On Monday 15th April 2013 Dave, Mike and myself made a trip to Bempton cliffs RSPB site in East Yorkshire. The aim of the trip was to photograph the sea birds that come into Bempton to breed at this time of year. We were hoping for Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Razorbill and Guillemot and anything else that we might encounter.
Leaving home at 07:00 in reasonable light we were very hopeful of some good images from Bempton. We arrived at Bempton around 08:30. I decided to use both the Canon 500mm lens and the Canon 400mm lens, having one on each camera. It was rather windy but clear with good sunny spells. As we walked down to the cliff top paths it was very apparent how quiet it was. Normally the raucus calls of the sea birds can be heard before you actually see them. Didn't take too much notice of this as there was a very strong wind blowing out to sea so I assumed this was the reason nothing much could be heard. On reaching the cliff tops we soon discovered the reason for the lack of bird calls, a lack of birds. There were reasonable numbers of gannets and fulmars on the wing but a distinct lack of the noisiest bird the Kittiwake. There were odd ones around but very few and far between.
Slightly dissapointed but undeterred by the small number of birds we made out way to the main vantage point for photographing the gannets in flight. There were gannets flying around but the by now very strong wind was keeping them much lower down near the sea and farther out from the cliffs than they normally can be seen.This made photographing them difficult as most of the time we were having to shoot at a downwards angle to them. On a better day the gannets would have been much higher up and nearer. It was a case of persevering and trying to get a good shot when one actually did come high and near enough. The 500mm lens was the main lens used.
Gannet with nesting material
Compared to the gannets the fulmars are much more difficult to photograph in flight. Their flight path is not as predictable as a gannet and they fly much faster as well. With the changing lighting conditions and the gale force wind it made it very challenging getting any photographs of the birds in flight at all.
We stayed at Bempton until around 11:00 and then decided that due to the lack of birds and the windy conditions we would take a ride to Scarborough in North Yorkshire. We knew the pair of resident Peregrine falcons should hopefully be showing so there would be at least a chance of a few photographs. The harbour at Scarborough is usually pretty good for photo opportunities of gulls and a few waders. Arriving at Scarborough around midday we soon located the Peregrine pair and although we waited around a while got no real photographic opportunities. We then moved on to the harbour. Turnstones are a bird that seem to frequent the harbour but today as par for our luck they were in very short supply. If my memory serves me correctly we only saw three, but at least one of them was a little poser.
There were quite a few gulls in the harbour, herring gulls in particular, which are one of my favourite gulls to photograph. Being used to human being activity in the harbour the gulls are quite approachable and allowed me some nice close up head shots. I was using the 400mm lens now and although I had no tripod it's quite an easy lens to hand hold and they came out well.
It was now well past lunch time so we made the decision to visit an excellent fish and chip restaurant just outside Scarborough and then make our way back to Bempton. We thought the wind might drop towards tea time and the gannets and fulmars at Bempton would fly a little higher and closer to the cliff top. Anyway, after an excellent meal of fish chips and peas we arrived back at Bempton around 15:30. The wind hadn't dropped much if at all, but the birds were a little more obliging than the morning session. In fact with the less harsh light as the sun was much lower in the sky I achieved some of my best images of the day. The next couple of hours were spent trying to get decent fulmar and gannet shots in flight.
We left Bempton about 17:45 for the hour and a half journey home. Although Bempton hadn't been as good as anticipated and we also travelled a good few more miles than intended it was still an excellent day out in excellent company. The fish and chips were second to none, and Scarborough made up somewhat for Bempton. Dont forget you can view all the images from this trip via this link http://lincsbirder.zenfolio.com/p401481016