Thursday 30 April 2009

Another Goodie!

Thursday 30th April

WRYNECK - 1 seen on Staple Island and present all afternoon on Staple Island - a full update will be posted tomorrow evening with all the bird news from the past few days. The islands experienced a light scattering of migrants and with May approaching, its all go!

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Rare-throated Pipit!!

The lingering summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit

A migrant Lesser Whitethroat

Female Eider duck on the rocks
Tuesday 28th April
An interesting day, but a cold day – it felt like mid-winter as the wind picked up throughout the day from the east, plummeting the temperatures. However visitors returned to the islands after yesterday’s no-show (albeit with gloves, hats and winter clothing) and the birders amongst the team got very excited as migrant birds started dropping in, including a stunningly rare Red-throated Pipit – the first real rarity for the year for the islands. The big news from the breeding seabirds is that the Puffins are now on eggs.

Weather: S swinging to E 1-2 increasing 4-5, overcast with drizzle on occasions – yes it was cold (felt like mid-winter)

Highlights: RED-THROATED PIPIT 1 adult summer plumage – found by Adam Scott and Joe Cockram by the pond on Brownsman. The bird showed well on open ground before flying towards the south end of the island after ten minutes (chased by resident Rock Pipits). Sadly, despite an extensive search, the bird could not be refound – to the disappointment of the Inner Farne team. This represents the sixth Farnes record of this rare eastern migrant with previous records including singles on 22 May 2007, October 2005, September 1997, May 1991 and May 1974. Unfortunately, the bird was not photographed, as no camera was available for the ten minutes it was seen – frustrating all round!!

Other highlights: Manx Shearwater 1N, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit (for third day), Bar-tailed Godwit 30, Knot 70, Tree Pipit 2, Fieldfare 2 (late stragglers), Reed Warbler (first of the year), Whitethroat (first of the year), Lesser Whitethroat 6, Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap and Goldcrest 2.

Breeding birds: first Puffin eggs discovered on Inner Farne – we should have chicks by late May, Guillemots – a good majority now on eggs, Mallard still with duckling, Eiders continue to advance onto the islands in good numbers including one nesting at the door of the Pele Tower and Shelduck pair lingering.

Breaking News


RED-THROATED PIPIT 15:30, Brownsman near pond - more news to follow.

Monday 27 April 2009

Seals Galore!

A first-year Grey Seal, out on the rocks
A splendid female Blackcap

Monday 27th April
At last - rain! The Farnes has had a good spell of sunny weather and its almost six weeks since we have had any rain (honest it’s been that dry!). So drizzle late afternoon was most welcome and I took a walk out around the island at the same time, which was rather refreshing. As well as rain, the day also brought a stiff breeze from the south resulting in no boats sailing today, but as usual, the team didn’t stand still, as strimming and cleaning were on the agenda (as well as plenty of paperwork for this head warden….it was a Monday after all).

A check of the Grey Seals reveals numbers are high as it’s a great time to see them, as most are in a state of moult and prefer to be on land, so they can scratch their winter coats off (good amounts of fur can be found on the rocks at present). The islands are currently littered with seals, with most of the bulls on the South Wamses whilst the cows appear to be lingering around Longstone. The first-year animals (last years young pups including Nemo and Lucky) can be found scattered across all the islands including on the jetty on Inner Farne yesterday, so we’ve still got them with us in good numbers. However they don’t really go anywhere, so anytime is a good time to see Seals on the Farnes although admittedly, nothing quite beats the autumn!

As for birds, a drake Garganey brought a splash of colour to the islands today whilst Little Terns have returned – with two appearing at the evening roost on Saturday 25th April and have been with us since. The birds increase throughout May, roosting on the beach on Inner Farne, until dispersing to nearby breeding colonies along the Northumberland coast (they don’t breed on the islands!). At present we have 8 tonight, but no doubt more will follow. Interestingly the Farnes had a bat last night (a real rare out here) as one was seen hawking around the Chapel on Inner Farne at dusk probably our only sighting of the year! One bit of happy news: the Mallard chicks from one nest have hatched – out first chicks of the year.

Weather: S 5-6 decreasing 4 with drizzle, overcast

Highlights: Manx Shearwater 1 north – our first of the year, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 summer plumage, Black-tailed Godwit 1 summer plumage bird on Brownsman, Sandwich Tern 800, Arctic Tern 146, Little Tern 7, Garganey – stunning drake in the kettle off Inner Farne – the Farnes 18th record and the first since 4th May 2006, Collared Dove – our first of the year – very uncommon out here, House Martin, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Goldcrest.

