Tuesday 31 March 2009

Moorhen visitor

Tuesday 31st March Comment:
The final day of the month brought yet more settled and warm weather to the islands. Our Zodiac boat was launched for the first time and it was great to get out and about with a quick trip to the mainland (to see the real world, but don’t worry, we returned quickly!). The final preparations were made to the island and that was that, we’re ready for the big opening day which is not far away now. Thankfully all the Puffins are behaving and staying with us, so we might have a few things to show to our first visitors (fingers crossed). The mild weather brought further birding interest as a few more Sandwich Terns arrived whilst Hooded Crow and Moorhen were both recorded (and both rare visitors to the islands having not been seen since spring 2007). It’s strange when you get a bird out of context on the Farnes (we’ve only ever had two Blue Tits recorded!!) and to watch an adult Moorhen disappearing down Puffins burrows is very odd indeed!

Weather: W 2-3, warm and sunny

Highlights: Moorhen 1 adult (first since April 2007), Hooded Crow 1 north (first since April 2007), Corvid Passage including Rook 2 west, Jackdaw 3 west, Carrion Crow 8 west, Sandwich Tern 7 at roost, a light westerly passage of Linnet, Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipits.

Breeding Birds: Its all go and everything is back (for the time of year). The Puffins were scattered across the islands in full show whilst Guillemots were ranked on the cliff tops. Let’s hope they stick around for the grand opening.

Nice Sandwich!

Monday 30th March Comment
The weekends northerly wind was long forgotten as calm, sunny weather reached the Farne Islands. The team enjoyed a day of warm weather combined with a flat sea, ideal for working outside and finding the occasional interesting bird. The final touches to the island were being made in anticipation for Wednesday’s big opening to the public, as the final jetty was scrubbed clean and boardwalks repaired. The highlight of the day was without doubt the return of the Sandwich Terns – all four of them and I’m sure the next few nights will bring even more. The birds, having spent the winter off Africa, are the first to return and the Common and Arctic Terns will follow mid-April. Its an exciting time to be on the Farnes.

Weather: Southerly 2-3, warm and sunny spells

Highlights: Sandwich Tern 4 at the evening roost on Knoxes Reef also: Whooper Swan 12N, Red-throated Diver 1, Goldeneye 4, Chiffchaff 1 (our first of the year), Rock Pipit 1 littoralis race (from Scandinavia), Redwing 1.

Breeding Birds: Everything returned! The sunny calm conditions brought huge numbers of Guillemots to the cliff ledges along with Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags nest building and Puffins to the islands. At least two Wren’s were singing (we only got our first ever breeding record last year, so fingers crossed for some more!

Saturday 28 March 2009

As Cold as Ice

Saturday 28th March Comment
No messing this time. Forget the north-westerly winds, the forecasters got it right, as the islands were hammered by a northerly backed wind, and boy did it blow!! Any wind from the north results in ‘heavy seas’ and a very low chill factor, and yes it was cold, very cold (but were rough tough wardens, so I won’t complain too much…grumble grumble). However the team were cheered up by the appearance of a cracking Iceland Gull and some Long-tailed Ducks, although the chill factor reminded us that spring wasn’t with us just yet. As for work, the team took their foot off the pedal (at the bosses orders) as we relaxed listening to footy and catching up on other bits and pieces.

Weather: N 6-7 occasionally 8, very cold!

Highlights: ICELAND GULL first-winter showed well all afternoon feeding in the ‘kettle’ just off Inner Farne and then going to roost – our first Iceland Gull on the Farnes since April 2007. Others: Red-throated Diver 2, Long-tailed Duck 12, Goldeneye 3, Purple Sandpiper 72.

Breeding Birds: Nothing. The strong winds from the north have moved everything on including the Puffins and now the Shags, and it feels a very quiet island. It’ll take a while for everything to return and thoughts of potential early nesting have long since evaporated.

Friday 27 March 2009

Windy Days

Its hard to believe, seven days ago the team were departing Seahouses...

Sunday 27th March Comment
Another day, another windy day, but this time even stronger! The shipping forecast mentioned “gales in all areas” and it wasn’t wrong, as the wind whipped across the North Sea and battered the islands. Looking ahead, there appears no change for Saturday, so it’s a case of keeping those hatches battered down. Despite the wind, the team went about business, getting on with bits of work including painting the dormitory (where painting everything at the moment, but jobs inside were high on the agenda), as well as other bits including scrubbing jetties and sorting the visitor centre out.

Weather: NW 8 occasionally 9 (that storm force!!) with bright sunshine

Highlights: Once again, the weather dominated and bird highlights were few with a bit of seawatching bringing Red-throated Diver and Common Scoter, otherwise it was quiet.

Breeding Birds: The Puffins remained on the islands including an individual with complete white wing tips!! Despite this, apart from the Shags, no other breeding seabirds were present and it still feels very quiet and we’re still waiting for our first Sandwich Tern.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Puffins return

Puffins Galore - scattered over Inner Farne today

Thursday 26th March Comments: We appear to be stuck in a cycle of strong winds, as the islands were buffered by north-westerly winds reaching gale force on occasions. However it didn’t prevent the team from working, as we continued working on various projects including the construction of a new water-pump housing and painting of the toilet block (we really do turn our hands to everything). Despite all the hard work, the team do have regular breaks to appreciate the returning Puffins and the Peregrine which buzzed the inner group, all part of island a day in the life.

