Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs
Do you love Bempton Cliffs? Share your thoughts with the community. Or if you're thinking about visiting and would like to find out more, ask away!

Bempton Cliffs

  • Hello and Recent Sightings

    Hi there. Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Chris Calow and I’m your brand new visitor experience intern. I’ve taken the reins from Laura and Becky who did a fantastic job over what was an incredibly busy and challenging time for the team here at Bempton. I think it’s safe to say that the season wouldn’t have been the success that it was without them and the contributions which they made. All good things come to an end though and the two of them have both moved on to pastures new for the next six months. This means that you’re stuck with me now all throughout the winter season.

    With a poplar hawk-moth - Pernille Egeberg

    I suppose I should come clean and admit that even though I’ve only just started here as an intern I’m no stranger to Bempton Cliffs. I began volunteering with the RSPB right here at Bempton back in November 2013 and stuck around for six months before moving on to volunteer at other RSPB reserves for the next year or so. I was delighted to be invited back to help out over the busy summer holidays before transitioning into my internship, which brings us up to now. Over the next six months I’ll (hopefully) be posting regular blogs about all things Bempton. 

    Bempton Cliffs - Steve Race

    I can’t think of a better place to spend the next six months or a friendlier team of talented and hard working people to work with. I’ve volunteered at four different RSPB reserves and have had a fantastic time at each of them but I can safely say that Bempton Cliffs remains my favourite. I can’t think of anywhere else where you can see such fabulous wildlife surrounded by such incredible scenery. I’m looking forward to my time here and can’t wait to get stuck in.  

    Recent Sightings

    Now to business. It’s an exciting time at Bempton Cliffs, many of the seabirds may have left us for the year but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be seen. First and foremost the gannets are still here in large numbers. There is still hardly an inch to spare on Staple Newk; many of the gannets still have chicks so they’ll be staying here with us well into October.

    On September 9th several local fisherman were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to see something truly spectacular just off shore between Bempton and Flamborough Head. Can you guess what it was? Give yourself a point if you said basking shark. We’re used to sightings of marine mammals here at Bempton, porpoises are common and we’ve been fortunate enough this year to have several sightings of minke whales and we were even lucky enough to spot at least five common dolphin from Staple Newk on the 17th, but a basking shark is a true rarity in these waters. It is the second largest fish in the world and can reach a size of 9 - 10m, with a few exceptional individuals on record as being 12 m long. This picture should give you some idea as to the size of a basking shark.

    Basking Shark - Chris Gotschalk

    It’s certainly an impressive fish but there’s no need to panic if you ever find yourself in the water with one, they feed on plankton, small fish and invertebrates. Despite the enormous size that it can reach we know surprising little about basking sharks, it’s not easy to study an animal that spends so much time deep underwater

    Slightly less spectacular but no less exciting were the small mammals that we caught on our discovery day earlier this month. Five species were caught in total. These were field mouse, wood mouse, bank vole, common shrew, and pygmy shrew. It just goes to show that there are more species of mammal out there than you might think. Good news for us but bad news for those five species was the weasel that was spotted outside the visitor centre on the 10th and 18th September. The weasel is Britain’s smallest carnivore but don’t be fooled by it’s size, it is an incredibly successful hunter that specialises in hunting small rodents.

    Shrew - Leo Kokoszko

    There are still a number of beautiful butterflies to be seen on the reserve this month. We’ve had sightings of peacock, small tortoiseshell, and wall and a large influx of red admirals coming in off the sea on the 10th.

    So far I’ve barely mentioned the birds on the reserve. Autumn migration is well and truly underway with regular sightings of species heading back south for the winter. The Dell and Pallas’ Patch have been the regular haunts of willow warbler (1st, 12th, 15th, 16th), blackcap (1st, 15th, 16th), whitethroat (1st, 15th, 18th) goldcrest (3rd, 15th, 16th, 18th), spotted flycatcher (6th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th), pied flycatcher (10th, 12th), and most frequently of all, redstart (10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th). These aren’t the only migrant birds about though; there have also been sightings of garden warbler (1st), wheatear (1st, 10th), yellow wagtail (6th, 10th), siskin (15th, 16th) and redpoll (16th). We are still seeing the odd house martin and swallow in addition to a very late swift on the 15th. It won’t be long before all of these birds are winging their way towards the warmer weather that they will find in Africa over the winter. They’ll be replaced on our shores by a new cast of characters coming to us from the north. Now is the time to start looking out for species such as redwing, fieldfare and maybe even a waxwing or two.

    So far September has also proved to be a productive month for sea watching from Bempton. The 4th yielded sightings of great skua, red throated diver, common scoter, arctic skua and arctic tern, while the 5th produced manx shearwater, sooty shearwater and another sighting of common scoter.

  • SOS - trapped gannet

    Last Thursday was a really good day at the office.  Thanks to the RSPCA, we were able to save one of our 30,000 gannets.  

    Visitors on the reserve's Jubilee Corner viewpoint alerted staff to a trapped gannet on the cliff face that was obviously in some distress.  Their call set in motion a chain of events that culminated in a successful two-hour rescue operation undertaken in conjunction with the RSPCA.

    Having been informed of the bird’s plight by our warden, local RSPCA Wildlife Officer, Geoff Edmonson decided to bring in the organisation’s specialist climbing team.  

    Driving from Wales and Birmingham, the climbers met on the nature reserve at around 2pm to mount a rescue bid – having first received permission from Natural England. 

