A little splash of vibrant orange moved on the white chalk cliffs. Finally, we saw what we had been looking for. “Look! There’s one!” we both almost simultaneously exclaimed! After a wonderful few hours admiring the incredible coastal landscape and watching the various seabirds at Bempton Cliffs, we had almost resigned ourselves to not spotting any puffins. I asked fellow photographers whether they had spotted any and everyone sighed saying there were not many today but you could spot a couple. At last, at the Staple Newk viewpoint, we finally spotted a little puffin on the cliffside. Then another puffin appeared, and then another! The puffins were flying, diving, chatting, pruning, eating and resting on the Bempton Cliffs seabird colony. Who knew there were puffins in Yorkshire?! We then found even more puffins on another clifftop. This is a guide to finding puffins in Yorkshire.
- Puffins in the UK
- Puffins in Yorkshire
- Where to see Puffins in Yorkshire
- Best Time of Year to see Puffins in Yorkshire
- Tips for taking Photos of Puffins in Yorkshire
- How to behave around Puffins in Yorkshire
Puffins in the UK
Atlantic puffins are small sea birds which are almost instantly recognisable. Their colourful beak and bright orange feet have led the birds to be called “sea parrots” or “sea clowns”! Puffins spend most of the year at sea feeding on fish and marine invertebrates. Yet in late spring, it is possible to see puffins in England.
You can find puffins in the UK along rocky sea cliffs. They often reside on island cliffs and come ashore from around April to July. During this period, the puffins breed and raise one chick. In April and May, puffins tend to stay in the burrows with their chick. Puffins nest in burrows and use their bill and feet to dig. Sometimes they will use existing rabbit burrows and reuse the same burrow year after year. As puffins stay in their burrows in mid spring, they can be harder to spot. Yet as the chick grows, the puffins come out more which makes late May and June an excellent time to spot puffins in the UK!
Puffins in Yorkshire
While most puffins choose to nest on rocky islands there is a colony of puffins on the mainland. You can find puffins in Yorkshire! There are a few spots in East Yorkshire where you can find puffins.
Where to see puffins in Yorkshire
There are two main spots you can find puffins in Yorkshire. One is at the RSPB Bempton Cliffs and the other is Flamborough Head.
Puffins at Bempton Cliffs
The RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve is a great place to spot puffins in Yorkshire! Bempton Cliffs are home to almost half a million seabirds between the months of March and October. Gannets, shags, razorbills and puffins gather on the huge chalk cliffs high above the North Sea.
Bempton Cliffs is a sea bird city. Seabirds like nesting on steep cliffs as they are protected from predators like foxes. The chalk cliffs are ideal as there are many cracks and fissures to nest in.
May and June are the months when you can have a good chance of spotting puffins at Bempton Cliffs. There are several viewpoints along Bempton Cliffs you can spot puffins from.
The viewpoints at Bempton Cliffs are:
- Jubilee Corner
- Bartlett Nab
- Mosey Downgate
- New Roll-up
- Staple Newk
Each viewpoint offers a different view of the cliffs and the bird colonies. What I loved about these platforms is that you are at the same level as the birds. You can look down at them or see them swoop past which means you are not straining your neck and looking upwards continuously. There are also handy railing for safety making this a great place to bring children too.
During our visit we noticed that different viewpoints offered a glimpse at a different seabird. At Bartlett Nab we saw many gannets. At Mosey Downgates plenty of razorbills gathered below us. It is best to ask one of the volunteers and any other visitors about the best spot to find puffins on that day. During our visit we saw one puffin in a little crack at the grandstand viewing platform. Yet the viewpoint at Staple Newk had a dozen or more puffins!
Each viewpoint also has a handy educational sign teaching you about the different sea birds! For example, there are various signs informing you about the different sounds each sea bird makes. Did you know that the sound a puffin makes in its burrow sounds like a muted chainshaw?! Click below to hear the sound a puffin makes!
Bempton Cliffs is a great place to find puffins in Yorkshire as it is safe, picturesque and informative. We spent an age watching the puffins at Bempton on the cliff edge. I never thought we would get this close to a puffin in Yorkshire! Even if you don’t manage to see a puffin on this visit you will love the clifftop walk and watching the other birds. Bempton cliffs is one of the most spectacular spots on the Yorkshire coast. Furthermore, the small entrance fee means you are helping preserve this landscape and protect the birds for the future.
