Bempton Cliffs & North Cave – 20 Mar 2016

It was in July last year when Helen and I last visited Bempton Cliffs, and we’ve just been itching to get back there for ages. Well, today was the day!

The forecast was quite favourable, and we set off in high spirits looking forward to a great day of bird photography. The weather when we left Sheffield was much better than had been predicted by the BBC Weather app on my phone; the sun was shining and soon after departing the temperature had climbed to 14°c. Not only that, but the forecast for the Bridlington area was even better still. Had we skipped Spring altogether and gone straight for Summer?? Imagine our disappointment then, when the weather grew steadily worse on the way there, the sky had clouded over, the rain began to pour down and the temperature had fallen a full five degrees!

Bempton was bitterly cold! Poor Helen hadn’t even taken her big coat, let alone a scarf and gloves. Neither of us had assumed we’d need anything like that. Fortunately, i had taken my big coat with me even though i’d been sure it was not going to be needed. I really could have done with my scarf and gloves too though; it was seriously raw on the edge of the cliffs!

At least there were good numbers of seabirds for all that it was early days in the season as yet. There were plenty of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Herring Gulls buzzing around the cliffs. A few Razorbills and Guillemots rounded-out the seabird species for the day. No sign of any Puffins today, but they’ll be present soon enough. At the height of the breeding season Bempton truly is an incredible spectacle; around 250,000 seabirds are crammed onto the cliffs with every nook and cranny being used to perch on or as a precarious nesting site. The sky is packed with birds and it’s an amazing sight. The smell is truly horrendous, however!


A Gannet flying over Bempton Cliffs

The reserve was looking very spruce, and there was much evidence of a lot of improvements to the paths and viewing platforms having taken place in preparation for the huge numbers of visitors who ‘flock’ to Bempton over the Spring and Summer months. The new visitor centre will soon be a year old now, and is a massive improvement on the old one. The volunteer staff are brilliant – very knowledgeable and welcoming.

After about an hour, we decided we needed a cup of hot chocolate to get our circulation going again – and to thaw-out our freezing hands! It also gave us an opportunity to look through the images we had taken so far today. I really wanted to capture a pin-sharp image of a Fulmar in flight. That had proved to be even more challenging today than usual. As you can see from the image above, there isn’t a huge contrast in colour between the Fulmar’s wings and the background sea on a dull day like today. My camera had struggled to acquire focus on the fast-moving birds. Couple that with the weight of my camera/lens combination and the buffetting winds… well, you get the idea!

We decided we’d call it a day at this point, and come back again in a few week’s time when the weather was likely to be more reliable(!) and there’d be even more birds. As it was still only about 2pm, we decided we had time to make a quick visit to North Cave Wetlands on the way back home. Helen still doesn’t have a Med Gull and there was a chance she’d get one there today.

On arrival at North Cave, we decided to go down to the bottom of Dryham Lane. Neither of us had previously been down there and we were both hugely impressed by the fabulous Crosslands Hide and its commanding views over the reserve. It’ll certainly be one to visit again. We saw lots of birds from here, including a beautiful male Ruff, several Redshanks, a few Oystercatchers and Little Egrets, amongst others. Sadly, we couldn’t spot any Med Gulls amongst the ever-burgeoning numbers of Black-Headed Gulls currently present on the site.

By the time we left the light was rapidly fading but we knew we’d had a good day of birding and were ready for some grub. We visited Whitby’s Fish & Chip Restaurant in Catcliffe on the way back into Sheffield. Wow! It has the best fish and chips in this area by a country mile!!

A good day all round then!

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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