PUFFINS GALORE @ RSPB BEMPTON CLIFFS
On Friday I visited RSPB Bempton Cliffs which is located a few miles north of Bridlington on the east coast of Yorkshire. The reserve is best known for its breeding seabirds such as Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Guillemots. The cliffs are chalk cliffs and they are fairly resistant to erosion and this six mile stretch of cliff is over three hundred feet in height. The weather forecast had been for sunshine with a few rain showers and as I approached the village of Bempton I drove through a brief but heavy shower. The rain had stopped by the time I reached the reserve and as I approached the visitor centre two Swallows flew overhead. After a quick trip to the visitor centre I headed out along a path ran alongside a hedge towards one of six viewpoints at the cliffs edge. As I walked along the path I could see a Barn Owl flying over the fields to my left as well as several Tree Sparrows in the hedge to my right. Once I reached the cliff top path I could see a few Jackdaws in the grass and flying along the cliffs and on the sea below were hundreds of birds. I turned and headed northwards to the "Grandstand" viewpoint and on the cliffs here I could see large numbers of Guillemots as well as a few Kittiwakes and a trio of Puffins.
From here I continued along to the next viewpoint which is called "Mosey Downgate". On the southern side I could see a few Razorbills, whilst over to the northern side I saw Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and a single Fulmar and Herring Gull. On the grassy banks between the viewpoint and the tops of the cliffs, several Gannets were landing very close and pulling tufts of grass out to use as nesting material. As I was at this viewpoint a Kestrel was hovering overhead looking for food and as I walked past it swooped round to a point further south and began to hover again. As I walked along to the next viewpoint I could see another trio of Puffins on the cliffs by the previous viewpoint and a little further along were a pair of Herring Gulls. The next viewpoint was called "Bartlett Nab" where there were again large numbers of Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes as well as several Puffins. Another Puffin flew in and landed on a small ledge a short distance from me and began to look at all the other birds around it before staring out to sea. Flying in and out of a small crack in the cliffs were a pair of Tree Sparrows which were apparently nesting in the cliffs leading to the suggestion that perhaps these two should be renamed Cliff Sparrows! I had just started walking towards the final viewpoint on the northern half of the path when to my left I noticed the Barn Owl had left its nest box and was again hunting over the grassy field. It made a couple of unsuccessful dives into the grass but on the third attempt it re-emerged a few seconds later with what looked like a large mouse or vole and flew back towards its nest box.
I now continued on towards the final viewpoint and I could see a couple of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits in the field to the left whilst flying along the cliffs to my right were several more Gannets. The last viewpoint is called "Jubilee Corner" and from here I could see large numbers of Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes as well as several Puffins. There were a trio of Puffins together before one was unceremoniously pushed away and one disappeared down a burrow whilst the third stood guard. Another Puffin flew in and landed on a ledge to my left and was looking around moving slowly along the ledge when a second Puffin landed on the cliff a couple of feet above. The Puffins briefly looked at each other before the first one settled down and began to look out to sea. A little lower down the cliff a Gannet was sat on a nest and as it stood up I could see just under its feet an egg, the only one I had seen. There were also large numbers of Gannets, Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes further along the cliff busily coming and going from their nest sites.
Back at the Puffin burrow, the sleeping Puffin woke up and emerged to stand at the edge of the cliff waiting for its partner to return. It was now just after midday so I headed back towards the visitor centre and as I reached the Bartlett Nab viewpoint there was a Meadow Pipit perched on the top of a wooden post to my right. I paid a quick visit to the viewpoint where there was a Kittiwake perched on a small ledge close to the top of the cliff. From here I took a different route back to the visitor centre along the Nature Trail path where in previous visits I had seen Whitethroats but on this occasion there were numerous Tree Sparrows whilst near the top of the path was a Song Thrush singing away. After lunch at the visitor centre I headed back along the path to the cliff top path and in the hedge to my right I saw a pair of Meadow Pipits. Once I reached the cliff top path I turned and headed for the two viewpoints south of the path. As I approached the first viewpoint the Gannets were again landing on the grass at the top of the cliff and tearing grass from the ground before flying off. At the viewpoint, which is called "New Roll-up", there were large numbers of Gannets both on the cliff and flying past as well as Kittiwakes and a pair of Fulmars. I continued on to the final viewpoint called "Staple Newk" where there were at least a thousand Gannets but about ten feet below me I could just see the top half of a Puffin perched on a small ledge looking up at me. To the left a pair of Gannets were performing their mutual greeting gesture which is sometimes called "fencing" or "billing" where they raise their heads up and rub their long beaks together. A Razorbill now landed just below me as another Puffin landed over to my left taking the number of Puffins I had seen today to over 40, the most I had ever seen at Bempton Cliffs.
I was just leaving the viewpoint when a small bird flew across in front of me and landed on the wooden joists supporting the viewpoint. It was a Wheatear, the first one I had seen this year and it was just six feet in front of me and it appeared to be not bothered by all the attention it was now getting. After thirty seconds it flew to the left and landed on a box and it was joined by another Wheatear as they flew along the cliff top and landed on the fence about twenty feet further along.
One was perched on the wire between wooden fence posts whilst the other perched on the top of a post above. They both flew across the path and landed at the edge of a ploughed field before flying off into the field, returning briefly before flying away again along the edge of the field and out of sight. There were several Jackdaws along the sides of the path and before I left I paid another quick visit to the Grandstand viewpoint where there was a Linnet perched on the fence. It flew off and joined three other Linnets on the grass at the top of the cliff and as I returned to the visitor centre to head home the Tree Sparrows were still gathering nest material and flying back to the nests via small gaps in the roof.
I have attached below a full sightings list as well as a gallery of the photos I took on my visit to Bempton Cliffs.
BEMPTON CLIFFS - 07/05/2021
20+ TREE SPARROWS 10+ JACKDAWS 6 MEADOW PIPITS 1 KESTREL 40+ PUFFINS 500+ KITTIWAKES 10+ HERRING GULLS 1000+ RAZORBILLS 1000+ GUILLEMOTS 1000+ GANNETS 2 SKYLARKS 1 BARN OWL 10+ WOOD PIGEONS 20+ ROCK DOVES/FERAL PIGEONS 1 SONG THRUSH 2 SWALLOWS 3 FULMARS 2 WHEATEARS 4 LINNETS