My call to the cliffs is getting quieter! Particularly now that the Auks (Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot) have now departed the cliffs to spend the non-breeding season out on the North Sea. A few Kittiwakes remain but their loud calls are seem lost on the emptying ledges. Approaching the cliffs this morning only the sound of the Gannets remained. Large areas of the cliffs are looking naked, where only a month ago, the Auks and Kittiwakes were raising their young. So, what is left? Large numbers of Gannets with Gugas (young Gannets) in various stages of development, Fulmars, Shags, Herring Gulls and raptors (Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine). However, anything is possible!
I started my walk this morning in the Dell area and was soon rewarded with Spotted Flycatchers - a total of 5 being seen throughout the day!
The Dell also held Common Whitethroat
and Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and numerous Finches, so well worth a look!
Down on the cliffs, the Gannets impressed, in number, sound and in raising their Gugas which can be easily soon in various stages of development!
You've got a sore throat? Let me have a look!
Aw! Thanks Mum, I love you!
The Gugas take the decision to leave the cliffs. They are larger than their parents and very much heavier. They cannot fly and so glide/flap from the nest down to the water, and at this point they become independent from their parents. They will use their increased body mass to sustain themselves and they will strengthen their wings in order to take their first proper flight.
It is inevitable that there will be some casualties from the cliffs and dead birds will be scavenged by opportunist Gulls! A form of natural re-cycling!
Here, a Great Skua takes charge of a corpse, surrounded by waiting opportunists!
As previously stated, anything can turn up. Here, a Little Egret passes Bartlett Nab at sea level
The Egret was followed by a Bar Tailed Godwit, regretfully, avoiding my camera!
Fulmar are quite late breeders on the cliffs, this growing youngster is near Bartlet Nab
The Swallows nesting under the visitor entrance canopy are now on their second brood. There are four chicks but typical of nature, only three showed!
There have been a number of sightings on the cliffs of an Alpine Swift, usually when I cannot get up there or (as today) just after I had left! The bird has shown very well, particularly if you are in the right place at the right time, but does not hang about long enough if you need to travel. I arrived on the cliffs at 0700 and stayed until 0945 but no show for me! This Gannet did, however, help me search!
Some of the Gannet young (Gugas) are well into their black feathering and showing larger than their parents.
Post preen wing stretch
Heather had a dental referral in Beverley, so part of the afternoon was spent people watching rather than bird watching! However, we did call in at Hornsea Mere on our way home in order to see some of the Little Gulls. We were a little early for the main roost (which was later reported as c8200 birds!), but were well satisfied with a dozen or so around the boating pontoons.
Symphony (Ginger Beast) was due to be groomed this afternoon in Flamborough and the two hours it takes allows me time at Thornwick Pool. Today, however was constant heavy rain, but this was not going to stop me. Some of the paths at Thornwick were beginning to resemble new wetlands!
And these puddles were even bigger and deeper when I left!
As I approached the hide, I was surprised to hear voices and thought sensible birders were sheltering from the rain. How wrong could I be! As I opened the door, I was met by a group of young teenagers, two boys and two girls. Judging by their panicked actions, I would say that they were educating themselves in human anatomy! Really glad I wasn't later in case the physiology lesson started! Interestingly, one of the boys took up a sudden interest in birding, explaining to me that a Mallard preening on the water was actually a Snipe! They did not stay long, disappearing into the rain with no waterproofs!
The hour and a half I spent in the hide is time I will never get back! The excitement consisted of four Mallards, an adult and juvenile Moorhen and flyover Herring Gulls! How lucky was I? To break the monotony, I just had to take an image of the rain!
As I sat in the hide, I could see the water levels rising as the last remaining islands disappeared under the water! The rain was relentless!
I was so excited to be able to take images of Mallards in the rain!
I was saddened to have to leave but it was time to pick up the dog! Who needs Alpine Swift when you can see Mallards in the rain?
It's that sad time of year when we say goodbye to the Auks (Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins), with very few being seen today. The Auks will be heading out onto the North Sea and North Atlantic where they will sit out the winter months before returning to the cliffs in the spring of 2018! However, there are still a lot of seabirds to be seen on the cliffs - Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Herring Gulls and Shags all of which have young birds. There are also the butterflies, dragonflies and cetaceans and of course the dramatic splendour of the landscape.
Dramatic Splendour of Staple Newk!
"One flew over the Gannet colony!"
Spot the juvenile Kittiwake!
Gannet chicks are known as Gugas, many have already fledged the cliffs, but a large number still remain on the ledges in various stages of development.
The Gannet colony on Staple Newk
"If you say you're sorry, you come back into the group!"
"One flew over the Gannet colony!"
Dinner is served!
"This doesn't look or taste like fish!"
Gannets feet are very large, about the size of a mans hand! They obviously have to support the UK's largest seabird, but they are also used to incubate the Gannets egg! Very large veins enter the feet, bringing warm blood to enable incubation, with the feet cupped around the egg!
Gannets mature into their adult plumage over a period of five years! It is interesting to stand on a viewpoint and try to age them! This might help -