Posted by: Ross Gardner | April 17, 2016

Seabirds and Stripy Cliffs

Like many before and surely many who are destined to visit there in the future, I love the Norfolk coast.  It is one of surprising diversity, with its wide-sweeping beaches, where the low tide might reveal as much as a kilometre wide band of flat sand, which with the turning tide is reclaimed by the sea at alarming speed, or where in reveals itself as heaped shore of storm-battered shingle taking the brunt of the North Sea gales.  A coast that can harbour sprawling mazes of runnel-ridden salt-marsh, hazed mauve or yellow in the summer when sea-lavender and golden samphire colour the glaucous sward, but which in winter are touched with a wildness when the sights and sounds of wintering birds fill any spaces left by the absence of colour and the buzz of smaller wings.  There are even cliffs, which being of modest height in comparison to others elsewhere in the country, still rise above their shores enough to gape the vast openness of the sea wider still.

Hunstanton Cliffs. Ross Gardner 2016.

Hunstanton Cliffs. Ross Gardner 2016.

It is somewhere which is, for me, always heavy with nostalgia, with memories of many a family holiday spent there in my childhood, something which is present whenever I return.  It was especially potent on a visit to the stripy cliffs of Hunstanton, during a visit a week or so ago for the first time in what must be nearly 30 years.  The banding of the rock face here is the result of the laying down of successive layers of chalk and sandstone during the Cretaceous Period around 100 million years ago.  As much as the banded cliffs and having at that time never experience any other seabird colonies with their auks and Kittiwakes, I was always fascinated by Hunstanton’s colony of Fulmar.  They are still inhabiting the rocky ledges.  We saw many pairs, sat face to face on their private piece of the cliff, billing and… well, not exactly cooing, but engaging in softly babbling, squawking ‘conversation’, presumably part of their pair-bonding.  Some were gliding along the cliff-face and over the sea of characteristically stiff, straight wings, on so expert a flight that scarcely required a flap.

I think I shall have to be back to this coast again sooner rather than later.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) on Hunstanton Cliffs.  Ross Gardner 2016.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) on Hunstanton Cliffs. Ross Gardner 2016.


  1. Great post!

    • Thanks. Very kind of you to say so.

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