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Recent sightings

  • 15 April 2014

    Spring has sprung at Bempton

    There’s a definite feeling of spring in the air at Bempton Cliffs as we head towards an action packed Easter weekend.

    All of our summer regulars – including plenty of Puffins - are here in good number, although the auks are on and off the cliffs as they feed up prior to breeding. The first Gannet egg was spotted from Staple Newk viewpoint on 28 March. Amazingly, the first egg of the year is usually from the same pair and ‘nest 33’ did not let us down this year.

    Corn Bunting are singing to hold territory behind the Staple Newk viewpoint and between Bartlett and Jubilee viewpoints – listen out for the distinctive ‘jangling keys’ song. Good numbers of Twite, Linnet and Yellowhammer have been reported at the north end of the reserve beyond Jubilee viewpoint.

    Migrants are starting to move through including our first Swallow  - sadly the Red-rumped Swallow at Flamborough on 5 April didn’t make it to Bempton. Movement of Goldfinches and Brambling and large movements of Meadow Pipits and Linnets have also been observed. Wheatear was seen on 9 April. We’ve also had our first Chiffchaff (20 March), Willow Warbler (28 March) and Goldcrest (5 April) – hopefully some of them will be sticking around to breed locally.

    For bird of prey fans, Peregrine have been seen regularly, a flyover Buzzard was observed on 5 April and both Barn Owl (1 April) and Short-eared Owl (9 April) have been spotted.

    Lapland Bunting - Alan Shearman©

    Rarer birds – for the reserve – include Lapland Bunting seen on and off from late March to 9 April. The field beyond the old RAF base seems to be favoured although there is a lot of ground to check and they haven’t been seen every day. Shorelark were seen behind Staple viewpoint on 28 March.

    Shorlark - David Aitken©

    We’re already in seabird season and with migration happening anything could turn up – so make plans to visit Bempton this half term or Easter.

    Posted by Scott Smith

  • 7 March 2014

    Puff-tastic Weekend

    During the past week we have seen big changes, plus one fantastic surprise, on our spectacular cliff-top reserve.

    The initial influx of Guillemots and Razorbills had come and gone by the penultimate weekend of February, and whilst this is quite normal behaviour, it was, nevertheless, a bit disappointing to see their ledges empty again so soon.  However, we need not have despaired, because by last Thursday they were steadily heading back and by Saturday several thousand seabirds were once more lining the cliff face. And what a thrill it is to watch these short-winged birds torpedoing downwards from on high to skim frenetically across the surface of the ocean before speeding back up to join their colonies on favoured ledges.

    (Please visit the site to view this video)
    Puffin - Scott Smith (Nettletrip Cam)

    Well, that was the big change, but then came the fantastic surprise, when, on Saturday 1st March (yes, 1st March), an excited visitor returned to the centre to show us a photo she had just taken of a Puffin sitting on a rocky ledge.  Our first Puffin of the season.  Puff-tastic!  It is of course far too early to expect many more to follow just yet, the expectation being that this little chap will return to the sea for a while longer.  Although, having said that, further sightings have since been made of several Puffins sitting on the water not far from shore;  so who knows, we may have some early returners to give joy to all on our cliff top viewpoints.

    Seal - Ben Hall (

    There were, in addition, lots of other sightings to enthral our visitors, not least of which the Seals and Harbour Porpoises leisurely cruising in the mostly flat calm sea.  There were also Skylarks aplenty, singing at the top of their voices, reminding us that Saturday was the beginning of the meteorological Spring.  But, top of the shop for one particularly fortunate family, was a bumper ten minutes of bird-spotting, when, having just been focusing on a Peregrine sitting high on the cliff, they turned to see a flock of twenty-five Snow Buntings rise and fall when disturbed by a tractor ploughing in an adjacent field;  and, if that wasn’t enough to stir their spirits, within a couple more steps they came across our much admired Short-eared Owl sitting on a nearby cliff top fence post.  “WOW!”  I think, says it all.

    Snow Bunting - Steve Race © (Yorkshire Coast Nature)

    And here’s some more great news:  in keeping with our wish for the Bempton Cliff’s experience to be one that is full of fun for all the family, we are continuing to run the popular activities, viz Winter Bingo & Wildlife Trail (at no cost to participants) originally organised for children who visited during the recent half-term school holidays. 

    So come on down to Bempton Cliffs, remembering of course to be prepared for seasonal weather by bringing boots, gloves, hats, scarves and three layers of warm clothing.  And, when you’ve had your fill of Bempton Cliff’s delight, pop back into the centre for a hot chocolate, coffee, cappuccino or tea accompanied by a light snack ... eccles cakes and muffins come highly recommended.

