· East Yorkshire ·

Jen and I spent a few days at the in-laws’ caravan near Filey last week. Two things were non-negotiable, as far as I was concerned: haddock and chips from Ingham’s, and a trip to the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs. Obviously, the haddock and chips came first. Priorities, and all that.

On our previous visit to Bempton, late last August, the local gannets were all that remained on the cliffs, the other birds having already raised their young and departed. This time round, six weeks or so earlier in the season, kittiwakes, puffins, guillemots and razorbills were also in abundance—as were betelescoped birders in search of Bempton’s famous lone black-browed albatross, and a Turkestan shrike that had been spotted in the area a couple of days earlier. But I’ve never been one for chasing after rarities, being far more interested in encountering familiar species up close.

I took some nice photos during our visit, but there was one clear winner: a shot of a gannet returning to its nest with floral nesting material. I was determined to get the shot, having seen the bird make an earlier, aborted landing attempt. With many thousands of other gannets circulating near the cliffs, I soon lost track of the bird, but knew it would return to make a second landing attempt at exactly the same spot. So I positioned myself as well as I could directly above the spot in question; switched my camera to multi-shot mode; set autofocus to continuous; set exposure compensation to ⅔ of a stop under-exposed, to compensate for the gannet’s glaring white feathers; waited for my quarry to reappear out of the gyrating mass; and fired away:


Not too shabby.

Just as big a thrill as encountering Bempton’s headline species, however, was getting to see tree sparrows dust-bathing; a burnet moth sharing a thistle with a score of tiny, black beetles; a lone barn owl being mobbed by swallows; a pensive-looking jackdaw; and my favourite members of the auk family, razorbills, in their dapper summer plumage. But let’s face reality… You’re only here for the obligatory puffin photo, aren’t you?


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