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November will soon be over, Christmas adverts are playing on the television and we’ve already had the first snows of winter, in fact I was lucky enough to have a ‘white birthday’, winter is well and truly upon us. That shouldn’t put you off from visiting Bempton Cliffs though. It’s equally as beautiful and remarkable a place now as during the height of summer. A bracing cliff top walk at this time of year is just the thing to blow away any cobwebs, and your hat too if you don’t hold on to it. If you’re brave enough to face the wind though you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views and wonderful wildlife.
November saw us running four fabulous geology walks with Paul Hildreth, which I can tell you from experience were fantastic and well worth getting a little chilly for. We’re very grateful to Paul for coming all the way from Lincolnshire each week to lead the walks for us. Don’t worry if you missed them though, we’ve got plenty more walks planned throughout the winter. December is shipwreck month. There will be three walks throughout the month, led by our fabulous volunteer Tony Mayman. There are more than 50,000 shipwrecks between the Tees and the Humber yet many people have no idea that there any shipwrecks at all along the Bempton coastline. This walk will give you the chance to learn all about them, why the ships were here, where they were going, who was onboard and perhaps most importantly, why did they sink. As with the geology walks the price, £5, will also include a hot drink and a slice of cake. It’s one that’s not to be missed. As of writing the first shipwreck walk has taken place and it was a huge success, so don’t miss your chance to come along to the next one.
Tony Mayman delivering a presentation before heading out for the shipwreck walk - Sarah Aitken
This month also saw the last of our series of talks that have been running all year in conjunction with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at the Living Sea Centre. We were lucky enough to have the marvellous John Altringham entertain and enthral us about bats for almost two hours. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who went away with a new found appreciation of the fuzzy little critters. We will be running another series of talks next year, once again in conjunction with our friends at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It’s too early to tell you who the speakers will be but if the whispers that I’m hearing are true we will be in for a real treat on a monthly basis.
We’re continuing to see whooper swans on the move past the reserve. Good numbers were sighted on the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th and 20th of November. During the winter months the Yorkshire coast is visited by good numbers of wintering divers, particularly red-throated divers and we’ve started to see evidence of this recently with sightings on a regular basis. At one point on the 20th there were up to eight birds present on the sea just off Grandstand viewpoint.
Red-throated diver, here in summer plumage - RSPB Images
Recently stormy weather has seen large numbers of adorable little auks pushed in towards the coastline. The Yorkshire coast has been inundated with these tiny, delightful auks recently, we were even lucky enough to spot small numbers of them from the cliff top viewpoints.
Little auk illustration - RSPB Images
After a short break spent away from our cliffs I am delighted to say that the fulmars have returned. They don’t leave for long, maybe a month or so but it’s always pleasing when they return. It’s a joy to see them soaring effortlessly through the air with their wings held stiff. You may or may not know this but despite look superficially similar to a gull fulmars actually belong to the same family as the albatross. A recent training session held in the centre for staff and volunteers revealed that it’s the fulmar which is the favourite bird of the majority of our team. Take that puffin.
Fulmar - Steve Race
They’re not the only seabird that we’ve been seeing back on the cliffs recently because guillemots have been returning too. They won’t be back on the cliffs to breed until next year but it’s not too unusual to see them at this time of year. They may have followed a shoal of fish in to shore or there may be a storm out to sea which forces them to seek shelter, but regardless of the reason it’s certainly good to see them. The 3rd of December was a fantastic guillemot day with over 1000 birds present on the cliffs spread between Grandstand, Mosey Downgate and Bartlett Nab viewpoints.
Guillemot - Chrys Mellor
There is one species of bird which I have barely mentioned in my previous posts, a particularly spectacular bird which is present on the cliffs all year round. As a result I’m ashamed that I have mentioned it until now, the peregrine falcon. We are privileged to provide a home on our cliffs for the fastest animal on the planet. There are few sights in nature more spectacular than a peregrine in full stoop. They do well here thanks to our healthy population of pigeons, which provide a food source throughout the year. Recently, one of the resident birds has taken a liking to a particular perch between Grandstand and Bartlett Nab. Fortunately it is visible from both viewpoints.
