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PLEASE NOTE THE VISITOR CENTRE, VIEWPOINTS AND TOILETS ARE CLOSED UNTIL 1 APRIL 2015 FOR MAJOR REDEVELOPMENT. PUBLIC FOOTPATHS WILL REMAIN ACCESSIBLE. TO KEEP UP TO DATE WITH PROGRESS, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK OR KEEP AN EYE ON OUR BLOG. THE NEAREST PUBLIC TOILETS ARE AT FLAMBOROUGH HEAD AND IN BRIDLINGTON.
Apologies for a big break from the last recent sightings update. If you are not aware it is an exciting time for us here at Bempton Cliffs as our visitor centre and infrastructure is getting redeveloped. With this redevelopment there has potentially been a lot of disturbance and is due to continue until the end of March.
So what sightings have we been getting over winter? From late October to December there were the usual suspects of Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit at the feeding station. Brambling have occasionally been seen either in the Dell or Feeding station. Fieldfares and Redwings have also regularly been seen on passage, along with Pink-footed and Greylag Geese flying over the reserve.
(Fulmar – Steve Race©)
The winter period is probably the best time to fully appreciate Fulmars, as there is the combination of breeder and non-breeders flying around and on the cliffs. Come the height of the breeding season the non-breeders remain out at sea and the individuals who remain to breed can be difficult to spot amongst the thousands of other seabirds. There is also the mystery of Guillemots sporadically appearing in their thousands on the cliffs over the winter period.
(Guillemots – Steve Race©)
So that’s 2014 - what sightings have we been getting to kick start 2015? Well apart from the Herring Gulls, this past week there has been a flock of up to 30 Twite seen in the neighbouring set-aside fields, along with ten or so Rock Pipits within the pasture fields. Over the last three days a female Merlin has been around and a pair of Stonechats have been making cheeky appearances between Grandstand and Barlett Nab viewpoints. Keep your eye on the water for Red-throated Divers and maybe the odd Grey Seal popping its head out.
(Red Throated Diver – Steve Race©)
Don’t forget it is the Big Garden Birdwatch on 24th-25th January. Join thousands of others and pick an hour over that weekend to discover the wildlife in your garden. Register online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ before the day to receive reminders and your free pack. The more people involved, the more we can learn. So, grab a cuppa and together we can all help to give nature a home.
Posted by Scott Smith - Visitor Services Manager
PLEASE NOTE, RSPB BEMPTON CLIFFS VISITOR CENTRE FACILITIES WILL BE CLOSED FROM 1 SEPT 2014 TO 1 APRIL 2015 FOR MAJOR REDEVELOPMENT. PUBLIC FOOTPATHS WILL REMAIN ACCESSIBLE.
Well the Visitor Centre may be closed for renovations but that certainly has not put a damper on bird numbers at the reserve.
Over the last two weeks a plethora of species have been seen across the reserve, with one locale in particular proving to be especially productive. The Dell (the small but heavily treed and “shrubbed” depression which greets you as you approach the fork in the road at the entrance to the reserve) has been a hotspot for species such as Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff , Yellow-browed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Pied Flycatcher and even the diminutive Goldcrest; all frantically feeding and flitting from branch to branch as they stock up on fat reserves before continuing on their migration.
(Yellow-browed Warbler - David Aitken)
(Spotted Flycatcher - David Aitken)
The Hawthorn and Gorse bush-lined nature trail has also been productive, with sightings of Red Breasted Flycatcher, Sparrowhawk, Redstart, and even a 1st winter Red-backed Shrike (which proved to be the cue for an army of keen birdwatchers and bird-enthusiasts to make their way to Bempton). Keep an eye on our Twitter account @Bempton_Cliffs for more interesting species updates!
(1st winter Red-backed Shrike - David Aitken)
The vast fields which provide a backdrop to the reserve’s cliff-top trails have also yielded such species as Whinchat, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Rock Pipit, Wheatear, Fieldfare, Little Bunting and flocks of 100+ Linnet.
