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Set sail in search of skuas with the RSPB

Last modified: 20 August 2014

Long-tailed skua in flight

Passengers have been treated to sightings of long-tailed skuas.

Image: Graham Catley

As the leaves begin to turn and autumn comes calling, birds start their great journey from their summer haunts to winter havens - and the stretch of sea beyond Bempton Cliffs is a remarkable place to see a wide variety of these migrants as they pass through the area on their way south.  

RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruises sail aboard the Yorkshire Belle from Bridlington Harbour during September and October, specifically to try to connect with these otherwise hard-to-see birds.

Kim Smales, RSPB Bempton Cruise Coordinator, said: “These cruises are definitely one of the highlights of the season. Skuas and shearwaters are graceful, stately birds but aren’t usually seen over land.  Out at sea, with the vastness of the ocean around you, you can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer strength needed to complete the long journey they undertake.”

Arctic skuas have regularly been seen on previous cruise trips; sometimes in dramatic aerial chases with gulls or terns. Passengers have also been treated to sightings of pomarine skuas and long-tailed skuas.  Manx and sooty shearwaters are sometimes seen right alongside the boat, tempted close by a delicious serving of ‘chum’ – a concoction made from fish bits that is the equivalent of five star dining to seabirds.

To add to the experience, expert commentators, together with volunteers from the RSPB’s East Yorkshire Local Group, are on board each cruise to help identify the birds, and to ensure everyone enjoys the trip to the full. 

These cruises also provide a unique opportunity for photographers of all levels. Kim said:  “There’s a real chance for photographers to get those once-in–a-lifetime shots that make an impressive addition to a professional portfolio or just act as a reminder of an amazing moment in time in the natural world.”

RSPB Skua and Shearwater Cruises, which last up to 3½ hours, sail every weekend from 6 September to 4 October 2014. Ticket prices are £20 for adults and £10 for children. For a full list of dates and times visit or call the booking line on 01262 422211.

Bempton Cliffs visitor centre and car park will be closing from 1 September 2014 to 31 March 2015 for major redevelopment. For further information, visit the website.