Breeding birds: Mallard with 15 ducklings on pond today having hatched young from the nest in the Lighthouse compound, more Guillemots with eggs, another increase in nesting Eiders, Red-breasted Merganser – the breeding pair return to Farnes waters, Kittiwakes nest building and Sandwich Terns inspecting nest sites.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Harrier Fly-by

Distant shot of todays Hen Harrier over the Farnes

Lesser Redpoll on Brownsman
Saturday 25th April
Welcome to another weekend on the Farnes and the day started brightly as the Farnes 14th ever Hen Harrier was seen heading directly out to sea, over Longstone Lighthouse and beyond – a quality bird and a great start. The day brought yet more migrant birds to the islands including a Mistle Thrush – an uncommon bird out here whilst a late Fieldfare was probably going to follow the Harrier out to sea at some stage!! Other new birds for the year included our first Tree Pipits of the year, in the lighthouse compound of Inner Farne. Despite the warm sunny conditions, visitor numbers remained low, but it was just a pleasure to be out here (although as head warden, I was away at a boat fare so missed all the fun!). Having returned, there is another BQ scheduled and some football practice – we need it – we’ve got a rematch to win!

Weather: ESE 1-3 with mist patches

Highlights: Peregrine adult, Hen Harrier ‘ringtail’ east out to sea – probably migrating to Scandinavia – only 14th Farne record and third spring sighting ever, Sandwich Tern 600+, Arctic Tern 37+, Bar-tailed Godwit 2, Black-tailed Godwit 1 summer plumage on Staple, Dunlin 2, Tree Pipit 2, Wheatear 10, Mistle Thrush 1, Fieldfare 1, Song Thrush 1, Lesser Whitethroat 4, Willow Warbler 5, Chiffchaff 5, Blackcap female, Lesser Redpoll 2, Goldfinch 5 inc 1 singing

Breeding Birds: Fulmars copulating, Terns continue to increase in numbers, Black-headed Gull nest building, Puffins head back to sea and almost all gone by mid-afternoon.

Friday 24 April 2009

Aches and Pains

Ringed Plover - caged, safe and happy - incubating four eggs

Sandwich Terns galore over Inner Farne
Friday 24th April
The aftermath of the football continues to sink in, as some of my wardens are still recovering, but we remain very optimistic for the reply, as at least we’ve played together as a team now! Anyway the boat lads ensured we didn’t forget the game, as a visiting school group started singing 4-2 as the boat moored to the jetties. Those boatmen know how to rub it in, but thankfully we saw the funny side…

Back to the islands, the team (mainly with aches and pains), went about the daily visitor work and other bits and pieces, as the islands have started to ‘hot up’. The breeding seabirds continue to advance up the islands, with Eiders increasing on a daily basis, whilst more and more Terns appear daily. The week has been quiet for visitors as the end of the Easter holiday has seen a reduction in numbers (but that’ll change soon) and everything appears to be ticking along very nicely indeed (including the preparation of Staple Island to open to the public on 1st May).

Interesting migrant birds continue to arrive daily including our first Lesser Whitethroats of the year today – although one had to be rescued from the female toilets early this morning – an interesting way to mark your arrival from sub-Saharan African!!

Weather: S 4-5 occasionally 6, overcast and cold!

Highlights: Common Scoter 150 on sea Inner Sound, Sparrowhawk female, Bar-tailed Godwit 1 on beach, Sandwich Tern 554, Arctic Tern 14, Common Tern 3, Mediterranean Gull 1st summer yet again, Yellow Wagtail 6 together on Inner Farne (an impressive number for Farnes), Fieldfare 1, Redstart male, Wheatear 9, Lesser Whitethroat 2 (first of the year), Willow Warbler 2, Chiffchaff 5, Blackcap 1 and Lesser Redpoll 1 west.

