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Recent sightings

  • 16 July 2016

    Katharine's last blog!

    Well! This is my last blog on this site, as my time as a residential volunteer monitoring seabirds finishes at the end of this week – and it will be ‘Goodbye from me’ as the old saying goes. So, as a parting shot, I would like to share with you some thoughts on the final stages of the seabird breeding season here at Bempton, at least from a razorbill and guillemot perspective.

    Home alone!

    As you may well know, the only way the razorbill and guillemot chicks can leave the cliffs is by jumping off them! Hence why they are called ‘jumplings’. This may seem horrifyingly dangerous, and indeed it is as I shall explain shortly, but believe it or not, properly supervised by their fathers they are probably safer out at sea than on the cliffs. Whilst on the cliffs they can be knocked off in an uncontrolled manner when fights break out, as they often do, and they can be killed. Also, they are at risk of being taken and eaten by gulls and possibly crows. However, when out at sea, the gulls really won’t follow them too far off shore, and the crows will really not go out to sea at all so predation from those sources is eliminated. Plainly, they are also not at risk of falling anywhere when at sea level and they are very well adapted for a life on the ocean wave.

    So recently, when scanning the cliffs, I have often seen little chicks about a ¼ the size of their parents preening themselves and looking very interested in the big world around them. Sometimes, the parent is absent for a while and the chick is alone with only its near neighbours for company and, sometimes, those neighbours are not very neighbourly, pecking and harassing the chick.

    This little chick was left by her/his parent (No. 14 of Carter Lane One, for those of you with an eye for detail!) for about 20 minutes. Fortunately, the neighbours were well disposed towards them, paying them little attention, and to my relief the parent returned to take charge.


    When the chick is ready to jump, it does! I watched one run past other adults towards the edge of the cliff and literally throw itself over. What is then meant to happen is that the father will either jump with them, or will be waiting for them in the sea below. They then pair up and you see them both paddling away out to sea really fast, the father making sure he is going at the pace of the chick but plainly making sure there’s no hanging about, they’re off beyond binocular vision in about 5-7 minutes.

    Unfortunately, if the father doesn’t pair up with the chick you can hear the cries of the chick. They are much higher pitched sounds and once you’ve got your ear in you can clearly hear them. This cry is to attract their fathers, but, it also attracts other adults of their species and gulls. Neither of these options is good. I have seen guillemot chicks harassed by guillemot adults such that four or five adults will chase the chick and peck at it and it looked to me as if they were trying to pull it underwater. Even if they didn’t drown it, I would imagine the chick would tire and be very stressed.

    I have also seen herring gulls trying to eat dead guillemot chicks and they wait at the bottom of the cliffs in the sea for their chance to get one. On one occasion, I saw a juvenile black-backed gull intimidate a herring gull away from its dead guillemot chick, take the chick and down it in one.

    This is why the jumplings jump late in the evening, to try and avoid the predators.

    Last few chicks on the cliffs!

    Even now, there are a few chicks of both razorbill and guillemot on the cliffs. I can still see a selection of little fluffy bottoms resting under their parents. This really must be lovely and warm, for they are not only under the parent, but very often resting on top of the parent’s feet. This not only keeps them off the rock, but, trust me, an auk’s foot is very warm! Earlier in the season I rescued a guillemot that was stuck behind a farm fence at Flamborough, and when I picked it up, it’s feet where so warm! I considered taking it home as a bed warmer but thought someone somewhere would have me up for something, so I released it over the cliff instead and it flew away mighty fast!

    Some last thoughts...

    One of the things that has surprised me has been how tolerant the birds are about being so close together, even those from different species. I know fights break out but on the whole, things are pretty calm. I’ve seen a brooding guillemot sit on the tail end of a brooding razorbill to the consternation of neither! I thought there would be a punch-up but nothing happened.

    As can be seen below, some puffins chose to nest in a hole directly behind a razorbill breeding site (No. 49 at Grandstand North to be precise). When the puffin needed to come and go it had to crash land over the top of the razorbill, and once committed to this course of action, continue clambering over its neighbour. I don’t think the razorbill thought much of the arrangement, pecking at the puffin periodically, but things seemed to calm down pretty quickly and an uneasy truce appeared to be maintained.


    The other thing I have noticed is the amount of litter there is in the nests. This kittiwake has a balloon in the nest and I’ve seen balloon streamers, fishing net and plastic bags in the nests. This really is a terrible thing for animals and these birds in particular as they can get tangled in this material, become unable to move and/or go foraging and they will die. Also if they eat this material it blocks their digestive tract and they will die. It really is a reminder how careful we must be with things that make our lives so easy and to eliminate single-use plastics from our lives if we can. Seems a bit of a random topic to end on, but, although it may be random, it is incredibly important and we can all do our bit not to add to the problem.

