Wednesday 29 September 2010


What a stunner - one of two Great Grey Shrikes (Mark Breaks)

Britain's smallest - a migrant Goldcrest (Mark Breaks)

Short-eared Owl drifts over (Mark Breaks)
Wednesday 29th September comments:
It’s been another interesting few days on the Farnes. The wind switched from the north to the east, resulting in further days without visitor boats, but the floodgates opened, as migrant birds descended onto the islands.

I apologise in advance for the ‘birdy’ nature of the blog at present, but it’s been a frantic period, with birds galore across the islands. Huge numbers of warblers, finches and thrushes have arrived with a few rarities scattered amongst them including an impressive two Great Grey Shrikes on Brownsman, the first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn whilst the Arctic Redpoll remained in residence. Read on for the recent daily totals, its worth a glance…

Recent highlights
2 (individuals on Inner Farne and Brownsman) on 28th September
Bluethroat (third this year) on Inner Farne on 27th-28th September
Yellow-browed Warbler 1 on Inner Farne on 27th-28th September
Great Grey Shrike 2 together on Brownsman on 27th with one on 28th
**Arctic Redpoll still present today (arrived 24th)
Common Redpoll 2 together on Inner Farne on 27th September
Common Rosefinch 25th-27th September
Lapland Bunting 2 on Inner Farne on 27th with one Brownsman on 28th-29th
Little Bunting on Brownsman on 29th September

Other birds on 29th September
Lapwing, Kestrel 3, Peregrine 2, Sparrowhawk, Jack Snipe 2, Short Eared Owl, Wood Pigeon, Tree Pipit, Robin 60, Dunnock 22, Redstart 23, Wheatear 13, Whinchat 3, Song Thrush 290, Redwing 25, Ring Ouzel 2, Blackbird 19, Grasshopper Warbler 2, Reed Warbler 2, Blackcap 16, Garden Warbler 2, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler 10, Chiffchaff 39, Goldcrest 29, Pied Flycatcher 5, Brambling 105, Chaffinch 89, Siskin 50, Lesser Redpoll and Reed Bunting 9
Other birds on 28th September
Brent Goose 10N, Sparrowhawk 2, Kestrel 3, Merlin, Peregrine 2, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper 2, Jack Snipe 3, Grey Plover, Wood Pigeon 2, Tree Pipit 3, Dunnock 18, Robin 90, Redstart 33, Whinchat 4, Wheatear 16, Sing Thrush 120, Redwing 71, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler 3, Blackcap 18, Garden Warbler 3, Whitethroat 4, Lesser Whitethroat 3, Willow Warbler 20, Chiffchaff 62, Goldcrest 42, Pied Flycatcher 3, Brambling 87, Chaffinch 64, Siskin 71, Lesser Redpoll and Reed Bunting 4

Other birds on 27th September
Sooty Shearwater 101N, Manx Shearwater 16N, Kestrel 2. Sparrowhawk, Peregrine 2, Short-eared Owl 2 west, Wood Pigeon 12 (record Farnes count!), Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit 7, Dunnock 17, Robin 92, Redstart 24, Wheatear 13, Whinchat 7, Song Thrush 150, Redwing 80, Blackbird 24, Ring Ouzel 5, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler 2, Blackcap 24 and Willow Warbler 15

Saturday 25 September 2010

Snowball remains

Still here - the snowball wonder (Mark Breaks)

Saturday 25th September comments: Where still in it. The northerly storm continued throughout the day, bringing huge seas and thunderous waves. Visitor boats remained moored in Seahouses harbour, tourists stayed at home and the wardens battened down the hatches – once again. It’s been a brutal day although which brought more migrant birds whilst others remained including the stunning Arctic Redpoll. The weather forecast suggests more strong winds from the north over the next few days, so it may be some time before things return back to normal.
Today Major highlights:
Arctic Redpoll on Brownsman for second day
Common Rosefinch for third day

Other birds today: Sooty Shearwater 182N, Manx Shearwater 12N, Bonxie 10N, Arctic Skua 3N, Red-throated Diver 22N, Red-necked Grebe 2 (including one in Kettle), Pink-footed Goose 4N, Brent Goose 4N, Barnacle Goose 289N, Wigeon 238N, Velvet Scoter 10N, Tufted Duck 2N, Teal 18N, Shoveler 21N, Red-breasted Merganser 9N, Peregrine 2, Snipe, Jack Snipe on Staple – first for autumn, Ruff 1, Short-eared Owl 2, Skylark 2, Whinchat, Wheatear, Redwing 3, Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler 3, Brambling 2.

