There was an incredible start to the last week in March at RSPB Bempton Cliffs as visitors, volunteers and staff were treated to an amazing display from a pod of travelling bottlenose dolphins.

  Image: Ian Crossley


Estimates suggest there were around 25 adults moving southerly towards Flamborough, just 50 metres from the cliff. The dolphins were seen ‘breaching’ the waves and a young calf was clearly visible. 


Dolphins can swim at a top speed of around 18mph – which would give an Olympic swimmer a run for their money – but the ones spotted from the cliff tops were happy to stop and play, giving photographers the chance to capture some great images.


Site Manager, Dave O’Hara said:


‘In all probability, it’s the search for food that brings them our way.  Bottlenose dolphins enjoy a varied diet including cod, herring, sandeels and haddock – and the North Sea is one great big larder for them. Maintaining this food source is one reason why protecting our oceans is so vital’. 


The panoramic views from the cliff top viewing platforms make the award-winning Yorkshire nature reserve one of the best places along the coast to scan the sea for cetaceans and recent years have seen a marked increase in sightings – including minke whales and a humpback whale. 


It’s also been possible to identify visiting dolphins from distinctive markings such as nicks and scars on their dorsal fins. Using these techniques, experts confirm there have been regular visits from a population that live in the Moray Firth, in North East Scotland. 


Each year the Bempton Cliffs’ team takes part in the annual Seawatch Foundation Whale and Dolphin Watch week, collecting and recording data on sightings to help build a greater understanding of these a much-loved creatures.  This year’s event runs from 24 July-1 Aug.