Breeding birds: Nesting female Eider numbers increase, Oystercatcher observed nest scraping, Ringed Plovers incubating in protected nest sites (caged against predation), Puffins return in big numbers (a bit scarce in past two days), Sandwich Terns landing at main colony site on Inner Farne with plenty displaying over islands, Black-headed Gull nest building, Arctic Terns displaying, Pied Wagtail sitting on five eggs in nest box, Rock Pipits nest building.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Wardens Fall as Boatmen Hit Four

Wednesday 22nd April
Farne Islands Wardens 2 - 4 Seahouses Boatmen
The victorious Boatmen team
The aftermath - the warden team discuss where they went wrong

The anticipated National Trust Farne Island wardens vs Seahouses boatmen kicked off at 7pm on Wednesday evening. It was a lively start to the game, as the boatmen pressed forward but it was the wardens who broke through, with a decisive move being clinically finished by Steel. The wardens, buoyed on by the break through, surged forward in another quick counter attack and good control by Moss, saw the striker finish to put the wardens two nil up.

However the scoreline flattered the wardens slightly, as the lively Pringle (Glad Tidings 6 skipper), was pulling the threads for the boatmen, causing the wardens constant problems throughout. It wasn’t long before the boatmen were back in the game, as a fine volley (and goal of the match) by dangerman Craig (Glad Tidings 3 skipper), brought the scores back to 2-1. The wardens remained resolute with some good defending from McDonald and Hick, backed by the energetic sweeper Scott, but couldn’t prevent an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. A speculative shot from boatman Weightman (Glad Tidings 4 boat-hand), somehow managed to creep into the bottom corner of the net to bring the scores level on the stroke of half-time.

The blow of throwing away a two goal lead appeared to affect the wardens, as the start of the second half started badly. Defensive frailties and a rejuvenated boatmen team had their noses in front as Weightmen struck again, only minutes after the restart. The wardens, unable to deal with the constant attacking play, soon fell further behind as a slick move was finished by Pringle, to put the boatmen in firm control.

Thereafter the wardens settled and started playing some neat football again, with good running from Cockram, whilst Moss, Steel and Still all going close, but the goal which may have spurred a fight back could not be found. The final whistle blew after one hour of entertaining football and the wardens, despite defeat, can take some positives for the next game, in hope of reversing the defeat. The local bragging rights now fall to the boatmen, but not for long...

Boatman man of the match: Peter Dawson
Wardens man of the match: Adam Scott

Tuesday 21 April 2009

What a Hoot!

Our Long-eared Owl, roosting for the day in the Lighthouse compound, Inner Farne

Visitors enjoying views of our Owl visitor!

Tuesday 21st April
One assurance about the Farnes I can give everyone is that we have plenty of unpredictable weather! Today brought a mixed bag, as we started sunny and calm, went to drizzle and rain and then back to sunny and calm!!

Despite the weather, the visitors enjoyed another day on the islands, with Puffins and co all showing well. However there was one added attraction – a migrant Long-eared Owl which had pitched up in the Lighthouse compound on Inner Farne. The bird, possibly heading for Scandinavia, was discovered early morning and remained throughout the day. With some quick thinking, we opened up the pathway, staffed the area and enabled everyone to view this unique visitor. Those who saw the bird (most of the people who visited the island), enjoyed great views and it was well received, especially by a handful of American birders. So one minute Puffins, then Spoonbill and now Owls – it’s never dull out here! Stop Press – crikey its all go – female Marsh Harrier was watched as it battled its way westwards towards the mainland mid-afternoon – only the Farnes seventeenth and the earliest ever – there goes another record!!

The build up to the ‘big’ match continues, as the Farnes team prepare to take on the local boatmen in a game of football tomorrow evening. I’m not sure how we’ll cope, with very little training, but we’ll give it our best shot and don’t be surprised to see a match report on this blog in the very near future…

Weather: W1-2 increasing NW 3-4 sunny spells with occasional drizzle! Mixed!

Highlights: Marsh Harrier female west mobbed by Gulls, Long-eared Owl 1 showing well in Lighthouse compound, Merlin adult, Sandwich Tern 400+, Arctic Tern 3, Sand Martin 2 north, Swallow 16, Wheatear 3, Redstart male for sixth day, Willow Warbler 6, Chiffchaff 5, Blackcap 1 and Goldfinch.

Breeding birds: Not much to report as more birds settle and Tern numbers continue to increase including the appearance of three Arctic Terns, Shelduck remain, Guillemots – more eggs including some predated by large Gulls.

