Getting on down with the kids
Last modified: 21 June 2012
A housing crisis at RSPB Bempton Cliffs is proving a bonus for visitors.
The number of gannets nesting at the nature reserve between Filey and Bridlington has now grown so much that young birds are gathering in ever bigger numbers almost next to the cliff top path.
And that’s good news for visitors walking to the Jubilee Corner viewpoint. This year they have been amazed to see young gannets almost within touching distance.
“RSPB Bempton Cliffs is the best place in the whole of the UK to see gannets at such close quarters,” said site manager Ian Kendall.
“This year, in particular, the juvenile gannets have been gathering in much bigger numbers near Jubilee Corner. They form what we call clubs – the gannet equivalent of a youth club, where lots of youngsters hang out together.
“The main colonies at prime nesting spots like Staple Newk are now so full of adult birds that there’s hardly any space left and the youngsters are driven out by the oldies.
“There have been small numbers of young gannets at Jubilee Corner before, but this year, the sight of so many of them so close to the path is just amazing,” he added.
Traditionally, the adult gannets have used places like this to gather grass – and even wildflowers – to use in their nests. The juveniles, just like teenagers, try to copy this behaviour and end up hanging around in the new club, with nowhere else to go.
“As soon as they are old enough to breed, they get the hang of what to do next and they’re off to build their own nests in the prime locations,” said Ian.
Yorkshire’s gannets are the only ones to breed anywhere in England. In 2009 – the last time there was a full count of the colony – there were 23,000 at Bempton Cliffs and along the coast to Flamborough Head.
“The growth in numbers of gannets over the last 40 years has been phenomenal,” said Ian.
“There were only 20 pairs here in 1970, so to see the cliffs today, full of adults, young birds and chicks, is really heartening.
"But, when we see big numbers of seabirds on the cliffs, we should not forget that they depend on a healthy and safe sea to find food,” he added.
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