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.
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.
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!