This is not to say that there is nothing to see on the cliffs. The last of the Gannet chicks are in the process of fledging, Peregrines and Kestrels effortlessly manipulate the air currents and occasionally descend on hapless pigeons or voles (respectively), Herring Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls continue to methodically patrol the cliff face in search of prey and recently fledged Fulmar chicks test their wings on southerly winds in preparation for their first winter at sea.
Ryan Chenery - Volunteer Development Officer
Hello readers, and guess who's back! For those who have been following the blogs, you might remember I was writing earlier this summer, but left to graduate. I have been able to return for a fortnight though, and am happy to be back! Firstly, I must give a huge thanks to Bill for doing such an excellent job keeping you all posted on what's been going on with our wildlife. Like many of our birds, he's left us now, and will certainly be missed! But though many birds (and volunteers) have now finished their time and left us for the season, there is still plenty to see on the reserve, with many creatures besides myself returning for a visit on their migration!
I'll begin with the big news: as of yesterday, the areas surrounding our visitors' centre and car park are now officially newt-free! For those who have visited this summer, you might have noticed the green fencing all around the site. This has been due to our impending re-development of the visitors' centre and the presence of great-crested newts on site -- they are a protected species under UK and EU law, and so by law must be handled with the utmost care by licensed professionals. In our case, a fantastic team from Wold Ecology Ltd. have been with us over the spring and summer months, seeing to it that these newts and various other amphibians were safely re-located outside what is soon to be a construction zone. The fencing was installed along with bucket traps, each cleverly outfitted with a "mammal ladder" (that is, a stick, which mice, voles, and other small mammals could climb to escape the trap) and a small small flotation device as a guard against flooding should any big storms pass by! Dan, Chris, and Jack have been checking the traps every morning, relocating any critters they found to safer areas outside the re-development zone, and ensuring the traps and fencing remained in good order. I had the privilege of accompanying them on some of their work, so I can share a few photos from the project with you.
Much ado about newt-thing! Our centre re-development was delayed a year so that we could have our rare and beautiful great-crested newts re-located to safety. Photo by Jaime.
Occasionally, a mammal such as this shrew (perfectly healthy, just resting!) didn't quite manage to make it up the mammal ladder before the traps were checked. Photo by Jaime.
The traps also caught hundreds -- around 800, to be precise! -- toads of all sizes, all of which are now safe from the bulldozers. Photo by Jaime.
Of course, now that we've received the all-clear as far as the newts go, this also means our time is nearly up! Construction on our new, expanded centre is due to begin very shortly, meaning we will be closed after this Sunday, 31 August! The public footpath on the cliffs will of course remain open, but our centre, servery, toilets, and car park will all be inaccessible until we re-open for the return of our breeding sea birds next spring. This weekend is therefore your last opportunity to come check out our all the fantastic wildlife on the cliffs with all the guidance of our enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and volunteers, or the comfort of a nice beverage or opportunity to shop for a few nice souvenirs of your visit! We do hope you'll come join us this weekend and take advantage -- there's loads yet to see!
The gannets are still around in huge numbers, showing quite well, and many are now fledging, so you can enjoy their amazing -- if somewhat awkward -- first flights as they glide down to the sea. And though we've been having a few distinctly autumnal windy days the last week, a bit of wind actually makes for the best viewing, as these huge birds glide right up to eye level and fly and hover incredibly close to the fences, allowing us to observe and enjoy them up-close.
The gannet numbers on the main gannetry near Staple Newk viewpoint are still very high! Photo by Jaime.
What's not to love about a bird with a wingspan wider than I am tall?! Photo by Jaime.
A bit of wind means we can get incredibly close to these stunning birds! Photo by Jaime.
And... fulmars! As their own chicks come up toward fledging (most are now wearing the same plumage as their parents -- the only one of our eight seabird species that does so before leaving the nest), they're proving extremely active, gliding all around us with their "stiff wings" flight style as if to show off just a bit!