Monday 20 April 2009

A Little Gem

Adult Little Gull, seen this morning over the islands

Male Blackcap on passage through the islands

Monday 20th April
Welcome to Monday on the Farnes – admittedly, it’s just another day out here and we do forget which day it is until my telephone starts to ring every five minutes (well it feels like that) which indicates it’s a Monday and everyone else is back to work. However life on the ‘rock’ is still going well, the team enjoyed the warm sunny weather with flat clam seas, and the sight of two Porpoise near the islands got the day off to a good start.

The bird highlight of the day was a stunning summer plumage adult Little Gull – a smart addition to the ‘year list’, whilst a few migrants lingered on. The breeding birds continued to settle and more Eiders arrived. With regard to visitors, it was noticeable that the school holidays were over as the number of visitors reduced, but those which did make it, enjoyed the sights sounds and smells (nothing to do with the wardens!) of the Farnes on such a stunning day.

Weather: SW 1-2, sunny and bright, very calm conditions

Highlights: Gannet 559N in 30mins, Purple Sandpiper 115, Bar-tailed Godwit 100, Whimbrel 1, Little Gull 1 adult, Sandwich Tern 392, Common Tern 1, Swallow 15 north, ‘White Wagtail’ 1 male on Inner Farne, Redwing 1 late bird, Song Thrush 2, Robin 10, Blackcap 2, Willow Warbler 9, Chiffchaff 3 and Goldfinch 1.

Porpoise 2 seen together through Inner Sound

Breeding birds: Razorbills copulating, plenty of Guillemots and Puffins now settled, Shags still laying, Eiders still arriving on the islands looking for suitable nest sites, Rock Pipit with nest material.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Over the Spoon!

A male Eider at his best

One flew over Brownsman - adult Spoonbill heading north

And don't come back...a Herring Gull see's off the Spoonbill

Sunday 19th April
It was a good weekend, as warm sunny conditions prevailed over the islands resulting in plenty of breeding bird activity although surprisingly, not that many visitors. The team enjoyed the pleasant conditions and we even managed to escape to the mainland for a few well deserved pints on Saturday evening (hence the lack of blog details yesterday and oh yes, my footy team won!).

However the announcement comes in the form of the first annual football match between the Wardens and Seahouses boatmen has been arranged. The game has been scheduled for this Wednesday evening in Seahouses, kick-off 18:30 and there’s plenty at stake, especially the local bragging rights, so I’d best get my team into training – for those who know me, they’ll tell you I don’t like losing, especially to the boatmen…. Let battle commence!

Back to island action and we had some….A Spoonbill!!!! The bird was discovered at 07:50 this morning drifting over the south end of the islands before heading north towards Holy Island. This spectacular visitor has been recorded on the Farnes on seven previous occasions involving ten individuals and this was the first since two flew south through Staple Sound on 19 August 2006. Records for the Farnes have increased in recent years following the first in 1988 with other records in 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Weather: S 3-4 with bright sunshine and warm conditions

Highlights: Spoonbill north at 07:50, Gannet 1,194 north in one hour count, Whimbrel 1 (6 yesterday), Wood Pigeon on Longstone, ‘White Wagtail’ on Longstone, Wheatear 6, Song Thrush 1, Robin 17, Willow Warbler 13, Chiffchaff 5, Blackcap 3, Grasshopper Warbler 1 still on Brownsman, Carrion Crow 20 – good passage, Goldfinch 3. Evening roost: Sandwich Tern 310, Arctic Tern 2, Common Tern 1 and Common Gull 97.
Breeding Birds: Puffins very settled on islands, Guillemots – the first eggs were discovered on Inner Farne, Eider at least five females now nesting (700 to go then!), Black-headed Gull settling at nesting colony on Inner Farne, Wren carrying nest material, Pied Wagtail with 5 eggs using nest box near Lighthouse.

Friday 17 April 2009

Incoming Migrants

Dirty Puffin spring cleaning its burrow

A stunning Kittiwake at its nest site

Fulmar in flight
Friday 17th April
The turbulent start to the season continued, as the north-easterly winds prevented boats from sailing although the Puffins and Guillemots were evident in good numbers. It was a quieter day for the team as for the first time in a while, they took the foot of the pedal and enjoyed the surroundings of the islands. Despite this, we did achieve a few things including laying a laminate floor (yes, it was a nightmare) and painting marker stones for breeding bird monitoring. The islands experienced an increase of common migrants, especially during the late afternoon – something which often happens on the Farnes. The Grasshopper Warblers remained on Brownsman whilst other bird numbers increased including a good number of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

Weather: NE 5-6 dec 4, with bright sunshine

Highlights: A good selection of common migrants including an influx mid-afternoon across the islands including: Skylark 1, Wheatear 6, Redwing 2, Robin 11, Willow Warbler 21, Chiffchaff 16, Blackcap 10, Grasshopper Warbler 2 remain on Brownsman, Brambling 4, Reed Bunting 1.

