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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.
Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern
Puffins still around...but not for long
Red alert, red alert! The puffin breeding season is starting to come to an end, and if you haven't made a trip up here this season to see them, now is your last chance. There are still plenty around for now, with the best views still from Grandstand. But all the puffins and their chicks will be leaving the cliffs and heading out to sea for the winter within the next two weeks. Hopefully that will include the famous Grandstand puffling, although at the rate it's growing it's going to be a bit of a tight squeeze to climb out of that burrow.
Operation Owl Rescue
Anybody local to the area may have been woken up in the middle of the night by the storms on Sunday night, and it seems the wildlife had a bit of a tough time of it too. On the drive up to the centre, Sarah found this Little Owl on the side of the road, completely soaked through and obviously in a bad way. It got taken up to the centre, I went back down to the house to get my hairdryer, and Operation Owl Rescue began! He certainly looked in a bit of a sorry state to start with, but an hour of blow drying later and he started to look much more promising. What we originally thought was a chick that had been swept out of its nest, was actually a very bedraggled adult. It all ended well though, with this little guy being well enough to be released that evening.
Before the blow dry
Au revoir Swallow chicks!
Visitors on Monday 6th were in for a treat, as our swallow chicks finally started to fledge. They hung around a lot longer than we all thought they would, but finally they’ve spread their wings and gone out into the big bad world. It was a bit of a wobbly start for most of them. Clearly realising they’d made a terrible mistake, they were all seen desperately clinging to the wall of the centre, trying to climb back in to the nest. Yesterday (8th), there were two very stubborn chicks in the nest, still actually being fed by the adult. Don’t think those two read the fledging handbook.
The last cheeky two
And a quick flashback to a few weeks ago to this brilliant photo!
Fulmar vs. Puffin
On my Monday Puffin Patrol, I witnessed quite the show down between a fulmar and a puffin. Fulmars had been a bit thin on the ground (and air) that day, and so as we reached Jubilee Corner, I inwardly cheered that one was sat on a cliff ledge close to the platform. Rather oddly, there was a puffin perched very close by in front of its burrow. Fulmars are well known for not being very tolerant of their neighbours, spitting out foul smelling oil at anyone that gets too close.
We watched as the puffin flew off, and the fulmar pottered down to have a good nosey around the puffin’s ledge. Suddenly, our puffin came swooping back in, attacked the fulmar, and won! The fulmar flew off, and tried to reclaim the ledge several times but was warded off by one very fearless puffin. Our brave little puffin then stood on the edge of the ledge, flapping his wings as if to say, “this is my ledge, back off”, then scuttled back down into his burrow. Never underestimate the tenacious spirit of a puffin!
We had a rare spot at the far end of the reserve, out by the Wooden Puffin statue. A yellow wagtail was seen hopping around in the field by one of our visitors, David Clayton, who has very kindly sent through these fantastic photos.
Strutting his stuff
Visitor Experience Intern
If you’re thinking of making a trip up here this month, you’re making an excellent decision! June is probably the best month of the year to visit, as the cliffs are now full of chicks large enough to see with the naked eye. Over the noise of the kittiwakes and gannets, you can just about hear their cheeping sound all over the cliffs.
There was a flurry of excitement at the center earlier this week, as we got word that a group of 11 Bee-Eaters were seen flying over the headland towards Bempton Cliffs. Sure enough, many lucky visitors and volunteers caught a glimpse of them as they flew over the reserve. We’ve also had several sightings of Great Skuas passing through during the past week. More often than not they've been seen floating on the sea munching on a Kittiwake that got a bit too close.
Spotted flycatchers, reed buntings, corn buntings, linnets and whitethroats have all been spotted in the surrounding grassland, and a grey partridge has again been seen on the nature trail. Our resident barn owl can still be seen hunting around the center in the early evening, and a peregrine falcon has been spotted more and more regularly hunting over Staple Newk. The swallows nesting next to the visitor center entrance now have either 3 or 4 chicks, and can often be seen being fed by one of the adults.
It has been very exciting here over the last couple of weeks. The birds are well and truly into the breeding season with new chicks appearing every day! Gannet, Kittiwake, Razorbill and lots of Guillemot chicks can be seen from our view points, and we have even had a couple of incredibly rare Puffling sightings!
The other morning one of our volunteers saw a Barn owl disappear into the grass, then re appear with breakfast in its talons, only to have a Kestrel arrive a few seconds later in the hope of pinching the owls catch. As far as we are aware the owl won and went off to enjoy their hard earned meal in peace.
(Photo by Chrys Mellor)
This time of year is also great to see the younger Gannets hanging around in a ‘club’ hoping to find themselves a mate and a nest. When leaving the nest a Gannet chick is almost completely covered in dark feathers. It is not until they are 5 years old that their plumage is that of an adult. Because of this it is fairly easy for us to have a guess at the age of a gannet by how many dark feather it has. Below is a picture of a couple of what we think are 3 year old gannets.
