Hello readers, and guess who's back! For those who have been following the blogs, you might remember I was writing earlier this summer, but left to graduate. I have been able to return for a fortnight though, and am happy to be back! Firstly, I must give a huge thanks to Bill for doing such an excellent job keeping you all posted on what's been going on with our wildlife. Like many of our birds, he's left us now, and will certainly be missed! But though many birds (and volunteers) have now finished their time and left us for the season, there is still plenty to see on the reserve, with many creatures besides myself returning for a visit on their migration!
I'll begin with the big news: as of yesterday, the areas surrounding our visitors' centre and car park are now officially newt-free! For those who have visited this summer, you might have noticed the green fencing all around the site. This has been due to our impending re-development of the visitors' centre and the presence of great-crested newts on site -- they are a protected species under UK and EU law, and so by law must be handled with the utmost care by licensed professionals. In our case, a fantastic team from Wold Ecology Ltd. have been with us over the spring and summer months, seeing to it that these newts and various other amphibians were safely re-located outside what is soon to be a construction zone. The fencing was installed along with bucket traps, each cleverly outfitted with a "mammal ladder" (that is, a stick, which mice, voles, and other small mammals could climb to escape the trap) and a small small flotation device as a guard against flooding should any big storms pass by! Dan, Chris, and Jack have been checking the traps every morning, relocating any critters they found to safer areas outside the re-development zone, and ensuring the traps and fencing remained in good order. I had the privilege of accompanying them on some of their work, so I can share a few photos from the project with you.
Much ado about newt-thing! Our centre re-development was delayed a year so that we could have our rare and beautiful great-crested newts re-located to safety. Photo by Jaime.
Occasionally, a mammal such as this shrew (perfectly healthy, just resting!) didn't quite manage to make it up the mammal ladder before the traps were checked. Photo by Jaime.
The traps also caught hundreds -- around 800, to be precise! -- toads of all sizes, all of which are now safe from the bulldozers. Photo by Jaime.
Of course, now that we've received the all-clear as far as the newts go, this also means our time is nearly up! Construction on our new, expanded centre is due to begin very shortly, meaning we will be closed after this Sunday, 31 August! The public footpath on the cliffs will of course remain open, but our centre, servery, toilets, and car park will all be inaccessible until we re-open for the return of our breeding sea birds next spring. This weekend is therefore your last opportunity to come check out our all the fantastic wildlife on the cliffs with all the guidance of our enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and volunteers, or the comfort of a nice beverage or opportunity to shop for a few nice souvenirs of your visit! We do hope you'll come join us this weekend and take advantage -- there's loads yet to see!
The gannets are still around in huge numbers, showing quite well, and many are now fledging, so you can enjoy their amazing -- if somewhat awkward -- first flights as they glide down to the sea. And though we've been having a few distinctly autumnal windy days the last week, a bit of wind actually makes for the best viewing, as these huge birds glide right up to eye level and fly and hover incredibly close to the fences, allowing us to observe and enjoy them up-close.
The gannet numbers on the main gannetry near Staple Newk viewpoint are still very high! Photo by Jaime.
What's not to love about a bird with a wingspan wider than I am tall?! Photo by Jaime.
A bit of wind means we can get incredibly close to these stunning birds! Photo by Jaime.
And... fulmars! As their own chicks come up toward fledging (most are now wearing the same plumage as their parents -- the only one of our eight seabird species that does so before leaving the nest), they're proving extremely active, gliding all around us with their "stiff wings" flight style as if to show off just a bit!
The "little tough guys" of the cliffs -- living over 50 years -- are still around too, and showing better than ever as their chicks prepare to fledge! Photo by Jaime.
As Bill mentioned recently, there has also been lots of action down on the water. The shags are still quite active below us, skimming the surface of the water and performing their hop-dive fishing style from the water's surface.
The shags don't come up high for us, but a pair of binoculars gives excellent viewing of these birds and their funny feeding behaviour. Photo by Jaime.
Especially exciting for a lot of us has been the excellent showings of harbour porpoise we've had most days lately. Seeing these takes a little luck, since they don't leap and breach the way dolphins do, but they've been spending a lot of time fishing just below us, especially at high tide. With a pair of binoculars (available for hire if you don't have your own), the viewing is absolutely fantastic, as we've watched them swim so nimbly through the waves, darting here and there after the fish that make up their meals. We've also been observing the striking colouration and contrast of their dark back and light underside, which sadly didn't show up well on my small camera.
Harbour porpoises are all around us! What an incredible treat! Photo by Jaime.
We've also had some migrants passing by -- watch out for various skuas and shearwaters, or for really great viewing why not join onto one of our Skua and Shearwater Cruises, sailing from Bridlington Harbour beginning 6 September! (Pre-booking is highly recommended as spaces are selling out fast!)
There are plenty of migrants to see, especially on our upcoming cruises, like this shearwater! Photo by Jaime.
Our Big Birds and Mini-beasts kids' guided walks have now concluded, but a self-guided family tour will remain available over the weekend, with information posts, a chance to hunt for mini-beasts, and a fun quiz sheet. Gazing at Gannets walks also continue; much like our earlier Puffin Patrols, these offer an exciting opportunity to learn about Bempton and our birds and go onto the reserve with one of our knowledgeable volunteers (and a telescope!). Tours depart daily at 2pm, with additional walks at 11am on Saturday and Sunday.
There are plenty of mini-beasts yet to be seen all around the reserve! Photo by Jaime
Brave young wildlife explorers may find the chance to get very personal with all sorts of mini-beasts! (I wasn't brave enough to touch anything more beastly than this lovely moth!) Photo by Jaime.
Tree-sparrows are among those still fledging, and making for excellent viewing along our feeding stations and nature trail. Photo by Jaime
Some young chaffinches have been proving themselves capable of flight, but not quite ready to leave mum and dad! Photo by Jaime.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that our peregrines have been seen nearly every day I've been back, too! To summarise, there really is a lot going on, so don't miss this fantastic last-chance to come check out the full Bempton Cliffs experience this weekend! Hope to see you there!