Thursday, 5 June 2014

Little and large in Yorkshire

Holidaying for the first time on the North Yorkshire coast and being unfamiliar with the area left me wondering how much bird life I might encounter.  I need not have worried.  I had amazing experiences at two contrasting sites.
The first visit was to Filey Dams Nature Reserve.  This is a small wetland site managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.  It comprises freshwater lagoons surrounded by marsh and grassland grazed by cattle.  It is the largest remaining freshwater marsh in the region.  The reserve is approached through an estate of bungalows not giving a clue to the gem that lies behind it.  
Filey Dams: Bur-Marigold pond [Pic: Jones]
The reserve has two hides with a wheelchair accessible screen adjacent to one hide.  The first hide revealed Moorhen, Coot, Canada Geese, Mallards and Tufted Duck on the first pool.  The second hide (not accessible to wheelchair users) is the East Pool Hide.  The word had gone round that a Curlew Sandpiper had been seen that morning, but it remained steadfastly hidden while I was there.  However, we were treated to excellent views of two Common Terns.  One gave a delightful exhibition of flying, diving, catching a fish – which it promptly dropped – and then retrieving same.  The bird life at this hide was a little thin, but I suspect this reserve comes into its own in autumn.  Midway between both hides is the Bur-Marigold Pond where there is a pond dipping platform.  This made for a peaceful moment’s rest where we were serenaded by the healthy populations of Tree Sparrows.  On our return to the car park we were delighted to see a newly fledged Tree Sparrow sitting on top of a nest box looking for all the world as if it was saying, “What do I do now?”  You can read more about the reserve at

The second and most spectacular site was RSPB Bempton Cliffs, located midway between Filey and Flamborough Head.  What a jewel this site is.  Our experience was helped by good weather, but I doubt that much can detract from the wonders of Bempton at this time of the year.  It presents a real onslaught on the senses: the sights, sounds and smells are spectacular.  More than 200,000 birds inhabit the imposing chalk cliffs. 
Chalk cliffs, Bempton
At first the sight is challenging; it is difficult to appreciate just how many birds are perching precariously on the cliffs and how many more are in the sea below.  
Gannets and guillemots nesting,
Bempton Cliffs [Pic: Jones}

The balletic movement of Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, and Herring Gulls was mesmerising and all achieved without any choreography.  How do they avoid bumping into each other? Convoys of Gannets patrolled along the seascape while Puffins performed their clumsy flight as they headed for footholds on the cliffs.  All species were nesting on the cliffs.  It doesn’t take much to realise that 200,000 birds produce plenty of guano and the smells were witness to that!  

Razorbills, Bempton Cliffs [Pic:Jones]

 The RSPB team does much to educate at this site with regular Puffintasia events and Puffin and Gannet Seabird cruises around the cliffs.  Boards are dispersed around the site encouraging visitors to reflect on different elements of Puffin ecology. 

No description or photograph can do justice to this site.  Apart from the bird cornucopia, there is a wealth of wildflowers, invertebrates and soils.  This site is a must to visit if you have the slightest interest in seabirds and their ecology.  

Education board [Pic: Jones}

 Well surfaced paths are feature of
main access areas at the reserve [Pic: Jones}
Accessibility for wheelchair users is satisfactory at this site, but access to southerly viewpoints would be challenging for users of non-motorised wheelchairs

Further information about RSPB Bempton Cliffs can be found at:

1 comment:

Laura said...

Ok how fast can a Puffin fly Jen? They don't strike me as speed merchants.
Bempton is Brill, but good heads up for the Bur-Marigold Pond
Thanx lowra