(Photo by Sophia Jackson)
There are now Gannet chicks to be seen all over the place! Just this morning I saw chicks from Staple, Bartlett and Jubilee. Below is a lovely picture sent in by a visitor last week of a very fluffy relaxed looking chick.
(Photo by Ruth Wilson)
Guillemot chicks are also here there and everywhere, and can be seen when the adult is shuffling around or when they change over. Here is a picture of a chick we believe to be around 2 weeks old.
Kittiwake chicks are also starting to appear; they are all quite small at the moment but can be seen from most of the viewpoints with a little patience.
In the last recent sightings blog we mentioned that we thought puffins were incubating eggs. On Sunday 31st May the first Puffling sighting of the year was witnessed by a few very excitable volunteers and visitors! It is very rare to get a glimpse of these little chicks and even more so to get footage! A very patient visitor spent a lot of time early in the morning over several days waiting to capture this lovely moment between the adult and the chick. Thanks to Eric Beagle for kindly letting us have this great video. Click here to check it out on our Facebook page
There was also a lot of excitement yesterday morning, when a pod of 15 bottlenose dolphins were spotted making their way South. They appeared to make a brief stop not far from Staple Newk, where they looked to be feeding before continuing on their way.
Along the nature trail there are few Drinker moths around, and we’ve seen lots of Garden Tiger Moths, Rivulet Moths and a couple sightings of Red Admiral and Large White butterflies.
Other sightings over the last couple of weeks include:
Spotted Flycatcher (28th May)
Barnacle Goose (31st May)
Great Skua (1st – 4th June)
Heron (1st May)
Oyster catch X 4 (1st June)
Glaucous Gull (5th June)
-- Becky --
Fun on the Bank Holiday Weekend
We kicked off the month with a bit of a cold wet start to the Bank Holiday Weekend. But once the sun decided to come out, so did our lovely visitors, with Bank Holiday Monday being declared the busiest day in Bempton Cliffs’ history. Although the puffins were a little elusive that day, we had lots of families enjoying our events and guided walks throughout the weekend.
Quick updates on the usual suspects
Return of the swallows
Visitors to the old centre may remember the pair of swallows that nested in the roof last summer. We were concerned for a while that the disruption of building the new centre would put off any new breeding pairs. But I’m happy to announce that we have a nesting pair once again, this time in their very own fancy swallow nesting box at the entrance to the centre. The first signs of life in the box were spotted on the 9th May, when we arrived at the centre to find a present of swallow droppings underneath the box. Lovely.
You can just make out the swallow on the nest
The daily droppings corner underneath the box
Update on Nest 33 at 4 weeks
The first chick of the year is now 4 weeks old, and has grown massively over such a short space of time. It can be easily seen on the live camera, admittedly looking a bit squashed now that it is beginning to outgrow the nest space.
Bit of a cheats picture of Nest 33 on the live feed screen
The reserve after closing time
Earlier this week, Becky, Sophia and I went for a walk up to the reserve to try and get some great pictures for this blog. Although my little digital camera wasn't quite up the job of zooming right in on the nesting birds, I did manage to get this snap of our resident barn owl. As we walked along the path, this cheeky chappy would fly from post to post, looking particularly spectacular among all the campion.
And I'll finish with this lovely shot of the sun setting over Jubilee Corner. The reserve is almost a different place in the evening, and now with the lengthening days I can''t recommend enough a trip up here once the sun begins to go down.
Thanks for reading!
Posted by Rebecca Blackman - Visitor Experience Intern
Laura and Becky here the two new visitor experience interns based here at Bempton until the end of august. We will be sharing our experiences here at this incredible reserve with you all and keeping you up to date with the recent sightings.
The last few weeks have been incredible! The new visitor centre has opened, the birds have been heading back to the cliffs and we are now well in to spring. The usual characters are now back on the cliffs, and can be spotted from all of the view points; Gannetts, Razorbills, Guillimots, Kittiwakes, Fulmers and even the Puffins have been making a regular appearance (however they are a little more elusive than the others).
The first Gannet chick of the year hatched on the 22nd April and has occasionally been spotted on the live video feed showing in the visitor centre.
At the feeding station there has also been the typical visitors for this time of year; goldfinch, Tree sparrow, House Sparrow, Starlings, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Green Finch, Chaffinch and Robin’s. As well as the usual suspects there were also Blackcap’s and Yellow Hammer spotted near the Dell.
We have also had a couple of Kestrels move in to the Owl box on the reserve and can be seen regularly perching outside the box. Thankfully this does not seem to have deterred the Barn owls, which have been seen regularly both in the morning and evenings from the visitor centre.
We have also have been lucky enough to have a few fantastic sightings from the visitor centre of a Short Eared owl.
(Photo by Steve Farrington©)
The short eared owls will soon be heading off to spend their summer up in the North.
