A blustery, damp day isn't the best time to undertake a beach clean. (Ever tried controlling a black bin liner in a strong wind? They have a life of their own.). However, the hardy group who had turned up on Bridlington's North Beach to help collect litter were well prepared - which was just as well as August felt more like November.
It's amazing what you find left behind on the sands. If you use a phrase like 'flotsam and jetsum' it sounds quite nice, all driftwood and ship's rope just waiting to be turned into Kirsty Allsop-esque home decor. But in reality the detritus of modern life can be pretty grim. We discovered several piles of dog poo and, what we innocently thought was 'fabric', turned out to be the lining from sanitary towels.
And it's astonishing just how much litter there is out there - especially as one passerby said that the council's cleaning team had been out only days before. Figures from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust suggest that 20,000 tonnes of marine litter are dumped into the North Sea each year, of which 15% washes up onto our shoreline. So maybe the shoes we found were actually cast off to walk barefoot on a beach in Acapulco.
No stone was left unturned (literally on this pebble strewn beach) as we scoured the sand to retrieve even the smallest shard of plastic, of which there were many. In a 2015 study, as many as 9 out of 10 seabirds were found to have some plastic in their gut. And it was easy to see how the pieces of a broken plastic coffee cup could look like a tasty morsel to a gull. The most recent shocking claim, that by 2050 there'll be more plastic in the sea than fish, is truly frightening. If we don't change our ways, we could be up the creek without one of these - which we also added to the rubbish heap.
As if to prove the point, we did indeed find loads of plastic - bottles, bottle tops, food packaging and, because it's the height of the holiday season, plenty of broken buckets, spades and sand castle making toys. But the kids aren't always to blame. While we were litter picking a dog owner threw a ball that was caught by the wind. Rover couldn't be bothered to 'fetch' and the pair went off leaving the ball to scoot down the beach. Fortunately we had some young legs with us in the shape of Gracie, a volunteer at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, who ran after it to add to the growing pile of unwanted stuff.
We reckon that we covered around half a mile of beach and accumulated six bin liners-worth of litter. We logged all the items collected over the last 100 metre stretch to send to the Marine Conservations Society via the Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts's Waves of Waste project. They collate the information from similar local clean-up exercises which is then added to a national database. The YWT can also analyse this data to determine local trends in marine litter and to tackle marine litter sources directly.
There was some good news at the end of the day...we found very few plastic bags. Both Tesco and Morrisons report a drop of around 80% in single-use carrier bag purchases. As supermarkets handed out 7.64 billion of them in 2014, this is pretty impressive. Maybe it's time to re-introduce the returnable bottle that we used to have as kids.
The next beach clean in Bridlington is in October. Please join us. More details here:
Hi, It's Helen here!
It’s been a busy few weeks at Bempton Cliffs, so I just wanted to let you know what has been happening here among other things.
We were involved with the National Whale and Dolphin Watch week at the end of July where we had volunteers and visitors help us to spot cetaceans from our clifftop viewpoints. We were lucky enough to have sightings of Harbour Porpoise, grey seals and a common seal. These sightings have now been sent to Seawatch Foundation who will add them to their database, so a big thank you to everyone who took part!
I have also been setting the moth trap to see what species we have here at the reserve. I am totally new to identifying moths, so have had help from my colleagues not only to help set the trap, but also to help identify them! I am really surprised about how colourful some of the moths are and it is really interesting to see what we have and to add them to our records.
Here are some pictures of the moths I have taken:Poplar HawkmothSpectacle – so called because it looks like it is wearing a pair of glasses!
I will leave you with the recent sightings from the last few days... Turnstone, marsh harrier, corn bunting, whinchat, ruff (flying south), duff (flying south), yellow wagtail (flying south), juvenile cuckoo, reed bunting, meadow pipit, red admiral, whitethroat, blackcap, house martin x12, redstart, oystercatcher x18, wheatear, willow warbler, pied flycatcher, grey heron x2 flew south, osprey, golden plover, porpose and minke whales x3!
Till next time,Helen
It is officially the end of the auk season at Bempton Cliffs. We have the odd puffin and guillemot visible on the water, but the rest of the gang and their chicks appear to have left us until next season. It's been a busy few months, with tons of excited visitors spotting a puffin for the first time, leaving us with a tick on their bucket list and a promise to come back and see them again next year. We were lucky enough to even spot a puffling this year from our viewpoints, which is a very special treat as the parents usually keep them hidden safely in the burrow. All in all it's been a successful puffin season and as I mentioned in a previous blog post we managed to do our first Bempton Cliffs puffin count, so next year we will know whether the population is increasing or declining. Image Credit: Misa Mass (facebook)
The gannets are stealing the spotlight now, with our guided gannet walks leaving the visitor centre at 11am every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. The gannets have such a wide window of opportunity to lay their eggs, so as you can see from the photo below, they are all in different stages. We have the fluffy white cotton wool chicks, right through to chicks that will be ready to fledge around the 2nd week in August. The last gannet to fledge will be around mid-October and then the gannets will leave us at the end of October, so there is still plenty of time for you to come along and see these magnificent birds with your own eyes!
Image credit: Nick Hanson @nickhansonphoto
Last weekend we had a sighting of this beautiful Ruddy Darter dragonfly on the reserve. This species of dragon fly moved north of the Humber in the early 1990’s. It can now be found in many areas in East Yorkshire. It is locally abundant. However, to our knowledge it has never been recorded at RSPB Bempton Cliffs Reserve - despite extensive searching over the years. Last weekend, there were 2 males together for 1.5 hours in cliff top grass at Old Dor viewpoint. The image shows classic features (compared with Common Darter) being blood red, black legged and ‘waisted' near the base of the abdomen.
Image and words credit: Trevor Charlton
Before I jump onto the recent sightings, we have our Bempton Cliffs Summer Fete taking place on the reserve from 25th - 31st August. Come and join us for this fun event where you can have your face painted as an animal, a bird, a bug or a butterfly. Try your hand at the ring toss and find out if your aim is as good as an Auks! Throw a coin on the chocolate toss and try to catch a ‘fish’ for your dinner. Hook-a-Puffin and win a prize or learn an interesting fact about Bempton’s most popular sea bird - all for a small donation! I have really enjoyed preparing this event, especially turning these rubber ducks into puffins! It would be great to see as many visitors as possible join us and help us to raise money for our reserve. We also have a raffle full of amazing prizes, including prints by the amazing Steve Race and Chrys Mellor. There is no need to book, just turn up and have fun!
Recent SightingsHere is a list of our recent sightings over the last week or so... redshank, great skua, canada goose, cormorant x 10 flying north past Bartlett Nab, common scoter, juvenile cuckoo spotted throughout this week and again yesterday at Staple Newk in the afternoon and this morning flying from New Roll Up inland, kestrel, yellow wagtail, marsh harrier, great white egret, peregrine, great skua, harbour porpoise, grey seal, lesser whitethroat, grasshopper warbler, reed warbler, painted lady butterfly x8, swallow, oystercatcher x 16 flying south, ruddy darter dragonfly, six-spot burnet moth.
There is so much to see here and our recent sightings book is available for you to view in our visitor centre. Feel free to add anything you have spotted yourselves!