Peregrine falcon and young - RSPB Images
Have you ever wanted to see a barn owl? Well then Bempton Cliffs is currently the place to be. Over the last week we’ve been treated to some incredible views by the local owls. If you stand out at the back of the centre after 3 pm you stand a good chance of seeing one of two different birds, both were seen on one occasion, slowly quartering the cliff top meadow in a beautiful yet deadly search for food.
It’s not just birds though, harbour porpoises and grey seals are both still being seen frequently from the viewpoints so keep your eyes on the waves as well as the air.
Harbour porpoise - Adrian Ewart
Posted by ChrisCalow
Greetings from Bempton Cliffs. November is upon us, the nights are drawing in and before you know it will be the New Year. Don’t worry if you haven’t made a trip up to Bempton yet this year though, we have a series of great events planned during the winter months. Every Friday until the 5th of February we will be hosting a special guided walk. Through November these will be focusing on the spectacular geology of the reserve. There’s more to those towering chalk cliffs than you might think. Why not join our walk leader, Paul Hildreth, to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the cliffs that house over 250,000 seabirds. I’ve tagged along on one of these walks myself and I can tell you that it is well worth making the effort to come and join in. I learned more in that hour and a half than I have in a very long time. Have I mentioned that a hot drink and a slice of cake are included in the price?
The geology of our cliffs is fascinating - Steve Race
We’re catering for the youngsters too. We will be hosting six sessions of ‘Nature’s Little Helpers’ throughout the winter. You can attend one session or all six but if you come along to all of them your family will have everything required to give nature a home in your garden.
Speaking of activities for kids, October half term has come and gone and despite the weather doing its best to deter visitors we still had plenty of families coming to enjoy a day out on the cliffs. We provided a series of activities for children to get stuck into during their visit. My personal favourite was creating a journey stick, a simple and fun way to create a memento of your visit.
Enjoying their journey sticks - Sarah Aitken
This young lady got stuck in to all three activities - Sarah Aitken
Also in half term we once again played host to Leanne Beetham, who goes by the name of Lippy Art. Leanne is a talented artist who creates her artwork by holding her paintbrush in her mouth. She came to us during the height of summer and returned again recently to gather inspiration and sell her wares.
Leanne, and friends, hard at work - Chris Calow
Leanne during her summer visit - Maria Prchlik
Exciting news for anybody who is planning to visit us between now and 29th February next year! Entrance to Bempton Cliffs during that time is absolutely free! What a bargain. It’s all part of our plan to attract more visitors over the winter. That’s not all that we’ve done to create a fantastic visitor experience, one corner of the visitor centre has been turned in to a cosy cafe, complete with ‘roaring’ fire.
Who wouldn't want to warm their hands in front of the fire? - Chris Calow
By now you’re probably ready to hear about some of the wildlife we’ve seen on the reserve since my last blog. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. We’re continuing to see redwing and fieldfare in good numbers, along with another winter visitor which for many years has been my bogey bird. Finally though I can put that hoodoo to rest because on the 11th November I managed to see my first ever Brambling. They’ve been seen frequently on the reserve for the last month or so, I’ve just always been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but finally I managed to see one. I guess I need a new bogey bird now. Any suggestions?
Two very well camouflaged brambling - Tony Mayman
On the 1st November we had a truly excellent sighting for the reserve in the shape of a Richard’s pipit. The bird was first sighted in the morning by Grandstand viewpoint before disappearing for a number of hours. Fortunately, news of the sighting had spread by this time and the bird was relocated in the afternoon having moved up to the Dell, at this point we were able to confirm that this was indeed a Richard’s pipit.
At this time of the year sightings of hen harriers start to become more common along the coast. The birds are moving away from their normal upland habitat in order to spend the winter in comparatively warmer locales. It was on the 31st October that we had our first sighting of the year, a ringtail bird was sighted on the reserve briefly during the day and then again at the end of the day by volunteers Leo Kokoszko and Michael Butler. It was several days before we had another sighting, and what a sighting it was. The Bempton management team came steaming out of their meeting to announce that there was a hen harrier giving great views out of the back of the visitor centre. Management meetings happen every week but such good views of a hen harrier are few and far between. There was one further sighting on the 6th November when a bird was seen over cliff lane. Here’s hoping for more sightings of this wonderful raptor in the coming months.