Breeding Birds: A good day with Guillemots and Puffins back in good numbers, Fulmars copulating for the first time, Kittiwake's started collecting mud for nest building activity, Shelduck breeding pair remain, Ringed Plover – a second pair successfully caged for protection against predation, Oystercatcher displaying, Pied Wagtail – five pairs across the islands (we’ll have hopefully have seven eventually).

Thursday 16 April 2009

One becomes Two!

One of two very pale Willow Warblers on Brownsman today

Male 'White Wagtail' on Brownsman

Male Brambling taking advantage of the islands as a resting stop

Nothing quite like the Farnes for views - a Grasshopper Warbler on the Boardwalk

Thursday 16th April
The fog cleared and the islands were visible from the mainland, as normality returned to the Farnes. The Auks which had disappeared the previous day returned gradually whilst visitor boats returned to the open sea, bringing plenty of people to enjoy the returning Puffins and other breeding birds. The warden team also enjoyed the delights of several migrant birds passing through the islands, including two Grasshopper Warblers together on Brownsman (doubling yesterdays total) in the same vegetable garden plot, whilst a passage ‘White Wagtail’ was a nice addition.

For the birders reading the blog, the reasonable number of common migrants which graced the islands today including two pale Willow Warblers on Brownsman. Both birds showed very little colouration apart from a greenish-tinge on the rump but generally grey and white in colour, with dark legs. Any comments would be most welcome.

Weather: NE swinging E 2-3 inc 4 with mist patches

Highlights: A good day with plenty of migrants on the islands including: ‘White Wagtail’ ♂ on Brownsman, Redstart ♂ Inner Farne, Wheatear 9, Song Thrush 1, Redwing 1, Blackbird 6, Grasshopper Warbler 2 (both together on Brownsman), Willow Warbler 18 including 2 very pale northern individuals - see photos, Chiffchaff 4, Blackcap 2 and Brambling 3 including one stunning ♂.

Breeding Birds: The Guillemots and Puffins gradually returned during the day following yesterday’s absence, another Mallard nest was found on Brownsman (second on that island), the first nesting Eider laid eggs on Inner Farne but sadly one clutch of Ringed Plover eggs was predated on Inner Farne by a large Gull

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Creeping Beauty

A cracking bird - the Farnes earliest ever Grasshopper Warbler

A migrant Willow Warbler passing through the islands

A quiet Brownsman in foggy conditions

Wednesday 15th April
Fog bound and cut off! That summed up the day and whilst parts of the UK was basking in sunshine, we had low temperatures and thick fog. I can’t really complain as we’ve just had a great spell of weather and these conditions can bring in some odd migrant birds to the islands – which it did! The thick fog and cool easterly breeze resulted in the closure of the islands to the public as the visitors boats failed to sail and they weren’t the only ones missing from the islands as all the Auks disappeared!

Having thought all the birds were settling on the islands, the Puffins and Guillemots were gone, back to sea and away from the Farnes. This behaviour is typical for the time of year and no doubt they’ll be back, but probably not until tomorrow at the earliest. Away from the breeding birds, the highlight of the day was a crazy Grasshopper Warbler, the Farnes earliest ever record, which ran about on the ground (they don’t like flying!) at the observers feet. The creeping little critter showed well and the ‘walking not flying’ policy is very typical of the family group, and was another good early highlight for the Farnes.

As for the team, they never seem to sit still, and despite the lack of visitors, they went about work as usual, with more painting – this time the kitchen on Brownsman, whilst jetty scrubbing, vegetation management and pumping seawater were also on the agenda.

Weather: Thick fog with E 1-2 all day

Highlights: Wheatear 9, Blackbird 4, Blackcap 1, Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 1, Grasshopper Warbler 1 on Brownsman (earliest ever Farnes record surpassing an individual on 17th April 2000), Siskin 5 over

Breeding birds: The Auks were completely absent all day although Shags, Fulmars and Kittiwakes remained loyal to the cliff ledges. Due to the thick fog, there was no counts of the Sandwich Tern roost, whilst a third nest of Ringed Plovers was discovered.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Sunny Days

Chatting away; Puffins at dusk

One of our breeding Pied Wagtails

Last of the winter visotrs, a late Fieldfare, feeding up ready for departure north.

