That’s gonna sting!

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Sea Bird City Bempton Cliffs – Gannets

Last month I was due to go on a diving gannet photography day from Bridlington on the East Coast. Unfortunately the weather put paid to that trip so my plans got rearranged and I set off instead for a day at Bempton Cliffs.

Known locally as the Seabird City Bempton Cliffs are home to a staggering number of gannets, razorbills, fulmars, puffins, shag, herring gull, kittiwake and guillemots. In fact this year has proved to be a record year with almost 450,000 birds counted.

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The gannets are the most numerous with over 200,000 visiting the cliffs from March to October to breed or in the case of youngsters get used to being a gannet as it’ll be 5 years before they breed. These Northern Gannets return to Bempton every year from their wintering sites in West Africa and they return to the same nest site with the same partner every year.

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Although very affectionate to each other when they are crammed up close and personal on their very small nest spaces tempers can easily get frayed and some violence can ensue. They are our largest seabird with a wingspan up to 2 metres which allows them to effortlessly soar above the cliffs or travel great distances to feed. They eat larger fish such as mackerel and cod and the availability of these has been key in the recent rises in population as they successfully raise their chicks.

An onshore wind holding the birds above the cliffs offers some spectacular photo opportunities especially when they are gathering grass and plants to adorn their nests or offer as gifts to their partners. I’m not sure about nettles though as a suitable nesting material!

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Tawny Owl

As the local little owls are a lot happier to be photographed than the tawny owl I do tend to let them appear more often on my blog. Hopefully I can correct that oversight with these photo’s taken recently.

Now I know what to listen for in the woods finding the tawny owl is a lot easier. Whenever one of them is around the other birds kick up a real commotion trying to scare them off. I just tend to follow the noise and sooner or later spot where the owl is being hassled. Magpies and jays will swoop down to try and move them along while the blackbirds just set off their alarm call from nearby branches.

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They generally tend to ignore the uproar but will fly off if it gets too much. Most of the time they are just trying to sleep during the day before spending the evening hunting. There are a pair in the woods and there has been at least one owlet spotted, but unfortunately not by me.

If it wasn’t for the other birds alerting me to their presence it would be very hard to spot them as they are very well camouflaged and quite often if you look away they can be hard to re-find as they blend in so well.

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Great to know they are in my area and one I will always look out for when the blackbirds start sending up the alarm.

Kingfisher Pellets

Yesterday I spent the day photographing kingfishers and was lucky enough to see one regurgitating a pellet. They do this a couple of times a day to get rid of fishbones and other indigestible remains from their fishy diet.

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It took some bringing up before a flick of the head sent it into the grass.

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Barn Owl

Until recently I’d never seen a barn owl in the flesh but watched one in very poor light hunting whilst at Bempton cliffs. They are beautiful birds to observe quartering over their chosen hunting ground. On Sunday I saw my second one and this time managed to get some, admittedly poor pictures.3d

It’s bad news when the best picture you have of a bird is its back end as it flies away. These are definitely ones to file under “Record shot” and the barn owl has been added to the target list.3f