The "little tough guys" of the cliffs -- living over 50 years -- are still around too, and showing better than ever as their chicks prepare to fledge! Photo by Jaime.
As Bill mentioned recently, there has also been lots of action down on the water. The shags are still quite active below us, skimming the surface of the water and performing their hop-dive fishing style from the water's surface.
The shags don't come up high for us, but a pair of binoculars gives excellent viewing of these birds and their funny feeding behaviour. Photo by Jaime.
Especially exciting for a lot of us has been the excellent showings of harbour porpoise we've had most days lately. Seeing these takes a little luck, since they don't leap and breach the way dolphins do, but they've been spending a lot of time fishing just below us, especially at high tide. With a pair of binoculars (available for hire if you don't have your own), the viewing is absolutely fantastic, as we've watched them swim so nimbly through the waves, darting here and there after the fish that make up their meals. We've also been observing the striking colouration and contrast of their dark back and light underside, which sadly didn't show up well on my small camera.
Harbour porpoises are all around us! What an incredible treat! Photo by Jaime.
We've also had some migrants passing by -- watch out for various skuas and shearwaters, or for really great viewing why not join onto one of our Skua and Shearwater Cruises, sailing from Bridlington Harbour beginning 6 September! (Pre-booking is highly recommended as spaces are selling out fast!)
There are plenty of migrants to see, especially on our upcoming cruises, like this shearwater! Photo by Jaime.
Our Big Birds and Mini-beasts kids' guided walks have now concluded, but a self-guided family tour will remain available over the weekend, with information posts, a chance to hunt for mini-beasts, and a fun quiz sheet. Gazing at Gannets walks also continue; much like our earlier Puffin Patrols, these offer an exciting opportunity to learn about Bempton and our birds and go onto the reserve with one of our knowledgeable volunteers (and a telescope!). Tours depart daily at 2pm, with additional walks at 11am on Saturday and Sunday.
There are plenty of mini-beasts yet to be seen all around the reserve! Photo by Jaime
Brave young wildlife explorers may find the chance to get very personal with all sorts of mini-beasts! (I wasn't brave enough to touch anything more beastly than this lovely moth!) Photo by Jaime.
Tree-sparrows are among those still fledging, and making for excellent viewing along our feeding stations and nature trail. Photo by Jaime
Some young chaffinches have been proving themselves capable of flight, but not quite ready to leave mum and dad! Photo by Jaime.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that our peregrines have been seen nearly every day I've been back, too! To summarise, there really is a lot going on, so don't miss this fantastic last-chance to come check out the full Bempton Cliffs experience this weekend! Hope to see you there!
Posted by Jaime G
And it's goodbye form him!
Hello, Bill here with his final blog. I hope that you have enjoyed the few that I have done.
I am on my way back to The Netherlands on Wednesday.
I would like to say a big Thank you to all the staff at Bempton Cliffs for all their help over the past few weeks.
I have enjoyed it a lot and take a lot away with me. As Arnie said, "I will be back."
Some recent sightings -
willow warbler, sparrowhawk, lots of oystercatchers, blackcap, peregrines (most days), song thrush, juvenile wheatear, arctic skua, linnets, moorhen juvenile and goldfinches
Alos the Harbour Porpoises have made an appearance at Bartlett (23/8) and stayed all morning quite close in.
Posted by Bill M
As promised, I will include pictures of the Great Crested Newts (when I manage to send the pictures to myself); collected by Wold Ecology, with the amphibian fencing around the site of the building extension.
Also Jo Allen, of the Member ship team has kindly sent me the pictures below of the fledging swallows at the centre. Thanks Jo!
(all pictures above - Jo Allen)
Until the next blog, by for now.
Hello again, from The Cliffs.
