Wildlife Explorers family visit to RSPB Bempton Cliffs
Fri 30 May to Sun 1 June 2008

Our base for the weekend was the holiday park at Skipsea Sands, a small, friendly holiday park run by Park Resorts near Driffield; and on the Friday evening we gathered in the Sports Hall to learn a bit more about our plans for the weekend and play some games.

We went through some of the key bird species that we were hoping to see over the weekend and how to recognise their calls. Then it was time for the Wildlife Explorers’ Ten Pin Bowling Competition. David and his Dad won by just one point with an excellent final score of 112!

Team Score  
Bird Spotters 112
Hawk Moths 111
Super Sly Foxes 111
Bald Eagles 110
Team Mole 107
Thunderbirds 103
Seagulls 102
Team Robin 102
Crazy Chicken 96
Euro Champs 94
Team Score  
City Boys 93
Ollies 93
Sheep 93
Crows 92
The Binmen 91
Wombles 89
Bretts Bowlers 88
Winning Team 86
Potato Heads 85
Puffins 85
Team Score  
Doggies 82
Newts 81
Gannets 80
Puffins 85
Invincibles 79
Peregrines 76
Lewis Lightfoots 73
Kona 67
Martin Mia 67

By the end of Friday evening we still had not had confirmation that our cruise in the morning would go ahead. On Saturday at 8am Tina made the telephone call. After extensive consultations the RSPB and the Skipper of the Yorkshire Belle had decided that there was a window in the weather conditions. The Puffin cruise was on!

Families met at Bridlington Harbour. We were on board with another large group from Boston Wildlife Explorers – between us the cruise was sold out!

Setting off from the harbour the sea was calm and the sun was shining – perfect conditions! We had a commentary from Jeff and RSPB volunteers were on hand to help us identify the gulls and auks. We were all looking out for those charismatic little puffins!

We had fantastic close-up views of guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, razorbills, gannets and puffins as they either flew by the boat or swam alongside. It was incredible.

As we headed out towards Flamborough and on to Bempton the sea became rather more choppy, the impact of which varied considerably from person to person! We had excellent views of the birds on the cliffs, huge expanses of rock with rows and rows of seabird nests balanced precariously on ledges. The Skipper skilfully manoeuvred the Yorkshire Belle right up to the cliffs providing breathtaking views, despite the breeze we were close enough to smell the colonies.

Even for those members of the group who had not found their sea-legs on the trip - fish and chips, ice-creams and even donuts from the shops on the harbour were found to be a great way of curing any residual sea-sickness!

In the afternoon we met up with East Yorkshire Wildlife Explorers and their Leaders at the RSPB's Bempton Cliffs reserve. Margaret explained how seabirds are adapted to life on the coast and Ciar was transformed into a puffin!

We walked down to the viewing points on the cliffs to get a completely different view of the gannets, puffins, razorbills and guillemots to the one we had had in the morning from the Yorkshire Belle. We even saw a bridled guillemot with elegant white spectacle markings. Everyone got a great view and we took lots of photographs.

We played more games and rounded off the afternoon in glorious sunshine eating sausage sandwiches and burgers.

By Sunday morning the weather had changed completely and it was pouring with rain. This didn’t put off our intrepid group of Wildlife Explorers as we headed to South Landing to do some rockpooling.

We found lots of creatures in the rockpools. There were shrimps, sea slaters, pea crabs, shore crabs and small fish. We learned how to sex crabs (it’s all to do with their tail-flap). Christopher even found a female carrying a mass of tiny orange eggs.

We found lots of sandhoppers and a gribble (a tiny relative of the woodlouse that bores into wood). We also discovered the feathery, sand-encrusted tubes of sand mason worms.

On the rocks we found barnacles, limpets, chitons, periwinkles and mussels, beadlet anemones and a colony of tiny sponges. Katherine found a tiny hermit crab. There were also many types of seaweed including sea lettuce, bladder wrack and oarweed.

As the tide encroached we moved further up the beach. First we made a living human sculpture of an anemone, waving our arms like tentacles!

Then we all gathered stones on the beach to make an enormous sculpture of a gannet - one of the most striking birds we had seen over the weekend.

We watched the Flamborough Lifeboat come in after a training exercise. The Lifeboat crew talked to us about the important work they do and their incredible new boat the Elizabeth Jane Palmer.

We didn’t notice at first but a seal had come to watch too and was bobbing round in the bay behind us.

To warm up we headed to the café for warm drinks and ice-creams(!!)

We saw over 50 different species of birds - here's our bird list for the weekend.
Barn owl Dunnock Herring gull Meadow pipit Rock dove Tree sparrow
Blackbird Fulmar House martin Moorhen Rook Turnstone
Canada Goose Gannet House sparrow Oystercatcher Sand martin Whitethroat
Chaffinch Goldfinch Jackdaw Pheasant Shag Woodpigeon
Collared dove Great black backed gull Kestrel Pied wagtail Skylark Wren
Coot Great tit Kittiwake Puffin Song thrush Yellowhammer
Cormorant Greenfinch Linnet Razorbill Starling  
Crow Grey partridge Magpie Reed bunting Swallow  
Curlew Guillemot (+bridled) Mallard (+chicks) Robin Swift  

Thank you
We all had a fantastic time over the weekend – the Leaders would like to thank all of the families that joined us for supporting the event with such enthusiasm and all of the Wildlife Explorers for being so much fun to be with.
Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorers would like to thank East Yorkshire Wildlife Explorers, the staff and volunteers at Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve and the Skipper, crew and volunteers on the Yorkshire Belle for their excellent hospitality during our weekend.