The Peregrines have also been seen regularly from the Staple Newk and New Roll-up.
Great Skua’s have been spotted throughout the month with known sightings on the 14th, 25th and 26th April.
We’re looking forward to seeing what the nature trail has to offer as the weather warms up.
Some more recent sightings:
Little Ringed Plover (5th May)
Rough legged Buzzard (13th, 21st, 22nd)
Black cap (22nd)
Sand Martin (22nd)
Lesser Whitethroat (24th)
Sparrow Hawk (7th)
PLEASE NOTE THE VISITOR CENTRE, VIEWPOINTS AND TOILETS ARE CLOSED UNTIL 1 APRIL 2015 FOR MAJOR REDEVELOPMENT. PUBLIC FOOTPATHS WILL REMAIN ACCESSIBLE. TO KEEP UP TO DATE WITH PROGRESS, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK OR KEEP AN EYE ON OUR BLOG. THE NEAREST PUBLIC TOILETS ARE AT FLAMBOROUGH HEAD AND IN BRIDLINGTON.
Apologies for a big break from the last recent sightings update. If you are not aware it is an exciting time for us here at Bempton Cliffs as our visitor centre and infrastructure is getting redeveloped. With this redevelopment there has potentially been a lot of disturbance and is due to continue until the end of March.
So what sightings have we been getting over winter? From late October to December there were the usual suspects of Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit at the feeding station. Brambling have occasionally been seen either in the Dell or Feeding station. Fieldfares and Redwings have also regularly been seen on passage, along with Pink-footed and Greylag Geese flying over the reserve.
(Fulmar – Steve Race©)
The winter period is probably the best time to fully appreciate Fulmars, as there is the combination of breeder and non-breeders flying around and on the cliffs. Come the height of the breeding season the non-breeders remain out at sea and the individuals who remain to breed can be difficult to spot amongst the thousands of other seabirds. There is also the mystery of Guillemots sporadically appearing in their thousands on the cliffs over the winter period.
(Guillemots – Steve Race©)
So that’s 2014 - what sightings have we been getting to kick start 2015? Well apart from the Herring Gulls, this past week there has been a flock of up to 30 Twite seen in the neighbouring set-aside fields, along with ten or so Rock Pipits within the pasture fields. Over the last three days a female Merlin has been around and a pair of Stonechats have been making cheeky appearances between Grandstand and Barlett Nab viewpoints. Keep your eye on the water for Red-throated Divers and maybe the odd Grey Seal popping its head out.
(Red Throated Diver – Steve Race©)
Don’t forget it is the Big Garden Birdwatch on 24th-25th January. Join thousands of others and pick an hour over that weekend to discover the wildlife in your garden. Register online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ before the day to receive reminders and your free pack. The more people involved, the more we can learn. So, grab a cuppa and together we can all help to give nature a home.
Posted by Scott Smith - Visitor Services Manager
PLEASE NOTE, RSPB BEMPTON CLIFFS VISITOR CENTRE FACILITIES WILL BE CLOSED FROM 1 SEPT 2014 TO 1 APRIL 2015 FOR MAJOR REDEVELOPMENT. PUBLIC FOOTPATHS WILL REMAIN ACCESSIBLE.
Well the Visitor Centre may be closed for renovations but that certainly has not put a damper on bird numbers at the reserve.
Over the last two weeks a plethora of species have been seen across the reserve, with one locale in particular proving to be especially productive. The Dell (the small but heavily treed and “shrubbed” depression which greets you as you approach the fork in the road at the entrance to the reserve) has been a hotspot for species such as Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff , Yellow-browed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher and even the diminutive Goldcrest; all frantically feeding and flitting from branch to branch as they stock up on fat reserves before continuing on their migration.
(Yellow-browed Warbler - David Aitken)
(Spotted Flycatcher - David Aitken)
The Hawthorn and Gorse bush-lined nature trail has also been productive, with sightings of Red Breasted Flycatcher, Sparrowhawk, Redstart, and even a 1st winter Red-backed Shrike (which proved to be the cue for an army of keen birdwatchers and bird-enthusiasts to make their way to Bempton). Keep an eye on our Twitter account @Bempton_Cliffs for more interesting species updates!
(1st winter Red-backed Shrike - David Aitken)
The vast fields which provide a backdrop to the reserve’s cliff-top trails have also yielded such species as Whinchat, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Rock Pipit, Wheatear, Fieldfare, Little Bunting and flocks of 100+ Linnet.
This is not to say that there is nothing to see on the cliffs. The last of the Gannet chicks are in the process of fledging, Peregrines and Kestrels effortlessly manipulate the air currents and occasionally descend on hapless pigeons or voles (respectively), Herring Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls continue to methodically patrol the cliff face in search of prey and recently fledged Fulmar chicks test their wings on southerly winds in preparation for their first winter at sea.
Ryan Chenery - Volunteer Development Officer
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!
Posted by Jaime G
Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)
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