Saturday 29 May 2010

So much for summer!

Saturday 29th May comments:

Its been an interesting week as the settled weather has disappeared and we welcomed cloud, rain and hail. I thought summer was on its way, but I was very mistaken - today could have been early March on the islands as temperatures plummeted and the islands were looking bleak. However with brighter forecasts, its not all doom and gloom, son fingers crossed it improves and we can get on with a good seabird breeding season.
More chicks have appeared over the week with good numbers of Puffins hatching young whilst Guillemot and Razorbill chicks grow ever stronger. Female Eiders continue to depart with ducklings on a daily basis whilst Shag chicks grow ever stronger. The season is at its height and it won't be long before we our first Arctic an Sandwich tern chicks appear. Its also a matter of a few days before we head into counting season - then the real work begins...

Monday 24 May 2010

Reedbed skulker...

That no Puffin - the bird on the left - a Water Rail!!

Monday 24th May comments:
The season continues to throw up surprises as the early nesting season was unexpected, the weather has been unpredictable (as ever!) and the islands continue to attract strange and wonderful birds from various parts of the globe. On Saturday it was the turn of a Water Rail to put in an appearance, a bird normally associated with reedbeds and not normally showy - unlike this one! The bird, an adult, was observed happily running down Puffin burrows on Inner Farne to feed on earthworms and the like whilst the watching Shags and Guillemots looked on amused. So the photo above may not be the best, but it captures the moment - birding Farnes style!
On the breeding seabird front, the first Kittiwake eggs have started to hatch, Razorbills are now parents and everything goes on as normal - although on the islands, I'm never sure what is normal! It won't be long before we are undertaking the biggest of all jobs - the annual seabird population counts and fingers crossed for some positive results - but watch out, Eiders crashing out....? We'll have to wait and see.

Friday 21 May 2010

Puffin chicks!

Roseate Tern return

Last weeks Pintail on Brownsman pond

Friday 21st May comments:
A seabird breeding season can move so rapidly – we’ve now got Puffin chicks! As each day progresses a new news story breaks from the islands, with the first Puffin chicks following hot on the heals of the first Guillemot chicks. It’s also been a welcome return to our breeding pair of Red-breasted Mergansers whilst the Swallows have reappeared – hopefully to re-nest again this year.
The most noticeable returnee has been the Roseate Terns, with at least one pair now on Inner Farne although still erratic in behaviour, it may be a week or two before they settle to nest (their always notoriously late nesters). So the great weather continues – its been a stunning week – plenty of sun with flat seas although migration has been quiet – not much to shout about but that could change at any moment!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Onwards and upwards!

Nesting in good numbers - Arctic Terns

A Farne classic - a close-up of a Puffin

Fulmars now on eggs

Down in numbers - nesting Eider
Monday 18th May comments:
How quick is the season going – it doesn’t seem five minutes since we sailed to the islands and now we’re celebrating the first Eider and Guillemot chicks! As well as chicks, Arctic Terns have landed in huge numbers and the first eggs were discovered on the early date of 13th May but now the islands are littered with eggs - and yes, the first attacks on visitors have started - you've been warned (bring a hat!). The glorious sunny weather has resulted in good conditions for visitors and seabirds alike, so everyone (so far) is happy!
Latest seabird breeding information:
Fulmar - first egg discovered on 13th May - earlier than normal
Shag – most now have chicks
Eider – first chicks on 15th May following the first eggs on 17th April. Numbers appear low this year.
Sandwich Tern – the colony on Inner Farne grows ever larger with the first eggs discovered on 4th May. A small number are nesting on Brownsman with the first egg discovered on 18th May.
Arctic Tern – first eggs discovered on 13th May - now eggs everywhere and starting to attack people...
Puffins – still very settled on eggs with chicks probably about one week away from hatching.
Guillemots – first chicks on 15th May, with many more to follow
Razorbill – chicks should hatch within the next week
Recent Highlights: Roseate Tern for previous three days (since 14th May) whilst a Long-eared Owl was a major highlight on 12th May. A pair of Pintail graced Brownsman Pond whilst five Tufted Ducks moved north today. However migration has been slow with very little else happening.

Monday 10 May 2010

North winds blow

A scarce visitor - a drake Garganey on Brownsman pond

Monday 10th May comments:
It’s been a frustrating few days as the northerly winds continued which prevented boats from sailing – not good for visitors or the wardens! However the breeding seabirds got on with business as usual, despite the low temperature (there was snow on the Cheviot Hills which you can see from the islands – it’s that cold!). We’re crossing our fingers that the weather will improve and temperatures will rise – after all it is mid-May!