Tuesday 14th April
Busy busy busy!! It’s been a hectic four days as the glorious sunshine brought plenty of people to the islands and the breeding birds matched that activity. The weather remained settled, although the foggy spells caused a few problems with our plans, but like anything on the islands, the team adapt and work around such small problems (honest!). Breeding bird activity has increased, migrant birds continue to increase in numbers as they move north through the islands and it’s been a generally good period for the Farnes.

However it always helps to remain vigilant, as a young boy visiting the islands with his family, spotted a Puffin in distress, as its left wing had become trapped. Thankfully some quick reactions from the resident team helped free the bird, which was released unharmed and the young lad took the plaudits – a Farnes warden in the making!!! Other than that, all is well on the islands, the team enjoyed a night on Brownsman for the first time and some of the lads remained out there to start preparing for a full opening. However the fine weather is about to come to a shuddering halt, as the wind is forecast to blow from the east….just what the birders amongst the team want, as more migrant birds will no doubt appear.

Weather: A warm sunny weekend and ban holiday with very light winds and occasional foggy patches

Today’s Highlights: Sandwich Tern 300+ at roost, Mediterranean Gull – first summer lingering, Redstart – a cracking male on Brownsman – first of the year, Black Redstart female on Longstone Main, Willow Warbler 4, Blackcap 2, Blackbird 3, Song Thrush 2 and Fieldfare. A ‘White Wagtail’ was noted on Saturday on Inner Farne.

Breeding birds: Shags – more eggs discovered as good numbers are well settled, Cormorants now on eggs at the three breeding colonies, Shelduck – the pair continue to check islands for suitable nest burrows, Mallards six pairs nesting, Eider – the first females prospecting for nest sites on Brownsman and Inner Farne, Ringed Plovers - a second nest of three eggs discovered, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills now settled on cliff ledges, Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipits nest building – its all go!

Friday 10 April 2009

Ringled Plover Eggs!

Puffin after a 'spring clean' of its burrow

Introducing Brownsman Senior Warden; Adam Scott
Thursday 9th April
The wind switched, but not to our advantage as the islands remained closed for a second day to visitors, as the sea state was poor! The team enjoyed another day of practical work, as they worked away at various projects including the construction of a Ringed Plover cage – a handy devise which allows the Ringed Plovers access to their nest but prevents raiding predators from stealing their eggs. Bird protection at its best! As its quiet for news, I’ll start introducing my team, and no doubt embarrassing them in the process! This year’s team is very new, with only one returnee; Adam Scott.

Adam is in his second year and will be Senior Warden on Brownsman, having had an enjoyable first year on the islands. Adam is a popular member of the team although coming from London, usually takes some stick from the northern boys amongst us. However as a supporter of the mighty Arsenal, he can usually keep us quiet, especially the boatmen who remain loyal to Newcastle United. His claim to fame is that his right ear once appeared on a Question of Sport – he told me that, just don’t ask.

Weather: SSW 4-5 inc 6 with bright sunshine

Highlights: Mediterranean Gull first-summer remained for third day on Knoxes Reef, Sandwich Tern 161, Fieldfare, Wheatear 4, Willow Warbler 2, Blackcap male, Jackdaw 2.

Breeding Birds: Following recent nest scraping activity, the first Ringed Plover eggs were discovered on Inner Farne whilst another Mallard nest was discovered, our third on the island. The Auks remained present whilst the Sandwich Tern numbers increased yet again.

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Martin Record

A stunning Ringed Plover looking for a nest site

It might not look much, but that sea got worse - views from Inner Farne to Bamburgh

Wednesday 8th April
As forecast, the islands were whipped by a strong westerly wind, reaching gale force at times and the result: no boats sailing. For the first time since we opened on 1st April, the islands were closed to the public as the visitor boats were unable to sail from Seahouses harbour so it was a switch from the ‘norm’. The team had a slow start to proceedings but like all Farne wardens, remained dynamic. The team built a new cupboard, fitted five new cisterns to the toilets, fixed some broom heads and cleaned the windows – so everything from plumbing to carpentry!! On the bird-front a House Martin seen over the island was the earliest ever Farnes record by four days, whilst the Mediterranean Gull lingered for a second day.