    See you soon at Bempton Cliffs ... 

    Posted by Scott Smith

  • 24 February 2014

    Family Fun at Bempton Cliffs

    We’ve just had another brilliant (and busy) week at Bempton Cliffs, especially so with the half-term school holiday providing an ideal opportunity for parents and grand-parents to bring their children to our reserve for a great family day out. Many of our young visitors took part in the activities we arranged, and all enjoyed identifying the various creature habitats on the wildlife trail, as well as spotting many birds and creatures listed in the winter bingo game. The good news is that these activities continue to be available for any children who are on holiday this week too.

     With the exception of Monday, when a sea mist made viewing rather limited, we have experienced some excellent winter weather. This meant that as Tuesday dawned we were without doubt treated to the highlight of the week, the arrival of around twelve hundred Guillemots who had returned to their nesting sites. It was an amazing sight to see row upon row of these handsome seabirds lining the cliff face; but, as so often happens following the initial arrival of these birds, they began to return to the sea on Wednesday, and by Sunday they had all gone. They’ll be back!

    Guillemot (image - rspb)

    Performing regularly, and very popular with visitors, has been the spectacular sight of a Peregrine hunting its prey out over the cliff top. The really good news is that it has been joined by its mate, so we now have double delight in the peregrine department. Several visitors submitted wonderful images they’d taken of the peregrines in full hunting mode, which we have happily displayed in the reserve centre. We love to receive such photos, so please keep them coming.

    Red Kite (image - rspb)

     Not to be out-performed by Guillemots and Peregrines, our Short-eared Owl has been frequently seen most days in the late afternoon; and a Red Kite has been spotted on several occasions, soaring effortlessly over the fields adjoining the reserve.

     On the sea, Black & Red-throated Divers continue to be seen from our viewpoints, as can the occasionally passing Eider. A must for many of the young visitors last week were the Harbour Porpoises, who could be seen breaking the surface on their frequent fishing trips.  

    Harbour Porpoise (image - Adrian Ewart)

    Finally, a special mention should be made of our bird feeding station, from where most of our young wildlife explorers began their search for habitats and creatures last week. It is here that you can sit amongst the trees and enjoy the spectacle of assorted birds, such as Finches, Tits, Dunnocks, Tree Sparrows and Blackbirds, to name but a few, helping themselves to food.


    Posted by Martin S

  • 17 February 2014

    Things are hotting up at Bempton Cliffs!

    Well that might be stretching the imagination a bit with regard to the weather (although, having said that, Sunday was a truly wonderful, sunny winter’s day); but it is certainly true of what is going on out there on the cliff face, with the arrival of more and more gannets every day.

    (Great Spotted Woodpecker - RSPB Image)

    Since our posting on 5th February, a whole host of additional sightings have been made to whet the appetite of visitors to our spectacular RSPB reserve. So, in addition to those listed previously, the following birds have recently been spotted: a hundred or more pink-footed geese, an eider duck, a common scoter and four early returning guillemots (all on the sea); a great spotted woodpecker, joining (sometimes scattering) other smaller birds on feeders at the feeding station; a busy little pied wagtail, running about daintily in the car park whilst searching for scraps; a kestrel; and a reed bunting. Also identified, in and amongst our gaily chirruping resident tree sparrows, was a house sparrow, possibly checking out how the other half live.

    ( Kestrel - David Hunt)

    A massively enjoyable and regular sighting has also been made of a short-eared owl, out hunting during daylight hours in full view from the reserve’s centre. What a treat it is to see this magnificent bird through binoculars, especially to appreciate its staring yellow eyes surrounded by black patches within a pale face. And as if it was saying that the panto season is still on at Bempton Cliffs, we watched as the owl performed centre stage, occasionally flopping on its prey in the fields, whilst three visitors were concentrating on matters out to sea. “It’s behind you.” should have been the festive call, had we not been engrossed by the main act. There was a happy ending though, as these visitors saw the owl as they returned along the path that lead them back to the centre.

    (Short-eared Owl - Steve Race)

    Well it’s half-term for many school children, and what better way is there to spend your time than by having a family day at Bempton Cliffs; and, to add to the fun, we have a number of free activities for keen young explorers to enjoy. Firstly, we have Winter Bingo, which involves spotting various birds and other creatures on the feeders and on the cliffs; secondly, we have created a wildlife trail, on which are located a number of creature habitats, the purpose of which is to guess who lives where; and thirdly, if the weather is inclement, there’s some colouring-in to do inside the centre.

     Why wait? Just pull on those boots and wellies, and come on over to Bempton Cliffs where there’s lots to both see and do.


