Monday 30 August 2010

Eagle watch

Monday 30th August comments: Welcome to the bank holiday weekend - we were shut! As Saturday came to a close, the wind picked up as a low pressure weather system brought strong northerly winds, resulting in heavy seas and no visitor boats being able to sail. However we'll be open for business as usual tomorrow and we may be able to show visitors a certain Eagle...
Despite the strong winds, it did not stop us from getting on with work and it didn't stop our Eagle. The immature White-tailed Eagle, originally appearing on Staple Island on Saturday (and eating a Shag) remained and looked very content. However the local Gull population were not happy, but it didn't care. Today (Monday), the bird stretched its wings a bit and circled the island but landed again and was still present at dusk and will no doubt be still present tomorrow morning at least. As for food - well, it moved off Shag's, onto Fulmars. I've warned the wardens, they'll be next.
Sea passage was productive with highlights today including: 173N Manx Shearwater, 6N Sooty Shearwater, 12N Great Skua, 5N Arctic Skua, 26N Teal, 3N Wigeon and 9N Common Scoter.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Is it a monster...

That's no Guillemot...
(by Mark Breaks)
Who are you looking at...
(by Mark Breaks)

White-tailed Eagle (by Mark Breaks)

A local Gull having a go (by Mark Breaks)

Yesterday's Common Rosefinch on Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

A nice birthday present for Mark - Happy Birthday!

Sunday 29th August comments:
What's that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster...
Well yes, yes it was.
We weren't expecting it, the visitors weren't expecting it and the local seabirds weren't expecting it, but yesterday an immature White-tailed Eagle decided to drop onto Staple Island. If anyone has seen one of these monsters, you'll know what I'm talking about. There huge - a barn door with wings, as these birds boast a wingspan of almost 2.5m (about 7ft!) and there even bigger than Golden Eagles.
Just after 3pm, boatman Andy Douglas phoned the wardens on Inner Farne to report that he had just seen an Eagle leave Crumstone and head over to Staple Island. In disbelief, the warden team cranked into action and soon they were enjoying stunning views of the beast, as it tucked into a local Shag on the island - yes it was eating a Shag!
The bird, a wing tagged immature (a yellow tag with the letter 'V') was complete with a radio transmitter, is probably one of this years release birds from the east of Scotland releases (now in its fourth year). Birds have been known to wander as another individual took up residence on the Isle of May (just to the north of us), so you never know.
Although we officially can't 'count it', it's an awesome visitor and something not many people would have dreamt of seeing out here, so we'll enjoy it although I'm not sure our local seabird population will enjoy it as much. Alongside the Eagle, our second Common Rosefinch of the year appeared on Brownsman with our third Barred Warbler - its autumn passage on the Farnes.
On another note, it was a great way to celebrate resident warden Mark Breaks birthday - happy birthday Mark - just don't stand around for too long in case the Eagle fancies a spot of lunch!

Thursday 26 August 2010

Tern time

Gone but not forgotten - an adult Arctic Tern

On the up - Common Tern
Thursday 26th August comments:
It’s been a quiet few days, although bright sunshine has finally descended onto the islands bringing lots of visitors and a few birds along the way. Sadly, there are literally only one or two Puffins around and that’s not many across thirty-two islands! Due to technical difficulties earlier in the season, I failed to bring everyone up to speed with breeding seabird numbers, so here goes, starting with the Terns.

Arctic Tern
Population this year: 2,199 pairs (Inner Farne 1,110, Brownsman 1,079, Staple 10)
This is an increase of just one pair on last season, so you can say the population is very stable and has been for the past five years or so. The first eggs were laid on the islands on 12th May with the first chicks hatching on 4th June. It wasn't long before the first fledgers were seen on the wing, on 27th June and by the end of July, the entire population had moved off the islands.

Sandwich Tern
Population this year: 1,019 pairs (Inner Farne 761, Brownsman 258).
This is a drop of 396 pairs on last year – a worrying trend for Sandwich terns on the islands – we use to boast 2,000 pairs less than ten years ago. Its difficult to explain the drop in numbers at this early stage, but it may be simply down to breeding birds choosing another colony nearby (ie Coquet island) to breed this year - lets hope they return next year! The first eggs were discovered on 4th May with the first fledglings in early July.

Common Tern
Population this year: 112 pairs (Inner Farne 110, Brownsman 2)
The small Farnes population showed a welcome increase of 14 pairs, mainly on Inner Farne. Sadly there was not a repeat of last season's breeding attempt by Roseate Terns this year.

Monday 23 August 2010

Scarcities continue

Monday 23rd August comments:
It’s been a moody day on the islands although an exciting one, as passage migrants continue to move through the islands including another scarcity! The weather dominated the day as we moved from glorious sunshine to torrential rain, leaving the warden team soaked to the skin. The ponds, which have been bone dry for several months, suddenly have water and it’s welcome relief for the vegetation in some areas.

