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Hi, It's Helen here!
It’s been a busy few weeks at Bempton Cliffs, so I just wanted to let you know what has been happening here among other things.
We were involved with the National Whale and Dolphin Watch week at the end of July where we had volunteers and visitors help us to spot cetaceans from our clifftop viewpoints. We were lucky enough to have sightings of Harbour Porpoise, grey seals and a common seal. These sightings have now been sent to Seawatch Foundation who will add them to their database, so a big thank you to everyone who took part!
I have also been setting the moth trap to see what species we have here at the reserve. I am totally new to identifying moths, so have had help from my colleagues not only to help set the trap, but also to help identify them! I am really surprised about how colourful some of the moths are and it is really interesting to see what we have and to add them to our records.
Here are some pictures of the moths I have taken:Poplar HawkmothSpectacle – so called because it looks like it is wearing a pair of glasses!
I will leave you with the recent sightings from the last few days... Turnstone, marsh harrier, corn bunting, whinchat, ruff (flying south), duff (flying south), yellow wagtail (flying south), juvenile cuckoo, reed bunting, meadow pipit, red admiral, whitethroat, blackcap, house martin x12, redstart, oystercatcher x18, wheatear, willow warbler, pied flycatcher, grey heron x2 flew south, osprey, golden plover, porpose and minke whales x3!
Till next time,Helen
Posted by JessicaM
It is officially the end of the auk season at Bempton Cliffs. We have the odd puffin and guillemot visible on the water, but the rest of the gang and their chicks appear to have left us until next season. It's been a busy few months, with tons of excited visitors spotting a puffin for the first time, leaving us with a tick on their bucket list and a promise to come back and see them again next year. We were lucky enough to even spot a puffling this year from our viewpoints, which is a very special treat as the parents usually keep them hidden safely in the burrow. All in all it's been a successful puffin season and as I mentioned in a previous blog post we managed to do our first Bempton Cliffs puffin count, so next year we will know whether the population is increasing or declining. Image Credit: Misa Mass (facebook)
The gannets are stealing the spotlight now, with our guided gannet walks leaving the visitor centre at 11am every Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. The gannets have such a wide window of opportunity to lay their eggs, so as you can see from the photo below, they are all in different stages. We have the fluffy white cotton wool chicks, right through to chicks that will be ready to fledge around the 2nd week in August. The last gannet to fledge will be around mid-October and then the gannets will leave us at the end of October, so there is still plenty of time for you to come along and see these magnificent birds with your own eyes!
Image credit: Nick Hanson @nickhansonphoto
Last weekend we had a sighting of this beautiful Ruddy Darter dragonfly on the reserve. This species of dragon fly moved north of the Humber in the early 1990’s. It can now be found in many areas in East Yorkshire. It is locally abundant. However, to our knowledge it has never been recorded at RSPB Bempton Cliffs Reserve - despite extensive searching over the years. Last weekend, there were 2 males together for 1.5 hours in cliff top grass at Old Dor viewpoint. The image shows classic features (compared with Common Darter) being blood red, black legged and ‘waisted' near the base of the abdomen.
Image and words credit: Trevor Charlton
Before I jump onto the recent sightings, we have our Bempton Cliffs Summer Fete taking place on the reserve from 25th - 31st August. Come and join us for this fun event where you can have your face painted as an animal, a bird, a bug or a butterfly. Try your hand at the ring toss and find out if your aim is as good as an Auks! Throw a coin on the chocolate toss and try to catch a ‘fish’ for your dinner. Hook-a-Puffin and win a prize or learn an interesting fact about Bempton’s most popular sea bird - all for a small donation! I have really enjoyed preparing this event, especially turning these rubber ducks into puffins! It would be great to see as many visitors as possible join us and help us to raise money for our reserve. We also have a raffle full of amazing prizes, including prints by the amazing Steve Race and Chrys Mellor. There is no need to book, just turn up and have fun!
Recent SightingsHere is a list of our recent sightings over the last week or so... redshank, great skua, canada goose, cormorant x 10 flying north past Bartlett Nab, common scoter, juvenile cuckoo spotted throughout this week and again yesterday at Staple Newk in the afternoon and this morning flying from New Roll Up inland, kestrel, yellow wagtail, marsh harrier, great white egret, peregrine, great skua, harbour porpoise, grey seal, lesser whitethroat, grasshopper warbler, reed warbler, painted lady butterfly x8, swallow, oystercatcher x 16 flying south, ruddy darter dragonfly, six-spot burnet moth.
There is so much to see here and our recent sightings book is available for you to view in our visitor centre. Feel free to add anything you have spotted yourselves!
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 GroocockWhile 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.
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.
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: https://www.facebook.com/RSPBnorthyorksandeastriding/
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
RECENT SIGHTINGSThere'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 :)
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 SightingsSome 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 Mark Pearson
November will soon be over, Christmas adverts are playing on the television and we’ve already had the first snows of winter, in fact I was lucky enough to have a ‘white birthday’, winter is well and truly upon us. That shouldn’t put you off from visiting Bempton Cliffs though. It’s equally as beautiful and remarkable a place now as during the height of summer. A bracing cliff top walk at this time of year is just the thing to blow away any cobwebs, and your hat too if you don’t hold on to it. If you’re brave enough to face the wind though you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views and wonderful wildlife.
November saw us running four fabulous geology walks with Paul Hildreth, which I can tell you from experience were fantastic and well worth getting a little chilly for. We’re very grateful to Paul for coming all the way from Lincolnshire each week to lead the walks for us. Don’t worry if you missed them though, we’ve got plenty more walks planned throughout the winter. December is shipwreck month. There will be three walks throughout the month, led by our fabulous volunteer Tony Mayman. There are more than 50,000 shipwrecks between the Tees and the Humber yet many people have no idea that there any shipwrecks at all along the Bempton coastline. This walk will give you the chance to learn all about them, why the ships were here, where they were going, who was onboard and perhaps most importantly, why did they sink. As with the geology walks the price, £5, will also include a hot drink and a slice of cake. It’s one that’s not to be missed. As of writing the first shipwreck walk has taken place and it was a huge success, so don’t miss your chance to come along to the next one.
Tony Mayman delivering a presentation before heading out for the shipwreck walk - Sarah Aitken
This month also saw the last of our series of talks that have been running all year in conjunction with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at the Living Sea Centre. We were lucky enough to have the marvellous John Altringham entertain and enthral us about bats for almost two hours. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who went away with a new found appreciation of the fuzzy little critters. We will be running another series of talks next year, once again in conjunction with our friends at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It’s too early to tell you who the speakers will be but if the whispers that I’m hearing are true we will be in for a real treat on a monthly basis.
We’re continuing to see whooper swans on the move past the reserve. Good numbers were sighted on the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th and 20th of November. During the winter months the Yorkshire coast is visited by good numbers of wintering divers, particularly red-throated divers and we’ve started to see evidence of this recently with sightings on a regular basis. At one point on the 20th there were up to eight birds present on the sea just off Grandstand viewpoint.
Red-throated diver, here in summer plumage - RSPB Images
Recently stormy weather has seen large numbers of adorable little auks pushed in towards the coastline. The Yorkshire coast has been inundated with these tiny, delightful auks recently, we were even lucky enough to spot small numbers of them from the cliff top viewpoints.
Little auk illustration - RSPB Images
After a short break spent away from our cliffs I am delighted to say that the fulmars have returned. They don’t leave for long, maybe a month or so but it’s always pleasing when they return. It’s a joy to see them soaring effortlessly through the air with their wings held stiff. You may or may not know this but despite look superficially similar to a gull fulmars actually belong to the same family as the albatross. A recent training session held in the centre for staff and volunteers revealed that it’s the fulmar which is the favourite bird of the majority of our team. Take that puffin.
Fulmar - Steve Race
They’re not the only seabird that we’ve been seeing back on the cliffs recently because guillemots have been returning too. They won’t be back on the cliffs to breed until next year but it’s not too unusual to see them at this time of year. They may have followed a shoal of fish in to shore or there may be a storm out to sea which forces them to seek shelter, but regardless of the reason it’s certainly good to see them. The 3rd of December was a fantastic guillemot day with over 1000 birds present on the cliffs spread between Grandstand, Mosey Downgate and Bartlett Nab viewpoints.
Guillemot - Chrys Mellor
There is one species of bird which I have barely mentioned in my previous posts, a particularly spectacular bird which is present on the cliffs all year round. As a result I’m ashamed that I have mentioned it until now, the peregrine falcon. We are privileged to provide a home on our cliffs for the fastest animal on the planet. There are few sights in nature more spectacular than a peregrine in full stoop. They do well here thanks to our healthy population of pigeons, which provide a food source throughout the year. Recently, one of the resident birds has taken a liking to a particular perch between Grandstand and Bartlett Nab. Fortunately it is visible from both viewpoints.
Peregrine falcon and young - RSPB Images
Have you ever wanted to see a barn owl? Well then Bempton Cliffs is currently the place to be. Over the last week we’ve been treated to some incredible views by the local owls. If you stand out at the back of the centre after 3 pm you stand a good chance of seeing one of two different birds, both were seen on one occasion, slowly quartering the cliff top meadow in a beautiful yet deadly search for food.
It’s not just birds though, harbour porpoises and grey seals are both still being seen frequently from the viewpoints so keep your eyes on the waves as well as the air.
