We enjoyed our first trip up to Bempton Cliffs yesterday morning on what was an improving sort of day, indeed when we left home it was still raining with low cloud and murk over the Wolds, but thankfully by the time we arrived at Bridlington things had drastically improved with spells of sunshine bathing the East Yorkshire coast. With light south-easterly winds it even felt quite warm on the cliff tops, at least when the sun shone, and all in all we spent a very enjoyable morning and early afternoon at this premier RSPB nature reserve which we are lucky enough to have within less than an hour’s drive from our home near Hull.
Being only early February we had anticipated a fairly quiet morning on the cliffs, but to our surprise thousands of Guillemots (Uria aalge) were already on the narrow chalk ledges, whilst thousands more were out on the relatively calm waters of the North Sea. I even managed to pick out a couple of ‘bridled’ or ‘spectacled’ Guillemots amongst the throng, always a pleasing observation. Good numbers of Razorbills (Alca torda) were also in their usual spots near the cliff tops, though again far more were seen out at sea, whilst their was also a report of at least one Puffin (not seen by me), a remarkably early record.
Gannets (Morus bassanus) and Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) were also seen in excellent numbers cruising along the cliffs, indeed I don’t think I have ever seen so many Fulmars at Bempton before, whilst gulls included Herring, Black-backed, Common and even the odd Kittiwake (a Glaucous Gull was reported today but I missed it unfortunately). On the sea a few Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) were noted swimming and diving into the frigid waters below our vantage points, and further observations from the cliffs included at least one Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) below Staple Newk Viewpoint.
Away from the cliffs a few other ‘good’ birds were about, including 2 to 3 Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola), one of which seemed determined to pose for as many photos as possible, whilst it was also good to hear a few singing Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) over the cereal fields immediately west of the cliff-tops. However best of all was at least two Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) quartering over the rough fields south of the visitor centre, my first SEO since one was spotted on my ‘home-patch’ back in late November. The number of Short-eared Owls at Bempton in recent weeks was the main reason I wanted to visit the reserve today, and I am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed, two of the owls chasing each other at one point, whilst another settled down no more than 100 yards away from where we watched. All in all a cracking sort of day with plenty to see and enjoy 🙂