As well as a good soaking, the rain also ‘dropped’ birds as migrants descended onto the islands to seek shelter including a stunning Icterine Warbler and Turtle Dove. Just out of interest, its noteworthy that all the breeding seabirds have now gone apart from the lingering Shags, as the Auks and all the Terns have moved on to pastures new.

Today's Highlights:

Icterine Warbler – one on Brownsman from 16:00 – first of the year

Turtle Dove - one adult over Brownsman (first since 2003!)

Grey Heron, Peregrine female, Teal 3, Golden Plover 200, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank 2, Common Sandpiper 2, Great Skua north, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Wheatear 34+, Willow Warbler 20 and Whitethroat 4.

Friday 20 August 2010

Barry on Brownsman

Barred Warbler, Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

The Farnes - one of the best English sites for Barred Warblers (Mark Breaks)

Skulking away - Barred Warbler on Brownsman (Mark Breaks)
Friday 20th August comments: GOOD NEWS!! The technical problems are almost at an end and from Monday, the blog will be back to normal bringing you (almost) daily updates from the islands.
Its been a mixed week as the weather has been the talking point although it has brought in a few more migrant birds, including two Barred Warblers on Brownsman (also known as 'Barries' on the islands). These bulky Warblers are seen annually on the Farnes and its arguably one of the best sites for them (in England anyway) with 43 seen since 2000 - not a bad record which most birding sites would be proud of. Other than that, a small selection of common migrants have been keeping us ticking along and soon September will be upon us and anything is possible...

Sunday 15 August 2010

What a Sprosser!

Melodious Warbler, first For Farnes and Northumberland (Mark Breaks)

One day wonder on Brownsman - Melodious Warbler (Mark Breaks)

Second for the Farnes - Thrush Nightingale on Longstone (Mark Breaks)

First in Northumberland since 2002 - and that was on the Farnes as well! (Mark Breaks)

Sunday 15th August comments: The Farnes – its great, it really is. It’s an amazing place for breeding seabirds, it’s an incredible place to visit and for the privileged few, it’s an amazing place to live. It’s also very good for pulling in migrant birds – arguably one of the best in the north-east (seen as we stick 4 miles out to sea!)

So, why then, after ten years and all my knowledge of the place, did I decide to leave the islands for two weeks? I thought to myself, yeah, it’s early August, generally a quiet time for migrant birds and good to have a break to recharge batteries after another long season.

Big mistake.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the team, lead by Senior Warden Jason Moss, to go and find a load of rare birds – that wasn’t in the script (I'm sure they were trying harder....) The boys have worked hard but have played hard – finding not only a ‘second for the Farnes’ (Thrush Nightingale yesterday) but also a ‘first’ for the Farnes and Northumberland! (Melodious Warbler) Chuck in a few other good birds (adult Sabine's Gull etc) and yes, you’ll agree, I’ve made a mistake. When I return, I’m not leaving. If anyone is looking for me, I’ll be on the Farnes until December and will not be leaving until then.

On a serious note, it’s been a great week for the team as they have discovered a Melodious Warbler on Brownsman followed by a Thrush Nightingale on Longstone – both very rare birds and a great way to start the autumn migration. So well done team and I'm certain there will be more to follow (so long as I'm there!).

Friday 6 August 2010

Recent Highlights

Saying goodbye - Arctic Terns are starting to leave

Under the cover of darkness - a Storm petrel ringing session - 6 were caught

recent highlight - a cracking Wood Sandpiper on Brownsman pond

One of two teams ready for battle - Farne wardens and boatmen ready for action!

Friday 6th August comments: Well we're still here - just like the Puffins, but unlike our friendly comical neighbours, we're still suffering technical problems! Unfortunately the problem is due to continue for two more weeks, but from then on, it'll be updates like you've never seen them before! So sorry to all regular readers, just hang on in there the updates are coming!
The hectic summer period continues as good numbers of visitors continue to enjoy the islands although our breeding seabirds are starting to dwindle in numbers as they head for sunnier climes. The terns are gathering daily on the rocks and some have even departed whilst the Puffins remain, but only just. The Guillemots have long long (over a month now) whilst Razorbills are following suite. It won't be long before the Kittiwakes leave and the islands will fall silent, apart from the resident Shags which are gathering in huge 'super' flocks. From then on in, its all about the migrant birds before our attentions move to those sea monsters - our friends the Grey Seals - it'll be pupping season before we know it.
As for the team, its a time of change as some staff members are starting to leave (I'll feature everyone once we are up and running again) but we're still enjoying life on the rock. We even managed a paintball war game against the boatmen - great fun, but boy oh boy, they did hurt if you got shot at close range and as the boss, I can tell you I was a good target... Otherwise all is well, lots to report but just hold on and we'll sort the problems once and for all.