We are well and truly into puffin season now, and I'm still as excited as a child on Christmas morning every time I see one. Our Puffin Patrols have been full every day and we've had some lovely feedback from the excited visitors that are seeing puffins for the first time. The novelty really doesn't seem to wear off, and that's probably because the puffins are here for such a short space of time. If you are planning on coming to see a puffin with your own eyes, make sure you get here before the end of July as the puffins will be leaving then and we don't want you to miss out! For those of you that can't make it to Bempton Cliffs during puffin season, here is a gorgeous video that our live cameras captured of a puffin that appears to be posing for the camera. They really are good looking little birds, aren't they?
Razorbill and egg - Image by Michael Babcock.
I'm still really enjoying myself in my role of Visitor Experience Assistant, I'm learning something new every day and sometimes really stepping out of my comfort zone, which has been scary but rewarding. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the season has to offer and I'll hopefully have plenty more to blog about in the months to come. Thank you for reading :-)
It's been a while since my last blog post, so we've had quite a lot of sightings on the reserve. We've seen corn bunting, oystercatcher, swallows (back in the nest at the entrance to the visitor centre), iceland gull (flew over), peregrine (pair), short eared owl, red kite, common buzzard, osprey (flew over), house martin, yellowhammer, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, sparrowhawk, grey seal and porpoise.
Every year we're fortunate to have a number of enthusiastic young people join us on the reserve to see how we do things. They learn a lot and they teach us quite a bit too. And we love having them around and getting their views on life on the edge. Helen is with us for the summer and this is Hello from her:
First things first, let me introduce myself – my name is Helen and I am the new visitor experience intern here at Bempton Cliffs. I have only been here a week, but have had an amazing time so far and everyone is really friendly and helpful. I am learning so many things from going out on walks with other volunteers and staff members that I have had to make many notes so that I don’t forget anything!
So far I have spent a couple of days out on Bartlett and Grandstand to spot Puffins and have been lucky enough to see quite a few. Setting up the telescope and seeing our visitors’ reactions when they see them, sometimes for the first time, has been great. We have had many visitors from both the UK and all over the world, but they all have the same reaction when they see our little clown of the sea!
I was also involved with the BioBlitz last Sunday and helped to record the species that we saw during the day. We had many surveys happening over the course of the day and there was lots to see including bird ringing and small mammal trapping. Hopefully have a final tally soon of everything we counted on the cliffs. We also set up the moth trap but, due to the cold wet weather overnight, it wasn’t as successful as we had hoped and only recorded 2 Hebrew Character moths (although they were lovely!). I hope to set up the trap again in a few weeks time and we should get a better result – watch this space.
Bird ringing tent at BioBlitz
In the short time I have been here, I have seen a Gannet and Puffin released back to the wild (please also see the Gone Gannet blog) that had been cared for by Whitby Wildlife Rescue. On Friday we also released a Razorbill who that been found on Cliff Lane. After having a health check to make sure it was ok, it was released back onto the cliffs. Good luck to them all!
Razorbill ready for release
I’m really excited about being at Bempton Cliffs for the next 6 months, so please say hi if you see me around the reserve, I will be the one who chuckles and smiles every time I see a Puffin, sometimes I do forget that other people are around
It's always a good day at the office when we get to release seabirds back into the wild. Yesterday was twice as good because Whitby Wildlife Rescue brought a juvenile gannet and a puffin that they'd been caring for but that were now ready to be returned to the cliffs.
Alex with Bempton Cliffs volunteer, Allan Dawson
Alex Farmer has run the charity for the past seven years after leaving her job in teaching. During that time the annual number of call-outs to wildlife in need has rocketed from 300 to 1200 last year. This year, she expects to have to deal with 2000 individual birds and animals. These are mainly seabirds but also game birds and birds of prey. She's also currently caring for several hedgehogs, a badger and a fox cub. Most of the injuries are the result of accidents with cars but there are also problems that arise from habitat destruction.
But today's was all about good news as Electra the puffin and Big Baby the gannet headed home.
As always, it was the puffin that stole the show. - especially as she peeped out of her 'space capsule' carrying box. She had been at the sanctuary for three weeks and was so emaciated when she arrived that she couldn't even lift her head. But 21 days and several bags of whitebait later (the fishmongers in Whitby order extra supplies for Alex and her residents), Electra is fighting fit.
It's around half a mile from the Seabird Centre to Staple Newk and carrying a huge cage with around 3Kg of gannet in it was tiring work. But then, Big Baby had been eating around 12 whole sardines a day or a little less if Herring and Mackerel were on the menu. Allan and Alex were able to take a bit of a breather as members of the public stopped to find out what was going on.
It took Big Baby a couple of moments to get his act together but he was soon away to join the colony once he got his bearings. Alex said that as he'd been getting stronger he'd been getting more agressive and was definitely competitive enough to fend for himself . He couldn't have been more different from the disheveled bird that arrived at the Sanctuary in November, so weak he had to be hand fed.
Then it was Electra's turn. And before we could get our cameras to click, she was off. So this is the one photo that we managed to get - but it really captures her joy to be back home. If she could have shouted 'Whoopee!' she would have.
Life on the cliffs never fails to surprise us. While we were out near the heart of the gannet colony we spotted an egg right on the top of the cliffs. It's unusual to see one in such an exposed position and on what appears to be a makeshift nest. Rest assured we'll be keeping a close eye on it.
It costs around £5 a day to feed a poorly gannet and about £3 to care for a puffin. If you'd like to support the work of Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary, which is run entirely by volunteers, visit their website http://www.whitbywildlife.co.uk