Harbour porpoise - Adrian Ewart
Posted by ChrisCalow
Greetings from Bempton Cliffs. November is upon us, the nights are drawing in and before you know it will be the New Year. Don’t worry if you haven’t made a trip up to Bempton yet this year though, we have a series of great events planned during the winter months. Every Friday until the 5th of February we will be hosting a special guided walk. Through November these will be focusing on the spectacular geology of the reserve. There’s more to those towering chalk cliffs than you might think. Why not join our walk leader, Paul Hildreth, to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the cliffs that house over 250,000 seabirds. I’ve tagged along on one of these walks myself and I can tell you that it is well worth making the effort to come and join in. I learned more in that hour and a half than I have in a very long time. Have I mentioned that a hot drink and a slice of cake are included in the price?
The geology of our cliffs is fascinating - Steve Race
We’re catering for the youngsters too. We will be hosting six sessions of ‘Nature’s Little Helpers’ throughout the winter. You can attend one session or all six but if you come along to all of them your family will have everything required to give nature a home in your garden.
Speaking of activities for kids, October half term has come and gone and despite the weather doing its best to deter visitors we still had plenty of families coming to enjoy a day out on the cliffs. We provided a series of activities for children to get stuck into during their visit. My personal favourite was creating a journey stick, a simple and fun way to create a memento of your visit.
Enjoying their journey sticks - Sarah Aitken
This young lady got stuck in to all three activities - Sarah Aitken
Also in half term we once again played host to Leanne Beetham, who goes by the name of Lippy Art. Leanne is a talented artist who creates her artwork by holding her paintbrush in her mouth. She came to us during the height of summer and returned again recently to gather inspiration and sell her wares.
Leanne, and friends, hard at work - Chris Calow
Leanne during her summer visit - Maria Prchlik
Exciting news for anybody who is planning to visit us between now and 29th February next year! Entrance to Bempton Cliffs during that time is absolutely free! What a bargain. It’s all part of our plan to attract more visitors over the winter. That’s not all that we’ve done to create a fantastic visitor experience, one corner of the visitor centre has been turned in to a cosy cafe, complete with ‘roaring’ fire.
Who wouldn't want to warm their hands in front of the fire? - Chris Calow
By now you’re probably ready to hear about some of the wildlife we’ve seen on the reserve since my last blog. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. We’re continuing to see redwing and fieldfare in good numbers, along with another winter visitor which for many years has been my bogey bird. Finally though I can put that hoodoo to rest because on the 11th November I managed to see my first ever Brambling. They’ve been seen frequently on the reserve for the last month or so, I’ve just always been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but finally I managed to see one. I guess I need a new bogey bird now. Any suggestions?
Two very well camouflaged brambling - Tony Mayman
On the 1st November we had a truly excellent sighting for the reserve in the shape of a Richard’s pipit. The bird was first sighted in the morning by Grandstand viewpoint before disappearing for a number of hours. Fortunately, news of the sighting had spread by this time and the bird was relocated in the afternoon having moved up to the Dell, at this point we were able to confirm that this was indeed a Richard’s pipit.
At this time of the year sightings of hen harriers start to become more common along the coast. The birds are moving away from their normal upland habitat in order to spend the winter in comparatively warmer locales. It was on the 31st October that we had our first sighting of the year, a ringtail bird was sighted on the reserve briefly during the day and then again at the end of the day by volunteers Leo Kokoszko and Michael Butler. It was several days before we had another sighting, and what a sighting it was. The Bempton management team came steaming out of their meeting to announce that there was a hen harrier giving great views out of the back of the visitor centre. Management meetings happen every week but such good views of a hen harrier are few and far between. There was one further sighting on the 6th November when a bird was seen over cliff lane. Here’s hoping for more sightings of this wonderful raptor in the coming months.
Hen harrier - RSPB Images
One of my favourite things about this time of year is the movement of wildfowl and we’re starting to see evidence of that. Common scoter were seen heading south in small numbers on the 6th November. At least 50 pink-footed geese were seen flying south on the 1st November, with larger numbers being sighted in the following days.
Pink-footed goose - RSPB Images
The most impressive movement of wildfowl so far, in my opinion, came on the 11th November when just as the day was drawing to an end we were treated to a flypast by 45 majestic whooper swans. A further 16 followed the next day. Seeing these magnificent pure white birds fly past the visitor centre over the blue of the north sea is truly a sight to behold. For those of you who are only familiar with the mute swan regularly seen in parks throughout towns across the country the whooper swan is a far wilder animal than it’s orange billed cousin. It may well be one of my favourite winter visitors, then again, I say that about everything.
Whooper swan - RSPB Images
Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)
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