Hen harrier - RSPB Images
One of my favourite things about this time of year is the movement of wildfowl and we’re starting to see evidence of that. Common scoter were seen heading south in small numbers on the 6th November. At least 50 pink-footed geese were seen flying south on the 1st November, with larger numbers being sighted in the following days.
Pink-footed goose - RSPB Images
The most impressive movement of wildfowl so far, in my opinion, came on the 11th November when just as the day was drawing to an end we were treated to a flypast by 45 majestic whooper swans. A further 16 followed the next day. Seeing these magnificent pure white birds fly past the visitor centre over the blue of the north sea is truly a sight to behold. For those of you who are only familiar with the mute swan regularly seen in parks throughout towns across the country the whooper swan is a far wilder animal than it’s orange billed cousin. It may well be one of my favourite winter visitors, then again, I say that about everything.
Whooper swan - RSPB Images
Well here I am again back with my second post for the Bempton blog. I’ll fill you in on some recent sightings in just a minute but first I’ll give you an idea of some of the things I’ve been getting up to since starting as an intern here at Bempton. Membership recruitment is an incredibly important part of Bempton Cliffs, as it is for every RSPB reserve, so I’ve been trying my hand at this one day a week, with some success. Several new RSPB members have been recruited by my hand, that’s more voices for nature, result! I’ve done my share of work on the welcome desk too. It might not sound particularly exciting but it’s a crucial role. Visitors only get one first impression of the reserve and it’s down to the welcome host to create this impression via a big smile and a cheerful attitude.
One of the things that I have very much enjoyed recently has been leading ‘Planet Gannet’ walks. It is always an absolute pleasure to spend a couple of hours chatting about wildlife, in a beautiful location with friendly people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. When leading a guided walk I’m often genuinely surprised by how much knowledge I have absorbed about the reserve and it’s wildlife in the short time that I have been here. I’ve got the incredibly friendly and immensely knowledgeable staff and volunteers at Bempton to thank for that, they’re always more than happy for me to pick their brains. I learn something new every day here and that’s the reason why. Sadly, the ‘Planet Gannet’ walks have come to an end now until next year but that doesn’t mean we aren’t leading any guided walks over the winter. We’ve got a full series of walks planned covering everything from shipwrecks to RAF Bempton. Have a look at www.rspb.org.uk/bemptoncliffs for the full list.
There’s no doubt that Bempton Cliffs is the most accessible seabird colony in the UK, but we’re always looking for ways that we can become even more accessible so that everybody can enjoy the incredible spectacle on offer. To that end we’re in the process of acquiring a couple of mobility vehicles for the reserve. These will give people of limited mobility the opportunity to visit our viewpoints and enjoy everything Bempton Cliffs has to offer. I’ve been liaising with Eden Mobility, who will be providing one of the vehicles, and looking in to the practicalities of using these vehicles on the reserve. It’s keeping me busy for now.
Our Visitor Services Manager Scott Smith testing out the tramper – Ryan Chenery
Now that I’ve bored you all with that let’s move on and talk about some of the wildlife that we’ve seen recently.All of our seabirds have now left us for the year. It’s a sad time for everybody at Bempton but we know that it won’t be too long before the gannets are back to entertain us once more. There’s still plenty to see though so don’t think that a visit to Bempton is no longer worth it. A red-throated diver was spotted on the sea by our intrepid volunteer Linda down at Staple Newk viewpoint on the 18th September. A single wheatear was on grandstand viewpoint on the 25th September. One of my personal favourite birds is the yellow-browed warbler so I was very pleased when we had our first sighting of the year on 29th September in the overflow car park. The same bird was also present in much the same area the next day. There were no sightings for a few days after that until the 3rd and 4th October when another bird was present around the nature trail, followed by more sightings on the 8th and the 9th, 10th and 17th.
