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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
And it's goodbye form him!
Hello, Bill here with his final blog. I hope that you have enjoyed the few that I have done.
I am on my way back to The Netherlands on Wednesday.
I would like to say a big Thank you to all the staff at Bempton Cliffs for all their help over the past few weeks.
I have enjoyed it a lot and take a lot away with me. As Arnie said, "I will be back."
Some recent sightings -
willow warbler, sparrowhawk, lots of oystercatchers, blackcap, peregrines (most days), song thrush, juvenile wheatear, arctic skua, linnets, moorhen juvenile and goldfinches
Alos the Harbour Porpoises have made an appearance at Bartlett (23/8) and stayed all morning quite close in.
Posted by Bill M
As promised, I will include pictures of the Great Crested Newts (when I manage to send the pictures to myself); collected by Wold Ecology, with the amphibian fencing around the site of the building extension.
Also Jo Allen, of the Member ship team has kindly sent me the pictures below of the fledging swallows at the centre. Thanks Jo!
(all pictures above - Jo Allen)
Until the next blog, by for now.
Hello again, from The Cliffs.
Should be Swallows and Amazons, I know! I haven’t found any Amazons up here, yet! The prolific swallows in the entrance way of the visitor centre are at it again. The young of the second brood of the year, are about to fledge (due any time now). They produced 6 in the first brood and there are 5 or 6 in this latest one. Also at the centre we have a pigeon which regularly comes and sits on the top of the shed. The staff have various names for him, but one thing for sure is that he is smart, as the shed is where birdfeed is kept!
Juvenile swallow - (RSPB images)
Nameless pigeon - (picture - Bill McCarthy)
We are continuing with the ‘Big Birds and Minibeasts’ program, which runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can have a guided tour on one of those days at 11am or 2pm. You could also guide yourself, using the map and answer the trail questions (you can do this on other days as well). There are Arts and Crafts activities for the kids (and adults, if they like).
A lot of people ask about the amphibian fencing all around the centre building. It is there as part of the work Wold Ecology are doing to collect any Great Crested Newts, for re-location on the safe area nearby. The site has to be clear of this type newts for at least 5 days before any construction can take place. The team are pretty sure that there are very few left to re-locate. As well as the newts they are collecting many toads and we normally have some for anyone to look at in the Arts and Crafts marquee of the Big Birds and minibeasts program. They have collected over 700 common toads so far!
Green fencing for amphibians - (picture - Bill McCarthy)
Apologies from me - pictures of newts and Chris form Wold Ecology to follow in next blog!
I think that we can finally say that the puffins are all gone. A few individuals hung around for a lot longer than expected, but they all seem to be off now. The kittiwakes are following suit. I, and many others, have been part of the kittiwake breeding productivity monitoring program for tracking the progress of the chicks. On the site I was looking at (Bartlett Nab) they have nearly all gone now. The gannets, however, continue to thrill and even with my i-phone, I got a great picture at Staple Newk!
Gannets at Staple Newk - (picture - Bill McCarthy)
Other birds spotted over the last week –
Siskins (in field near New Roll—up and on feeders), grey wagtails, little egret, kestrel, peregrines (over fields and sat on cliff at Staple Newk), kestrel, wheatear and cuckoo
Other things spotted –
Harbour porpoise, roe deer and the weasels again.
Hello again, time for some updates on what is going on at Bempton Cliffs.
We recently took part in the 13th National Whale and Dolphin Watch, organised by the ‘Seawatch’ organisation. This is an event, which went on all around the UK. We were on the cliffs at Bempton (Bartlett Nab viewpoint), from the 27th August and until Sunday 3rd August. The last 2 days were the most successful and some harbour porpoises were spotted throughout both days. Typical, I was on the cliff for most of the week and the porpoises appeared when I wasn’t there! The results have been sent to Seawatch and will appear on their website.
We have also started the ‘Big Birds and Minibeasts’ program, which run on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can have a guided tour on one of those days at 11am or 2pm. You could also guide yourself, using the map and answer the trail questions (you can do this on other days as well). There are Arts and Crafts activities for the kids (and adults, if they like). Look for pictures on facebook (thanks Maria) and listen out for the ad on Yorkshire Coast radio. You can also see some really interesting creatures in the marquee - toads, moths and a bat were on display last week.
Toads collected from Amphibian fencing buckets (photo - Bill McCarthy)
Last week we released a couple of Kittiwakes, from Bartlett Nab.
"Go little kittiwakes, go" (photo - Bill McCarthy)
"Not sure if I want to go yet!" (photo - Bill McCarthy)
Puffins? Well there are still a few bobbing around on the sea, but very difficult to see any on the cliffs now. Keep watching those kittiwakes and gannets with their chicks.
Other things spotted over the last week –
A heron (mobbed by gulls) out over the sea, many common scoter, marsh harrier, black-tailed godwit, whimbrel, peregrine falcons and a lot of oystercatchers on various days.
Bye for now.
Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)
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