Seabird Cities



Quarter of a million seabirds nest at Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve. Each species has a preference for a particular niche on the cliff.

The ledges are bedding planes in the chalk. Vertical joints break the cliff face up into blocky units. In my photograph (above) the block that the herring gull is nesting on looks as if it’s well on its way to becoming detached from the cliff face.

There’s an eye-wateringly stiff breeze this morning so this is a challenging place to try out my new telephoto lens. Although I’ve mounted the camera on a monopod/walking pole it’s still getting buffeted around so I leave the image stabilisation switched on.



puffinsPuffins are  the stars of the show at the reserve but one of the wardens is having difficulty pointing them out as they keep flying off.

I get a distant view of a pair checking out a crevice at the top of the cliff. At Bempton puffins nest in crevices rather than in rabbit burrows.




razorbillsAlso near the top of the cliff, this razorbill’s mate looks as if it too is considering nesting in a crevice but you’re more likely to see them nesting on the smaller upper ledges.

In an adaptation to nesting on cliff ledges, the razorbill’s egg is tapered at one end so that, if knocked, it will roll in a tight circle. The chicks are born with an innate fear of heights, so they don’t stray too near the edge.

razorbill with egg



At Bempton the guillemots tend lower down the cliff, sometimes getting together in nesting colonies on the larger ledges.



Kittiwakes can make use of the smallest ledges, building up a nest with seaweed and grass.


gannetsgannetsI just miss the perfect photo opportunity: six or seven gannets have landed on the cliff top to gather beak-fulls of grass; they’re just  yards away from a group of birdwatchers but by the time I’ve set up my camera they’ve all flown off again.

Link: RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve.




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  1. Getting some good images with your new camera Richard, particularly like your sea bird shots. Very tempted with the Olympus myself – be interested to see it at the next Wakefield Nats meeting

    1. Definitely worth considering for flowers and birds, I photographed a tawny owlet this morning. It’s more lightweight than my bridge camera was but I’ve yet to work out the best way to carry a camera and binoculars at the same time!

      1. Easy – bins around your neck & camera in hand at the ready. You need a strap on your camera so you can sling it over your shoulder. Can be tricky 🙂


    2. I almost picked up one of those cross-slung straps to try when I bought the camera; look forward to giving it a go.

  2. Hello from RSPB Bempton Cliffs. We spotted the blog and the great images so thought we’d just say ‘Ow Do. Seeing our seabirds never fails to delight us.

    1. Thank you, we’re hoping to get the chance to visit Bempton again this month and if the wind isn’t so eye-watering this time, I look forward to doing a few sketches.

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