Bempton Cliffs, England and its birds

This video from England says about itself:

18 August 2015

Some of my memories of the many visits to RSPB Bempton Cliffs so far this year.

The video shows some of the birds of Bempton Cliffs, like gannets, razorbills and guillemots.

Birds at Bempton Cliffs

This April 2017 photo of Birds at Bempton Cliffs is by Emily Beevers.

Leucistic guillemot at Bempton Cliffs, England

Leucistic guillemot

The bird on the left of this photo, taken at Bempton Cliffs in England by Steve Clifton, is a normally coloured guillemot (as are the birds at the bottom of the picture).

The other guillemot, on the right, is leucistic.

Seabirds back at Bempton Cliffs, England

This video from England is called “The Birds of Bempton Cliffs“.

From Steve Race Wildlife Photography in England today:

I have had a great day at Bempton Cliffs with all the seabirds back now in large numbers even including a handful of Puffins (very early). One of my favourite seabirds is the Razorbill and they are now starting to peer around the cliff ledges looking for potential partners.

If you would like to take photographs of the amazing seabird colony at Bempton Cliffs from ‘Above and Below’ the cliffs then why not join me on one my full day trips this Summer. Please click on the … link for more details.

Flamborough, England, rare marsh warbler nest

This video is about a marsh warbler singing in Sweden.

From the Flamborough Bird Observatory in England:

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

The Observatory is pleased to announce that a pair of Marsh Warblers took up territory in late May. The pair stayed and eventually were seen carrying food and extracting faecal sacs from a presumed nesting spot. Eventually at least one juvenile was seen to have fledged, although it was strongly suspected that there were more.

The site was vulnerable to disturbance and unable to be monitored. In consultation with RSPB staff the decision was made to keep disturbance to a minimum.

Marsh warblers are really rare in Britain.

When I was at Bempton Cliffs, not far from Flamborough head, on 5 July 2011, I was surprised to see a relative of the marsh marbler there: a sedge warbler. A lot more common in England than marsh warblers, but still surprising to see it near coastal cliffs, not in a marsh.

Gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, England

Gannet, Bempton Cliffs, England

As a sort of “blast from the past”, a photo of a gannet flying at Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, England in July 2011.

Study: Northern Gannets have distinct personalities affecting where they feed & how likely they will prosper: here.

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Migrating birds die at sea

This video is called No food, no offspring. Climate change has reached migratory birds in the North Sea.

From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

Migrating birds lost at sea

Last modified: 26 October 2012

An appalling combination of fog and winds around England’s coast this week have created terrible conditions for migrating birds, with some fishermen reporting to the RSPB the deaths of many exhausted and disorientated ‘garden’ birds plunging into the sea around their vessels.

England’s east coast, from Northumberland to Kent, has seen the arrival of many birds, including redwings, fieldfares, bramblings and blackbirds, perhaps numbering in their millions this week. The RSPB believes these birds may be the lucky survivors which have managed to cross the North Sea, but the Society concedes many others may have perished before making landfall.

The sky was thick with garden birds. I estimate I saw 500 birds die and that was just in our 300-yard sphere

One such site to experience a ‘fall’ of stranded migrant birds is the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs reserve in North Yorkshire. Ian Kendall is the reserves manager. Commenting on the sight, he said: “There are birds in their thousands, on the cliffs, in the surrounding fields, hedgerows and along the length of the Yorkshire Coast.

“The birds left Scandinavia in glorious sunshine but as they crossed the North Sea, they flew into fog and rain, so they stopped off at the first bit of land they have come across. The place has been dripping with birds.”


Along England’s south coast, the RSPB has received several reports of thousands of disorientated and exhausted birds drowning in the sea. One respondent, a professional boat skipper, said: “While fishing about 10 miles south of Portsmouth, we witnessed thousands of garden birds disorientated, land on the sea and most drowning. Species included goldcrests, robins, thrushes and blackbirds. The sky was thick with garden birds. I estimate I saw 500 birds die and that was just in our 300-yard sphere. On the way home we just saw dead songbirds in the water: it was a harrowing sight.”

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He said: “The scale of these reports are truly shocking, and it has the potential to adversely affect the status of species which may be declining for other reasons.”

Those exhausted birds which have made it to the UK will be looking for food and may be visiting gardens, especially as the weather is expected to turn with the UK forecast to receive the first icy blasts of winter.

Topping up bird feeders

Ian Hayward is an adviser with the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team. He said: “The first cold snap will encourage many birds to visit gardens increasingly, in a quest for food. Now is the time to start topping up bird tables and feeders. These birds need all the help they can get, so gardeners and farmers can also help birds by not cutting hedgerows laden with much-needed berries.”

Blackbird migration: here.

Good English gannet news

This video is called Gannets at Bempton Cliffs. It also shows some guillemots and kittiwakes.

From the RSPB in Britain:

Shining a light on gannet numbers at RSPB Bempton Cliffs

Last modified: 16 October 2012

Gannet numbers at RSPB Bempton Cliffs have soared in the last three years.

Research this summer has revealed that since 2009, there has been a remarkable rise of 40% in the number of birds breeding on the sheer chalk cliffs at the nature reserve between Bridlington and Filey, which is the UK’s largest mainland breeding gannet colony.

Previous surveys by RSPB staff and volunteers have shown a year-on-year growth since records began in 1969, when there were only 22 pairs at Bempton Cliffs.

But this year’s figures reveal there are now 11,061 breeding pairs, a leap of 3,202 pairs since the last survey in 2009.

The researchers also counted 798 non-breeding birds, which, when they are old enough to find mates, will add to the numbers which turn the cliffs into an amazing wildlife spectacle throughout spring and summer.

Assistant Warden David Aitken, who led the boat-based survey that recorded the figures, is thrilled that these spectacular birds are going from strength to strength.

