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