Every day now it keeps coming as a bit of a surprise to us that they're still here. Each day it becomes less and less likely that we'll see any, but the odd spell of dodgy weather and small numbers keep appearing as if from nowhere. Most likely they'll be in little groups on the sea, but a couple of days ago some were still on the cliffs. We're talking, of course, of Puffins. By August they've normally long gone, but not this year, so if you do come in the next couple of days and catch up with one, you will be experiencing something rarely seen!
Plenty more to look for around the reserve and on the sea. Arctic Skuas have appeared as predicted over the sea and a group of Common Scoters flew by earlier in the week. That's the problem with passage seabirds - you've got to be at the right place at the right time, because they often don't hang around for long! Not so the Grey Seal that slowly drifted by allowing everyone a chance to see it, even the CCTV camera operators.
There has been a couple of recent sighting of Marsh Harrier and two Crossbills flew north last weekend. Again right place and right time, but definitely worth keeping an eye on the sky - it's possible any bird of prey might send the finch flock or even the Gannets and Herring Gulls into a bit of a panic, so keep alert. That is, if you're not checking the bushes for warblers and flycatchers and the fields for finches and buntings. What to do? Well Willow Warblers have been moving through every day, often settling to sing for a few minutes, but more likely to be heard 'hooeeting' from one of the little woodlands. Keep an eye out for the soft lemony young birds. I keep getting tempted, too, to search through the flock of Linnets in the weedy field next to the reserve, especially as it's clear there's plenty of other birds around them. Yellow Wagtails are particularly worth searching for, always a joy to watch and they seem to delight in feeding whenever you see them. Extra special as they'll soon be heading south for the winter.
A final thing to keep an eye on now is the little pond in the bird feeding station. We've found an ingenious way of keeping it full (thanks to Alan), but never stays that way for long as everything wants a bath and after a flock of Starlings have been in, there really isn't that much water left!
It's all happening on the reserve during the summer holidays.
Tea with the Gannets kicked off at the weekend and will be held every Tuesday and Saturday throughout August. It involves an hour's walk to meet our seabird researchers, who'll spill the beans about what they've discovered while watching the gannets this spring and summer. And the afternoon rounds off with tea and scrummy cakes in the marquee.
Our young visitors can enjoy Wild Wednesdays, starting this week, when there will be craft activities, trails and a bug hotel to build.
If you fancy testing your knowledge of wildlife of all kinds, then ask about the bug trail and the gannet trail - and don't forget to catch up on the exploits of the seabirds via the CCTV images in the visitor centyre.
Looking forward to seeing you.
Have you booked your Tea with the Gannets?
Starting next week, our newest events will introduce visitors to these amazing seabirds and there will be researchers on hand to spill the beans about life on the ledges. Then it's back to the visitor centre, where there will be tea and scrummy cakes served in the marquee.
it costs £5 for non-members and £3 for RSPB members. Bargain!
Yep, Pufflings are still being seen, amazing. At the moment there's plenty of Puffin activity, but the confirmed sighting of a youngster today took us all by surprise, so worth keeping an eye out for others. The Kittiwake fledging is continuing apace too, although the high winds over the weekend meant that large numbers were blown inland and have had to be given a helping hand back out to sea. Our oldest Gannet chick is now engaging in some furious flapping and looks set to take its first flight in a few days; thousands of other chicks are a long way behind it though and I'm not convinced some of of the others are hugely impressed by being bashed by its six foot wings! Ask the visitor centre staff to zoom the camera in onto pair 33 and then pop out onto the reserve and try and find the chick amidst the throng of other birds - the flapping will easily give it away.
Something to listen for is the creaky sound of Sandwich Terns; they're often difficult to see as they fly past, but there's plenty gathering offshore now and their presence should see the arrival of the piratical Arctic Skuas. Look for the sleek dark shape of the skua chasing the equally sleek, but smaller and white terns - probably the best way of finding both.
Around the reserve Tree Sparrow numbers are building and building and the cacophony is a welcome sound, knowing that they've seemingly had such a successful season so far. So too are the finch flocks building in numbers and the weedy field adjacent to the reserve is also proving a popular spot to sort out your pipits from your larks. Meadow Pipits are out numbering Skylarks right now, but strongly suspect that's because the larks have a habit of sitting tighter. If you are in the area, keep an eye out for Brown Hares as well; I was startled by one a few days ago, although to be fair we actually startled each other.
How good must it be to able to lift off your nest and float in the air for the first time. Have been spending quite a bit of time watching our young Kittiwakes, and boy is there a lot of them this year, and now is the perfect time to catch them as the days worth of crazy flapping becomes that first faltering flight. Even if you miss the birds actually lifting off the nest for the first time, it's easy to spot the first timers as they float randomly around the cliff face until they oh so quickly master the ability to actually fly where they want! Of course, not all plain sailing (flying) and the bird that spent a while on the roof of the visitor centre clearly didn't intend to do so. Also, plenty of chicks flying back out to sea over the coastal footpath and you'd imagine it was never their plan to actually leave the sea.
Of other chicks: Pufflings have actually been seen recently so you could be lucky. On some days there are hundreds of adults around, so worth a thorough search of those perfect little crevices. If there's no Pufflings entirely possible you might pick out a Fulmar chick. Motionless balls of fluff waiting patiently for the adults to return and more the look of a Pigeon chick about them, but I love them. Gannet chicks are ever more demanding, so plenty of activity from the adults and breezy days continue to give stunning views of adults and previous years young flying a few feet away on the cliff top.
Flocks of finches are starting to build, Linnets and Goldfinches in particular and even though there are flocks of Tree Sparrows some are still busy on third broods. Suspect the increasing numbers of birds nesting in the visitor centre roof is testimony to the ageing tiles, but a popular spectacle none-the-less.
Visitors to the reserve might well have noticed a new addition. It is not a Jackdaw box, but of course the Jackdaws don't know that!! More of this in a future post.
So many Ringlets around at the moment, that even a hint of sunshine and you'll see them. Lots of new emergence as plenty of very fresh looking individuals. Also, Peacock caterpillars have been seen in patches of nettles and perhaps the last chance to see the Bee Orchids as they begin to not quite look their best.