Should be Swallows and Amazons, I know! I haven’t found any Amazons up here, yet! The prolific swallows in the entrance way of the visitor centre are at it again. The young of the second brood of the year, are about to fledge (due any time now). They produced 6 in the first brood and there are 5 or 6 in this latest one. Also at the centre we have a pigeon which regularly comes and sits on the top of the shed. The staff have various names for him, but one thing for sure is that he is smart, as the shed is where birdfeed is kept!
Juvenile swallow - (RSPB images)
Nameless pigeon - (picture - Bill McCarthy)
We are continuing with the ‘Big Birds and Minibeasts’ program, which runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can have a guided tour on one of those days at 11am or 2pm. You could also guide yourself, using the map and answer the trail questions (you can do this on other days as well). There are Arts and Crafts activities for the kids (and adults, if they like).
A lot of people ask about the amphibian fencing all around the centre building. It is there as part of the work Wold Ecology are doing to collect any Great Crested Newts, for re-location on the safe area nearby. The site has to be clear of this type newts for at least 5 days before any construction can take place. The team are pretty sure that there are very few left to re-locate. As well as the newts they are collecting many toads and we normally have some for anyone to look at in the Arts and Crafts marquee of the Big Birds and minibeasts program. They have collected over 700 common toads so far!
Green fencing for amphibians - (picture - Bill McCarthy)
Apologies from me - pictures of newts and Chris form Wold Ecology to follow in next blog!
I think that we can finally say that the puffins are all gone. A few individuals hung around for a lot longer than expected, but they all seem to be off now. The kittiwakes are following suit. I, and many others, have been part of the kittiwake breeding productivity monitoring program for tracking the progress of the chicks. On the site I was looking at (Bartlett Nab) they have nearly all gone now. The gannets, however, continue to thrill and even with my i-phone, I got a great picture at Staple Newk!
Gannets at Staple Newk - (picture - Bill McCarthy)
Other birds spotted over the last week –
Siskins (in field near New Roll—up and on feeders), grey wagtails, little egret, kestrel, peregrines (over fields and sat on cliff at Staple Newk), kestrel, wheatear and cuckoo
Other things spotted –
Harbour porpoise, roe deer and the weasels again.
Hello again, time for some updates on what is going on at Bempton Cliffs.
We recently took part in the 13th National Whale and Dolphin Watch, organised by the ‘Seawatch’ organisation. This is an event, which went on all around the UK. We were on the cliffs at Bempton (Bartlett Nab viewpoint), from the 27th August and until Sunday 3rd August. The last 2 days were the most successful and some harbour porpoises were spotted throughout both days. Typical, I was on the cliff for most of the week and the porpoises appeared when I wasn’t there! The results have been sent to Seawatch and will appear on their website.
We have also started the ‘Big Birds and Minibeasts’ program, which run on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can have a guided tour on one of those days at 11am or 2pm. You could also guide yourself, using the map and answer the trail questions (you can do this on other days as well). There are Arts and Crafts activities for the kids (and adults, if they like). Look for pictures on facebook (thanks Maria) and listen out for the ad on Yorkshire Coast radio. You can also see some really interesting creatures in the marquee - toads, moths and a bat were on display last week.
Toads collected from Amphibian fencing buckets (photo - Bill McCarthy)
Last week we released a couple of Kittiwakes, from Bartlett Nab.
"Go little kittiwakes, go" (photo - Bill McCarthy)
"Not sure if I want to go yet!" (photo - Bill McCarthy)
Puffins? Well there are still a few bobbing around on the sea, but very difficult to see any on the cliffs now. Keep watching those kittiwakes and gannets with their chicks.
Other things spotted over the last week –
A heron (mobbed by gulls) out over the sea, many common scoter, marsh harrier, black-tailed godwit, whimbrel, peregrine falcons and a lot of oystercatchers on various days.
Bye for now.
Hello, this is Bill McCarthy and I am the new Residential Volunteer at Bempton Cliffs. I will be here until the 27th August. I am a Primary Teacher in The Netherlands and I am volunteering in my Summer holidays. Swapping kids for birds!
