Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bempton Cliffs

Another week off, yay! This time we decided to head for the North-east Coast of England and then up into the lowlands of Scotland. Our first stop was in Scarborough where we stayed at the Crescent Hotel, having driven up after work on Friday night. Saturday morning we headed to Wykeham Forest in search of Honey Buzzards. We met up with a group of birders who'd seen them the previous day, including observing the 'wing clapping' displays of a male, but although we waited for nearly an hour at the raptor viewpoint, nothing appeared. One of the birders however got a call suggesting there was a Red-backed Shrike at Scarborough Castle. We didn't have any maps of the forest so couldn't plan a walk or anything so decided that, lesson learned, we should head back into Scarborough. At the castle we bumped into a small group of birders standing by a bush (always a good sign!), and though it wasn't the Shrike it was a Marsh Warbler, a first for us. The bird was very shy, flitting from dense cover to dense cover, only responding to a taped call one of the birders played at it, to which it responded singing the same song, so it was a male Marsh Warbler. We tried for about another 45 minutes to get a photo but to no avail. We walked around the Castle grounds looking for the shrike but again no joy. It felt like the day might pass us by so we decided to head for Filey. Big mistake. It was a sunny Saturday lunchtime and with rain forecast for Sunday the whole area was heaving. We beat a hasty retreat and headed for the highlight of the area, RSPB Bempton Cliffs (http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/b/bemptoncliffs/index.asp).

Bempton Cliffs is essentially a series of views over the cliffs, which host a huge number of nesting seabirds, approximately 200,000 according to the staff at the centre. We got four new birds in about five minutes just by looking around; Razorbill, a few Puffins, Northern Fulmars and Gannets.

One of the benefits of Bempton Cliffs is that you can get relatively close to the birds without disturbing them. Certainly this Guillemot seemed unperturbed:















It was soon joined by its partner and they performed some pair bonding behaviours:














The Guillemot has a variant of the plain head plumage above, as you can see in the 'bridled' bird:



















Also on the cliffs in good number, Razorbills:

















This bird stood catching the sun, which helped to really bring out the plumage and the beak detail:















Along the coastline are a number of habitat specific plants, such as Red Campion (despite its pink appearance it is called Red!):


















Ever present in seabird colonies are predatory/scavenging gulls, which take the opportunity to nest themselves. I don't know if this Herring Gull was on a nest or not, but I like the way only the head is visible:
















The stars of the show however are the Gannets, present in significant numbers, and as a consequence there are always birds moving about, including this breeding adult:

















and this younger bird (my guess is first summer?):




















Bempton Cliffs was indeed brilliant and we thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there, before heading back to the hotel to pack up for the rain drenched drive on Sunday to Bamburgh.

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