Weather: NW 6 increasing up to 8 (gale force) with bright sunshine

Highlights: Whooper Swan 24 north through Inner Sound – the good showing continues, Peregrine adult male lingering swooping at Puffins and Pigeons, Wren - the male continues to sing daily in the veg garden, Jackdaw one west (a scarce visitor!!!).

Breeding Birds: Puffins return! Following four days away the majority of the population returned to the islands, landing on Inner Farne early morning and remaining throughout the day (despite the wind). Guillemots and Razorbills were still scarce although Fulmars were back, cackling away on cliff ledges. As usual, the Shags remain tight at nest sites whilst Cormorants remained around the two main nesting colonies.

Wednesday 25th March Comments
Some of the team which had being away on the mainland (and stuck their last night) finally returned to the island mid-morning. It was a warm welcome and the team were back together, but very little was evident for the returning lads, as breeding birds and migrants were scarce.

Weather: NW 4-5 (so still windy) but bright sunshine

Highlights: Another quiet day all round for birds, with very few migrants or breeding birds to mention. The islands remain empty although its not unexpected at this time of year, as the breeding birds remain erratic especially if its windy (which it is!!). So very little comment for today - but its still early days.

Monday 23 March 2009

Stormy Days

View from the Pele Tower (Inner Farne) looking at the 'white tops' of the waves

A very quiet Inner Farne, no birds and very little vegetation

Monday 23rd March Comment
The day brought complete contrast to the previous few days as the islands were hammered by strong north-westerly winds, reaching gale force on occasions. Some of the team had departed the previous night for two days of power-boat training (essential for all Farne wardens), leaving a skeleton crew to get on with the work on the islands. However the strong winds ensured all jobs were inside, with more painting of the lighthouse cottage and general sorting of the rooms. Otherwise we battened down the hatches and let the storm rip across the islands, although I’m starting to worry I might not get the rest of the team back tomorrow night if this wind continues. The problems of living on an island…

Weather: NW 7 occasionally gale force 8 with sleet showers

Highlights: very few!! The strong winds made birding very difficult and very few birds made it to the islands today

Breeding Birds:
Almost everything has disappeared from Farne waters, including Fulmars, as the strong gale force winds have unsettled any attempts at early nesting. However despite this, the Shags remain in good numbers although the early nest structures are starting to feel the affects of the strong winds.

Sunday 22 March 2009

A day for painting

Sunday 22nd March Comments
It’s a busy time for the warding team as we prepare the island for all the visitors and breeding birds which we’ll see over the next nine months. Today brought a change in the weather as strong north-westerly winds buffered the islands, restricting bird movement and warden activities! However despite the wind, the team set about upgrading the ‘Roseate Tern Terrace’ on the island, ready for the forthcoming breeding season. The task of weeding and re-sanding took the majority of the morning whilst the afternoon was spent painting two rooms in the lighthouse cottage and generally cleaning the accommodation. The bird highlight of the day came in the form of a stunning Glaucous Gull just off Inner Farne, whilst we eagerly anticipate our first Sandwich Tern arrival any day soon.

Weather: NW 5-6 occasionally 7 with bright sunshine

Whooper Swan – a total 75 recorded moving north early morning – a new Farnes day count, Merlin 1 chasing a Pipit in spectacular fashion (but failed to catch it), GLAUCOUS GULL first-winter individual drifting into first-summer plumage, showed well in the ‘Kettle’ just off Inner Farne, Grey Wagtail 1 on beach.

Breeding Birds:
Shags remain and continue to nest build whilst Kittiwake numbers increase slightly. However all the Auks (Puffins etc) were scarce and appear to have departed Farne waters for the time being with the onset of the windy weather. Wren – male singing in vegetable garden.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Wardens Return

VERY distant Whooper Swans flying north over St.Cuthberts Chapel, Inner Farne

The Farne Island warden team return for another season - a full round-up will be given in the near future.

Saturday 21st March


Whooper Swan 4N, Goldeneye 8, Long-tailed Duck 3, Lapwing 1W, Short-eared Owl 1 west, Peregrine 1, Wheatear 1 female - first of the year, Blackbird influx (25+), Snow Bunting 1N, Goldfinch 1.

Mallards discovered one eggs - two nests - 11 and 10 eggs, very few Puffins or Guillemots, Shags and Cormorants present in good numbers, Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipits singing.

Porpoise 3 in Inner Sound, Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, Lumpsucker fish predated by GBB Gull

Friday 20th March

Highlights: Wardens return to islands!!

Whooper Swan 35N (a Farne record count), Peregrine 1, Woocock (flushed), Red-breasted Merganser, Snipe,

Huge numbers of Auks - Puffins galore on the islands, Guillemots on cliff tops, Shags on well built nests.