Pete and I always enjoy a spot of bird watching and, whilst on holiday in Scarborough, we had a day out down the coast at Bempton Cliffs, an RSPB reserve. We hoped to see some gannets, having been impressed by the beauty and size of the odd ones we’d spotted on past Scottish holidays.
The reserve was tucked away down an ever-narrowing country lane, surrounded by wide green fields. Once at the site, from the car park we followed a pleasant path which headed towards the sea. The first part of the path was amply wide enough for a wheelchair and, although made of a gravelly surface, it was fine for being pushed.
Suddenly we found ourselves at the land’s edge, confronted by the most amazingly dramatic cliffs! (There was a wooden fence which protected you, without getting in the way of the views.) There was a cacophony of noise and we started to focus on the masses of birds wheeling about, circling over the sea then turning back to the cliffs where hundreds of them were perched precariously on rocky ledges: we had found the gannets!
There were more than we could possibly have hoped to see and we just stood (or sat!) for some time, simply enjoying the amazing spectacle. It was incredible to see that so many gannets came to this one spot to nest, that these sheer cliffs were exactly what they wanted.
An RSPB man was at the viewing area and had his high-powered binoculars trained on the cliffs. We were able to look through and saw kittiwakes nesting on a very small ledge. As we grew more used to the swirl of birds we could distinguish the black wing tips of kittiwakes amongst the many gannets.
We decided to go further along the cliff path as there was another viewing platform not far away. The path became a little more ‘interesting’ for the wheelchair. The gravelled part of the path was more of a groove with higher grassy sides. It required either the wheelchair user or its pusher to have strong muscles. Fortunately Pete was able to cope!
It was a lovely path so I’m glad we were able to manage. It followed right along the cliff edge, with hedgerows to one side and blue sky above, which grew to a summery haze as it headed out to sea.
The view was worth the effort too. We could see back along the cliffs which curved in and out along the coastline, and were able to look down on to a large ledge where gannets were nesting. They flew back and forth, and we were able to see younger ones, with black plumage, as well as adult gannets, sitting by their nests.
Over the front edge of the cliff we seemed to be right above the gannets and were able to look straight down on them, tracking individual birds as they wove their way around on the air currents.
We knew that it was too late in the season for puffins (they are gone by the end of July) but we did hear that odd ones were still about. We looked more closely and, way down below us, we suddenly noticed that some of these birds genuinely were smaller, not just further away, and were doing a suspiciously puffin-like furious flapping! That was a lovely added bonus.
We found a bench where we could munch our sandwiches, and were in no hurry to move. The day was surprisingly restful. There weren’t many people about, the sun shone over a stunning coastline, and it was very relaxing to sit and simply let your eye follow the flight of the birds.