    Caught in fishing line and baling twine, the gannet was swinging by the leg approximately 150 feet down the 400 feet high chalk cliffs. 

    The first attempt to get to it failed.  A fresh climber made a second attempt and, well protected by thick gloves and eye goggles, managed to release the bird, place it in a bag and return with it to the cliff top.

    As luck would have it, retired vet Jill Reed, was visiting the site and was able to assess the bird’s condition on the cliff top.   Despite its ordeal, it was in remarkably good shape.  Although visibly tired, there appeared to be no damage to its leg apart from a bloody toe!   

    The bird was transported by the RSPCA to Scarborough’s Sealife Centre where it will be checked again for any injuries, given food and water and allowed to rest.  Once it’s back to full strength, it will be released back onto the cliffs.

    While everyone involved was delighted by the outcome, sadly there is evidence on the cliffs of other seabirds  who weren't so lucky.  Marine litter poses a real threat to seabirds and incidents like this are on the increase.  We are currently working closely with local groups to reduce the amount of waste left by fishermen on the cliffs and we continue to campaign to combat marine litter on a larger scale.  

     Images: Ken Calverley

  • Migration round-up - August 2015

    Welcome to the first of our monthly migration round-ups here on the Bempton blog, this one covering the month of August. As described in the previous post, Bempton isn't just about the seabirds - it's also a magnet for migrating landbirds, particularly in the autumn, and it's been an especially good one so far.... as part of the same area (and only a short walk west of the reserve), we've included neighbouring Buckton in our summaries to give a better overall picture of what's happening locally.
    Peregrine- Chrys Mellor
    A Little Egret took up residence at Buckton Pond from 1st (to at least 10th), while 2nd saw a Cuckoo also setting up shop there for a few days and a Hobby over Bempton village. A quiet few days followed before seven Yellow Wagtails dropped into the reserve on 7th, when no less than 300 Swallows were also present. 9th was all about the raptors, with a low-flying Osprey putting on a great show around the reserve, as well as six Common Buzzards and at least one Hobby in the general area. The excitement continued the next day when a Minke Whale was observed from the viewpoints, kindly sticking around for several days and much appreciated by many visitors!
    Minke whale - Tony Mayman
    Birds of prey continued to perform well with two Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard on 11th and another Marsh Harrier the following day, when wader passage began with a Black-tailed Godwit and two Golden Plovers over the reserve. Another Common Buzzard on 13th was upstaged by a Cuckoo on the reserve on 14th, when a nice cast of migrants arrived at Buckton including three Sedge Warblers, two Reed Warblers, a very early Fieldfare and both Green Sandpiper and Greenshank at the village pond.
    Spotted Flycatcher - David Aitken
    Action picked up further on 15th when a Wood Sandpiper and a Greenshank overflew the reserve, a Garden Warbler, two Blackcaps and two Willow Warblers arrived in the dell, and Buckton hosted a Marsh Harrier, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Whinchat and a Common Sandpiper. The following day saw the first Pied Flycatcher arriving at Buckton, soon followed by both Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and a Garden Warbler on the reserve on 19th.
    Osprey - Chrys Mellor
    A Wheatear at Buckton on 20th and both Common and Green Sandpipers at the village pond were very much the calm before the storm, and a fantastic fall - a simultaneous mass arrival of continental migrants, as eulogised about in the last post - occurred over the next couple of days, the like of which hasn't been seen for several years in an early autumn context.
    Pied Flycatcher - David Aitken
    A fantastic roll-call at Buckton was headlined by no fewer than three Wrynecks, with good numbers of other passerines including 20 Pied Flycatchers, six Whinchats, 20 Willow Warblers, four Redstarts, four Spotted Flycatchers, a Tree Pipit and a Reed Warbler, with a Merlin no doubt attracted by the bounty on offer... 24th saw our erstwhile warden striking patch gold with an Icterine Warbler in the dell by the reserve car park, as well as seven Pied Flycatchers, two Spotted Flycatchers and two Wheatears; back over at Buckton, common migrant numbers swelled further, with a staggering 100 Willow Warblers, plus single figures of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats and Redstarts, as well as Green and Common Sandpipers and the (no doubt well-sated) Merlin still.
    Icterine Warbler - David Aitken
    Many had cleared out by 25th, but some were still arriving, as evidenced by a new cast at the reserve which included four Pied and two Spotted Flycatchers, three Garden Warblers, a Reed Warbler and six Willow Warblers. Habitat creation work at Buckton Pond in recent years has provided a small but attractive area of mud for passage shorebirds, and with various common waders dropping in over recent weeks, it was perhaps only a matter of time before a rarer relative graced its shallows: that time came on 25th, when a pristine juvenile Little Stint pottered around innocently in front of appreciative admirers.
    Little Stint - Martin Garner
    A quieter (but still good quality) end to the month saw both Cuckoo and Whinchat at Buckton on 29th, a small new arrival there on 30th involving a Short-eared Owl, a Redstart, a Whinchat and a Wheatear, and two Whinchats, four Willow Warblers and a locally rare Curlew Sandpiper overhead on 31st.
    Common Redstart - Chrys Mellor
    Thanks to those who provided records and photos, especially Mark Thomas, Chrys Mellor, David Aitken, Tony Mayman, Martin Garner and the Flamborough Bird Observatory team.
    Mark James Pearson