    Posted by Martin S

  • 5 February 2014

    It's Brilliant at Bempton Cliffs

    Sunday, Monday & Tuesday.  Three glorious days to have been out and about at the spectacular Bempton Cliffs NSPB Reserve.  Mind you, for those who ventured forth, it was essential to wrap up warm and toasty.  Woolly hats, gloves, walking boots (wellies optional) and three decent layers of clothing were definitely order of the day.

    (Gannet - Image: Bempton Cliffs)

    Appropriately attired, and with scopes and binoculars at the ready, a goodly number of outdoor enthusiasts made their way to our well positioned cliff viewing areas from where they enjoyed the sight of gannets, effortlessly sweeping over the waves;  fulmars, gliding gracefully to and from the cliff ledges;  several shags, bobbing up and down on the sea swell;  a couple of red-throated divers, dipping beneath the water’s surface;  half-a-dozen herring gulls, sitting quietly, passing the time of day far below down on the rocks;  and two huge great black-backed gulls, swooping ominously over all they surveyed.  Added to this, several pods of harbour porpoises also joined in the fun, and could be seen rising and submerging close by the red-throated divers.  And, as if this wasn’t enough to have made facing the chilly sea breeze totally worthwhile, quite a few lucky onlookers also managed to spot a magnificent peregrine falcon checking out what might be on the lunch-time menu.

    (Peregrine Falcon - Image: David Hunt)

    Back at our reserve’s centre there was plenty to be seen going on there too, with a large flock of jackdaws noisily going about their business, making regular, if rather chaotic, raids on the bird tables;  twenty-five or more delightful tree sparrows, entertaining us on the bird feeders;  and a handsome, solitary stonechat, keeping a constant vigil on the top of a gorse bush. 

    (Tree Sparrow - Image: Steve Race)

    Those who are acquainted with Bempton Cliffs, will of course know that many more species of birds will have been seen.  And they are right.  So here is a list of our other very welcome feathered friends who have honoured us with a recent visit:  Lapwings, fieldfares, guillemots, a barn owl, robins, dunnocks, goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, a rock pipit, and, just as we were closing on Tuesday evening, a majestic sparrowhawk raced by in pursuit of its prey, presumably on route for supper.  In addition, and as yet, unconfirmed, a reported sighting of a red kite was also made, so we will be keeping an eye out over the next day or so in order that we may tick this one off on our visitor list too.

    Okay.  So it’s winter and it’s chilly.  But what the hey.  Pull on those winter thermals and come on over to Bempton Cliffs.  We’d love to see you, and you are guaranteed the warmest of welcomes.

    Written by Martin Southwell - Residential Volunteer 

    Posted by Scott Smith

  • 22 January 2014

    Wednesday 22nd January

    Well the New Year has started and it has turned out to be a bit of a wet one. Though it hasn't damped our spirits to get the year on the way with what bird or wildlife sightings we can get for 2014. So what has been about recently?

    Out on the Cliffs our Fulmars are back wheeling over the sea, it is a perfect opportunity to hear their fantastic hoarse crackling call, before rowdy Kittiwakes arrive. Gannets are also making fly bys, with a small number on the cliffs visible on our live camera. If you are lucky you may see Guillemots on the cliffs, through the winter months they randomly appear on the cliffs. We suspect this behavior is an instinct to safeguard the nesting site between foraging for food. Usually one or sometimes a couple of Peregrine’s can often be seen drive bombing for Feral Pigeons which is always an amazing site to see.  At the bottom of the cliffs on the rocky shore the odd Oystercatcher can also be seen milling around.

    (juv. Stonechat – Image: Chyrs Mellor)

    On the rest of the reserve, near to the centre a juvenile Stonechat has decided to stick around, showing well on top of the gorse bushes. We also had a Sparrowhawk with a pigeon in its talons by the back door, which added a bit of excitement that day. The picture is one of our volunteer’s efforts to get a picture on their phone. Lapwings in their 100’s can also be seen in neighboring farmer’s fields. In other news this week our warden has been hedge planting on the to  extend exiting hedges and create new ones. With a bit of patients, this will be a valuable addition to the reserve and will be a excellent refuge for migratory birds.

    (Sparrowhawk – Image: Sam Smales)

    This weekend however, our focus will be on our Big Garden Birdwatch (25th-26th) and seeing what we get at our feeding stations. We have created a new feeding station for the occasion which is visible from the centre. The usual contenders are Pheasants and Wood Pigeons, however flocks of Greenfinchs and Goldfinchs have been seen using it. If you are new to bird watching then why not pop down to our Garden Bird ID Weekend to get hints and tips on identifying birds or to just get advice on what food to put out for the birds.

