Saturday 30 April 2011

Some picys...

First Kittiwake eggs (Jamie Coleman)

Sandwich Terns galore (Jamie Coleman)

Swallows on the move (Jamie Coleman)

Monday 25 April 2011

Glorious April

Razorbills now on eggs!

Guillemots galore

Monday 25th April comments:

Its still all go on the islands, as the fine weather continues (we’ve yet to be closed due to poor weather in April!), good numbers of visitors are visiting us and the breeding seabirds are settling day by day.

The month has brought some exceptional weather, with high temperatures and plenty of flat calm seas. However we went through a spell of thick fog late last week, but the sunshine has returned and everyone is happy once again!

On the seabird front, most birds are now on eggs including the latest additions of Razorbill, Black-headed Gull and Ringed Plover. In fact, having had Shags on eggs since 23rd March, we’ll probably be boasting chicks very soon! However, as expected, we’re waiting for the Terns to settle (but not until early May) whilst Kittiwakes have yet to lay (which will probably happen in the next day or two).

On the migration front, we’ve had up to 23 Little Terns (earlier than normal) during the evening roost whilst another Hooded Crow and the lingering Mediterranean Gull have been noticeable highlights.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Bird Report 2010

Birds on the Farne Islands 2010

The latest Farne Islands bird report is now out and for general sale on the islands. The report covers all aspects of the Farnes including full accounts of all 183 species recorded on Farne Islands during the year.

The report contains:

Front cover (Fulmar) produced by dutch illustrator Bas Teunis.

Ten colour photographs of the most noticeable rarities to be seen on the islands.

A full species by species bird account including all nesting seabirds.

Full reports on all moths, butterflies and cetaceans recorded.

A Grey Seal report covering the pupping season of the autumn.

An in depth bird ringing report highlighting all major findings.

To obtain the latest copy, please send cheques payable to the National Trust for £6 (this includes p&p) to:

David Steel

Farne Islands



NE68 7SR

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Sunny days continue...

Guillemots all on eggs (Graeme Duncan)

Potential new breeders - Canada Geese settled and paired (Graeme Duncan)

Plenty on the islands - over 200 Purple Sandpipers at present (Graeme Duncan)

Strimming for the Terns (Graeme Duncan)

Tuesday 19th April comments:

The breeding season continues to gather momentum and each day brings something new. Over the last few days we’ve witnessed an arrival of Arctic Terns whilst huge numbers of displaying Sandwich Terns are now evident over the islands. Although still early, Sandwich Terns have been landing on the main colony of Inner Farne so I suspect an early start for them as well!

On the cliff ledges, Guillemots are well settled, Razorbills are copulating and Shags have been on eggs for three weeks. Elsewhere more and more Eiders inspect nest sites around the islands whilst Puffins are now on eggs! It’s all go and we’ll soon be celebrating a full set of nesting birds, and then the hard work really begins.

On the migrant front, more summer migrants have arrived on the islands including up to thirty Willow Warblers on 15th and our first Tree Pipits on 16th April. Of real note, a Tree Sparrow was on Brownsman on 3rd, two Ospreys over on 2nd and 4th, a Hooded Crow was present on Longstone on 13th, the same day a Greenshank was noted on Knoxes Reef, whilst two different Mediterranean Gulls have been seen in the evening roost.

As for the team, we’ve been working hard, dealing with good numbers of visitors daily whilst preparing the islands for the nesting seabirds. Its early days but we’ve been living on the islands for one month now and as a head warden, the team have had a cracking start and thank-you to each and every one of you – keep it up, you’re doing the Farnes proud.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Own-goal nightmare

The warden football team (after the match!) (Wez Smith)
Farne Island Wardens 4 – 5 Seahouses Boatmen

Wednesday evening witnessed the first of the football clashes between the warden and Seahouses boatmen and what a clash it was! The first half was a typical tight affair with very little between the two teams before the boatmen broke the deadlock through Mickey Craig. However the wardens replied soon after through the brilliance of new warden Ciaran and with the game ebbing and flowing, it was the boatmen who raced into a 2-1 lead, as Danny P rifled home just before half-time. Half-time Wardens 1-2 Boatmen

The second half witnessed plenty of drama as the game appeared to be escaping the wardens, as a fine strike from Craig Pringle put the Seahouses men 3-1 up. However the goal appeared to galvanise the wardens who soon responded in fine style, smashing three quick goals (including a hat-rick from Ciaran and a fine team goal with Jamie finishing it off, to turn the game on its head at 4-3.

