Wednesday 1 July 2015

Bempton: The Lure of Puffins!

With the promise of pretty Puffins, I somehow managed to lure my non-birding younger sibling with partner into a day trip to Bempton Cliffs last Saturday. Strike one for the Puffin! It’s approx 3.5 hours drive from Warwick but actually a fairly easy journey (especially if you’re not driving...thanks guys). We arrived at about 1 o’clock to a queue of cars waiting to go into the reserve. Thankfully, it was only a matter of minutes and we were soon standing in the sunshine, being greeted by smily centre attendants, one of which was having a Very Important Conversation with a Proper Birder and obvious RSPB Member. Said Birder was hot, sweaty and clearly frazzled from travelling “over 3 hours to get here” and was keen to ascertain if the day would also include the ghastly and inferior General Public?!? Um, yes. ….Priceless.

Since my home is in the land-locked county of Hertfordshire, I don’t encounter a lot of sea-birds. I think we had a dead Gannet at Startops reservoir a couple of years ago but that probably doesn’t count. I’d never seen Puffins, Kittiwakes or Razorbills and my only Gannet sighting was a bird flying along the coast at Titchwell a gazillion miles out to sea. It was more dot than bird. I’d seen a couple of winter plumage Guillemots in Portland Harbour but again, distant views and I was itching to see them in their breeding finery.

Although we were all rather hungry, we decided we’d better spot a Puffin before lunch. I had no idea how vast the cliff face would be nor that every nook and cranny would hold one of the thousands of glorious sea-birds. It really is a spectacle! Anyway, Puffins spotted, lunch eaten and back to the cliff face for a couple of hours taking in as much as possible of the sights and sounds and smells of thousands of nesting, nurturing, feeding and squabbling Gannets, Razorbills, Guillemots, Puffins and Kittiwakes, with the odd Fulmar thrown in for good measure. Absolutely fantastic. I so rarely see such variety in such high numbers - the abundance was heartening and the life and vitality thrilling. Everywhere you looked, there was a story unfolding. You could spend days and days just watching it all.

I wonder what this pair were chatting about? The Razorbill seems similarly curious, whilst the Herring Gull (I think it is) couldn’t care less...

Puffin to Public: Do what I do, ignore the Kittiwake. I’m the star attraction…

Star attraction, striking a pose...

Other stories from the cliff face

Kittiwakes: Worried parents watch as junior explores….

Kittiwake: Keeping the little'n fed…

Razorbills: Careful parent, keeping its youngster safely tucked into the cliff face… (bottom left, if you can't find it)

Gannets: Incredible creatures - the largest seabirds in the North Atlantic, with a wingspan of up to 2 metres, carefully guarding their single, precious offspring, which will take 5 years to mature.

Guillemots (+ Razorbills) aplenty…

And, finally, returning to the star attraction, a few Puffin facts:

  • They flap their flipper-like wings 400 times a minute to stay airborne. 
  • They can dive up to 200ft
  • They live on average up to 20 years
  • They usually pair for life
  • Their bills revert to a dull grey colour during the winter. The bright orange fantasia is reserved to signify breeding brilliance!

A superb day out and well worth the 340 miles round trip. I’d return in a heartbeat.


  1. Amazing pictures!! I love all the little birdies...and the tag lines for each one too. I would definitely return too. A stunning set of pictures. From ARF

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Brian. Didn't quite get the views you did of the Tree Sparrows but there's always next time...

  3. Looks and sounds like you had a great time, it is a wonderful place! You should try to get up to the Farne islands sometime - IMHO even better than Bempton, you walk right in among them, and get free head massage from the arctic terns!

    1. Hi Martin, yes, it's quite a place! The Farne Islands sound just as magical but in a different way - would definitely love to walk amongst the birds. Maybe next year...


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