Every summer, thousands of puffins take up residence in the nooks and crannies of the magnificent chalk cliffs around the greater Flamborough Headland to breed, making this dramatic chalk promontory one of the best places in the UK and northern Europe to see them from land.
The puffins’ annual Yorkshire pilgrimage is one of the region’s best kept secrets, and they are joined by many other iconic seabirds including guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, shags and fulmars.
Gannets nest at neighbouring Bempton Cliffs and can be spotted flying past. Flamborough Cliffs is turned into the ultimate ‘seabird city’ with the sights, sounds and smells of thousands of birds. An iconic seabird, the puffin is also one of the smallest, standing at only 18 centimetres high - often a surprise to people seeing them for the first time.
Their diet consists of fish, especially sandeels.
The largest breeding populations are found in Iceland and Norway, but the British Isles holds around 10 per cent of the world’s puffins.
Adult puffins arrive back at their UK breeding colonies in March and April and leave again in mid-August. Some remain in the North Sea at winter, while others move further south to the Bay of Biscay.
At breeding time, their beaks are elaborately coloured, which - when combined with their bright orange feet - gives them an endearingly clownish appearance.
These quirky little characters are one of our most loved birds, but the species is in trouble.
With half of the UK population at only a few sites, it is a Red List species. One recent estimate suggests that there are 580,000 UK breeding pairs.
Overfishing and climate change are taking their toll but the inauguration of a new festival in Flamborough over the Bank Holiday weekend will remind us of how special our wildlife is and what we can all do to help secure its future.
The family-friendly Yorkshire Puffin Festival is taking place at North Landing, with guided walks, seashore activities, boat trips and lots of information to show visitors how and where to watch puffins on the cliffs and explore Flamborough Headland.
These special birds are at the festival’s heart and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust want to raise awareness of a colony that is Yorkshire born and bred.
Flamborough Headland is just one of the highlights in a geographical area referred to the Yorkshire Nature Triangle.
From the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds, to the cliffs of the Coast and the mighty Humber Estuary to Spurn, the countryside, coast and nature reserves - East Yorkshire is becoming recognised as one the UK’s top wildlife destinations.
In addition to the charismatic puffins, there are other iconic species to marvel at throughout the year - including whales, otters, kingfishers and seals.
During spring and autumn bird migration season, nature reserves like Spurn, Tophill Low and Flamborough Cliffs are popular attractions for people who enjoy nature and watching out for new arrivals.
The Yorkshire Puffin Festival will run on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 26th, 27th and 28th, between 10am and 4pm each day.
The event hub will be at North Landing, Flamborough, Bridlington YO15 1BJ. For a full programme of events during the festival, visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website at www.ywt.org.uk.
Clea Grady is a tourism development officer at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.