There's nothing quite like a cross gannet. Try to pinch its belongings and there'll be trouble - as we've been finding out.
The newly re-sited CCTV camera overlooking Staple Newk is once again bringing us some intriguing insights into the lives of the seabirds - none more so than the squabbles going on among the gannets.
Fom the comfort of the visitor centre - and often nursing a cup of something warm - we've watched some of them having a right old barney after one tried to nick some of the nesting material another had put in place. They weren't happy, believe me.
The new camera between Bartlett Nab and Jubilee viewpoints today picked up shots of a puffin - one of the first we've seen on the cliffs this year. At this time of the year, lots of the birds, including the puffins, razorbills and guillemots, haven't settled down to life on the cliffs. They might be here today but there's a chance they'll have nipped off tomorrow.
But that will-they-won't-they really adds to the sense of anticipation as we await another seabird breeding season.
The CCTV cameras are daily giving us an intimate glimpse into the lives of the seabirds - it makes for fascinating watching.
I'm sure that you'll all be glad to hear that the Bempton Cliffs visitor centre has now re-opened. It's been an exciting day too, as guillemots in their hundreds have decended on the cliff side for the second time (out of season) this year. Whilst we're not sure of the reason for this, we're still glad that they appear to be in good numbers despite the freezing weather. A few gannets have been spotted gliding over the cliff tops too, which is a little less strange for the time of year. All we need now is for a few puffins to turn up and we'll be ready for the breeding season 3 months early!
Another visitor that might be of intrest to you is the unusual looking woodcock. Several have been spotted on the reserve in the past two days and as they are largely nocturnal many people haven't seen them before. With their short legs, dumpy bodies and long beak, they look slightly comical and have been the subject of many a confused phonecall to the RSPB wildlife helpline. This is because they have an unfortunate habit of flying into windows during their migration period and few non-birders are able to identify them.
Whilst there are no events planned at Bempton Cliffs before the end of the year, the reserve is the perfect place to come to get away from some of the Chrismas madness with a peaceful walk along the cliff top. Funnily enough, the shop at the visitor centre is also one of the best places to come and purchase a special gift. You decide which of those options you are most in need of!
Today is a beautiful day up at Bempton. Unfortunately, the visitor centre is closed, as we have decided that the road is a little too dangerous to drive (or skid) down. You can still reach the reserve by foot however, and if you do, you won't be disappointed. The crisp, fresh, sparkling snow and ice looks stunning under the pale sunshine and the birds and animals are much easier to spot against the brilliant white.
Hares, deer, weasels, owls and tree sparrows have been making regular appearances over the past few days. As well as seeing them in broad daylight, we've also noticed a lot of tracks in the area round the centre. Weasels have particularly interesting tracks as their tails drag in the snow, leaving lines amongst the paw prints. Rats can also leave tail lines but the difference is in the footprint size. Weasels tend to have slightly larger, paw like, feet, whereas rats have smaller feet.
Also in times of bad weather, hunting birds can be easier to spot. Barn owls find it especially hard to hunt in the snow and so the hungry birds come out during daylight hours in a desperate search for food. Some birds have even been starving to death due to the difficult conditions and Mark Thomas, RSPB Investigations Officer has asked that: 'farmers and members of the public...remain vigilant and report any sick or injured looking owls to a wildlife rescue centre immediately. Prompt action could save the life of a starving bird and once they’ve been fed up they should soon be fit for release back in the original location.”
Steve Race, our Education and Communications Officer, was out on the reserve yesterday and saw the fascinating sight of a sparrowhawk chasing some redwings along the cliff top. Woodcocks are still easy to flush from the scrub, goldfinches, robins, greenfinches, bramblings and reed buntings are all easy to spot on the feeder at the back of the visitor centre and the feeding station is awash with tree sparrows.
Whatever you're doing this Christmas and wherever you may be, don't forget to spare a few minutes a day feeding your local birds. Watching them hop about underneath your feeders can bring you a sense of calm on even the most stressful day.We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and look forward to welcoming you all back to Bempton Cliffs in the new year!
The beautiful male Desert Wheatear was still present today. Other bits and bobs over the last few days have included one or two Short-eared Owls still and a couple of Woodcock.
Despite the freezing cold, at least it was gloriously sunny today and the Desert Wheatear could at last bask in a little East Yorkshire sun. The Short-eared Owl was hunting again, still finding plenty to eat in the grassland and a Barn Owl headed up Cliff Lane toward the reserve this evening.
Over the last few days Snow and Lapland Bunting have been seen and over the weekend a remarkable record of a House Martin taught us that nothing is ever as you'd expect - the last bird you might predict in December.
Keep an eye out to sea as there are days when fish shoals bring normally distant seabirds close in shore and both Gannets and Fulmars are out there somewhere, but were just off the reserve last Friday.
Image of the Desert Wheatear below courtesy of Steve Race. It's proving pretty photogenic.