    So, it is with great thanks that I close my blog for this season. It really has been marvellous to be so close to the birds and to have the opportunity to watch their behaviour. I have been round all of my plots today and said goodbye to the remaining birds and their chicks, and wished them good fortune in their challenging lives ahead!

    And I do the same to you and I hope you have found these pieces interesting. I am already looking forward to next season and to reacquaint myself with some of my avian companions, with whom I have spent many hours, even if only from a distance!

    So, it’s good bye from me and, as the picture below makes us go ‘Ahhh!’ – it’s goodbye from them.

    Posted by JessicaM

  • 14 June 2016

    Auk, gannet and kittiwake chicks + Recent Sightings

    This time of year is so exciting at Bempton Cliffs! We have chicks everywhere and every time I catch sight of one I can't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside. In the last week or two we have started to spot the auk chicks huddled with their parents on their tiny ledges. I didn't know this, but auk chicks hatch at quite a good size, as they leave the nest after just 2 and a half weeks and need to be big enough to do so. When they leave the nest they jump down to the sea, which is where they get the name 'jumplings' from. Their flight feathers take another 4 weeks to fully form, so until then they sit on the sea and continue to be fed by the male. In this picture you can get an idea of the size of a guillemot chick, which still has a week or so left before it is ready to fledge.

    Guillemot and chick - Image by Mark Smales.

    The gannets have a much wider window of opportunity when it comes to laying their eggs. The first gannets start returning to the cliffs in January, and the last gannets will leave in October. We have many gannet chicks on the cliffs at the moment, and many more to come! So, if you've visited us recently and seen the many different stages of gannet chicks on the cliffs, that's why! Pair 33's chick was the first to hatch at the beginning of May, so will be the biggest by far, but it still has 6-8 weeks left in the nest before it will be ready to fledge. The gannet chick pictured below is still small enough to sit safe and warm under the adult. Isn't it cute?!

    Gannet with chick - Image by Kevin Groocock

    While I have been writing this post my e-mail pinged with this gorgeous photo fresh from the cliffs of a kittiwake with its chicks. This is our first sighting of kittiwake chicks this year at Bempton Cliffs, so it definitely needed a mention! I've been watching in awe for weeks as large numbers of kittiwakes have been gathering nesting materials from a pond across the fields near Jubilee Corner, and then flying back over visitors' heads to their nests on the cliffs. That all stopped about 3 weeks ago and now I know why :-)

    I told you it was an exciting time to be here!

    Image by Michael Babcock


    The team here at Bempton are really efficient with updating our recent sightings board, so here is what we've seen around the reserve lately.

    Kestrel, barnacle geese x 4 flying north, sandwich tern flying south past Grandstand, painted lady butterfly, sparrowhawk (female), peregrine falcon, corn bunting, reed bunting, linnet, white throat, tree sparrow, barn owl, turtle dove, spoonbill, small copper butterfly, yellow wagtail, canada geese x 40 flying by Bartlett Nab. Lastly in the Dell there has been a blackcap, lesser white throat x2 and a moorhen with 3 one week old chicks.

    Posted by JessicaM

  • 23 May 2016

    Puffin season is in full swing!

    We are well and truly into puffin season now, and I'm still as excited as a child on Christmas morning every time I see one. Our Puffin Patrols have been full every day and we've had some lovely feedback from the excited visitors that are seeing puffins for the first time. The novelty really doesn't seem to wear off, and that's probably because the puffins are here for such a short space of time. If you are planning on coming to see a puffin with your own eyes, make sure you get here before the end of July as the puffins will be leaving then and we don't want you to miss out! For those of you that can't make it to Bempton Cliffs during puffin season, here is a gorgeous video that our live cameras captured of a puffin that appears to be posing for the camera. They really are good looking little birds, aren't they?

    (Please visit the site to view this video)

    So, in my last blog I wrote about our first gannet egg of the season from pair 33. Since then we've seen two gannet chicks (gugas), one from pair 33 at Staple and another from Jubilee viewpoint. We have not yet managed to capture a clear enough photo to share with you, but we're keeping our eyes peeled and hopefully we'll have something worth sharing soon! The other seabirds also seem to be doing well with their eggs, and hopefully by early June we will have some baby guillemots and razorbills (jumplings) on the cliffs too. 

    Razorbill and egg - Image by Michael Babcock.

