Bempton Cliffs Flamborough Head 13th May 2018

There was a pleasingly large queue of people waiting early Sunday morning for our coach to Bempton; our regulars, some new faces and some returning after a couple of years. As we climbed aboard we were greeted by a smiling lady driver. A first for us, and didn’t she do well!!

We drew into our allotted space at Bempton at 10.45, all eager to start and were greeted by a small flock of Tree Sparrows chirruping from the trees adjacent to the visitor centre. That was a good beginning. Once inside the shop, the latest sightings board was eagerly scanned and members decided which way to go. As many of you know, you walk through the visitor centre towards the cliffs and then have a choice either right or left along the cliffs.


The bulk of the group opted to turn right and we set off, quickly donning woolly hats, scarves and gloves as the wind was rather chilly. Our first stop at a gap gave us a taste of what was to come; Gannet and Kittiwakes gliding past, a few Guillemots and Razorbills on the cliffs and our first Puffin – fast asleep. Walking on eastwards toward New Roll-up and Staple Newt the vista opened up and we had our first views of the fantastic Gannet colony on the sheer cliffs. It was just jaw dropping. Everyone without exception went WOW. All of our senses were assailed; the sight of thousands of Gannets on the rocky outcrops and cliff face, the sounds of the Kittiwakes calling as they flew past and particularly the smell as we approached the colony. The Guillemots and Razorbills were constantly flying between their nests and the sea. We soon noticed that the cliff face was overcrowded and many Gannets had started to nest on the steep grassy slopes. Both Kittiwakes and Gannets were gathering any dry grasses available to use as nesting material. This meant that many Gannets were closer to the footpaths and we had superb views of them pair bonding with heads nodding in synchronisation and plenty of bill tapping.


It was also obvious that the Gannets in particular were taking any material lying around to use in their nests, especially fine blue netting. Although the Gannets are doing extremely well and thriving, the same cannot be said about the Fulmars. A drop of 30% has been recorded at Bempton since 2000. Because they feed off the surface of the sea, they ingest more plastic; this takes up space in their stomach meaning they are unable to take in the amount of food they require to sustain themselves.

We arrived at Flamborough at 2.10 to be greeted by sunshine and a Greenfinch calling from a tree in the car park. We walked the usual route past the old lighthouse, across the fields with a thick hedge-row to a wood, then on to the coastal path and return to the coach. Normally this hedge-row and wood provides shelter for warblers and finches at the end of their migration. Although the afternoon was warm the preceding days had been cool and the birds either had not arrived or had moved on to find warmer conditions elsewhere. We did see a beautiful male Yellowhammer just glowing in the sunshine and two Whitethroats sitting out on the bushes. A skylark sang above us whist a Siskin obligingly landed on the path just ahead of us. Out to sea a couple of seals bobbed their heads in and out of the water keeping a wary eye on us.


The group split and several went back via the short route to enjoy the now customary cup of tea (and cake) or ice-creams. Those who went the longer way round had excellent views of Puffins on the sea close to shore, as well as Cormorants and a couple of Shags.

All too soon it was time to board the coach for our return journey. The last trip of the season certainly lived up to expectations but only 46 species recorded.
These included Grey Heron, Great Skua, Sandwich Tern, Lesser Whitethroat and Raven, none of which were seen on our 2013 trip.

My thanks to Chris S for his excellent photographs. I was spoilt for choice when deciding which to include.

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