First of all I would like to say thanks to Jamie for her previous blogs and I hope that I can live up to her standard of ‘blogging’. She has Just posted a great new blog with great pictures!
I first came to Bempton about 3 years ago (Spring/Early Summer) and was bowled over by the sights, sounds and smells associated with the cliffs. The views are amazing as are the thousands upon thousands of wonderful birds. So, I came back and applied for the Residential Volunteer position.
Starting on the 23rd of July, my first week has been very busy, with lots of things happening. I am, luckily still pointing out puffins on the rocks and in the water. There are still a few left, but numbers are down a lot, even from last Friday (25th). Lots of people ask about, and photograph, them so it is lovely to be able to still see them. However the gannets still have lots of young on nests and it is fantastic to see the different stages of development (although not many very small ones left to see). Also the beautiful kittiwakes still have to fledge in some cases, but you can see most of them trying out their flying muscles, with their beautiful stripe-edged wings. The earlier leavers are really proficient flyers already. You might still see the odd razorbill and guillemot on the cliffs too.
Other things spotted in the last few days -
common scoters , arctic skua, whimbrel, peregrine, redshank, shag and sparrow hawk
Also seen, near ‘Grandstand’ were some weasels that were busy playing and ignoring the watching public. There were some fighting stoats also seen at the end of last week, between ‘Bartlett’ and ‘Grandstand’. How can you tell the difference?
Stoat photo – thanks to Ian Percival
28/29 July In the amphibian fencing traps – water shrews have been found !
Finally, for now. We are currently taking part in the 13th National Whale and Dolphin Watch, organised by the ‘Seawatch’ organisation. This is an event, which is running all around the UK. We have been on the cliffs at Bempton (Bartlett Nab viewpoint), since the 27th August and we will be there until Sunday 3rd August. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anything so far (except for a sighting of Harbour Porpoise off Staple Newk, by Steve Race from a boat - 31 July).
Hello readers, and welcome again to a special edition of Recent Sightings. Apologies for the delay in getting this one up -- I've just graduated, so I'm sure you can imagine it's been a busy week! Unfortunately, this also means that this will be my final update, as my placement time at Bempton has ended and I must be moving on. Today I'll be updating what was seen in my last few days on the reserve (up to last Monday), and reflecting a bit on my time there by sharing some of my favourite pictures that I haven't used yet in these updates!
First, as promised: have a look at this little fluffy! Fulmar chicks, being typically the last of our seabirds to hatch, can now be seen here and there along the cliffs. This one is on a grassy outcrop off New Roll-up viewpoint. Fulmars have an amazing defence mechanism -- they can spit a smelly, oily, fishy mixture from their guts which is said to be worse than skunk spray and impossible to wash from clothes (those involved in ringing and tracking fulmars allegedly burn their clothes at the end of each season!). Their ability to spit at distance and under high pressure can really mess with a predator's fur or feathers, and since they're so well protected, fulmars can afford to have their young right up near the tops of the cliffs where our other seabirds would be very vulnerable to predators. Keep your eyes peeled and you may be able to spot a few!
Digiscope of a fulmar chick off the south side of New Roll-up viewpoint. Photo by Jaime, thanks to Chris for use of the scope.
Elsewhere on the cliffs, a handful of surprise late chicks appeared: a guillemot off the north side of Grandstand (which may have left already -- after all they jump after only 2 to 3 weeks!), and a gannet and kittiwake off the north side of Bartlett Nab.
Late guillemot chick seen off Grandstand viewpoint. Photo by Jaime.
Late gannet chick off Bartlett Nab viewpoint. Photo by Jaime.
This late little kittiwake is much younger than its neighbours, who are all busy fledging! Photo by Jaime.