Weather: W4-5 increasing 7-8 – very windy but bright sunshine throughout

Highlights: Mediterranean Gull first-summer for second day on Knoxes Reef, Sandwich Tern 102 (increasing daily), House Martin – earliest ever Farnes record, Wheatear 1, Willow Warbler 2, Blackcap male.

Breeding Birds: The Puffins and Guillemots remained on the island although most took shelter from the battering winds, Ringed Plover continued to find suitable nest sites on the island and Black-headed Gulls were landing at the traditional nesting site.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Mediterranean Days

At its best - a stunning Shag at Lighthouse cliff on Inner Farne

A migrant male Wheatear on Inner Farne
(Photos by Joe Cockram Farnes Warden)
Tuesday 7th April
A pleasant day, as the wind eased allowing some of the team to head to Seahouses for important supplies – especially beer supplies for this evenings football! It was a good day for visitors, as the islands were busy throughout the day and with the good showing of Puffins, everyone was happy! Its still early in the season as the team settle on the islands, although with the opening of Brownsman in the very near future, its becoming an exciting time. The day produced a handful of migrants, as they continue to move through the islands, albeit slowly, but the first Blackcap of the year appeared and was hot on the heels of yesterdays Willow Warbler. The best of the bunch was a first-summer Mediterranean Gull at the Knoxes Reef roost.

Weather: SW 2-3 increasing 5-6, sunny spells

Highlights: Mediterranean Gull first-summer with Black-headed Gulls on Knoxes Reef, Sandwich Tern 61 – big increase, Wheatear 2, light Wagtail and Pipit passage, Blackcap male (first of the year), Chiffchaff 2, Goldcrest 3, Jackdaw 8. Porpoise two heading north in Inner Sound.

Breeding Birds: A good showing as Puffins and Guillemots were on view throughout the day, whilst good numbers of Kittiwakes and Fulmars were around the islands. Also Shags remained loyal to nest sites and Ringed Plover’s continued to nest scrape on the beach.

Monday 6th April
It was a mixed start for a Monday morning, as some of the team (including me), attempted to use the Zodiac to reach Seahouses for supplies, but sadly failed as the wind increased during the morning. However we still saw a few visitors, as the larger boats can make take on the choppier seas. However it was a welcome sight as Farnes historian Anne Wilson arrived on the islands for some catch-up work whilst Emily Barlow arrived for five days, as part of her long term study in Shag behaviour. Interesting some of our Shags are now on three eggs following the discovery of the first egg on 1st April with the Isle Of May reporting their first on 2nd April - so its early everywhere. Otherwise reasonably uneventful with a few highlights including an increase in Sandwich tern numbers,

Weather: S or SE 4-5

Highlights: Peregrine male, Sandwich Tern 19, Wheatear 2, Meadow Pipit – light northerly passage, Willow Warbler 1 – first of the year, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest 2 and Lesser Redpoll.

Breeding Birds: Everything returned as the Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills returned in good numbers on the cliffs ledges and on the island ‘tops’. Although this will probably be a brief visit before they head off again, the Shags are going well with some nests now containing three eggs.

Monday 6 April 2009

Sunny Days

Goldcrest - small numbers of Britain's smallest bird are present

The lads with an evening BQ, celebrating Farnes style!

Sunday 5th April
Today was a strange day, as the sun shone, the sea was mirror calm, but not many people visited – but I’m sure that’ll change over the next few weeks or so. The islands remained quiet for seabirds and the occasional migrant moved through, but otherwise the team enjoyed the sunshine and surroundings. From a Head Wardens point of view, I’ve started looking forward to the grand opening of Staple Island (on 1st May) and splitting the team into two (we’re all living on Inner Farne at present). So it was a case of talking to each member of the team individually and letting them know which island they’ll be living on during the summer – it was all well received, so I think I got it right! Despite splitting the team, we’ll see a lot of each other throughout the summer, so no one will go lonely for long! To celebrate we decided to have a team BQ on the island – yes on an island in the North Sea in early April – impressive!! It was a great night and it’s been a great start for the team – long may it continue.

Weather: Variable 1-2, warm and sunny – a beautiful day!

