Annual pilgrimage to Bempton Cliffs RSPB and Wykeham raptor viewpoint

14 Jun

10/6/15 To many birders Bempton Cliffs RSPB is seen as a tourist trap best avoided except for the occasional migrant. However with the perfusion of digital camera many of us are tempted with the proximity of birds, usually seen as mere dots from sea watch sites, to pay an annual visit. This is what JH and I did on Wednesday with the hope it might not be too busy. On arrival it was clear even mid-week isn’t quiet with volunteers even needed to control parking. The bulk of visitors as expected were the retired along with several mini-bus loads of school day-trippers. DSCN7324

JH walking towards the new visitor centre

This was my first sight of the new visitors centre and after all the hype was surprised that it didn’t seem significantly bigger although the toilet facilities were now up to motorway service area standards. I remember the little kiosk from my first visits in the 80’s. However this wasn’t a visit to read information boards so it was straight to the cliffs.


The famous Gannet arch.


The only Puffin with in range and it never stirred!

DSCN7329Kittiwake looking away..


…that’s better!




Nesting Herring Gulls


Guillemots on the sea


Gannets and Guillemots


Gannet nests.


Fulmar nest


Gannets in flight

Having got the shots we headed to Wykeham raptor viewpoint. Not my first visit as I’d been on the 13th May with JH and RL after twitching the Balearic Woodchat Shrike. Then it was too early for Honey Buzzards. Also there last Sunday but it was a no show at least while we were there but patience ran out early.


Balearic Woodchat Shrike-Wykeham

As we arrived were told we’d just missed them so suspected we would have a long wait for a return pass. However JH and I were happy for a relaxing sit.


View from Wykeham raptor viewpoint.

While we waited had plenty of other birds to keep us occupied. Several Common Buzzard were displaying joined briefly by a distant Goshawk. Also regular Siskin in flight and in trees below us, a small flock of Crossbill flew over and best of all a Tree Pipit singing in a bush just below the watchpoint. Not long before we planned to pack up I picked up a large raptor flying in from the left on flat wings. This ruled out Common Buzzard and only really Honey or a large female Goshawk were considered. As it got closer it a rolled slightly showing a largely white underwing with black  primaries and I was confident it could only be a Honey Buzzard and gave the call to get everyone else on it. Was joined by a second bird and although not the full butterfly display did gave a few slow stiff wing flaps. Also as the first bird disappeared to the right saw it doing the kite-like tail twist also good for Honey Buzzard. Job done. Amazingly this is only my third sighting in 25 years as we just don’t normally have the patience [or luck] needed.


The watcher not the watched


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