with sightings of Red Breasted Flycatcher, Sparrowhawk, Redstart, and even a 1st winter Red-backed Shrike (which proved to be the cue for an army of keen birdwatchers and bird-enthusiasts to make their way to Bempton). Keep an eye on our Twitter account @Bempton_Cliffs for more interesting species updates!
(1st winter Red-backed Shrike - David Aitken)
The vast fields which provide a backdrop to the reserve’s cliff-top trails have also yielded such species as Whinchat, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Rock Pipit, Wheatear, Fieldfare, Little Bunting and flocks of 100+ Linnet.
This is not to say that there is nothing to see on the cliffs. The last of the Gannet chicks are in the process of fledging, Peregrines and Kestrels effortlessly manipulate the air currents and occasionally descend on hapless pigeons or voles (respectively), Herring Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls continue to methodically patrol the cliff face in search of prey and recently fledged Fulmar chicks test their wings on southerly winds in preparation for their first winter at sea.
Ryan Chenery - Volunteer Development Officer