However the final 15 minutes witnessed a warden collapse as the island men scored not one, but two own goals to give the Boatmen a 5-4 lead in a thriller of a match. I won't name the own goal scorers, but the head warden can claim one.... With minutes remaining the wardens rallied for that elusive equaliser and despite intense pressure, could not find the break through. The boatmen hung on for a 5-4 win and everyone enjoyed the first game of the season although maybe not for me, who scored an own goal and was briefly knocked out and minus a tooth by the end of the game. Who said it was a friendly!? Role on the rematch.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Eider eggs!

Kittiwakes nest building (Graeme Duncan)

Male Brambling on Brownsman yesterday (Graeme Duncan)

Tuesday 12th April comments: The season is advancing by the day and today we had another early nester – this time in the form of an Eider. It’s the second earliest ever laying date as a bird sitting on three eggs was discovered on Brownsman. Over 200 pairs are lingering in Farnes waters at this moment, so we’ll soon be invaded be even more. Interestingly the Puffins all disappeared again today, but other seabirds appear to be more settled including the Kittiwakes which are now frantically nest building.

As for the warden team, it’s that time of year again. As long as weather holds, the wardens are heading over to the mainland tomorrow evening to play football against the Seahouses boatmen. It’s a grudge match we don’t like to loose (actually, its really just me who doesn’t like to loose). Anyway the first bragging rights of the season are on offer and we’ll bring you the news and match report on Thursday. Fingers crossed that the first victory of the season heads our way.

Highlights: Wigeon pair, Peregrine female, Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Sandwich Tern 183 at roost, Common Gull 54 at roost, Swallow, ‘White’ Wagtail 4 males together on Inner Farne!! Wheatear 15, Redwing – late passage bird, Willow Warbler 2, male Brambling and Linnet 8.

Monday 11 April 2011

Happy Birthday Ciaran

Happy Birthday Ciaran!

Monday 11th April comments:

Another day and another birthday. Today (Monday 11th April) Ciaran celebrated his birthday on the Farnes having been with us since mid-March. Its Ciarans first season on the islands and as a mad keen birder, he's been at the forefront of the birding scene on the Farnes (and was alongside me when we discovered the islands 'potential' first in the form of a Snow Goose). Wishing you a great day and hope you celebrate many more with us on the islands, from all the team, Happy Birthday!

Sunday 10 April 2011


Guillemots now on eggs!

Puffins starting to settle

Male Blackcap - migrants on the move

Sunday 10th April Comments: Each year I seem to report we've had 'another record quick start to the season' and here we go again as more record fall. This year the Shags were off to a flier (no pun intended) as eggs were laid on 23rd March and yesterday we discovered the earliest ever Guillemot eggs! It’s a stunning start and no doubt the question will be raised as to why we have had such an early start to the season but we may not really know the answers to the quick start. Certainly the settled weather is helping and long may it continue. On the islands, the warden team are happy as each day brings something new and exciting whilst visitor numbers are increasing slowly with the onset of fine weather and the Easter holidays. Migrant birds are moving through on a daily basis whilst the breeding seabirds are establishing themselves on the cliffs and island 'tops'. Its all go as Spring is well sprung.

Seabird highlights:

Eiders – starting to inspect nest sites on islands

Shags – settled on many pairs on nests

Guillemots – first eggs on 9th April – the earliest ever laying date on the Farnes!!

Puffins – settled on islands with nest scraping and copulation noted

Sandwich Terns – increasing daily with a peak of 175 on 9th April

Common Tern – a single on 6th April was our earliest ever

Kittiwake – nest building across the colonies

Migration Highlights

Sand Martin 13 north over on 8th April - first of the year

Swallow 6 over on 7th April - first of the year

Chiffchaff – first of the year arrived on 3rd April

Willow Warbler – 2 - our first of the year arrived on 10th

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Happy Birdthday April!

I've been looking for an excuse to start introducing the 'Farnes team of 2011' and today is a good time to start, as April celebrates her birthday on the islands. April is no stranger to island life having spent the previous summer out on the islands, successfully completing her Masters degree, having researched Puffin disturbance by visitors.

Having graduated last autumn, April enjoyed the islands so much, she has returned as a fully paid up member of the team. I hope you have a great Birthday and best wishes from everyone concerned.

