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Recent sightings

  • 6 October 2015

    Hello and Recent Sightings

    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.  

    Recent Sightings

    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.

    Posted by ChrisCalow

  • 4 September 2015

    Recent Sightings - August

    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.

    Swallow Update!

    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

    Minke Whales

    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

    Migrating Birds

    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

  • 9 August 2015

    July/August Recent Sightings

    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. 

    Chrys Mellor ©

    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.

    - Becky

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 11 July 2015

    Recent Sightings time!

    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

    And after!

    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!

    Yellow wagtail

    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

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 25 June 2015

    June Sightings

    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.

    • Kittiwake chicks are growing and growing and can now be seen with the naked eye from most of the viewpoints. They are making for a very cute sight, especially when there are 2 or 3 chicks all squashed in together as one big grey fluffy ball.

    • Gannet chicks can also be seen from most of the view points, but the best views are still from Staple Newk. Older chicks are looking much more gannet-like, with their long black bills starting to look pretty menacing.
    • The puffling has occasionally been seen in its burrow by lucky visitors at Grandstand. Puffins are also frequently seen close to the viewing platform at the entrance to the nest
    • The Guillemot chicks have been keeping us thoroughly entertained for the last few days. Many of them are now at the age where they are preparing to fledge, and can be seen waddling around their ledges flapping their wings in preparation. Although guillemot chicks tend to fledge at night, there have been several spotted bobbing on the sea in the early evening. Watch for long enough and you might even see  one pinging off it's ledge into the sea to join it's parent.

    Other sightings

    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.


    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 6 June 2015

    Recent Sightings

    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.

    (Photo by Sophia Jackson)

    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 --

    Posted by Laura - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 22 May 2015

    Recent Sightings for May

    Hello there,

    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

    • Many puffins are now incubating eggs in their chosen nest chamber inside the cliffs, often appearing to head out to sea to fish or to swap incubation duty with their partner. They can be best seen flying to and from the cliffs at the Grandstand, Mosey Downgate and Bartlett Nab viewpoints
    • More and more gannet chicks are beginning to hatch, mainly at Staple Newk but one has now been spotted at Jubilee Corner
    • The kittiwakes are now well into nest building, with large numbers regularly flying back and forth over the footpath to gather nesting material, making for an impressive sight
    • The first guillemot chicks have now been spotted at Flamborough Head, and the first chick at Bempton was spotted on the 21st from Jubilee Corner. Take a look at Sophia’s latest post to see some very cute pictures
    • After heading out to sea for the past week, the fulmars have now returned and are being seen regularly, with the first egg spotted on the 21st May

    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

  • 7 May 2015

    April Sightings 2015

    Hi there!

    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).

    (RSPB Images)

    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.

    (RSPB Images)

    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.

    (Photo by Steve Farrington©)

    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)

    Moorhen (13th)

    Black cap (22nd)

    Sand Martin (22nd)

    Lesser Whitethroat (24th)

    Swallow (26th)

    Sparrow Hawk (7th)

    Posted by Rebecca Blackman - Visitor Experience Intern

  • 8 January 2015

    Recent Sightings 8th Jan 2015


    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 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

Your sightings

Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)

Icterine Warbler ()
13 Sep 2015
Yellow-browed Warbler (1)
8 Oct 2015
Ring Ouzel (4)
8 Oct 2015
Lapland Bunting ()
7 Oct 2015
Grey Wagtail (1)
4 Oct 2015
Tree Sparrow ()
4 Oct 2015
Great Grey Shrike ()
3 Oct 2015
Pied Flycatcher (1)
29 Sep 2015
Whinchat ()
29 Sep 2015
Stock Dove ()
4 Oct 2015

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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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