Gannet numbers soar at RSPB Bempton Cliffs

Gannets at the Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.
Gannets at the Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.

THE Gannet population at RSPB Bempton Cliffs has soared in the last three years.

Research this summer revealed that since 2009 there has been a rise of 40% in the number of birds breeding at Bempton, which is the UK’s largest mainland breeding gannet colony.

Previous surveys by RSPB staff and volunteers have shown a year-on-year growth since records began in 1969, when there were only 22 pairs at Bempton Cliffs.

But this year’s figures reveal there are now 11,061 breeding pairs, a leap of 3,202 pairs since the last survey in 2009.

The researchers also counted 798 non-breeding birds, which, when they are old enough to find mates, will add to the numbers turning the cliffs into an amazing wildlife spectacle throughout spring and summer.

Assistant Warden David Aitken, who led the boat-based survey that recorded the figures, is thrilled that these spectacular birds are going from strength to strength.

He said: “Gannets and some other seabirds can fly huge distances – sometimes as far as 600km round trips – in their search for food.

“Gannets are only found breeding on the cliffs at Bempton, and not at nearby Flamborough or Filey, because the type of ledges and shelves on this part of the cliff face are just right for building safe, secure nests.”

In July, researchers discovered a bird on the nature reserve which had come all the way from Jersey.

“We have had birds from Bass Rock in Scotland before but never, to our knowledge, one from so far south,” said David. “As we learn more and more about Bempton’s amazing seabirds, we build up a more detailed picture of the actions that need to be taken to ensure a brighter future for our marine wildlife.”

The growing number of gannets in the colony is bringing an added bonus for photographers.

This year, birds have gathered in ever-bigger numbers almost next to the cliff-top path and close to specially-built viewing platforms.