Charlotte is Birds magazine’s Advertising Manager. She also loves her wildlife and I’ve been helping her plan a trip to see puffins in recent weeks. Here’s how she got on...
My love of penguins causes me to read book upon book and watch every TV show about them, while talking non-stop about them to anyone who will listen. However this is not an animal that you can easily go and see in their natural habitat. This lead me to wonder what could be a substitute to seeing them? Then, after seeing the proofs of the Summer issue of Birds and seeing this wonderful bird staring at me from the other side of the Contents page, it struck me – puffins. Arguably, one of the cutest birds, they stand small, chubby and proud, black and white and with an extraordinarily brightly coloured beak and feet, looking like they shouldn’t even be able to fly! This is perfect, I thought, and I delve into finding out where and when I could go and see them.
Fast forward a couple of months of me badgering my colleagues, hoping to tap into their knowledgeable brains, and you join me at the day where I am about to travel to (hopefully) see a puffin at our RSPB reserve in East Yorkshire, Bempton Cliffs. Well known for having the puffin as one of their star species, I thought this to be the perfect place for me to see my first ever one.
Starting early in the morning, (mostly because I was too excited to sleep!), we set off on the long journey up north. Finally, we arrived, first travelling through Bempton and arriving at the reserve. Pulling up into the car park, you would have no idea what lies the other side of the visitor centre. The excitement was building for me, as we put on our walking boots, pulled on layer upon layer, our hats and gloves and trundled into the visitor centre. First up, was posing for the shot above, as a warm up for the real thing.
A warm, but windy welcome
We got a wonderful greeting from the friendly RSPB staff there and they quickly shared their knowledge of the best places to see the different birds and, most importantly, where to see the puffins! They unfortunately hadn’t been seen that morning and so I prepared myself for something that hadn’t occurred to me before – that they may be hiding or we may be too early in the year to see them...
But, regardless, we set out on our mission. The second we came out of the centre on the other side, the gale-force winds hit us. We battled against it and walked across to a viewing point, at the furthest point on the reserve. There, we got wonderful views of gannets (the one above was sporting a great 'seaweed beard'), guillemots (below) and razorbills circling above us (last pic). These were all seen by me for the first time! They didn't need to flap their wings, but just let the sheer force of nature blow them to where they wanted to go, collecting food and nesting material as they did.
I peeled my eyes, hoping with all my heart that I manage to see a puffin – just one tiny glimpse and I would have been happy! Then, when we were just about to be blown away, I saw a glimpse of orange and I saw him. “There he is!” I yelled, as he darted in and out of holes in the cliff face and he then came out of hover. He was magnificent. Hovering in front of us, letting the wind carry him, ruffling his feathers, he stayed there for a minute or two, looking around, and then effortlessly landed on the side of the cliff in a little hole. My eyes didn’t move from that hole for ages, wishing that he would come back out. And then, all of a sudden, two puffin heads poked out and stared at me. I grinned from ear to ear.
The rain began to pour and so we marched back to the centre to warm up with a cup of tea and have a chat with the volunteers and employees. The wealth of knowledge from them was astounding – it was so great to hear about their experiences here and learn about the different birds, while watching the live web cam. After about an hour, the rain stopped and the sun came out and so we ran back out to the same spot- another two puffins had turned up! We spent another hour or so just watching them swoop together, disappearing out to sea and then battling their way back to their nest and their partner.
I could have stayed there for hours longer, but after being battered from the winds and the light was slowly going, it was time to call it a day. But the grin on my face never left and is still here, as I remember the feeling of seeing my first puffin. I would recommend that trip to anyone – whether you’ve already seen your first puffin or not, they are wonderful birds to see and I can’t wait to be able to go and visit them again.
The pics were all taken at Bempton by Charlotte's boyfriend Tim Kitchener.