On Saturday the 19th, a little egret and a few manx shearwaters were seen flying south, while a dozen or so common scoters were seen on the water. Saturday the 20th saw a huge flock of common scoters on sea again, this time estimated at over 100 individuals! They were joined by a pair of whimbrels, and a pair each of manx shearwater and grey herons off Grandstand viewpoint. One of our young peregrines was observed putting up the kittiwakes into fear flights all along the cliff, while a merlin, which doesn't specialise in birds as prey the way the peregrine does, was largely ignored by the seabirds at New Roll-up. My final day on the reserve was a bright and sunny one: 21 July saw the meadow alive with butterflies including small skippers and painted ladies. To finish out with a bit of excitement, I was lucky to see both a peregrine and a grey seal off Jubilee Corner.
The puffins have unfortunately largely left (there were very few to see on Monday 21 before I left), but this simply means that the cliffs' thousands of gannets are now the great stars of the show! With wing spans reaching up to about 6 feet (that's a little taller than me!) and all sorts of incredible adaptations for their plunge-diving hunting style, these birds are really impressive. Guided walks have shifted gears to focus on them instead of Puffin Patrols, but the opportunity is still there to learn about all the birds that you can still see on the cliffs, and get up-close views with one of our volunteers' telescopes! Besides the guided walks, there's also a new interactive quiz trail for families coming soon -- helping design it was one of my final tasks with the reserve -- so be sure to come and check out our big birds and minibeasts!
The gannets aren't leaving yet! Come learn about them and all the other remaining birds! Photo by Jaime.
And that, sadly, is really all I can say about recent sightings! To finish out, as promised, I'd like to share some more of my photos from the reserve that I've not had a chance to include thus far. I hope you'll enjoy them!
Young gannet in flight. Gannets are black when they fledge, and gradually turn white over 4 to 5 years until they're ready to breed! Photo by Jaime
Two gannets having a bit of a scrap. Young are often seen practicing this and other behaviours along the tops of the cliffs! Photo by Jaime.
Does anyone remember these little fluffies from my first post? Little 17a and 17b were the first hatchlings I found when I temporarily took over a kittiwake monitoring plot at Bartlett Nab. We watch hundreds of these nests with weekly checks of how their eggs and chicks are doing, as kittiwakes with their small bills and poor diving skills have a very restricted diet, making them a good indicator species for any changes going on at a very basic level of the food web out in the sea. I followed these chicks every week I was on the reserve, so now you can see them grow up, too!
Reposted photo of little 17a and 17b, so named for their plot-monitoring nest number, on my first week on the reserve. Photo by Jaime.
The same chicks approximately 2 weeks after hatching. Photo by Jaime.
Around three weeks of age. Photo by Jaime.
At around 4 weeks of age. Photo by Jaime.
Five weeks old! They've finally got their feathers! Photo by Jaime.
And lastly, about five and a half weeks old. Photo by Jaime.
Unfortunately, neither of the pair were ready to fledge by the time I left, but with their feathers largely fully in, they were looking like they'd start exercising their wings like their neighbour, below, at any moment.
Young kittiwake off Bartlett Nab flapping to exercise its wings in preparation for fledging in the near future. Photo by Jaime.
Of course, when they do fledge, they'll be showing off what I think is one of the prettiest plumages in the colony, like this little fledgling below. The black arrow patterns on young kittiwakes' (or "tarrocks", as they are alternately known) wings are very striking, as well as their dark collars. Over the following year or two they'll gain adult plumage and end up looking just like their parents.
Recently-fledged tarrock in flight over the sea. Photo by Jaime.
And that's the last I have to share about the birds! It has been an absolute blast working with the whole RSPB team of staff and volunteers up at Bempton Cliffs, and a real pleasure writing these updates for you all -- thank you for reading!!
And now, to part, and just as a reminder that there are always interesting things to see all over the reserve, I leave you with... a toad! Forget gross and warty, they're generally not the slightest bit slimy, and just look at the beautiful colour of its eyes! What's not to love?!
Toad on a log along the nature trail. Photo by Jaime.
And that, folks, is all! Best wishes and happy spotting!
Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)
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