“Gannets and some other seabirds can fly huge distances – sometimes as far as 600km round trips – in their search for food,” he said.

“This is one of the reasons why vital offshore Marine Protected Areas are needed to safeguard not just seabirds but also other sealife and the important areas where they feed.

“The RSPB’s fight to ensure adequate protection for our marine environment is hugely important. While gannets are on the increase at Bempton Cliffs, the fortunes of seabirds across the UK are mixed, with some suffering dramatic declines,” he added.

Gannets are only found breeding on the cliffs at Bempton, and not at nearby Flamborough or Filey, because the type of ledges and shelves on this part of the cliff face are just right for building safe, secure nests.”

In July, researchers discovered a bird on the nature reserve which had come all the way from Jersey.

“We have had birds from Bass Rock in Scotland before but never, to our knowledge, one from so far south,” said Dave. “As we learn more and more about Bempton’s amazing seabirds, we build up a more detailed picture of the actions that need to be taken to ensure a brighter future for our marine wildlife.”

The growing number of gannets in the colony is bringing an added bonus for photographers. This year, birds have gathered in ever-bigger numbers almost next to the cliff-top path and close to specially-built viewing platforms.

How you can help

The seas around the UK’s coasts are increasingly overfished, over-trafficked and over-developed, but crucially under-protected. Your support today will help safeguard our sea life.

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have discovered that proposed offshore renewable energy developments in the English Channel have the potential to affect the foraging behaviour of northern gannets from Alderney in the Channel Islands. Read more here.

English gannets give each other flowers

Gannet couple with flowers, photo credit: Steve Race © -

From Wildlife Extra:

Photo story – Bempton gannets giving flowers

Gannets mate for life

July 2012. Around 8,000 pairs of gannets return every year to the nature reserve between Bridlington and Filey in Yorkshire – and this pair were caught billing and cooing on camera by wildlife photographer Steve Race. Gannets are renowned for their faithfulness, usually returning to the same nesting site with the same partner for many years and regularly re-decorating their summer home with grasses, flowers – and even bits of rope and rubbish.

Flowers and feathers for love birds

Younger birds, like these two, that haven’t quite got the hang of being grown-ups, are often seen presenting each other with flowers and feathers, as they appear to work on their chat-up lines.

“The reserve is awash with colour at this time of the year, with red campion, birds foot trefoil and clover stretching as far as the eye can see,” said Bempton Cliffs manager Ian Kendall.

“We watched one of these birds bring in the red campion and pass it on to its would-be mate, which looks for all the world to be wearing it as a necklace. If the pair return next year and have a family, we’ll find out whether their adolescent romancing has paid off. The long spell of wet weather certainly doesn’t seem to have dampened their ardour. The gannets and other seabirds at Bempton Cliffs continue to put on an amazing show for our visitors, whatever the weather.”

8000 breeding pairs

Bempton Cliffs has England’s only mainland gannet colony. In 1967 there were just 22 breeding pairs, but that figure has shot up to around 8,000, as recorded in 2009. The UK’s coastline is crucial for Northern gannets with roughly 60% of the world’s population nesting here.

Gannets will be around on the reserve until late September and staff and volunteers are organising a programme of Planet Gannet events throughout the summer, including family activities, walks, photographic workshops and even tea with the gannets.

Still more about Bempton Cliffs, when I was there (scroll down), is here.

A gannet (Morus bassanus) has been identified as the fastest bird in the British Isles after it was recorded travelling 722 miles in one day: here.

Little gulls and shags of Bempton Cliffs

Here is a Bempton Cliffs bird video.

10 July.


Swifts flying.

The RSPB chartered ship the Yorkshire Belle will depart from the harbour to Flamborough Head and the Bempton Cliffs.

As we wait at the landing, four oystercatchers fly past.

Scores of little gulls flying as we depart, which are rare this time of the year around Bridlington.

Also, much bigger, great black-backed gulls.

Shags flying close to the sea surface.

Many razorbills flying and swimming.

We pass North Landing, where now every year storm petrels are ringed. Until about 30 years ago, it was not known that those small seabirds, which come to the nests only at night, nested around the North Sea.

Many kittiwakes, guillemots and puffins. More and more gannets, the closer we get to their Bempton Cliffs nesting colonies.

When we return, it is high tide in Bridlington harbour, so no turnstones today. A lone barnacle goose among domestic ducks on the bank.

Despite the south west being globally-renowned for its immense populations of seabirds – including, shearwaters, petrels and gannets – laws to designate marine protected areas in the region are failing these iconic species because too few seabird sites are being protected, says the RSPB – Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity: here.

National seabird research centre planned at Bempton: here.

Northern Gannets Morus bassanus “Billing” at Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve Yorkshire, UK: here.

Young puffins work out their own migration routes: here.

September 2011. According to the popular saying: “It’s grim up north!” However, an RSPB study looking at bird numbers across the regions of England reveal that birds at least disagree; since 1994 with bird populations in the south of England declining, with those in the north of England generally increasing or at least performing much better.

Storm Petrels are amazing little birds. Rarely seen on land during the day and spending the night in their burrows. For a bird which is similar in size to a Greenfinch this bird can make some impressive movements. One such Storm Petrel was ringed in Ona, Norway and controlled by another ringer three days later on the Isle of May (902km): here.

Twinkle, twinkle, lots of stars – stargazing at RSPB Bempton Cliffs: here.

Bridlington turnstones and house martins

9 July.

After Bempton, the tourist town of Bridlington not far away.

This is a turnstone video from Wales.

Turnstones on harbour mudflats.

Kittiwakes nesting on buildings here as well.

House martins and barn swallows flying over the beach.

Two oystercatchers flying.