Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve

Bempton is a favourite day out of mine when I'm up in Yorkshire. I'm not an obsessive birder, but I do like to see them, particularly sea or wetland birds. I also enjoy the challenge of photographing them. Of course, I failed even to see the peregrine falcon during my visit, although I witnessed the impact it had on the other birds, as they all flew up into the air when it skimmed close to the cliffs.

Occasionally when I have been, the sky has been black with flying insects, effectively ruining most photos, but luckily that wasn't the case this time.


If anything, the conditions were just a bit too good. My sunburnt arms will attest to that, as will some of the less than ideal exposures on my photos. At times I could neither see the viewfinder lights, nor check my shots on the screen afterwards. I do quite miss the swing-needle light meter on my old film camera!



There is quite a length of coastline at the reserve, with plenty of boardwalk viewing points for people to see the birds. On such a beautiful day the sea makes a stunning blue backdrop, setting off the birds in flight very well. Exposing correctly can be tricky, between sea, sky, white birds, dark birds, green grasses and dark grey cliffs.


I tend to under-expose for the ground and leave my camera set there. I did try a few in an automatic mode, but that didn't work at all. I'm also lucky in that my zoom lens has a manual focus option, so I can set it and wait for a bird to fly past at the right distance. Otherwise the auto focus just hunts around and is not fast enough to catch flying birds.

I saw a number of birds I had never seen before, too: a whitethroat, a reed bunting and a skylark. The highlight is always the appearance of any puffins. I saw some in a cleft in the rock, but at a considerable distance and only just visible. Luckily I also spotted a couple who were very close to one of the viewing platforms, so was able to join the queue for the prime spot!