Friday, 26 August 2016

Gannet action at Bempton

A place where the sound of birds rises above and dominates the east coast wind, where the fishy smell generated by tens of thousands of defecating birds pervades the air, and where a line of white cliffs cuts out into the blue of the North Sea. The RSPB's nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs is all of these things and the most easily accessible large seabird colony in England. Each year I try and make a visit to take in the spectacle of the colony in full flow and this year I was lucky enough to spend a few hours there at the end of July.

Part of RSPB Bempton Cliffs
Tree Sparrows bounced around the bushes surrounding the new Visitor Centre where I was able to grab a welcome coffee and slice of cake. I see Tree Sparrows every year but I am not aware of anywhere in Norfolk where I live where they are so easily seen around bird feeders in and in such good numbers. I love their rich chestnut caps and the black beauty spot on their cheeks.

Tree Sparrow
Caffeinated we set off down the well made path to the cliffs, normally I visit earlier in the Spring and there was a noticeable difference in the birds on view compared to my normal mid April visits. I had to work hard to see Guillemots and Razorbills, apparently the majority of these two species of Auks had finished breeding and left the cliffs the week before, Shags too were thin on the ground. But Puffins were everywhere, on the sea, flying in front of the cliffs and perched below the viewpoints. Apparently late July is just about the best time to see Puffins at Bempton.

Bempton Puffins

But the undoubted stars of the show were the Gannets, many with well grown fluffy chicks on the rocky cliff ledges below the viewpoints, these majestic Persil white seabirds would drift along the cliff tops a few metres away from you. My travelling companion was quite overwhelmed and wanted to add the use of the sens of touch ti that of hearing, smell and sight by reaching out to hold one. Perhaps the most entertaining Gannet action was on a grassy slope near the top of the cliffs where a constant succession of birds came in and landed to grab beak fulls of grass to start the process of making next years nests.

Bempton Gannet and nesting material
All along the cliff top trail were well presented and informative hand drawn chalk boards with key facts about the seabirds. At the southernmost viewpoint I spotted one of the resident peregrines high overhead a great bird to end our walk with.
Peregrine at Bempton

Back at the Visitor Centre I graduated from my morning coffee to a afternoon Ice Cream and then the long drive home.

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