Tuesday, 2 July 2013

East Coast Seabird Spectacular

3rd year gannet
This post is firmly located in the 'and beyond' section of the Birding Aldcliffe and beyond.
Jenny and I have just returned from a short visit to Yorkshire's dramatic and impressive coast, where we took in Scarborough, Bempton Cliffs and Bridlington.
We didn't see much on the way over, the only highlight being a solitary red grouse peering out from some roadside heather.
Jenny had never had the pleasure of visiting Scarborough before and I hadn't been for ages. In fact, I think the last time I was in that seaside town was back in late June 1991 when both a pied wheatear and woodchat shrike were in very temporary residence in the Castle Hill area.
We didn't have any such sightings to rival that pair of cracking rarities but we did enjoy a good walk around the North and South Bay areas in glorious sunshine, taking in various tourist hot spots along the way (including Anne Brontë's grave).

Window sills as cliff substitutes
While I wasn't the slightest bit surprised to see multiple kittiwakes festooning the town's towering cliffs I was rather amazed to see their nests so liberally scattered around Scarborough's buildings.
Dozens of pairs of these dainty seabirds were tending to chicks on windowsills above countless amusement arcades, chippies and even the elaborate edifice of the once grand Grand Hotel.
After our afternoon and evening in Scarborough, we started the next day bright and early and drove south along the coast to Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve near Bridlington. 

Bempton Cliffs
To my shame, I had never before been to Bempton in the breeding season and I have to say it is absolutely brilliant.
We were met at the Visitor Centre by lots of tree sparrows; always a treat to see. They were nesting in the many boxes provided and actively feasting at the feeding station, giving great views.
Te walk along the cliff top was spectacular; swathes of wildflowers and grasses set against the deep blue of the North Sea beyond.
But it was below and upon the cliffs where the real action was taking place.

Gannet pair greeting one another
Thousands of garrulous seabirds including kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets and, the tourists' favourite, puffins were busy in the throes of the breeding season.
Jenny was rather taken not only by the sheer scale of the seabird colony but also by the incredible stench that wafted up from the cliffs.
It almost put her off the idea of our planned fish and chip lunch...

The birds at Bempton are pretty obliging and anyone with even a half decent camera can get a shot or two worth showing.
The pics here were taken using a compact Nikon Coolpix with a built-in digital 21x digital zoom.
Mind you, I expect those folks trotting around the clifftops with their digital SLRs and Tannoy-speaker sized lenses ended up with somewhat more impressive photos that I managed.
Still not entirely sure I know why they feel the need to drape their gear in camouflage fabric though...

Anyway, Bempton was truly great and we left feeling that we had witnessed a genuinely awe-inspiring wildlife spectacle.
We took in some more wildlife spectacles of a very different nature over in Bridlington before hitting the road and heading back west.

The undoubted highlight of our return journey came just after we'd passed through Harrogate where I confidently stated "this area looks good for red kite". Turned out I was right, and we had great looks at a single bird hunting over fields right by the roadside.
Not a bad way to end a couple of days in Yorkshire! 

1 comment:

Stefanie Carter said...

looks like a good time was had - like the young gannet shot.