Friday 24 September 2010

Arctic Explorer

Cracking snowball - Arctic Redpoll (Mark Breaks)

No mistake - a stunner (Mark Breaks)

One in the wall - Arctic Redpoll on Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

juv Sabine's Gull off Inner Farne (David Andrews)

Distant but great to see - Sabine's Gull (David Andrews)

Friday 24th September comments: It’s been an epic 24hrs as the weather turned and the islands were blasted from the cool north. Yesterday proved a day of contrast as flat seas and warm sunny conditions gave way to a northerly breeze and a heavy sea. The conditions deteriorated overnight and by dawn this morning, the sea was boiling. The strong winds from the north were producing an epic sea and it’ll be some time before it calms and business returns to normal.

Despite the conditions, birds were still on the move, as migrants and seabirds were logged during the day with some noticeable highlights. The most stunning involved an Arctic Redpoll (a ‘snowball’) of the hornemanni race – the islands third Arctic following an individual in October 1989 and up to four in December 1995. Other highlights included two Sabine’s Gulls (including one which lingered in the kettle off Inner Farne from 16:00 until dusk) always a nice delight to brighten up any day.

Today Major highlights:
Arctic Redpoll (third record for islands)
Balearic Shearwater 3N
Sabine’s Gull 2 (adult south with juvenile lingering)
Common Rosefinch for second day (3rd this autumn)

Other birds today:
Sooty Shearwater 322N, Manx Shearwater 25N, Velvet Scoter 2N, Tufted Duck 1S, Arctic Skua 10N, Bonxie 21N, Skylark 3, Whinchat, Redstart 2, Fiedlfare, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Siskin, Brambling and Snow Bunting.

Recent highlights:
Cory’s Shearwater 1N on 23rd September
Long-tailed Skua juvenile north on 23rd September
Corncrake on 22nd September flushed from nettle patch on Brownsman

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Just how old...

Just how old - a ringed Arctic Tern on Inner Farne (Jason Moss)
Tuesday 21st September comments: For those who have not seen the nes today, the islands released a press release of some interest...

A sea-bird has officially become the UK's oldest recorded Arctic Tern. It was ringed as a chick on the Farne Islands on 28 June, 1980, making it at least 30 years, two months and 23 days old. The birds typically live 13-15 years. This bird's record-breaking status was confirmed after it was recaptured this summer on the islands, located a few miles off the Northumberland coast.
Arctic terns' 44,000-mile (70,000km) pole-to-pole migration is the longest known annual journey of any animal. The previous UK record was 29 years and 10 months, although the typical life expectancy is about 13-15 years - primarily as a result of the terns being prey for other predatory birds, lack of food or being caught in storms while at sea.

The bird was originally ringed by John Walton when he was a seasonal warden for the National Trust, which owns the Farnes. Mr Walton, now property manager for the islands, told BBC News he was delighted when he heard the news that the chick he ringed three decades ago was still going strong. "This bird would have flown close to one million miles, raised any number of chicks, survived predators and storms and still looks in brilliant shape."

The new record only came to light after the information was entered into a database managed by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Mr Walton explained, "then this figure pinged out saying 30 years and I thought wow! Ringing - which involves attaching a lightweight ring with a unique identification number around the leg of a bird - is carried out to allow researchers to learn more about individual birds. Although the tern, known as CE60645, has set a new UK record, it is still some years away from claiming the title of the world's oldest Arctic tern that is currently held by a bird ringed in the US and reached the age of 34 years.

"Fingers crossed, this bird is good for another four or five years, which would allow us to take the world record from the Americans," Mr Walton joked.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Its pup time again...

First of the autumn - Seal Pups return

Saturday 18th September comments:
It’s been a quiet week, as westerly winds have dominated (although not reaching 412mph!!) and bird migration has been restricted, in fact we’ve been closed to the public for two days due to strong winds! However the wind has eventually eased today, and birds have started moving including our first Geese of the winter whilst 82 Sooty Shearwaters was noteworthy.

However big news belonged to the Seals, as our first pup of the year was born on the South Wamses, opposite Brownsman. How time flies! It feels just a few months ago that we were saying goodbye to our last Seal pups and here we go again. The autumn is upon us and its seal pup time…bring it on.