Fishy Double!

Our second Osprey over this year (Graeme Duncan)

Large Gulls not happy - Osprey over

Tuesday 5th April comments:

Its still all go on the islands, as everything is starting to kick-off. The breeding birds are starting to settle as the urge to nest grows ever stronger, as Puffins have finally returned after a four day absence. Cormorants are now on eggs, whilst Ringed Plover and Oystercatchers have commenced territorial displays.

It wasn't just the breeding birds which have been attracting our attention as yesterday produced our second OSPREY of the year, another being harassed by large Gulls over the inner group - what a year its becoming for large raptors! Sunday brought the biggest influx of migrants including the islands first TREE SPARROW since our long-staying resident of 2007.

As for the team, everyone is settling in and enjoying the great start - long may it continue.

Monday 4th highlights: OSPREY (second of spring) over inner group, Chiffchaff 1

Sunday 3rd highlights: Red-throated Diver 3, Grey Heron, Wigeon pair north, Red-breasted Merganser male north, Canada Goose 8, Greylag Gosee 2 – both species lingering, Teal 2, Woodcock 1 over Brownsman, Sandwich Tern 78, Wheatear 12, Swallow 1N, Black Redstart male (stunning), Chiffchaff 1(first of the year), Blackcap male (first of the year), Goldcrest 2, Jackdaw 3, TREE SPARROW 1 on Brownsman first since 2007!!

Breeding birds Puffins copulating at sea with good numbers back on the islands Guillemots – huge numbers back on the clifftops Kittiwakes collecting nest material across the islands Cormorants on eggs on the East Wideopens

Saturday 2 April 2011

Another good day...

Merlin on the prowl (Graeme Duncan)

Get off - a resident Gull chases the Merlin (Graeme Duncan)

Saturday 2nd April comments: It’s been a cracking start to the season with some noticeable highlights and a cheeky Great Auk…or maybe not. However we can’t deny the team have enjoyed their start and it got even better today, with an Osprey! The bird drifted over the nearby West Wideopens and like the Buzzard the week before, upset the local nesting Gulls before eventually heading westward over Inner Farne. The wardens couldn’t complain, as it drifted within 60ft of the team – impressive to say the least. Despite a bulging UK population, they still remain a rarity on the islands, as it represents our 15th ever and the first since 2009. It also represented our earliest ever, taking 22 days off the previous record. As well as the Osprey, there were good movements of common birds, especially Meadow Pipits and the first Sand Martin and Swallows of the year. Today’s highlights: OSPREY (15th for the Farnes), Canada Goose 3 on West Wideopens, Red-throated Diver 1N, Merlin female hunting, Bar-tailed Godwit 9, Grey Plover 8, Purple Sandpiper 35 , Sanderling 1, Knot 48, Dunlin 4, Turnstone 29, Redshank 15, Sandwich Tern 51 at roost, Swallow 1N (first of the year), Sand Martin 1N, Meadow Pipit 351N, Pied Wagtail 8N, Wheatear 8, Fieldfare 1, Linnet 15N.

Friday 1 April 2011

The one that got away...

Friday 1st April comments: So it was no surprise that the Great Auk sighting was false, as April fools day opened with a laugh. Some clever work from resident warden Graeme produced the image and the warden team enjoyed their brief but imaginary 'visitor to the clifftops'. Although it was all a laugh, it really is sad we have lost this bird for ever, as what a sight it must have been - the Farnes did actually once boast this incredible Auk, but not anymore.

Auk'in Hell!! A potential historical moment!?

Shock on the cliff tops - a Great Auk amongst Guillemots (Graeme Duncan)

Friday 1st April comments: This morning resident warden Graeme Duncan snapped a shot of a bird on Lighthouse cliff on Inner Farne which has proved to be that of a Great Auk. The species, last seen in 1840 on the outer reaches of northern Scotland, was seen briefly, allowing Graeme to snap the above photograph.

The news will shock and rock the birding world, as many have considered the species to be long extinct. The sighting has raised hopes of an undiscovered relict population which will hopefully re-colonise the Farnes in the near future.

Following much jubilation amongst the warden team, the bird moved off towards the nearby West Wideopens but has not been seen since. The bird appeared in good health and associated with the nearby Guillemots and we’ll keep everyone informed of any future sightings. WHAT a morning.