In the spring the Bempton Cliffs come alive with 250,000 seabirds. Three and a half miles of the tall chalk cliffs are the RSPB’s nature reserve where the birds nest and raise their young on narrow cliff ledges.
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A fenced walk along the chalk clifftop provides dramatic views plus five viewpoints for watching the birds. Kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, gannets, and fulmars are joined between March and July by puffins. Guided walks take place during the opening hours.
Growing on the clifftop fields are bird’s foot trefoil, orchids, and red campion. Butterflies such as small coppers, red admirals, and common blues can be spotted in the fields.
The fields are also a habitat for farmland birds such as reed buntings, yellowhammers, corn buntings, skylarks, and linnets. Kestrels and peregrines search for prey. In autumn brown hares, stoats, and weasels can be spotted in the fields. Autumn also sees migrating birds such as fieldfares from Siberia, bramblings from the Baltics and the occasional yellow-browed or Pallas’s warblers from the Orient. Pink-footed geese stop on their way to Norfolk.
To identify the birds look for:
Kittiwake: small white and grey gull with yellow bill; black wing tips in flight
Puffin: small black and white bird with brightly coloured beak and bright orange feet; short wings
Gannet: huge white bird with black-tipped wings, yellow head and long pointed beak; flies high then dives headfirst into water to catch fish
Guillemot and razorbill: black and white birds but guillemots have slender necks and dagger shaped bills while razorbills have shorter necks and razor-like bills with vertical white line. Guillemot chicks when half grown jump from the high cliffs during the night and fall into the sea—a drastic way to learn to survive but it works.
Fulmar: stocky grey and white; looks like gull
Herring gull: large bird with white patches on its black wing tips, yellow bill, and pink feet, red spot on adult’s bill
Photo B cliffs RSPB Bempton Cliffs
Cliff Lane, Bempton, E Yorkshire
On cliff road from Bempton (B1229); in the village turn north at White Horse pub for one mile (brown tourist signs)
Tel. 0 1262 851 179
Open: reserve is open site; visitor centre March-Oct, daily, 10am-5pm; Nov-Feb, 10am-4pm; phone for Christmas week open times;
picnic areas; shop; pay parking
As of Feb 2015 a new platform has opened to making viewing the cliffside easier.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard