Tuesday, 2 December 2008

The final week

A bloody bull seal ready to fight another day

A Little Auk - seen in good numbers each autumn around the islands (by Alex Ash)

Inner Farne with the Pele Tower in the background
Its now December and although there is very little evidence of Christmas on the islands, the low temperatures and the limited daylight hours, reminds us otherwise. So it’s the final week out on the islands, as nine months living on the Farnes comes to a close. However its not finished yet, as we’ve got plenty to do, from packing up the islands, to counting more seals, so forget sitting around waiting for Saturday's boat, we’ve got work to do!

Following a settled period of weather, we leave Brownsman for the day to head west to the largest of all the islands, Inner Farne (at a mighty 16 acres!). This spectacular island, once home to St.Cuthbert, houses a Pele Tower, built in 15th century and now home to the warden team on that island. Our mission was to pack, scrub, wash, hover and generally leave the place how we found it - clean. This will enable us all to move to Brownsman for the final few days and so we spent the day shutting down the island for the winter, despite a cool northerly wind blowing, bringing a light scattering of Little Auks to the Farnes.

As for the seal colonies, its heading full circle as the second coat pups start leaving for a life of independence around islands, and its now mating season for the parents. The cow seals mate as soon as the young pups leave and this activity is very evident, as its now time for the bull seals to play their part. If anyone thinks sitting around a colony, waiting to mate is straight forward, then think again. Its not easy being a bull seal as they must defend their patch against rival males and that’s not always easy, as these brutes of the islands have some firepower. At over 300kg, they have some weight to throw around and bruising battles are a common place and although fights never end in death, there are some impressive injuries. On my morning walk I came across several bulls which had been clearly fighting, with blood oozing from deep cuts. Thankfully the thick blubber helps protect the seals from any serious harm, but ouch, it still looks sore. Fighting and mating will go hand-in-hand over the next few weeks and gradually the Farnes colony will return to normal, ready for another year.
As for us, we've nearly completed the task on Inner Farne and we'll head back east, to Brownsman for the final week and hopefully a seal count on Friday. Fingers crossed for some good weather...


kezia said...

So what do you do for 3 months then David and Co ?? Holiday ? It sounds as if you are sorry to leave and would willingly stay there . I love the thought of the islands being packed up - oh and hope you picked up all those beer cans that Gordon and Co left behind !!! I am glad that the weather is being a little kind lets hope it remains settled for your final week so that Bobby can get to you on Saturday .
I am very sad that it is all coming to an end and the next 3 months will be wished away - never a good time of year except for Xmas . Take care all and I shall look forward to the final days but with a touch of sadness .

Jan said...

Kind of sad that it's drawing to a close, but I hope you have some "me" time at Christmas to do whatever you want, and you and your blog will certainly be missed!
Little Auks are so cute, I remember having a conversation with an lady once who insisted they were penguins. On the Norwegian coast?!
We had snoww and sleet in Leicestershire this morning, and it's flipping cold, so I hope the worst of the weather misses you and that you can get away when it's time.
I'm glad Kezia mentioned the beer cans, the photo of Gordon washing up is slightly concerning in the number of bottles and cans visible - those Autumnwatch boys must be a bad influence!