Our other bit of major news involved our resident White-tailed Eagle. The bird, having been content on Staple Island for some time, lifted off the island yesterday and moved south, some way out to sea on the back of a strong westerly wind. The bird appears not to have returned to the islands (we’ve not seen it in over 24 hours) and we now wonder if the bird reached the mainland south of the Farnes – so watch out, our barn door may be on mainland Northumberland!

Todays highlights: Sooty Shearwater 82N, Manx Shearwater 26N, Brent Geese 23N – first movement today, Pink-footed Geese 80 west, Velvet Scoter 1 male north, Red-breasted Merganser 8N, Lapland Bunting 1 west over Inner Farne.

Friday 10 September 2010


One of our Ortolan Buntings on the visitor centre! (Mark Breaks)

One of two bats resident on the Farnes at this moment (Mark Breaks)

Siskins flocking on the islands

Friday 10th September comments: Its been an epic week and the excitement even continued yesterday as Inner Farne hosted not just two, but three Ortolan Buntings! However the weather has finally eased allowing the majority of the common passage migrants to head off and continue their journey south to the southern hemisphere and beyond.

Interestingly during the week, it’s not just migrant birds which arrived, as two bats arrived, with individuals on Brownsman and Inner Farne. Bats are rare on the islands and both are still present, roosting during the day in the buildings and hunting at night.

On a final note, we had better brace ourselves next week – the Brownsman team were quick to point out the forecasts for next week – the winds will gust to 412mph according to the internet!!!! It was no joke, but maybe a typo, we hope… (check it out below...)

Weather check gone wrong..

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Calming down...

Wednesday 8th September comments: At last the wind has eased and although we remained closed to the public (the sea was still very rough) we'll be opening our doors to the public once again from tomorrow (Thursday). Despite the closure, common migrants remained in very good numbers and its been a very exciting period - hopefully something we'll see again later this season.
Major highlights:
White-tailed Eagle – still present on Staple Island
Wryneck - for third day on Brownsman
Ortolan Bunting – 2 immatures together on Inner Farne for second day
Lapland Bunting – 3 still on Brownsman + one west over Inner Farne

Today’s other totals: Kestrel, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper 8, Snipe 11, Ruff 4 west over Brownsman, Great Skua 2N, House Martin 1 south, Swallow, Yellow Wagtail 17 including the white individual for second day, Tree Pipit 17, Whinchat 14, Wheatear 45, Redstart 25, Song Thrush 7, Fieldfare 3, Reed Warbler 7, Grasshopper Warbler 9 – impressive count, Garden Warbler 30, Blackcap 20, Willow Warbler 30, Pied Flycatcher 6, Spotted Flycatcher 12, Siskin 23, Lesser Redpoll and Reed Bunting 2.

Tuesday 7 September 2010


Wryneck on Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

Pied Flycatcher on passage (Mark Breaks)

Good numbers of Redstarts (Mark Breaks)

Staple Island being battered (Tom Simon)

Tuesday 7th September comments: WHAT a day! The strong south-easterly winds continued to dominate, backed with driving rain in the morning which eased early afternoon – we even had bright sunshine later in the day! The islands remained closed as the seas were monstrous (the islands were battered) and we probably won’t be open until Thursday at the very earliest.

However all eyes were focused on the islands, as large numbers of common migrants were grounded with the odd rarity chucked in for good measure. It was an excellent day (see below) and the next few days should bring even more...bring it on!

Major highlights:
White-tailed Eagle – still present on Staple Island
Wryneck - for second day on Brownsman
Marsh Warbler – on Brownsman - first ever Farnes autumn record
Wood Warbler – on Inner Farne
Ortolan Bunting – 2 immatures together on Inner Farne
Lapland Bunting – 3 still on Brownsman

Today’s other totals: Sooty Shearwater 1N, Peregrine, Common Sandpiper 2, Snipe 7, Ruff west over Staple Island, Greenshank lingering, Arctic Skua 1N, Great Skua 3N, Swift 1 west – late individual, Swallow 3 south, Yellow Wagtail 12 including one white individual, Tree Pipit 13, Whinchat 15, Wheatear 42, Redstart 29, Song Thrush 5, Fieldfare 1 – first of the autumn, Reed Warbler 9, Sedge Warbler 4, Grasshopper Warbler 6, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler 39, Blackcap 11, Willow Warbler 35, Pied Flycatcher 5, Spotted Flycatcher 2 and Reed Bunting 2.

