Wednesday 30 August 2017

Better late than never

Blogging appears a bit passé these days, what with Twitter and the like offering more instant gratification and immediate feedback for and from today's time-poor social media user. So passé, in fact, that I needn't feel remotely guilty about posting almost pre-historic news from a family holiday in Yorkshire earlier this month. Today the wonderful Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve is playing host to two Greenish Warblers - one of a small number of species I have seen in Britain but not yet photographed. A couple of weeks ago there were no Greenish Warblers - but there were signs of early migration with a juvenile Cuckoo providing me with my best opportunity this lifetime to photograph a normally skittish species. Wheatears, Whitethroats and Wagtails were also in evidence in the fields behind the clifftops.
Cuckoo at Bempton Cliffs
Feeding on caterpillars in the long grass
Yellow Wagtail
Bempton is world renowned for its Gannet colony - thousands were still on the cliffs, providing, in my humble opinion, about the best natural spectacle one can see in mainland Britain today. I now know I am not alone in holding this opinion - to quote another visitor overheard behind me at one of the many well-positioned viewpoints: 'That's, like, the most amazing nature I have ever seen. You know, with my actual eyes'. Quite.
An imposing bird in an imposing setting
Note the pin-striped feet
Still much displaying taking place
A family party at Staple Newk
I had not been to Bempton at this time of year previously, so it was an opportunity to study Gannet chicks and fledglings at close quarters and in a variety of stages of advancement towards making their first flight. Some still looked like the plush toys in the RSPB shop, others were similar in proportion to the adults but their flecked grey-brown plumage was in complete contrast to the black, white and cream colours of the parent birds.
Gannet nestlings are prehistoric looking creatures
They breed so closely together that constant squabbling is the order of the day
Young birds can be viciously pecked by neighbouring adults if they cross an invisible line
Very young birds look like polar bears with dinosaur faces grafted on
They can get very large before the white down is replaced by feathers
Over 11,000 pairs of Gannet breed at Bempton, and at such a high density disputes between neighbours are inevitable - we winced as we watched young birds take quite a battering if they strayed into the wrong territory.
The rocky outcrop at Staple Newk is prime real estate for Gannets
A tiny fraction of the extensive Gannet colony
Gannet preparing to lunge off the sheer cliff
It was quite difficult to isolate a single bird in the frame
The auks - Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills - which are also a feature of Bempton in the summer had left their breeding ledges before our arrival in Yorkshire. But it wasn't just Gannets to admire - Kittiwakes were also still present in good numbers, and the Tree Sparrow flock around the visitor centre also appeared to be in good health.
Juvenile Kittiwake
Kittiwake on the rudimentary nest
Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Tree Sparrow


  1. Certainly BETTER late than never Great pictures and wonderful descriptions.
    Keep it up late or not