    I'm still really enjoying myself in my role of Visitor Experience Assistant, I'm learning something new every day and sometimes really stepping out of my comfort zone, which has been scary but rewarding. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the season has to offer and I'll hopefully have plenty more to blog about in the months to come. Thank you for reading :-)


    It's been a while since my last blog post, so we've had quite a lot of sightings on the reserve. We've seen corn bunting, oystercatcher, swallows (back in the nest at the entrance to the visitor centre), iceland gull (flew over), peregrine (pair), short eared owl, red kite, common buzzard, osprey (flew over), house martin, yellowhammer, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, sparrowhawk, grey seal and porpoise. 

    Posted by JessicaM

  • 10 April 2016

    Gannets, Puffins, Recent sightings...

    It's officially a month since I started my new role at Bempton Cliffs and I am enjoying every minute of it! My last blog noted that the Auks had all disappeared, but fear not, they have returned! Over the last week here at Bempton we’ve been lucky enough to see all of the ‘Big 8’ sea birds from the cliffs. Our live cameras have been a big hit too, capturing live footage from the cliffs and streaming it straight into our visitor centre where we’ve spent quite a few days over the Easter Period hiding from the wind and rain. We’ve seen the first Gannet egg of the season, puffins disappearing into the cliff crevices and we’ve even been able to take this footage and post it on our social media pages which is SO EXCITING because it means we can share these amazing sights with the world with just one simple click (well not quite one click, but almost.) If you don’t already follow us on Facebook then make sure you do, we don’t want you to miss out:

    So, more about the gannet egg. For those of you that have been visiting Bempton Cliffs for many years you will know that ‘Pair 33’ also known as ‘Peckster and Flip’ have been laying their eggs on the cliffs here for at least 7 years. As soon as we heard they had laid the first egg of the season, we trained our live camera on their nest and waited very patiently all day for Mum to get up and stretch so we could catch a glimpse of the egg. Finally, after nearly a full day of us staring at the screen (whilst working of course) she got up, shuffled about and we all jumped up and down with EGG-citement because the egg was clear as day on the big screen!  I’m sure you can just imagine us all jumping up and down in the visitor centre looking a little crazy. We will keep you updated on it’s progress! Here's a video we captured of the moment we had all been waiting for...

    (Please visit the site to view this video)

    Next up are the Puffins! I must confess that until I started here at Bempton Cliffs, I had never seen a real life puffin. I've been waiting along with all the eager visitors for them to finally make their return to the cliffs and now that they have, I couldn't wait to get out on Puffin Patrol today with Angela to finally see one with my own eyes! It's a gorgeous day today, bright sunshine and barely any wind,  the perfect day to be out on the cliffs. We were unlucky for the first part of the walk, the view point volunteers told us the puffins were there but they were hiding inside their burrows, so we marched onto Bartlett and that's when we got lucky! There were two gorgeous little puffins perched on a ledge, and I squealed like a child with excitement when I finally got my eyes on them. I managed to snap a photo of one of them through the telescope  with my iPhone. I know, so unprofessional, but my first ever sighting of a puffin had to be documented. 

    Puffin Patrols take place every morning at 11am if you are interested in joining us to learn a bit more about Bempton's most popular sea bird and see them with your own eyes! You don’t need to book, just turn up, it’s first come first serve. It's worth it, Angela was fantastic. 


    To make up for my bad quality photo here's a gorgeous picture taken by Keith and Abigail Hunter on our Jubilee Corner view point during their visit on Wednesday this week. Abigail is 12 years old and while Dad was setting up the camera, Abigail was first of the family to spot one! 

    Photo credit to Keith and Abigail Hunter 


    There's been lots of sightings since my last post. We've had swallows passing Bartlett, a Stoat and Corn bunting at The Dell, Reed bunting, Chiff Chaff, Common Buzzard, Cormorant, Yellow Hammer, Short Eared Owl, Barn Owl, Peregrine falcon, Skylark, Meadow pipit and a Fire Crest in the top cark park. 

    We have a new whiteboard on the wall in our welcome area for recent sightings, so please let us know what you've spotted and we can update our list for everyone to see. Hope you all have an fantastic weekend :)

    Posted by JessicaM

  • 26 March 2016

    Where have all the Auks gone?

    Hi everyone!

    My name is Jess Mortimer and I am the newly appointed "Visitor Experience Assistant" at RSPB Bempton Cliffs. One of my many tasks is to keep the blog up to date with recent sightings and other information about what is happening on and around the reserve! I'm looking forward to getting stuck in and hopefully you'll enjoy reading what I have to say :-)

    So, it's Easter Bank Holiday weekend and the big question on everyone's lips at the moment is "Where have all the Auks gone?" For over a month now we have had tens of thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills on the cliffs, and then, earlier this week, the Puffins came back to make a quick check of their nests. No sooner had the TV cameras arrived to film them they were gone! What we are all wondering is, what was the trigger that made the Puffins come and go and 'take the rest' of the Auks and many of the Kittiwakes with them? Of course we are all keeping our eyes on the cliffs for their imminent return in the next few days, but until then there are still thousands of Gannets and Kittiwakes to be seen and we are waiting for our very first 'Easter Egg' - the first Gannet egg of the season! Who will be the first to spot it?! 

