15th June. Malcolm, Sam and I enjoyed a boy’s day out today as we joined the RSPB Local Group Trip to Bempton. I choose my RSPB trips with care nowadays, but there was no way I wanted to miss this chance to be amongst dramatic cliff scenery and colonies of seabirds. The weather forecast looked distinctly dodgy, but we just didn’t care as we set off in an unusually (for the group) plush coach with plenty of room, a toilet and drink making facilities. The extra leg room and comfort was much appreciated on what is quite a long journey, although good time was made and we were at Bempton for around 11:00am. We had quite a list of birds before arriving including Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Lapwing, Curlew, Kestrel and hirundines.
Gannets where the big attraction
Just before we reached the RSPB Reserve we found one of the highlights of the day in Marsh Harrier. Sam had been watching the one at Druridge the day before. It was hunting over fields quite close to the road so everyone awake had a good sighting. This started things off really well as harriers are amongst my favourite species of bird. It’s that flight style I enjoy watching so much. It is such a shame that little headway is being made to save the Hen Harrier from extinction in England. Another of today’s highlights was Corn Bunting, tracked down by that ‘bunch of keys’ song and seen quite well. We saw two and I believe the group as a whole saw four separate birds. I told a few people that I hadn’t seen Corn Bunting for two or three years, but I had forgotten the bird heard when Tom. Sam and I were watching the Roller in Yorkshire last year. I enjoyed the walk to find the Corn Bunting as it took us away from the crowds and I have to say I’ve never seen Bempton Reserve as busy as it was today.
I’m sure most who read my blog are full aware of Bempton RSPB Reserve, but for those who are not I’ll give a brief summary. The hard chalk cliffs run about 10km from Flamborough Head north towards Filey and are over 100 metres (330ft) high at some points. Anyone daft enough to climb over the safety fences on the edge of the cliff would be taking serious risks. Signs of erosion can be found. During the breeding season Bempton cliffs are occupied by around 250,000 seabirds including Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmar and Kittiwakes. On the landside there is some fine flower meadow land. Bempton is home to the only mainland breeding colony of Gannets in England. Many visitors seemed to be out to find Puffins. There were actually quite a lot about today, but not everyone was finding it easy to see them. At Bempton the Puffins nest in rock crevices rather than their normal burrows used at most other sites in Britain. About 10 percent of the UK Kittiwake population can be found at Bempton. If you visit Bempton after the breeding season it is a very different place, but still very dramatic.
Sam and I were focussed upon photography today and so along with Malcolm disappeared from the rest of the group quite quickly. We made for the Gannets first. My resulting images suggest I need to keep practising, but I was pleased with a few of them! I wish I had a faster lens, but there again I wish I had more money! Puffins could be seen in flight amongst the other auks as well as nesting on the cliff and we took in the colonies of Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake. There didn’t appear to be that many Fulmar and I don’t think anyone found Shags.
As on my last visit to Bempton there were storm clouds and heavy rain around us but for quite a while we remained dry. The rain seemed to be crossing the moors north of us and going out to sea. Our luck was eventually used up and we were caught in a heavy downpour when we were as far away from the centre as we could be. Streak lightning was seen over the sea. Never mind, as Malcolm said at the time, ‘the wind will dry us once it stops’ and in fact it did, and a little sunshine helped too. I had been tempted to use my new waterproof camera and lens cover as a hat, but refrained from doing so not least because it made me look like a leprechaun. As a camera and lens cover it seems to me to be about as useful as a chocolate teapot!
We did find a Skylark on the path with young and the song of Skylark and Meadow Pipit had been with us most of the day. One of our group found a Stoat and Brown Hares were seen on our journey home. We missed the Peregrine Falcon at the cliffs. Too busy with the photography I think.