Monday 6 September 2010

Its on its way

Monday 6th September comments: We’re in it. The south-easterly winds cranked up a notch and hit 28mph today and its going to get stronger, much stronger. The shipping forecast has just flashed across the airwaves…

“Forties Cromarty Forth Tyne Dogger; east or southeast 6 to gale 8, increasing severe gale 9 at times later. Moderate or rough, becoming very rough. Fair then rain. Good, occasionally moderate”

Its going to be brutal.
As for today, despite the strong winds, it was good as a good number of common migrants arrived on the islands with the most noticeable highlight being a Wryneck on Brownsman. However with heavy rain and further south-easterly winds forecast, I suspect we may be in for a purple patch over the next few days…
Today’s highlights: White-tailed Eagle present for its tenth day, Kestrel, Common Sandpiper 3, Snipe, Great Skua 1N, Wryneck 1 – on Brownsman, Yellow Wagtail 1 juv, Tree Pipit 3, Whinchat 5, Wheatear 37, Redstart 7, Song Thrush, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler 2, Willow Warbler 8, Pied Flycatcher 3, Spotted Flycatcher 2 and Lapland Bunting 3

Sunday 5 September 2010

Eagle remains

Sunday 5th September comments:
It's been a windy and unsettled day as the islands have been cut off from the outside world due to strong south-easterly winds, which have dominated today and its going to get a lot worse before it improves. The wardens are bracing themselves (it could be Thursday before it improves enough to head back to the mainland for provisions), so we’re well stocked and its time to batten down the hatches. However there is one silver lining to the strong winds – they’ll bring migrant birds to the islands and today a small trickle of common migrants arrived but I suspect the best is yet to come…

Highlights: Great crested Grebe – one on sea off Brownsman, the first islands record since 12 September 2007! White-tailed Eagle immature still present, Kestrel, Whinchat 2 Wheatear 2, Willow Warbler 5, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher 2, Lapland Bunting 4.

Friday 3 September 2010

Where have you been?

Not well liked by the local seabirds - our Eagle in flight (Mark Breaks)

Stunning Lapland Bunting on Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

Lapland Bunting on Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

Friday 3rd September comments: It’s been a strange day on the Farnes. Our Eagle has been attracting headlines from the media (as well as a few radio interviews) but as if planned, the bird dually disappeared. An early morning check revealed the bird had gone and visitors and wardens were disappointed (although the Fulmars were pleased!). So life on the Farnes continued without our large Eagle friend, having been present since last Saturday.

Throughout the day, the islands were checked and nothing, although three Lapland Buntings moved through as autumn migration picked up. However as the team were settling down for the evening, attention was drawn back to Staple Island, and there in full powerful glory, our Eagle was back.

Where the bird had been is anyone’s guess – it’s not easy to loose a three foot Eagle on an island without any trees. One theory is that the bird moved north eight miles to nearby Lindisfarne (it was reported as being on there), but its back as it obviously likes the Farnes and those tasty Fulmars…

Today’s Highlights: Red-necked Grebe, Teal 42N, White-tailed Eagle immature (back!), Peregrine, Kestrel, Greenshank 2, Whimbrel 2, Golden Plover 700, Arctic Skua 3N, Willow Warbler 6 and Lapland Bunting 3 (2 west and one lingering on Brownsman).

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Whats this...

White-tailed Eagle remains (eating Shag) by Mark Breaks

An unusual visitor...
(by Mark Breaks)

Tuesday 1st September comments:
Day four and our Eagle remains. The monster is still present on Staple Island and is being enjoyed by all those who visit the islands (he’s pretty obvious especially when he decided to sit on top of the old lighthouse ruin on the island!).

Claire Smith (East of Scotland Sea Eagle Officer) has been kind enough to forward some information on our bird. The Eagle, is a male, released in Fife on 19th August and was actually one of their smallest (weighing ‘only’ 4.1kg on release – females can weigh up to 6.5kg!). The bird is approximately four months old and it appears that it was carried south with the strong winds at the weekend until it reached the Farnes. Another bird (Yellow tag I), has reached the Isle of May over the same period! It's also only the third time (in four years) that release birds have made it to England but the first ever occurrence on the Farne Islands. Its an incredible visitor and one which many people in this area will long remember.
However it wasn't just the Eagle catching the eye on Staple Island, as a complete white Shag arrived late Monday afternoon - our first since one was born on the same island in 2002. The very odd looking bird certainly stands out amongst all the other Shags, but then again, that might not be a good thing considering the same island is boasting a Shag eating Eagle... Watch out my friend.

So its all go on the Farnes - its never a dull place and I suspect we will have more to follow, so stay logged on...