    Posted by Scott Smith

  • 6 November 2013

    A closer look at the humble Robin

    November maybe upon use but migration is still in full swing and Bempton is still seeing influxes of migratory birds seeking the food and comparatively mild winter that our country offers.

     Offshore, Pink Footed Geese are hugging the coast as they make their way to their wintering grounds and among the usual suspects are Redwings, Fieldfares, Goldcrests, Siskins, Bramblings and Short Eared Owls. They are making the most of the mix of natural food resources around the reserve and the feed that our staff and volunteers put out in the feeding stations.

    Vigilant visitors will also notice the increase in the number of common species such as Blackbird and Robin. Existing numbers are boosted as flocks arrive from the continent and at this time of the year even that humble Blackbird you have been seeing in your garden may be of continental origin.

    Spending a little time observing the way birds behave at this time of the year can also be useful in determining their origins. For example, you might notice that the Robins you are seeing here on the East Coast are much more accepting of each other than the Robins that usually visit your garden and it is possible to see large numbers together. As most of us know, Robins can be incredibly aggressive and with the exception of a mate during the breeding season will not normally tolerate other Robins in their territory. They are most likely to respond to an intruding member of their own kind by puffing out their red breast, singing loudly, posturing and chasing. If this doesn’t work it is likely that a fight will ensue resulting in one or both birds being seriously injured or even killed. I myself have witnessed full blown Robin brawls with birds (sometimes more than two!) writhing feverishly at my feat totally absorbed and unaware of my presence, each hell bent on bettering the other.

    (Robin - Image: Steve Race)

    Why is it that our gardens descend into such chaos when these coastal birds seem so at ease with one another? The answer is simple. These are not native Brits but visitors from the continent. They are only visiting for the winter, taking advantage of various food sources for a few months of the year and have no intention of breeding here and so they have no reason to claim a territory. If you have no territory to defend what good would fighting do you? Fighting also uses up vital energy. Conserving energy is incredibly important to these birds which not only have to survive the winter but also the return journey to their home country. When you consider these factors it is easy to understand how something as simple as a fight could be counter productive.

    At this time of the year a visit to the feeding station and the Dell can reveal a wealth of migratory birds both common and scarce. Regardless of their scarcity, when you take a moment to consider where they might have come from and what it took to get here, birds as common and unassuming as the Robin can be seen in a whole different light. Winter bird watching really is an interesting and humbling experience.

    Why not pay us a visit and experience the spectacle for yourself? The recent strong winds are likely to ground migrants making them easier to find. Snow Buntings and Lapland Buntings are a possibility with birds already being seen grounded along the East Coast and Shore Larks with their striking black and yellow facial masks are a scarce coastal treat well worth looking for. Migration continues with birds arriving and moving through the country well into November. Remember to check the stubble fields along the cliffs for Buntings and Larks and take the time to search through flocks of birds for unusual tag-a-longs.

    By Jenna Berry


    Posted by Scott Smith

  • 21 October 2013

    Goldcrests galore

    It’s been a very wet and windy start to the week here at Bempton but despite this there has still been plenty to see both on the cliffs and around the rest of the reserve. 

    For starters the Gannets are still here and in surprisingly high numbers for this time of the year. Having said this, numbers are beginning to fluctuate on a daily basis. A sure sign they are thinking of leaving us for a winter out at sea now that the last few chicks have begun to fledge.

    Our Peregrine Falcons are still showing well and Rock Pipits are also in evidence on the cliffs. 

    Also, thanks to the strong winds we had earlier this week our trickle of migrants has become a steady stream and its set to get even better as the winter season progresses.

    Once again we have seen Brambling fuelling up in the feeding station; however, their numbers have increased since last week with up to eight individuals under the feeders at once and many more passing overhead as they make their way inland. Redwings are also becoming more noticeable with small flocks of birds feeding on berries in the Dell and in the bushes around the car park and Nature Trail.

    (Image:Redwing - Jenna Berry)

    Spending a few minutes overlooking the Dell can also produce other migratory goodies such as Goldcrest. These minuscule sprites have descended on the reserve by the bucket load and at times it has seemed as though every bush contains one of these tiny passerines.

