Bempton Cliffs


Chris & I spent the best part of today at the RSPB at Bempton Cliffs near Flamborough. Bempton cliffs are well known nesting sites for all sorts of seabirds including, kittiwakes, gulls, razor-billed auks, puffins. The weather was a mixed sort today but there were still plenty of people on the cliffs to see the birds. We payed the £5 to park in the almost full lot. Many of the parking spots were under water but we managed to find one that was dry enough for our needs. Once parked we unloaded all my camera gear plus tripod. We’ve visited here before but one is never sure just what lens, body, tripod combination will work best on any given day. The walkways were wet and muddy so we had to carry our gear in to the wildlife preserve instead of wheeling it. One nice bit of news was that the £5 parking fee also covered our admission to the preserve.

Kittiwake with Young

We slopped around the preserve though and found plenty of birds to photograph. The sheer cliffs rise about 200 ft from the North Sea and there are literally tens of thousands of seabirds flying in and out from the cliffs. Some build nests in which to lay there eggs. Others lay their eggs on bare rock ledges in the cliffs. Still others, like the puffins burrow into cracks in the cliff walls.

Razor-Billed Awk

There are three or four viewing platforms about the preserve and most of them were jammed with people. Not too many photographers with tripods and big lenses but lots of people with scopes and binoculars. I used my 300 lens with 1.4X extender handheld and managed to bring in most of the birds with that. I waited my turn for empty spots at the railing and took advantage of my turn to shoot. Lots of kittiwakes and gannets on nests. I managed to get some shots of kittiwake chicks but passed on the gannets for some reason.


Chris brought her kindle with her and found a nice bench to sit on and read while I shot birds. There was a peregrine falcon perched on top of one of the cliff faces who was patiently waiting for any chick to be temporarily abandoned by a less than vigilant parent. He was too far away for a good shot unfortunately. Herring gulls were also nesting and I saw gull chicks on the nest for the first time. One nest I watched for about an hour had three chicks but one was obviously dead. The other chicks and parents pecked away at the dead chick before one of the parents actually ate it. Nature can be cruel sometimes.

The viewing platform furthest away from the entrance was also the one where most of the gannets were roosting. Unfortunately, it was also at the end of of very muddy 1/2 mile long pathway along the edge of the cliffs. I really wanted to see the gannets again so I had no choice but to trudge through the mud. It looked worse than it was actually but all the rain over the last two days did leave quite a mess. I did my best to stay clean but after 100 yds I said heck with it. It was only mud and my new hiking shoes were supposed to be waterproof…..and they are! You can tell from the above shot that rain clouds were coming in over the cliffs for much of the morning. Rain, sun, rain, sun……cloud……and so on.

North Cliff Caves

We were done at Bempton by 2 pm and drove into Flamborough to have lunch at the Cliff Top restaurant near the lighthouse. Chris enjoyed a cheeseburger with fries while I had the full English breakfast. Both were excellent and only £12 for both meals with coffee. With the tide still well out we decided to pop down to the North Cliff caves below Flamborough lighthouse. Lots of chalk white cliff walls and the constant tidal action over time has worn holes in some of the walls producing these great caves.

A great day of birding and exploring the caves. Laundry was an absolute necessity when we got home. Our shoes cleaned up nicely too.


  1. Erin June 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Wonderful Place! I love the Kittiwake chick looking up at its parent, waiting to be fed.

    • Mark June 25, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

      Thanks Erin. We are still hoping to get out on a tour boat that will take us to the bottom of the cliffs… permitting.

  2. Dick June 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Awesome photos; especially the Gannet.

    • Mark June 25, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

      They are majestic looking. I love the yellow head of the mature birds.