Sunday, 16 November 2008

Engine Trouble!

The Zodiac boat - a tool of the trade!

Seal Pups on Northern Hares opposite the famous Longstone Lighthouse

Seal Pups on the South Wamses

Mid-November and its hectic as usual on the Farne Islands. Its the height of the pupping season on the main island colonies, with huge numbers of new pups being born daily. The island of Brownsman has been invaded as we're now up to 93 pups whilst nearby Staple Island has tallied almost 200 pups. However we've not completed the count and North and South Wamses should be home to even more, so tomorrow should be another busy day.
Living on an island with Grey Seals is very different from the 'real world' across on the mainland (which does feel a million miles away at times). Forget the sound of traffic or children playing in the streets, we've got the cry of the pups, the occasional sound of a bull fight and the calling of the cows to keep us company. Even when darkness falls, Seals can still be heard as they go about their daily business. However its not all that simple, as walking outside the front door has now got its own problems, as two mothers (complete with pups) have made home on our boardwalk. Its now a case of dodging the angry mum before continuing the walk to the jetty. This scene is typical and will only get worse over the coming few weeks but its a nice problem to have as its nature up close and personal!
For the team it was just another day on Brownsman although a count was expected to be made on the most easterly island, Northern Hares. However not all went according to plan... The wardens heavily rely upon the small Zodiac boat we have for policing the islands and getting to the important colonies. However its every wardens nightmare that one day you'll run into difficulty and so we did. Despite all precautions, experience and training, the main boat engine cut out as we were heading to the Northern Hares to count seals. After a few anxious minutes, the boat started drifting and its at this point that skills come into play and thankfully the problem was rectified although the count was abandoned for a return to Brownsman to sort the problem. I'm sure a bead of sweat could be seen trickling across my brow...
So its onwards and upwards. More counting (hopefully with a fixed engine) and more pups to welcome to the crazy world of the Farnes. We're still on here for another three weeks so plenty more news to bring and surely this is the week that Nemo and Lucky will finally make it, but what about little Archie? Oh and one final bit of news: the forecasters are saying we've got big Northerly storms due at the end of the week... thats not good news, not good at all.


kezia said...

a1947Oh my goodness David I am sure there must have been more than a bead of sweat !!!! I would have definately gone into panic mode for sure .
The Farnes Islands are so close to the mainland but as you say must seem like a million miles at times - a question if you have time - on how many islands do the seals breed ? I am sure Nemo and Lucky will be fine and now you have me a little worried about Archie - my Archie is really good and feeding well and putting on weight already so lets hope his name sake is doing the same . I am printing all your updates and photos for him and I hope he will love the seals as he grows up - if I have anything to do with it he will !!!
Take care all of you and hope the weather stays good for a few days - hope you have fixed the boat !! Great another 3 weeks yet - well you might not be saying that I guess .

Farnes said...

Thanks and yes, I was a bit worried about that engine! Anyway Seals breed on 10 islands: North Wamses, South Wamses (Farnes biigest breeding colony and home to Archie), Brownsman, Staple Island, Nameless Rock, Big Harcar, Longstone End, Longstone Main, Northern Hares and Crumstone!! I'll check Archie tomorrow and keep you informed. Best wishes

David Steel
Head Warden