During the past week we have seen big changes, plus one fantastic surprise, on our spectacular cliff-top reserve.
The initial influx of Guillemots and Razorbills had come and gone by the penultimate weekend of February, and whilst this is quite normal behaviour, it was, nevertheless, a bit disappointing to see their ledges empty again so soon. However, we need not have despaired, because by last Thursday they were steadily heading back and by Saturday several thousand seabirds were once more lining the cliff face. And what a thrill it is to watch these short-winged birds torpedoing downwards from on high to skim frenetically across the surface of the ocean before speeding back up to join their colonies on favoured ledges.
Well, that was the big change, but then came the fantastic surprise, when, on Saturday 1st March (yes, 1st March), an excited visitor returned to the centre to show us a photo she had just taken of a Puffin sitting on a rocky ledge. Our first Puffin of the season. Puff-tastic! It is of course far too early to expect many more to follow just yet, the expectation being that this little chap will return to the sea for a while longer. Although, having said that, further sightings have since been made of several Puffins sitting on the water not far from shore; so who knows, we may have some early returners to give joy to all on our cliff top viewpoints.
Seal - Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
There were, in addition, lots of other sightings to enthral our visitors, not least of which the Seals and Harbour Porpoises leisurely cruising in the mostly flat calm sea. There were also Skylarks aplenty, singing at the top of their voices, reminding us that Saturday was the beginning of the meteorological Spring. But, top of the shop for one particularly fortunate family, was a bumper ten minutes of bird-spotting, when, having just been focusing on a Peregrine sitting high on the cliff, they turned to see a flock of twenty-five Snow Buntings rise and fall when disturbed by a tractor ploughing in an adjacent field; and, if that wasn’t enough to stir their spirits, within a couple more steps they came across our much admired Short-eared Owl sitting on a nearby cliff top fence post. “WOW!” I think, says it all.
Snow Bunting - Steve Race © (Yorkshire Coast Nature)
And here’s some more great news: in keeping with our wish for the Bempton Cliff’s experience to be one that is full of fun for all the family, we are continuing to run the popular activities, viz Winter Bingo & Wildlife Trail (at no cost to participants) originally organised for children who visited during the recent half-term school holidays.
So come on down to Bempton Cliffs, remembering of course to be prepared for seasonal weather by bringing boots, gloves, hats, scarves and three layers of warm clothing. And, when you’ve had your fill of Bempton Cliff’s delight, pop back into the centre for a hot chocolate, coffee, cappuccino or tea accompanied by a light snack ... eccles cakes and muffins come highly recommended.
See you soon at Bempton Cliffs ...
We’ve just had another brilliant (and busy) week at Bempton Cliffs, especially so with the half-term school holiday providing an ideal opportunity for parents and grand-parents to bring their children to our reserve for a great family day out. Many of our young visitors took part in the activities we arranged, and all enjoyed identifying the various creature habitats on the wildlife trail, as well as spotting many birds and creatures listed in the winter bingo game. The good news is that these activities continue to be available for any children who are on holiday this week too.
With the exception of Monday, when a sea mist made viewing rather limited, we have experienced some excellent winter weather. This meant that as Tuesday dawned we were without doubt treated to the highlight of the week, the arrival of around twelve hundred Guillemots who had returned to their nesting sites. It was an amazing sight to see row upon row of these handsome seabirds lining the cliff face; but, as so often happens following the initial arrival of these birds, they began to return to the sea on Wednesday, and by Sunday they had all gone. They’ll be back!
Guillemot (image - rspb)
Performing regularly, and very popular with visitors, has been the spectacular sight of a Peregrine hunting its prey out over the cliff top. The really good news is that it has been joined by its mate, so we now have double delight in the peregrine department. Several visitors submitted wonderful images they’d taken of the peregrines in full hunting mode, which we have happily displayed in the reserve centre. We love to receive such photos, so please keep them coming.
Red Kite (image - rspb)
Not to be out-performed by Guillemots and Peregrines, our Short-eared Owl has been frequently seen most days in the late afternoon; and a Red Kite has been spotted on several occasions, soaring effortlessly over the fields adjoining the reserve.
On the sea, Black & Red-throated Divers continue to be seen from our viewpoints, as can the occasionally passing Eider. A must for many of the young visitors last week were the Harbour Porpoises, who could be seen breaking the surface on their frequent fishing trips.
Harbour Porpoise (image - Adrian Ewart)
Finally, a special mention should be made of our bird feeding station, from where most of our young wildlife explorers began their search for habitats and creatures last week. It is here that you can sit amongst the trees and enjoy the spectacle of assorted birds, such as Finches, Tits, Dunnocks, Tree Sparrows and Blackbirds, to name but a few, helping themselves to food.
Well that might be stretching the imagination a bit with regard to the weather (although, having said that, Sunday was a truly wonderful, sunny winter’s day); but it is certainly true of what is going on out there on the cliff face, with the arrival of more and more gannets every day.
(Great Spotted Woodpecker - RSPB Image)
Since our posting on 5th February, a whole host of additional sightings have been made to whet the appetite of visitors to our spectacular RSPB reserve. So, in addition to those listed previously, the following birds have recently been spotted: a hundred or more pink-footed geese, an eider duck, a common scoter and four early returning guillemots (all on the sea); a great spotted woodpecker, joining (sometimes scattering) other smaller birds on feeders at the feeding station; a busy little pied wagtail, running about daintily in the car park whilst searching for scraps; a kestrel; and a reed bunting. Also identified, in and amongst our gaily chirruping resident tree sparrows, was a house sparrow, possibly checking out how the other half live.
( Kestrel - David Hunt)
A massively enjoyable and regular sighting has also been made of a short-eared owl, out hunting during daylight hours in full view from the reserve’s centre. What a treat it is to see this magnificent bird through binoculars, especially to appreciate its staring yellow eyes surrounded by black patches within a pale face. And as if it was saying that the panto season is still on at Bempton Cliffs, we watched as the owl performed centre stage, occasionally flopping on its prey in the fields, whilst three visitors were concentrating on matters out to sea. “It’s behind you.” should have been the festive call, had we not been engrossed by the main act. There was a happy ending though, as these visitors saw the owl as they returned along the path that lead them back to the centre.
(Short-eared Owl - Steve Race)
Well it’s half-term for many school children, and what better way is there to spend your time than by having a family day at Bempton Cliffs; and, to add to the fun, we have a number of free activities for keen young explorers to enjoy. Firstly, we have Winter Bingo, which involves spotting various birds and other creatures on the feeders and on the cliffs; secondly, we have created a wildlife trail, on which are located a number of creature habitats, the purpose of which is to guess who lives where; and thirdly, if the weather is inclement, there’s some colouring-in to do inside the centre.
Why wait? Just pull on those boots and wellies, and come on over to Bempton Cliffs where there’s lots to both see and do.