Seabirds at St Bees: British Birding


Doing most of my birding in Thailand I do not get to see seabirds very often; only on my visits back to UK. So, as part of my visit to the north east of England I decided to pay a visit to the RSPB’s clifftop reserve at St Bees Head well aware that it was rather too late in the year to see most of the nesting species (the peak time being May/June) but at the same time hoping that there may be a few still hanging around. Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Razorbill. Kittiwake, Fulmar and a very few Puffins breed at this location and watch points constructed by the RSPB give good views over the cliffs where the seabird colonies are situated. It turned out that in mid August rather fewer seabirds were still present than I was hoping for, but there were still some interesting species that I was able to see and get close to.

Walking from the village of St Bees it is a fair walk along the clifftops to the area where the birds nest, but the weather was wonderful so it was a very nice walk with views out to sea of the Isle of Man. At the beach, early in the morning, several Rock Pipits were quite approachable as they foraged on the stony beach and surroundings, allowing me to watch them at close quarters. As I walked along the clifftops I saw several more of these birds and also several pairs of Common Stonechats, Common Whitethroat, large numbers of Linnets and a pair of Ravens which were noisily patrolling the cliffs.

When I reached the cliffs where the seabird colonies are things were a little disappointing although not unexpected given the late time in the season – only Kittiwakes remained on the cliffs with several hundred birds perched on the rocks and many others flying around and resting on the sea. The distinctive call for which they are named was echoing off of the cliffs and they made quite a spectacle, particularly the juveniles with their black and white markings. On further investigation I noticed a single Guillemot with a small chick also on the ledges; presumably a late nester. Other seabirds I saw included a few Fulmar, a couple of Shags, 5 Sandwich Terns, a few Common Terns and, of course, large numbers of Herring Gulls and a few Great Black-backed Gulls.

The walk back to the village of St Bees was quite hot and the crowds on the beach meant that the Rock Pipits had relocated elsewhere.


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