Puffins at Flamborough Head
Another great place to spot puffins in Yorkshire is at Flamborough Head.
Flamborough Head is the most easterly point on Flamborough. Next to the lighthouse are various benches allowing visitors to enjoy the view of Selwicks Bay. You can go down onto the sandy and pebble beach to explore the various rock pools or you can stay up on the cliffs and try to find puffins! You may even spot a seal too!
You can park at either Flamborough Head or North Landing to stand your Flamborough cliffs explorations. Alternatively, you could choose to walk the Flamborough circular. This follow the entire headland thus increasing the chance of spotting puffins!
There is a path that follows the cliffs at Flamborough. Unlike at Bempton Cliffs there are fewer fences so be careful not to walk to close. Also chalk cliffs are softer than other cliffs meaning the likelihood of the earth crumbling away from beneath you is higher! Yet some photographers prefer having no barriers to capturing the puffins and other wildlife at Flamborough Head.
During our visit in late May we saw many of puffins just behind the Flamborough Head fog station. towards the end of the day as the sun was setting there were around 10 puffins on the cliffs. To make the sight even more magical we saw seals below! It was hard to choose whether to look up or down! As a baby seal shuffled on the rocks, the puffins flew about on the cliffs and more seals played in the waves below. What a magical place in Yorkshire!
My only concern was how close Alex was to the cliff edge at some points. He got some incredible shots but I felt dizzy just watching him! I had to distract myself with watching puffins instead.
There was also lots of patches of pink sea thrift to spot as well as epic sea stacks standing isolated in the sea. I was pretty happy that we did not find out until afterwards that Alex had been standing on top of a sea arch. Gulp! This is why you have to be careful on chalk cliffs as you never really know what is beneath you.
Both Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Cliffs are great places to find puffins in Yorkshire.
Best time of Year to see Puffins in Yorkshire
The best time of year to see puffins in Yorkshire is in the months of May and June. Puffins arrive in Yorkshire around March. During this time a puffin couple will breed and give birth to a single chick whom they both raise together. As the chick is very young, puffins tend to stay in the burrows. As they are in the burrows they can be difficult to spot. Yet by mid-May and June the puffins come out of their burrows. In these months they will be eating, chatting, pruning and diving off the cliffs at Bempton and Flamborough.
In July, puffins leave Yorkshire and head back out into the North Sea. Don’t worry though as they will be back next year!
You might also enjoy our videos of puffins on our YouTube channel!
Tips for taking photos of puffins in Yorkshire
Taking photos of puffins or any bird can be a challenge for photographers. Here a few tips for taking photos of puffins:
High Shutter Speed
Birds are constantly moving and in order to get a crisp image you should ensure you have a high shutter speed.
Professional bird photographers have huge lenses enabling them to get close up images of birds. Amateur photographers or those just starting out will probably not have the budget for those lenses. I would advise to bring a DSLR if you have one rather than just rely on your phone. Alternatively, as you can get so close to the puffins you should not need a huge lens to get some great photos!
You may need a lot of patience depending on the day. It is hard to predict exactly when and where the puffins will be. Therefore, wear good shoes and bring plenty of snacks as you may need a while to get that perfect shot.
Cropping & Editing
Editing your photos afterwards will be crucial. Cropping, changing the colours and adding contrast will really bring your puffin photos to life!
How to behave around puffins in Yorkshire
While most visitors behave appropriately around seabirds it is always good to know how to minimise disrupting the seabirds.
Always remember when you are wildlife watching that you are entering their home. Never approach a puffin and try to stay at least 5 meters from them. Similarly, never walk over a puffin’s burrow which could cause it to collapse. Also, whilst we all want to gasp when we finally see a puffin, try to keep loud noises to a minimum around puffins in Yorkshire.
For a full guide there are some great tips on the RSPB website to remember when you are taking photos of puffins.
Would you like to see Puffins in Yorkshire?
Have you been inspired to try and see puffins in Yorkshire? Have you already been to Flamborough Head and seen them? Let us know in the comments below!
We hope this puffins in Yorkshire guide was useful.