On the bird migration front, a drake Garganey graced Brownsman pond for twenty minutes on Saturday whilst the first Arctic Skua moved north alongside a handful of Manx Shearwaters. Other than that, it’s been quiet although that Wagtail is provoking plenty of debate – we’re edging towards a possible Spanish Wagtail (or hybrid) but with no clear majority – so we’ll just have to keep digesting the information we have - I'll keep you all posted!

On the islands, more Sandwich Terns have settled whilst Common Terns are scraping in traditional areas and yes, those Arctic Terns are back - in huge numbers. Not long before the head pecking will begin...

Friday 7 May 2010

Wagtail with a difference

Stunning - the Wagtail on Staple (Mark Breaks)

On show feeding on Staple (Mark Breaks)

On view - the Wagtail in view (Mark Breaks)

Friday 7th May comments:
For the birders who read the blog, they'll know we always come up with something interesting every now and then on the islands and yesterday was no different. As the winds switched to the east early morning, the pulses quickened as the potential for something to drop in increased -after all we stick four miles out into the North Sea! And so it proved.

A small number of migrants arrived including Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat but something caught the eye - a Wagtail with a difference. The bird, with a distinctive call, showed well on Brownsman before moving to nearby Staple Island where it lingered for the rest of the day. Initially identified as a 'Grey-headed' Wagtail (a race of Yellow Wagtail), the Brownsman boys were on the case as Jason and Mark gathered evidence (and photos) and this bird may prove to be something very different indeed.

The complex 'wagtail group' will have us researching and scratching our heads for sometime to come as discussion on its true identity will run long into the night - it may even prove to be an integrate yet, so watch this space and comments from birders would be most welcome. However its time to burn the midnight oil....

Thursday 6 May 2010

Wardens edge nine goal thriller

The winning Farne Team

Boatmen team

Warden's discuss tactics

Wardens attacking

Boatman man of the match - Peter Dawson
Farne Island Wardens 5 – 4 Seahouses boatmen

Kick-off was slightly delayed but eventually the eagerly anticipated wardens Vs boatmen clash kicked-off. The wardens were looking for revenge following last season’s double defeat and the opening exchanges brought some good attacking football by the wardens. The hard work soon paid off as Steel poached from close-range but all was undone moments later, when dangerman Craig brought the scores level.

As the game ebbed and flowed, Moss hit a stunning volley to put the islanders ahead but once again, the boatmen quickly hit back as Craig looped home an equaliser. However the warden team upped the tempo and raced into a two goal lead, with Duncan stabbing home a well worked move before Moss made it 4-2 with a thumping header past the despairing keeper. The wardens had chances to increase their lead, but at half-time, remained 4-2 and were well worth their lead.

As with two previous games last season, the boatmen rallied and if the wardens dominated the first, then the boatmen took control in the second. Their inspirational captain Pringle, lead by example, firing in from close-range before drawing the game level with an impressive turn and shot on the run. The wardens, rattled by the fight back, started to find form and the game began to ebb and flow with chances going begging for both sides.

However just as the game was heading for an impressive draw, the islanders grabbed a deserved winner. Breaks, who’s impressive display won him the man of the match award, picked up a loose ball and drove past two defenders before crashing home a shot into the top left corner, whilst coming under a hail of challenges. It was a cracking goal and one which sparked jubilant scenes amongst the warden team. The final twelve minutes saw a stiff rearguard action from the islanders but the wardens held on to claim a suburb 5-4 victory and to claim the first bragging rights of the season. It won’t be long before we have the re-match but until then, its nice to have the first win under our belts.

Warden man of the match: Mark Breaks
Boatman man of the match: Peter Dawson

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Egg Sandwich

Sandwich Terns now on eggs in the main colony (Mark Breaks)

Arctic Tern grounded for first time (Mark Breaks)

Tuesday 4th May comments:
Today brought brighter, calmer conditions as the wind eased and the sun came out. It wasn’t just the sun which came out, as the Arctic Terns landed on the islands for the first time – displaying and calling loudly as they checked out traditional breeding grounds. So they’re back and preparing for the breeding season – so the wardens will have to be prepared and armed with hats because they’ll know about it if they don’t wear them!

