29 May 2007

Trip Report (Part 3): RSPB Bempton

Peregrine's Birding Facts: Gannets will travel upto 60 miles from nesting site to find food and will dive from heights of 130 feet entering the water at 60 miles per hour!!

After my day on the Farne Islands I spent the night in nearby Bamburgh at a Bed and Breakfast called "Broome" recommended in the Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay. A far cry from my previous night. In the morning I set off for Norfolk with a few stops in between.

My first stop was at Hauxley Nature Reserve about half an hours drive away. The reserve is part of the former Radcliffe open cast coal working, which was landscaped to produce a lake with islands. It was bought by the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) in 1983 to be developed as a reserve. Tree and shrub planting has been carried out around the reserve boundary and near the hides. The body of water, islands, reedbeds and trees attract large numbers of birds, including waders and many migrants. I saw some late staying Barnacle and Pink Footed Geese and there were some breeding Lapwing. I bumped into a gentleman that I had briefly spoken to on the Farnes who was also photographing birds he was Peter Beesley who also has a Bird Blog HERE. He comes from Peterborough and knew the person I was staying that night in Norfolk.

My next stop was East Chevington another NWT Reserve. The site contains two large lakes with fringing reedbeds, grassland and newly planted woodland. The Trust also owns farmland to the west of the ponds but this is only accessible along marked routes. The site is already seen as one of the best birdwatching sites in the area with large numbers of water birds using the ponds and their margins including greylag and pink-footed geese. Skylark, stonechat and grasshopper warbler breed on the site and can often be seen around the grassland areas. Reed bunting and reed warbler use the developing reedbed areas. I drove to a small parking area near the beach and the moment I got out of the car I heard the very distinctive sound of the Grasshopper Warbler right next to the car. It took me a long time to locate it and with the briefest of glimpses it flew off. This was a lifer for me and certainly made my morning. You can listen to it HERE.There was also Sedge and Reed Warbler in the bushes and reedbeds.

I then headed south past Newcastle and the " Angel of the North" Anthony Gormley's masterpiece and probably best known and loved public art. I had never seen it in the flesh as it were and I thought it was great.

Two hours later I get to RSPB Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve which is home to England's Largest Seabird Colony, with over 200,000 nesting seabirds. It has the largest mainland Gannet colony in Britain.It is situated between Scarborough and Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire.
I was under pressure to get to Norfolk and allowed myself an hour to view the birds from the cliffs. Yet again not long enough. There was a strong onshore wind which meant the birds were floating on the updrafts.

It was definately a place that needed more time as I could have watched the Fulmars for hours gliding around the cliffs. I am not sure when the best time to go is as there was quite a few school parties there in the afternoon and I was getting quite alot of "Thats a big lens Mr" giggle, giggle.

Anyway onwards to Norfolk which took me nearly four hours from Bempton. Before my trip I posted a message on Birdforum that I wanted a guide for a day and Gordon Hamlett very kindly emailed me to say that he would be willing to show me round and that I could stay the night with him and his wife Chris. So I made my way to his house and my experience of North Norfolk will be in Trip Report part 4!!

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