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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Birds at Bempton

Guillemots @Bempton

Inspired by budak's ecoadventures in Singapore, I decided to drive to Bempton Cliffs to see the seabird colonies. Bempton Cliffs is one of many lovely sites under the watchful eye of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which is a UK charity that tries to preserve healthy habitats for birds (and other wildlife). Numerous species of seabirds gather here to breed, and it really is a sight to behold.

Gannets @ Bempton

All the Birdwatchers were out with their birding notebooks, huddled together with their binoculars and cameras, at various lookout points along the coast. Most of them were jostling for a good position to set up their telescope stands, their dark green and grey macintoshes rustling and flapping in the wind. Occasionally, one of them would let out a squawk of excitement and soon, all of them would be hunched over their scopes, twittering enthusiastically.

Puffins @ Bempton

The Outlaws, bird fanciers themselves, had lent me their telescope and stand so I appeared keen enough to be allowed to stand with the Birdwatchers and set up my equipment. They soon realised that I was an amateur and were kind enough to help me with identifying different species and tell me a little bit about their habits. It was difficult to hear them over the deafening ruckus of thousands of mating seabirds, but these were hardcore Birdwatchers whose patience had been tried and tested from years of stoically standing in rain and mud just to catch a glimpse of a rare feathered visitor.

It is puffin breeding season at the moment, so I was fortunate enough to spot a several puffins standing in front of the deep cracks and holes in the cliff wall where they make their nests. They looked really sweet, with their clown faces and orange feet.

I watched in awe as huge white gannets with their rusty heads flew up into the air, tucking their black-tipped wings in before they plummeted a hundred feet into the sea.

Little black-backed guillemots and razorbills stood in pairs, performing complicated dances of courtship, bowing, bobbing, occasionally pausing to scrape their beaks affectionately against each other whilst perched on the sheer cliffside.

I fiddled inexpertly with my camera, taking pictures through the lens of the telescope (hence the questionable quality of my pictures). I was very careful to try to stand upwind of the colony, in order to avoid being overcome by the incredible stench of guano and decomposing fish.

And here is my best little movie of the puffins. I'm rather proud of it, really.

Aren't they sweet?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

They are a delicacy in Iceland:
-puffin' duck-

12:19 am  
Blogger Maggie said...

Sounds like you had fun. :-) Seeing a puffin is one of those things I "want to do before I die". I've reached the point in life where I'm making lists like that, and trying to knock off the items too. ;-)

But I can't access your Puffin video, it says it's private.

Best wishes from Liverpool, 800 years old this year (that's Liverpool, not me, I just *feel* that way!)

6:18 am  
Blogger tscd said...

maggie: you should be able to play the video straight off the blog page...but anyway I've made the video public just for you. Bempton Cliffs is wheelchair friendly so everyone should be able to have a chance to visit the puffins! They will be around until June if you wanted to see them this year.

3:29 pm  

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