Towering sea cliffs drop precipitously into the North Sea as it thunders into their bases forcing up spray. Guano, the product of thousands of avian bottoms and laid down over generations emits that salty/fishy aroma that tells you that you aren’t in Kansas anymore. In spring auks, Northern Gannets, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Northern Fulmars return to breed and to start the spattering all over again.


At one time these birds’ eggs were harvest for food by locals and anyone who ventured over that cliff ledge deserved all the eggs they can carry. Back in 1972 I went on my first school bird club trip and we went to Bempton, beating the RSPB by a few years I think. There was no visitor center, not cafe, no toilets and scarcely a rail to stop eager kids from plunging to their deaths. To be fair many Clifton folk bred like chickadees so losing the odd one just freed up room for the next but it was quite magical. We even walked to the far end to see the Gannets, their small foothold a forerunner of things to come.

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For someone who gets giddy on thicker soled shoes I did reasonably well, keeping just a few yards from the very edge and snapping away. The Gannets had spread all around the cliffs and were always visible. On the water below thousands of Razorbills, Common Murres (sorry Brits) and Atlantic Puffins bobbed about while others came and went like so many moths to a light. I’ve always liked Northern Fulmars ever since one threw up all over me and didn’t apologize, and so it was great to see them again. The UK and east coast North American ones will be split from the Pacific ones eventually; they are rather chalk-and-cheese in appearance.

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Here are a few more photos, the light was pretty dull but some are reasonable. The puffins were the hardest to snap and so the pitiful attempt below is all I have to show for outstanding bravery and muscle control.

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