    Goldcrests are not known for being shy and are usually very easy to observe especially when they are preoccupied with hunting insects. The milder weather we experienced on Thursday prompted the airborne dispersal of hundreds upon hundreds of spiderlings which left trails of shining spider silk all over the reserve. The ensuing feast allowed for incredibly close viewings of Goldcrests, some of which were not much more than touching distance away, as they went about snatching up each and every spider they could find. This in addition to their constant high pitched chatter makes the Goldcrest a fairly easy bird to locate despite their diminutive size. Don’t forget to check through flocks of Goldcrest for visiting Firecrests which are just as tiny but much more strikingly marked. No one has yet had the pleasure of finding a Firecrest at Bempton this winter but with individuals being found just a few miles down the coast there’s every chance that one of these little gems could turn up here just as they have done in previous winters.

    (Image:Goldcrest - Jenna Berry)

    Other migrants to have reached Bempton this week include the first Fieldfares of the season, a pair of late Blackcaps, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Siskins, Redpolls and newly arrived Short Eared Owls. We didn’t think it would be long before we were seeing the return of these beautiful birds. 

    Offshore activity has been steady with Great Skua being seen along with the occasional pod of Harbour Porpoise and a flock Brent Geese making their way north up the coast. 

    Over the coming weeks we will be bidding farewell to our nesting Gannets and we shall look forward to seeing a rise in the number of migratory birds using Bempton as a mush needed pit stop.

    This includes the Short Eared Owls and now that we have seen our first individuals of the season it shouldn’t be long before they are making regular appearances over the fields by the visitor centre and reminding us of what a fantastic place Bempton is during the winter when the breeding seabirds have gone.

    By Jenna Berry

    Posted by Scott Smith

  • 13 October 2013

    Autumn is here!

    Well, it’s October, and now that the majority of our breeding seabirds have made their way back out to sea for the winter the spotlight is on our longest staying seabird species, the Gannet. There are still good numbers of adult Gannets to be seen along with just a handful of this years chicks, fully feathered and ready to fledge any moment to commence their journey south towards the west coast of Africa.

    In addition to the Gannets our resident pair of Peregrine Falcons have been showing exceptionally well this week spoiling some lucky visitors with overhead views on the viewpoints as they go about the tricky business of catching pigeons.

    During the peak season these fantastic birds often go unnoticed by most amoungst the excitement of the seabird colony and the only giveaway to their presence may be the stripped remains of an unfortunate pigeon or a sudden Mexican wave of Kittiwakes taking flight in their wake, however, throughout the autumn and winter months, when the cliffs fall silent and the seabirds vacate to the sea they become much easier to spot. Look for sudden flurries of panicked pigeons and check the cliff ledges from the viewpoints for resting birds. New Roll Up has been particularly productive and visitors equipped with binoculars or telescopes have been rewarded with excellent views of the peregrines sitting obligingly still. (If you don’t have a pair of binoculars you can always hire a pair from the visitor centre!)

    Don’t forget to look out to sea. At this time of year there can be a variety of species to be found passing by the cliffs and thanks to the strong N / NE winds we’ve had this week Red Throated Divers, Great Skuas, Manx and Sooty Shearwaters have all been spotted offshore.

    Harbour Porpoises and Grey Seals have also been in evidence this week with a number of lucky visitors having managed to snap a photo or two.

    The cliff top paths have also proved productive this week with good numbers of Rock Pipit and even a Great Spotted Woodpecker which was later seen. In previous years a walk along the cliff top path has also produced visiting species such as Snow Bunting and it shouldn’t be too long now (weather permitting) before we are seeing our first Short Eared Owls of the winter.

    (Great Spotted Woodpecker - Image: John Whalley)

    There are always good numbers of Tree Sparrows to be seen around the visitor centre and up by the feeding station. This week the feeding station has also provided a welcome pit stop for hungry winter visitors including Brambling and Siskin.

    The bushes surrounding the feeding station and the Dell have also been good places to look for other interesting species. Goldcrest, Blackcap, and Yellow Browed Warbler have all been seen this week along with the reserves first Redwings of the year.

    (Yellow Browed Warbler - Image: Dave Aitken)

    Finally, the cliffs always make for some fantastic photo opportunities at this time of the year especially when the wind whips up some dramatic white topped waves. The views from New Roll Up and the rock formations seen from Staple Newk as you look out towards Flamborough Head are particularly stunning.

    The majority of our breeding seabirds may be gone until next spring but the cliffs here at Bempton still have plenty to offer throughout autumn and winter and are definitely worth a visit!

    By Jenna Berry

    Posted by Scott Smith

Your sightings

Grid reference: TA1973 (+2km)

Corn Bunting (2)
15 Apr 2014
Wheatear (3)
14 Apr 2014
Tree Sparrow (30)
14 Apr 2014
Rock Pipit ()
13 Apr 2014
Ring Ouzel ()
6 Apr 2014
Fulmar ()
15 Apr 2014
Puffin (2)
15 Apr 2014

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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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