    Lastly, we have some exciting news to share with you all. For the first time ever we have managed to get a good idea of the breeding population of puffins here on the cliffs. The trick was to count them on the sea  before they returned to their nests. So, Dave and Keith set out with their telescopes and clickers and after 8 hours they managed to cover the whole length of the colony from Flamborough to Speeton. The Puffins were evenly spread on the water, from below the cliffs to 1km out at sea, mostly in small groups of up to 6, and their count totaled at approximately 2,300 individual birds, suggesting a breeding population of over 1,100 pairs! Hopefully when the Puffins make their return to the cliffs in the next few days we will get another chance to count them. We can't wait to have them back!

    Recent Sightings

    Some of our visitors Alister, Anna and Myriam Burr were lucky enough to spot a Firecrest resting on the cliffs from the Jubilee viewpoint at Bempton Cliffs this afternoon. Rosemary, one of our view point volunteers at Jubilee also managed to snap a photograph of the gorgeous little bird on the viewpoint decking. This bird was part of an arrival of Firecrests on the East Coast with others seen at Flamborough Head and Spurn Point on the same day. 

    Posted by JessicaM

  • 10 February 2016

    Blue Skies and Pink-feet - early spring migration at Bempton cliffs

    Easily dismissed as the usual resident locals, flocks of grey geese are worth a closer look at this time of year – particularly for Pink-footed Geese, wild wanderers that perfectly encapsulate the wonder of long-distance migration on our doorsteps, writes Mark James Pearson
    As in most parts of the UK, here in East Yorkshire the default Anser (grey goose species) is the Greylag (above right), a successful feral all-rounder and a familiar sight across town and country. Unnoticed by many, however, are their highly migratory and truly wild relatives, Pink-footed Geese (above left), which arrive during the autumn and begin their northbound spring migrations as early as February. Thus, for the more optimistically inclined among us, northbound movements of Pink-feet constitute one of the first surefire glimmers of spring in what can often be an otherwise quite unforgiving pre-season lull.
    Much smaller and daintier than their more cumbersome resident cousins, Pink-feet begin to grace the skies above our coastline in mid-September, signalling the subtle changing of the season and ushering in a new phase of the migration calendar. For the rest of the autumn, surges of birds head purposefully south, at almost any altitude – from low over the waves, to almost invisibly high in the clear blue skies which provide ideal conditions for migrating. Many Pink-feet use our coastline as a roadmap for their return journeys to and from more southerly wintering grounds; some, however, often choose to stick around through the darkest months, and this year we've several flocks of wintering birds roving around the local area.
    In flight, Pink-footed Geese flocks are distinctive in that they're often quite ramshackle and have a tendency to ‘fall apart’, constantly evolving and mutating in shape as they continue their journey. Just as indicative (and often the first sign) of an imminent arrival are their instantly recognisable, wonderfully musical calls – a playful, conversational yelping (in stark contrast to the deep honk of Greylags), and a sound that never fails to turn the head and lift the spirits.
    Numbering only several hundred thousand birds globally, and with the vast majority – and the entire Greenland and Iceland breeding populations – wintering in the UK, Pink-feet are very much a ‘British’ bird, relying on our shores for their winter sanctuary, and indeed their very survival, year after year. After passing the season in our relatively balmy climes, they reorientate back towards the Arctic, skilfully navigating along the contours of our coast, as they have for countless generations, and hopefully will for many more to come.   Mark James Pearson  

    Posted by Mark Pearson

  • 10 December 2015

    The Birds Are Back In Town

    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. 

    Barn Owl

    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

  • 17 November 2015

    Winter and Wildfowl

    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

    Posted by ChrisCalow

  • 27 October 2015

    Here's what I've been up to...and recent sightings

    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 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.

    Posted by ChrisCalow

Your sightings

Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)

Whinchat (1)
23 Jul 2016
Tree Sparrow ()
20 Jul 2016
Corn Bunting ()
20 Jul 2016
Quail ()
15 Jul 2016
Black Guillemot ()
13 Jul 2016
Rock Pipit ()
13 Jul 2016
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
10 Jul 2016
Singing/breeding calls heard
Fulmar ()
20 Jul 2016
Gannet ()
20 Jul 2016
Puffin ()
20 Jul 2016

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 54.14609,-0.16889
  • Postcode: YO15 1JF
  • Grid reference: TA197738
  • Nearest town: Bridlington, East Yorkshire
  • County: East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Country: England

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