|Brownsman's Yellow-breasted Bunting (Ciaran Hatsell)|
|Landing anyone? Brownsman jetty.|
|Not fit for visitor use; boardwalk on Brownsman|
|Fragile soil cap as Brownsman is littered with Puffin burrows|
Monday 9th September comments: The dust has settled after another magical weekend on the Farnes. The weekend produced our 11th Yellow-breasted Bunting, 7th Fea’s Petrel, Corncrake and a few Balearic Shearwaters just for good measure.
The Yellow-breasted Bunting was the real star of the show as it became our eleventh ever and first English record since 2006. The species has gone through a worrying decline throughout its range and the result has seen the species go from an almost annual UK visitor to a very rare vagrant. The last English record was in 2006, until now. Unfortunately a twitch to see the bird was not possible for a number of reasons.
Having managed the very successful twitch on Inner Farne for the Bridled Tern earlier this year, this time it just wasn’t possible. The poor weather prevented any boats from sailing on Friday or Saturday (it even stopped a Lifeboat display!) so any thoughts of allowing access were out of the question before we even started.
In addition to the weather, the bird was on Brownsman; an island off limits and inaccessible to the public. The island has very little infrastructure (in terms of boardwalks) and with the island covered in 18,000 Puffin burrows, it makes life very difficult. The soil cap in recent years has suffered from Grey Seal trampling (over 1000 Grey Seals now moult on Brownsman compared to none just a decade ago) which has resulted in an even more fragile soil cap, which in itself provides a real management dilemma.
Adding in other factors: health & safety concerns, staffing levels to police any events, the fact the jetty is exposed to any sort of easterly wind and swell and can only be accessed between mid-to-high tide only adds fuel to the problem. Finally, the bird has to be the ‘right’ bird; a skulking, elusive individual zipping from one end of the island to the other in deep cover is far from ideal. Brownsman therefore unfortunately remains off limits, just like twenty-nine other islands which make up the Farnes.
As much as we would like to share every bird on here with others, it just isn’t logistically feasible and so apologies if there was felt to be any ambiguity in messages coming from the islands. We will open the Farnes for twitches whenever we can, but before we do this we have to consider the impact on the safety and welfare of the islands wildlife which encompasses breeding birds, migrant birds, seals and a lot more. This is a special place and it is our duty to protect it so anything that could cause it harm and damage is completely out of the question.
It’s been a fantastic year for the islands with some stunning highlights and hopefully this autumn and future years will bring many more birds we can share with people. Here’s to the autumn, best of luck to all the birders across the UK. Bring on the rares!