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
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.
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.