As the Arctic’s were landing, yet more eggs were discovered elsewhere on the islands as the seabird breeding season continues to march on, as Sandwich Terns were discovered on eggs in the main colony on Inner Farne this morning. Following the trend of the season so far, these were our earliest Sandwich Terns eggs since 1990.

The build up to the first of the crunch football games against the boatmen continues but the kick-off has been brought forward – to tomorrow evening! The team tactics and positions have been discussed and hopefully we’ll have some success this season – but you’ll have to wait for the match report on Thursday morning before all is revealed. Wish us luck – we’ve had plenty of messages of support and let’s hope the wardens can do it this time.

Egg dates:
Shag 28th March (earliest since 1997)
Ringed Plover 15th April
Guillemot 11th April (earliest ever!)
Eider 17th April
Puffin 18th April (earliest since 1993)
Razorbill 20th April (earliest ever!)
Black-headed Gull 25th April (earliest since 2004)
Kittiwake 26th April (earliest since 1989)
Sandwich Tern 4th May (earliest since 1990)

Monday 3 May 2010

Game On!

'White' Wagtail passing through the islands

Last weeks male Ring Ouzel on Inner Farne

Monday 3rd May comments:
The northerly winds continued to dominate the Farnes, plummeting temperatures and restricting the number of boats being able to sail – to be precise, only one boat made it out. However with a brighter (and warmer!) forecast just around the corner, we should start returning back to normal. Despite the weather, the breeding seabirds went about their daily lives as usual as the Terns continued to display majestically (and vocally) over the islands, whilst those guarding eggs and chicks remained focused.

The island team got on with a variety of jobs and were introduced to seabird monitoring – the real hard core work of the job. Otherwise all is well and the first annual football match has been pencilled in for Thursday evening against the local Seahouses boatmen. Having lost twice last year (2-4 and 3-4), we’re after a bit of revenge. The countdown is on.

Highlights: A very quiet day - Manx Shearwater 1N, Pochard 4 N Inner Sound, Little Tern 37 at roost and Wheatear 6.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Still growing strong

Kittiwakes now on eggs!

Mother Mallard with chicks

Guillemots on the cliffs

Sunday 2nd May comments:
Its been all go over since I last updated – a combination of staff shortage (the majority of the team have been away on a boat training course) as well as induction days for two new members of the team, weather and the onset of the hectic breeding season has resulted in a fewer blog posts than I would have liked!” However fear not, I’m back and expect regular updates from hereon in. So what’s happened since last weekend…read on…
The breeding season continues with pace as the first Kittiwake eggs were discovered on 26th April and more have been discovered since. The significance – the first Kittiwake eggs in April since 1989 - the early start to the season continues! Ringed Plovers have re-nested following their egg predation in mid-April, whilst four Pied Wagtail nests have been discovered across the islands – one pair using the traditional nest site in St.Cuthbert’s Chapel.

Its not all about eggs – Shags have now got young – the first chicks started hatching on 30th April. However the Terns have yet to settle, although numbers are increasing nightly with over 1,2000 Sandwich, 1,000 Arctic’s and 36 Little Terns graced the islands roost last night. Migration through the islands has continued to bring some exciting discoveries with highlights over the last few days shown below.

Monday 26th April: Shoveler 4 in Kettle, Little Tern 1 (first of the year), Swallow 31N, Dunnock 1, Black Redstart female on Brownsman, Song Thrush 1, Wheatear 8, Willow Warbler 8, Chiffchaff 2, Whitethroat 1, Rook 2 over and Reed Bunting male on Inner Farne

Tuesday 27th April: Peregrine 1 immature, Tufted Duck male north, Red-breasted Merganser female north, Red-throated Diver 4N, Grey Heron 1 west, Common Scoter 42N, Yellow Wagtail male east over inner group, Dunnock 2, Wheatear 2, Blackbird male, Willow Warbler 3, Chiffchaff 1 and Linnet 3.

Wednesday 28th April: Pink-footed Goose 290N, Whimbrel 1, Common Sandpiper 1, Swallow 6N, Ring Ouzel 1 male lingering on Inner Farne (3rd of the spring), Yellow Wagtail male over, Wheatear 25, Dunnock 1, Blackbird male, Redstart 2 (pair), Blackcap male, Whitethroat 2, Willow Warbler 12, Chiffchaff 3, Linnet 1.

Thursday 29th April: Wood Pigeon 1, Wheatear 27, Whitethroat 2, Sedge Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 10, Chiffchaff 2, Blackcap 1 female with very pale wing panels (like a Black Redstart!).