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Updated: Mar 17
My Wild Life: March '22
“The month of March has just blown in, to say that Spring will soon begin”
In March, we are teased by secrets of summer months to come as spring tides pull voyaging seabirds across the North Sea to their breeding grounds. I, like a seabird, returned to my spiritual home of RSPB Bempton Cliffs, a 400ft high seabird city. Bempton is one of the UK’s top wildlife spectacles and a Mecca for seabirds with almost half-a-million of them swooping, soaring and screeching above and around towering chalk cliffs each year.
Auks crammed tightly on the chalky cliff ledges, with thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills in attendance. Puffins were rafting on the deep sea below, whilst Kittiwakes danced and Fulmars cackled till dark. And the first traditional nesters of the seabird season; the European Shag could be seen gliding over the glassy waves so effortlessly. This is the first time that Auks and Kittiwakes have touched land since they departed from their breeding grounds in August, having spent their entire winter out at sea. Kittiwakes will migrate as far as 1,800 miles towards Greenland and Canada, whilst Puffins will vanish into the North Sea.
The true stars of the show however are Northern Gannets. These birds are almost as large as an albatross and sharp in every respect. Breeding adults are silky white with inky wingtips and a crown of golden feathers, pastel blue eye-rings, pointed tails and meticulously crafted bills. Bempton is home to approximately 11,000 breeding pairs of Gannets which nest on the rocky cliffs and famous arch ‘Staple Newk’. The Gannets build their nests to form a compressed pedestal of algae, feathers, mud and grass, held together with excrement. Their nests are then carefully decorated with man made objects found at sea such as plastic, fabrics, litter and discarded fishing line. The nest will also be built on the windward side of a headland, providing consistent updrafts that assist with takeoff and landing.
My favoured weather condition for photographing the Gannets and Fulmars at Bempton Cliffs is a strong, easterly wind, preferably on a cloudy day. The strength and direction pushes the seabirds to clifftop level, allowing for eye-level images and unique wing postures as the birds are caught in the blustery conditions whilst the overcast skies create an exquisitely beautiful and calming palette of muted grey tones.
Fortuitously, mother nature granted me both!