A short trip report from Gary Atkins.
April seemed to be living up to its reputation for showers – and heavy ones at that – as a car containing myself, fellow club member Bernie Brown and his friend John Cave splashed up the M1 and M18 towards Bempton Cliffs, the RSPB’s brilliant reserve with its mass of cliff-dwelling birds.
It quite literally rained all the way, but as we opened our doors, as if by magic it stopped – and didn’t start again until well into the afternoon. And the luck stayed with us throughout as we logged 62 species inside six hours.
All the usual suspects were there at Bempton, with thousands of Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills squeezed onto seemingly every square inch of the narrow ledges, and fewer Fulmars and Puffins adding to the spectacle – but the real highlight was the sheer quantity and antics of the Gannets.
It’s difficult to guess at how many were there, but everywhere we looked their black-tipped wings spanning six feet were in evidence. They were also gathering nest material, so we had good, close views as they sought grass and moss from the cliff tops, awkwardly tearing at the vegetation with their long pointed bills.
We saw Ravens and Rock Doves and, away from the cliffs, Pied Wagtails, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Tree Sparrows and a Reed Bunting, but not the hoped-for Corn Buntings or Black Redstart that had been seen there recently.
Anticipating bad weather, I’d got a back-up plan – which was to visit nearby Tophill Low (a reserve run by Yorkshire Water) as it has a dozen hides, so plenty of shelter. In the end, after about two and a half hours at Bempton we were tending to see the same things, we decided to head off to Tophill Low anyway, and we’re jolly glad we did as we virtually doubled our daily total.
This site has two small reservoirs, several wetland areas and plenty of woodland, so the variety is excellent – to be recommended. Highlights here included Avocet, Redshank, Sand Martin, the early-arriving warblers Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, and a surprisingly good selection of ducks comprising Goldeneye, Goosander, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Teal.
En route to Bempton (which is best between around April and June, when the breeding season is at its height), there are several other reserves worthy of a visit such as Fairburn Ings, North Cave and any of a number around the Humber Estuary.
Yorkshire – a rich birding territory.
G.Atkins – April 2012