I’ve split this post into two as I found the gannets just took up too much space on their own. There was an overload. It turns out, this is a rather ironic metaphor for the current status of this tiny gull at Bempton.
I mentioned yesterday the extraordinary success of Gannets at Bempton, tripling in number in a decade. But an unintended consequence of this is that the kittiwakes have been forced out.
Kittiwakes were already struggling, as the decline in sand eels that has markedly affected birds such as the puffin also hits these gulls. Between 1975 and 2008 the population dropped from around 87,000 pairs, to about 30,000, a two-thirds decline.
While predation and competition for food is not an issue between the gannets and the kittiwakes, there is only so much cliff space. So for the gannet to expand, their numbers, nest sites for the kittiwake decline, further reducing numbers.
They are a dainty looking gull, and that makes it all the more extraordinary that they nest in such harsh conditions with battering winds off the North Sea crashing into their cliff-side homes.
Yet that wind produces extreme grace, the bird using its long narrow wings to manoeuvre beautifully across the sea.
While the adults have a standard, if subtle, gull plumage (bar the notable wing tips), the juveniles have a much more distinct appearance as they moult from their dark camouflaged down into a strikingly patterned bird. You could easily believe they were a separate species, especially in the air.
As with the gannets there are young that have fledged and are out to sea, and those that are still being fed by parents, both of which can be seen in pictures up above. This little one was giving seriously thought to taking flight for the first time, giving his wings some serious exercise, but never quite plucking up the courage to plunge off the 100 metre cliffs.
There wasn’t much else going on around the reserve this day. The odd fulmar was also spotted, the gull-like bird actually more closely related to the albatross, but no photos taken. There were however a good number of pigeons in a little colony of their own:
Back near the reserve there were meadow brown butterflies, and one of my favourite birds, the Tree Sparrow:
That’s it from Bempton Cliffs. I really hope, whether you’ve been before or not, this has given you an idea of visiting.
Tonorrow I’ll have a few more photos from the same day, from a trip up from Bempton to Filey.