Highlights: Sandwich Tern 24 at roost (increasing daily), Snipe, Skylark singing, Black Redstart remained for 2nd day, Carrion Crow – 43 an impressive movement, Goldcrest 3, Reed Bunting – the male returned, singing in vegetable garden,

Breeding Birds: Despite the calm conditions, the island was virtually empty with no Puffins or Guillemots seen. However I suspect this will change tomorrow following today’s weather and hopefully they will start settling soon. However the pair of Shelduck were noted whilst Ringed Plovers have started scraping on the beach.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Quiet Saturday

Saturday 4th April
It was a general quiet day on the islands, with very few breeding birds present and the wind was unexpectedly strong today. Inner Farne welcomed two boats during the course of the day, although only a handful of people made the journey due to the inclement weather. However before the wind had a chance to increase, a few migrant birds dropped in, including a striking Black Redstart. Other than listening to Newcastle United’s demise (not a bad thing for a Sunderland supporter), it was business as usual and the team went about completing some small tasks. The lads, most new to the Farnes, have acclimatised well to the Farnes and everyone is enjoying the experience and looking forward to the forthcoming months.

Weather: SW swinging to W 3-4 increasing to 6-7 late afternoon

Highlights: Black Redstart – a female-type showing well on dock bank on Inner Farne late afternoon, Merlin, Peregrine male over, Skylark 1 singing, Wheatear 3, Redwing, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest 6.

Breeding birds: The island remained empty of Guillemots and Puffins and the typical erratic behaviour is expected at this time of year but it won’t be long before things settle and the first eggs are laid. The breeding pair of Shelduck were seen again, whilst Rock Pipits inspect nest sites.

Friday 3 April 2009

Foggy Days

A Farnes rare - Wood Pigeon at the Lighthouse!!

Snipe flying from the pond, Inner Farne

male Reed Bunting, singing, Inner Farne
Friday 3rd April
Our third open day and we woke to thick fog, as a result of the south-easterly winds. However the birders amongst the team were up early as the conditions were ideal for bringing in migrant birds. However despite the conditions, it was a slightly disappointing day although plenty of interesting things – the team are just getting use to birding an island – the Wood Pigeon put a smile on my face, as I know how scarce they are on the Farnes (just 5 or 6 records per year). Despite the conditions, we did receive visitors, as one boat landed mid-afternoon, although with all the Puffins and Guillemots gone, it was a slightly disappointing day!

Weather: South-easterly backing southerly wind 3-4 with thick fog all day – visibility poor throughout.

Highlights: A good scattering of migrants with the south-easterly winds although nothing rare. Highlights included: Peregrine lingering, Snipe, Purple Sandpiper 60, Wood Pigeon (scarce on here!), Wheatear 4, Fieldfare 16, Redwing 6, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting – singing male in veg garden.

Breeding birds: The thick fog prevented a count of the Sandwich Tern roost and the Auks disappeared once again, leaving the islands empty. However the breeding Shags remained with a light scattering of Kittiwakes and Fulmars. Interestingly the pair of Wrens were seen carrying nesting material, so it appears that they are going to attempt to breed again!!

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Fools Day

Yesterday's Moorhen with the Puffins

Yesterdays Hooded Crow flying over the islands - heading north to Scotland!!
Photos by warden Joe Cockram
Wednesday 1st April
A new month and a new start. The 2009 season was starting for real for the team, as we welcomed our first visitors of the season to the islands, and they weren’t disappointed! However in true April fool style, I managed to get the birders amongst the team up slightly earlier than expected, as the shout of “Hoopoe” got them scrambling, until the penny dropped… Away from the tomfoolery, the fine weather remained with us and the first visitor boat landed just after 11am and it was great to share the islands with everyone. The breeding birds put on a good show, with plenty of Puffins whilst the discovery of the first Shag eggs was a major turn-up for the books. All went well and it’s just the start as things will only get better…

Weather: South-westerly backing southerly 2-3, sunny and warm

Highlights: Lapwing 2, Sandwich Tern 9 at roost, Short-eared Owl 1 west, Wheatear 4, Fieldfare 1, Robin 8, Goldfinch 1 south.

Breeding birds: Shags – first eggs discovered at Lighthouse cliff – 27 days earlier than last year! Shelduck – breeding pair returned, Mallard sitting on eggs, Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills around and on the islands in good numbers, Ringed plover and Oystercatcher displaying, Pied Wagtails discovered checking nest sites in the stone wall.