Redwings are starting to arrive, signalling that summer is well and truly over. We had sightings on the 29th and 30th September as well as numerous days in October, it’s now a rare day when somebody doesn’t spot at least one redwing. Staying with the thrush theme we have also started to see the first few ring ouzels of the season. Three were present around the nature trail on the 6th October, whilst there were seven on the 8th October. Sticking with the thrust theme, the final member of the winter thrush trio finally arrived here on the 15th October when several fieldfares were spotted on the lane leading to the reserve. It was a few days later on the 18th though that the fieldfares really started to arrive, with at least 150 seen in the area.
Ring Ouzel – RSPB Images
For those who are fans of owls now is a good time to visit us. As well as the barn owls we are starting to see short-eared owls, which spend the winter with us. The first sighting was on the 5th October close to Bartlett Nab viewpoint, followed up the next day by a sighting at Jubilee viewpoint. Look out for these graceful hunters quartering the rough grassland on the cliff tops, searching for their small mammal prey.
Short-eared owl – Steve Race
On both the 6th and 7th October we were lucky enough to have a very showy Lapland bunting present on the reserve spending it’s time on the paths close to Grandstand viewpoint.
The Lapland bunting on the reserve – Dave Aitken
Perhaps most excitingly of all, in my opinion at least, we were recently treated to a flyover by a great white egret. This is a truly spectacular bird. Pure white, with an elegant yellow dagger like bill and similar in size to a grey heron, it’s not a bird that you forget once you’ve seen it.
Great white egrets, these two are not at Bempton – Stuart Baines
It’s not all birds though, a group of visitors were lucky enough to spot a pair of stoats just beyond Staple Newk viewpoint. If you’re not sure about whether you’ve seen a stoat or a weasel look for the larger size of a stoat along with a black tip to the tail.
Hi there. Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Chris Calow and I’m your brand new visitor experience intern. I’ve taken the reins from Laura and Becky who did a fantastic job over what was an incredibly busy and challenging time for the team here at Bempton. I think it’s safe to say that the season wouldn’t have been the success that it was without them and the contributions which they made. All good things come to an end though and the two of them have both moved on to pastures new for the next six months. This means that you’re stuck with me now all throughout the winter season.
With a poplar hawk-moth - Pernille Egeberg
I suppose I should come clean and admit that even though I’ve only just started here as an intern I’m no stranger to Bempton Cliffs. I began volunteering with the RSPB right here at Bempton back in November 2013 and stuck around for six months before moving on to volunteer at other RSPB reserves for the next year or so. I was delighted to be invited back to help out over the busy summer holidays before transitioning into my internship, which brings us up to now. Over the next six months I’ll (hopefully) be posting regular blogs about all things Bempton.
Bempton Cliffs - Steve Race
I can’t think of a better place to spend the next six months or a friendlier team of talented and hard working people to work with. I’ve volunteered at four different RSPB reserves and have had a fantastic time at each of them but I can safely say that Bempton Cliffs remains my favourite. I can’t think of anywhere else where you can see such fabulous wildlife surrounded by such incredible scenery. I’m looking forward to my time here and can’t wait to get stuck in.
Now to business. It’s an exciting time at Bempton Cliffs, many of the seabirds may have left us for the year but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be seen. First and foremost the gannets are still here in large numbers. There is still hardly an inch to spare on Staple Newk; many of the gannets still have chicks so they’ll be staying here with us well into October.
On September 9th several local fisherman were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to see something truly spectacular just off shore between Bempton and Flamborough Head. Can you guess what it was? Give yourself a point if you said basking shark. We’re used to sightings of marine mammals here at Bempton, porpoises are common and we’ve been fortunate enough this year to have several sightings of minke whales and we were even lucky enough to spot at least five common dolphin from Staple Newk on the 17th, but a basking shark is a true rarity in these waters. It is the second largest fish in the world and can reach a size of 9 - 10m, with a few exceptional individuals on record as being 12 m long. This picture should give you some idea as to the size of a basking shark.
