Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs
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Bempton Cliffs

  • Seabird Research Resi Vol over and out

    This will be my last Blog post as I am in my final week of being a Residential Volunteer here at Bempton Cliffs. I have had a fantastic experience here. Bempton wildlife has put on a phenomenal show and the volunteers and staff here have been wonderful. Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of witnessing some magical wildlife experiences, including;  watching 4+ Harbour Porpoises from Bartlett Viewpoint this morning and witnessing Gannet chicks fledge the nest to name a few.

    Above: Harbour Porpoise. Photographer: Adrian Ewart

    Plus a couple of experiences which involved a lot of excited shouting and pointing, even other volunteers from the visitor center running down to the viewpoints:

    There was one particular (and rare) day where the fields near the reserve were being harvested which caused thousands of small flies to swarm the viewpoints just for one day. I was out being a Viewpoint Volunteer that particular day. So these flies were winding me up, landing on every inch of everyone and anyone they could find (even up my top!). So there I was debating whether or not to call it a day and get away from the flies. When suddenly I see a splash. I think its nothing until I see a lot more. Gannets are diving just off of Grandstand Viewpoint! Gannets usually feed 18-35 miles out to sea so this was a very very rare occasion. More and more Gannets start diving right in front of me. I radioed up to the Visitor Center where the staff were quite skeptical of my claim, until I see several people in rspb uniform running down towards the viewpoint to check it out. I'm pretty sure that when the staff were pointing and "oooing and aaaahhhhing", the surrounding visitors realized  how lucky they were to witness the diving Gannets. Everyone was thrilled to see this rare event. One man even said "My dream has been to see Gannets diving and now I have seen it". 

       Above: Gannets diving off of Grandstand Viewpoint. Photographer: Visitor

    Another Viewpoint running moment I had was when the Minke Whale was spotted from the reserve. The Minke Whale was spotted for a few days in a row but I had been away. When I got back it seemed everyone had seen it but me. I was getting ready to head out for a day being a Viewpoint volunteer when someone mentioned there was a Minke Whale off of Bartlett Viewpoint...Well I had never been much of a runner until this moment! Sure enough there it was, the fin slowly rising out of the water close enough to not need Binoculars. This was absolutely fantastic. When I unexpectedly saw it later on in the day, I impulsively shouted "Minke Whale!", causing everyone around me to stop where they were and stare out to sea as I tried to describe where in the featureless huge expanse of ocean to look for the fin.


    Minke Whale. Photographer: Steve Race

    Being the Seabird Research Assistant Residential Volunteer, the Seabird monitoring front has dropped off a bit and the data analysis begins as various species have left. However I am still monitoring the productivity of a Gannet plot every week. There are still plenty of chicks of various sizes to come and see at Bempton. Including newly fledged Gannets on the water.

    Above: One of the Gannets I am monitoring.

    As the sun sets on my time at Bempton Cliffs, the actual sunsets continue to blow me away with their beauty:

    Above: Taken on an IPhone (not edited) from the office in Bempton Village





  • Simmering Seas – an exclusive talk by Dr Euan Dunn for RSPB Bempton Cliffs

    The opening of the shiny new Seabird Centre at RSPB Bempton Cliffs this spring provided the opportunity for the reserve not only to continue hosting the greatest seabird show on the mainland, but also to vastly improve its facilities and capabilities away from the cliff edge. An important part of the new centre is the extra space and the possibilities it offers – not least when it comes to holding talks and events – and the team wasted no time in putting together an unrivalled programme in partnership with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Living Seas Centre at South Landing, Flamborough.
    Time flies, and we're already well in to this year's monthly programme, proving popular at both venues. Last night it was Bempton's turn to host one of most anticipated talks of the year. Keith, Jo and the team secured quite the coup by persuading Dr Euan Dunn – RSPB's Head of Marine Policy and all-round guru of all things seabird – to travel over for a one-off talk, prepared especially for our local audience.
    Euan has been at the vanguard of marine policy and seabird studies at the RSPB for over 30 years; that's a hell of a lot experience, and it shows. With an understated, conversational manner that gave the talk a refreshingly informal and engaging air, Euan walked and talked us through the mixed fortunes of our seabirds, past present and future - particularly in relation to the threats they face, and what can (and should) be done to help them.
    This was no sugar-coated, airbrushed version of events, and was all the better for it. While it's true to say there are many related issues which are of increasingly grave concern, it's always better to be armed with the knowledge and the facts, and that's where Euan and his team have been consistently excelling for many years. Did you know, for example, that the North Sea temperature is rising four times faster than the global average, and that the resulting fundamental shift in the plankton community is one of the main factors affecting our seabirds? Or that sandeels account for 70-90% of our seabird's staple diet, and that the sandeels they're feeding on have seen a 40% decline in energy value in the last 40 years?
    For all the inconvenient truths, there were various positives that were deservedly accentuated by Euan, providing timely reminders of what the RSPB has achieved - and is achieving - for the good of our seabirds. Against a backdrop of climate change and its effects on pretty much every aspect of seabird ecology, there are areas within which we can change - and are changing - for the better. Euan gave us an inspiring range of examples, from the satellite-tagging projects that inform policy and protect essential foraging areas, to the successful campaigns that have made the fishing industry more responsible, to the rat eradication on Lundy which has seen its Puffin and Manx Shearwater colonies blossom, and even encouraged the first ever breeding European Storm-petrels to the island.
    So, the science was sound and the message was clear: all is by no means lost, but without the many facets that make up the RSPB – from its front-line scientists and researchers, to its dedicated reserve staff, to its campaigners and lobbyists, to its members who make it all possible – much more certainly would be.
    Mark James Pearson
  • July/August Recent Sightings

    The last couple of weeks have seen a lot of changes here at Bempton! Most of the Puffins have left the cliffs until next year now, although a few have been seen bobbing around on the water over the last few days. Guillemots and Razorbills have continued to leave the cliffs in large numbers, and there are now just a few left.

    Chrys Mellor ©

    But it’s not all sad! There are still the amazing Gannets here! With chicks that only hatched a few weeks ago all the way up to chicks that are now ready to leave, its great see how they change and develop throughout their 12 weeks on the nest. We have even had a few sightings of Gannet chicks leaving the nest for the first time and gliding down to the water.  It’s not always a graceful landing!

    Leo Kokoszko ©

    The Kittiwake chicks have also fledged and can be seen flying around. 

    Chrys Mellor ©

    We’ve had some great views of Fulmer chicks recently as well. Particularly from New Roll up view point. They are getting larger and fluffier by the day!

    Sophia Jackson ©

    There has even been a fantastic view of a Cuckoo on the reserve last week. It just goes to show you never know what you could spot here at Bempton.

    Eddie Laker ©

    Last weekend we took part in National Whale and Dolphin Watch with a total of 35 sightings of Harbor Porpoise seen over the 2 days.  There have been a lot of reports of them being spotted from the viewpoints over the last couple of weeks.

    Even thought the seabirds are starting to depart and things are getting quiet on the cliffs, on the cliff top there are still some great things to be seen. A Marsh Harrier has been spotted several times over the last couple of weeks along with Great Skua, Peregrine and Kestrel.  There have also been sightings of Dunlin, Pied flycatcher, Wheatear, Grey Heron, Wren, Sand Martin, Oyster Catchers and of course our lovely Tree Sparrows and Swallows.

    - Becky