Spotting Puffins at Bempton Cliffs

New car? You know what that means: Road Trip!! One of our first road trips took us 2hrs north to spot the puffins at Bempton Cliffs that come here to breed every year.

About Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs is situated on the Flamborough Headland, just north of Bridlington along the Yorkshire coastline approximately a 1hr drive from York. The RSPB Seabird Centre is easy to locate by GPS and is signposted from Bridlington.

The chalk cliffs are the breeding site for several species of seabirds between March and October every year – including the puffin! Puffins are not the only birds you’ll see nesting here though, you’ll also see gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbill and more.

These aren’t the only birds that nest here though, during the winter months the grasslands and scrub is home to a number of farmland birds including barn owls and the endangered tree sparrow.

RSPB Seabird Centre

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a Seabird Centre located at the cliffs, open everyday from 9:30am – 5:00pm in summer and 9:30am – 4:00pm in winter. The reserve itself is open at all times, but you may not be able to access the carpark once the centre has closed.

Entry is £5 per person or free for RSPB members. There is loads of parking at the centre, including an overflow carpark which is often full on the weekends when the seabirds are here.

The centre is modern and has a gift shop (for all your puffin-related merchandise!) and a small cafe where you can get cabinet food and coffee. There are a few tables both inside and out for those who want to sit and enjoy their drinks before or after wandering along the cliffs.

Dogs are welcome at the site, but they have to be kept on a lead and under control at all times to protect the nesting birds.

Where to see the puffins

I recommend taking binoculars to spot the puffins, they’re small birds and they easily get lost among the thousands of gannets and gulls that also nest along the cliffs.

There are 6 different viewing platforms built along the cliff with sealed paths linking most of them for disability access – I think it’s only the very end platforms (at either end) that aren’t connected with sealed paths, they’re just grass trails.

Any platform you go to will give you plenty of chances of spotting the puffins as well as the numerous other seabirds all crammed onto the cliff face. During the summer months they have volunteer’s at some of the platforms to help visitors spot the elusive birds.

They like to nest inside old rabbit holes on the cliff so if there is a grassy area at the top, concentrate your binoculars around that area for the best chance to spot them. Look out for their feet, they’re bright orange whereas all the other birds have boring coloured legs haha!

Puf-facts

How much do you know about puffins? I didn’t really know anything about them until we got up to Bempton Cliffs and read all the blackboards. Here are some of the things I learnt:

  1. Puffins lay only one egg per year and usually with the same mate. Both parents assist with incubating and caring for their pufflings until they’re ready to leave the nest.
  2. They spend most of their lives at sea, only coming to land to nest. If they’re not flying they can be found swimming or bobbing up and down on the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
  3. A puffins beak changes colour during the year. In winter, the beak has a dull grey colour but in spring it changes to bright orange.
  4. Puffins are amazing flyers, beating their wings up to 400 times per minute and reaching speeds of up to 88km per hour! That is crazy fast for a tiny little bird!
  5. They’re also awesome swimmers. Puffins can dive down to 60m below the surface to search out herring, hake and sand eels.

Now you have everything you need to visit the Bempton Cliffs puffins, make sure you add the dates to your diary (April – July each year) and don’t forget your binoculars and camera!

Chel xx

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