There’s a definite feeling of spring in the air at Bempton Cliffs as we head towards an action packed Easter weekend.
All of our summer regulars – including plenty of Puffins - are here in good number, although the auks are on and off the cliffs as they feed up prior to breeding. The first Gannet egg was spotted from Staple Newk viewpoint on 28 March. Amazingly, the first egg of the year is usually from the same pair and ‘nest 33’ did not let us down this year.
Corn Bunting are singing to hold territory behind the Staple Newk viewpoint and between Bartlett and Jubilee viewpoints – listen out for the distinctive ‘jangling keys’ song. Good numbers of Twite, Linnet and Yellowhammer have been reported at the north end of the reserve beyond Jubilee viewpoint.
Migrants are starting to move through including our first Swallow - sadly the Red-rumped Swallow at Flamborough on 5 April didn’t make it to Bempton. Movement of Goldfinches and Brambling and large movements of Meadow Pipits and Linnets have also been observed. Wheatear was seen on 9 April. We’ve also had our first Chiffchaff (20 March), Willow Warbler (28 March) and Goldcrest (5 April) – hopefully some of them will be sticking around to breed locally.
For bird of prey fans, Peregrine have been seen regularly, a flyover Buzzard was observed on 5 April and both Barn Owl (1 April) and Short-eared Owl (9 April) have been spotted.
Lapland Bunting - Alan Shearman©
Rarer birds – for the reserve – include Lapland Bunting seen on and off from late March to 9 April. The field beyond the old RAF base seems to be favoured although there is a lot of ground to check and they haven’t been seen every day. Shorelark were seen behind Staple viewpoint on 28 March.
Shorlark - David Aitken©
We’re already in seabird season and with migration happening anything could turn up – so make plans to visit Bempton this half term or Easter.
It's not often we're found wearing less than three layers of clothing up on the cliffs. An almost constant nippy north-easternly means fleeces are de rigueur all year round. However, last Wednesday we made an exception and donned our best summer holiday outfits in honour of a new member of staff. And after days of grim greyness, the sun shone specially for the occasion.
Ryan Chenery hails from Barbados and is our new Volunteer Development Officer. He brings with him a wealth of experience in the environmental sector. In his previous roles, Ryan has surveyed habitats and species in Ecuador, spent time volunteering in his native Barbados, as well as supporting a programme to reintroduce the red-billed curassow at a nature reserve along Brazil’s Atlantic coastline. At Bempton he faces a new set of challenges - not least of which is the weather.
There is, as always, a serious side to everything we do - even wearing to wearing Hawaiin shirts and flip-flops in winter. In this case it was to take a photo that will hopefully get us a lot of local mediacoverage and enable us to put out a message from Ryan that new volunteers are always welcome up on the cliffs. If it works, the goose-bumps on goose-bumps will have been worth it.
To much humming of the Hawaii-Five-O theme tune, Ryan struts his stuff on a picnic table in a classic surfing pose.
Just to prove how chilly it really was, volunteers Barbara and Alan Bellerby sneak into shot. They were warming up with a cuppa after spending some time with visitors out on the reserve. There was steam coming off Barbara's tea (honest).
And finally the boys go solo on a viewpoint - more Benidorm than Barbados?
Bringing Ryan on board has been made possible through HLF funding. About the Heritage Lottery Fund: Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 36,000 projects with more than £5.9bn across the UK including £425m to over 3,000 projects in Yorkshire & the Humber alone. www.hlf.org.uk.
We're still on a high. The Remarkable East Yorkshire Tourism Awards (REYTAs) took place yesterday in the spectacular setting of the Grand Hall at The Spa, Bridlington. And we won!
RSPB Bempton Cliffs came out on top in the Remarkable Visitor Attraction category. Sponsored by The Deep in Hull, there was tough competition in this group. We were up against a broad mix of premier attractions including Beverley Race Course and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Living Seas Centre. But on the night, we had a secret weapon...a lucky Puffknit. And when our name was announced, there were cheers all round as Team Bempton and the Puffknit took to the stage.
The REYTAs acknowledge the best in an industry that is worth £700 million to the region's economy. The stringent judging criteria covers every aspect of the attraction's offer such as the quality of the facilities, visitor engagement, customer service and satisfaction so we were delighted just to receive a nomination, let alone walk away with a gong.
Guest of honour, James Beresford, chief executive of Visit England, praised the awards and the standard of the entries - which is reassuring as we now get the chance to progress to the National Finals. Bring it on.
The official winners' photo of Maria, Kim, Avril and Mark from Team Bempton with a representative from our category sponsor, The Deep in Hull.
Two of our hard working volunteers, Angela and Alan, with the award which was designed by students of ceramics at Hull University.
The post Oscars obligatory 'selfie' - fortunately we weren't being judged on our photography skills!