Basking Shark - Chris Gotschalk
It’s certainly an impressive fish but there’s no need to panic if you ever find yourself in the water with one, they feed on plankton, small fish and invertebrates. Despite the enormous size that it can reach we know surprising little about basking sharks, it’s not easy to study an animal that spends so much time deep underwater
Slightly less spectacular but no less exciting were the small mammals that we caught on our discovery day earlier this month. Five species were caught in total. These were field mouse, wood mouse, bank vole, common shrew, and pygmy shrew. It just goes to show that there are more species of mammal out there than you might think. Good news for us but bad news for those five species was the weasel that was spotted outside the visitor centre on the 10th and 18th September. The weasel is Britain’s smallest carnivore but don’t be fooled by it’s size, it is an incredibly successful hunter that specialises in hunting small rodents.
Shrew - Leo Kokoszko
There are still a number of beautiful butterflies to be seen on the reserve this month. We’ve had sightings of peacock, small tortoiseshell, and wall and a large influx of red admirals coming in off the sea on the 10th.
So far I’ve barely mentioned the birds on the reserve. Autumn migration is well and truly underway with regular sightings of species heading back south for the winter. The Dell and Pallas’ Patch have been the regular haunts of willow warbler (1st, 12th, 15th, 16th), blackcap (1st, 15th, 16th), whitethroat (1st, 15th, 18th) goldcrest (3rd, 15th, 16th, 18th), spotted flycatcher (6th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th), pied flycatcher (10th, 12th), and most frequently of all, redstart (10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th). These aren’t the only migrant birds about though; there have also been sightings of garden warbler (1st), wheatear (1st, 10th), yellow wagtail (6th, 10th), siskin (15th, 16th) and redpoll (16th). We are still seeing the odd house martin and swallow in addition to a very late swift on the 15th. It won’t be long before all of these birds are winging their way towards the warmer weather that they will find in Africa over the winter. They’ll be replaced on our shores by a new cast of characters coming to us from the north. Now is the time to start looking out for species such as redwing, fieldfare and maybe even a waxwing or two.
So far September has also proved to be a productive month for sea watching from Bempton. The 4th yielded sightings of great skua, red throated diver, common scoter, arctic skua and arctic tern, while the 5th produced manx shearwater, sooty shearwater and another sighting of common scoter.
Just like the sea birds, it is now our time to leave the cliffs for the winter. This is going to be our last blog post from Bempton Cliffs, as myself and Laura are going to be spending the winter at Coombes Valley and Fairburn Ings for the remainder of our internship. Watching the cliffs go from almost empty at the start of the season, all the way up to full capacity by June has been absolutely incredible. We've both learned so much from all the volunteers here, and I'm sure we'll be coming back for a visit next summer. And the next one, and the next one etc. Taking our place will be the lovely Chris Calow, who's going to be the Visitor Experience Intern through the winter.
The Swallow nest just outside the entrance to the visitor centre has been a hive of activity over the past couple of weeks! With a second brood of four chicks to raise, the adults have been buzzing back and forth regularly.
Photo by Leo Kokoszko
After fledging the chicks were spotted for several days hanging around on the fence close to the visitor centre getting used to life outside the nest. This lovely photo was taken by a visitor, Kathryn Davies.
Photo by Kathryn Davies
This time of year is great for spotting cetaceans from the cliffs. We were lucky enough to get some fantastic views of a Minke Whale on the 10th August and then again on the 12th and 15th!
Minke Whale - Tony Mayman
There have also been a couple of reports of White Beaked dolphins on the 20th and 21st. Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seals are still being spotted regularly.
There have been lots of different butterflies spotted fluttering about along the cliff-top and the nature trail. The peacocks in particular are showing really well along with the Large White, green veined white, small tortoise shell, small white and painted lady.
Peacock butterfly - Leo Kokoszko
Red Admiral - Leo Kokoszko
The Dell has come to life with all sorts of summer migrants stopping off before they head south for the winter. In August, Wheatear (15th, 23rd), Icterine Warbler (24th), Blackcap (19th, 20th, 22nd, 25th, 27th), Goldcrest (27th), Whitethroat (20th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th) and Lesser Whitethroat (24th) were all spotted.
Icterine Warbler - Photo by Dave Aitken
Willow Warbler - Leo Kokoszko
Whitethroat - Leo Kokoszko
Pied Flycatcher - Leo Kokoszko
Spotted Flycatcher - Leo Kokoszko
Laura and Becky
Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern
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.
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 --
Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)
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