Nature Reserve Spotlight: Bempton Cliffs
I have now been to Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire three separate times. And each time the spectacle of thousands of birds nesting on the 100m high cliffs amazes me. The cliffs are a guaranteed place to see at least eight species you may struggle to find elsewhere in England.
I have loved Puffins ever since I was little. There was a children’s book where one of the main character is constantly befriending animals. On one adventure they are on an island and he befriends two Puffins called Huffin and Puffin, after some detective work I found out it is called The Sea of Adventure and unsurprisingly written by Enid Blyton. It’s the Puffins at Bempton Cliffs that draw the most people and if you see a group clustered on a specific bit of cliff then the likelihood is that they have spotted a Puffin.
We went on a special trip on my first visit to Yorkshire to spot a Puffin but arrived to find the cliffs shrouded in mist and we could barely see the cliffs let alone the sea.
But it was a very atmospheric walk and despite the mist managed to spot a single solitary Puffin hugging tightly to the clifftop. But the real stars were the thousands of Gannets that soar around the cliffs and over our heads. It is the largest mainland colony (gannetry) in Britain and over 1630 pairs are nesting on the cliffs. There can be a constant whirlwind of birds taking off, flying and landing which makes a special spectacle.
The third trip was a lot better, with beautiful weather and many more Puffins. I was walking along and spotted the telltale flash of orange on an opposite cliff so excitedly called to my brother to come and have a look. He strolled over and said ‘look down’ and about two foot from me there was a gathering of Puffins.
Birds to spot:
- Puffin – seems that the main reason a lot of people visit is solely to see a puffin.
- Gannet – one of the most identifiable birds due to the size and distinctive yellow head and blue eyes
- Kittiwake – a small-ish and elegant gull that makes a kee-tee-waak sound.
- Razorbill – has a blunt looking black beak with a vertical white stripe.
- Guillemot – can be chocolate brown or black on top and white underneath. Sometimes has a striking white circle and stripe coming back from the eye.
- Barn owl – not a sea bird but can sometimes be seen early morning or late afternoon flying over the fields, look for the owl box.
- Tree Sparrow – you can see house sparrows everywhere but tree sparrows have declined in most places in England, Bempton has a strong colony.
- Rock Pigeon –
- Black Browed Albatross – I haven’t spotted Albie the Albatross yet. He’s a inconsistent yearly special visitor who avoided me on my second visit despite being sighted.
- Rock Pigeon – despite looking very similar to feral pigeons, these are their wild ancestor.