Posted by: lensweb | May 27, 2014

Puffintasia at Bempton Cliffs

Puffintasia at Bempton Cliffs

See, hear and smell seabirds!

Leader Stuart Gilder

May 2014

It was great to be back at RSPB Bempton an unbelievable 30 years since LENS last visited the area. Straight in, tree sparrows posed at a feeding station and a swathe of red campion drew us along the cliff top walk.


As we looked down, low over the sea was a fulmar almost stationary, wings outspread. Only eight target seabird species breed here, so  identifying birds is easy. Thousands of guillemots and razorbills clung to the fragmented limestone stacks. We watched a razorbill hollow out a nest, striking at a guillemot alighting on the narrow shelf. The soft eyed kittiwakes calmly looked on from crafted raised woven nests hefted to the crumbling chalk face.


These three species were the most numerous birds in this great seabird city. Guillemots and razorbills come to land to nest, spending most of their life at sea. The guillemot is dark brown and white, not as black as the similar razorbill, it has a less common ‘bridled’ form with a white ring round the eye and stripe behind it.


Everyone wanted to see the Pierrot puffins with sad eyes and wide striped bill, smartly black and white suited with garish orange splayed feet. We lay down on the crumbling brown chalky marl to spread our weight as we took our pictures. Many more puffins were swimming in the sea far below. We memorised the emergency number to call in case we got too close.


Groups of gannets provided a real show: Soaring white geese with ink tipped wings,  their piercing blue eyes and bills exaggerated with eyeliner, sensual necks snaking in honking delight. More and more gannets flew in as the cool breeze turned offshore lifting and holding the huge sea geese stationary at  our eye level. Unbounded delight.


Reluctantly we turned homewards wading through the sea of red campion. We stopped and watched a whitethroat nest building, chasing the small rivulet moths flying between the pink notched petals.

campion IMG_1909a














A pied wagtail flew past as ecstatic skylarks sang in the meadow. By now we had got camera fatigue so only made a desultory snap of a corn bunting posing on a fence post.

Back at the car park, we saw a pair of blackbirds and a reed bunting from the car while jackdaws politely queued for Stuart’s sandwiches . Lastly a short eared owl tipped its wings in a farewell fly past. The sun was still shining but we had to go home.

Marion Bryce 27 May 2014


  1. Once again a lovely article and some excellent photos. Maybe I’ll be available to go next time.


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