Wednesday 29 February 2012

Flying over

Early season preparation - visitor boats out of the water

Wednesday 29th February comments: Everything is in place now as we cross the 't's and dot the 'i's. In eighteen days time the rangers will return to Seahouses and soon after we'll be heading back to the Farnes for another season. Time has gone so quick but with a few final things to do, it's almost time to open our doors.

At present the visitor boats have been lifted clear of the harbour, as each one receives its annual spring clean and safety inspection ready for another year at sea. They'll soon be bringing the daily visitors and more importantly our supplies and post! Life on 'Planet Farne' will start again and for me, I'm about to start year twelve on the rock. I must be mad.

Early indications suggest that more birds are returning to Farne waters with an increase in Razorbill and Guillemot numbers whilst the first Puffin sighting will not be far away. Harbour Porpoise have already been reported in recent days whilst Fulmars occupy the cliff ledges. Soon seabird city will be alive and well and you must come and visit, it's one unbelievable place, and who better to tell you than me.

Friday 17 February 2012

Four weeks to go!

The buildings of Inner Farne

Sunset Farnes style

Friday 17th February comments: The count-down has started as in four weeks time the rangers will meet back up in Seahouses having been far and wide during the winter months. Following the usual week of training in Seahouses, we'll be packing everything (including the kitchen sink) and heading over to the islands, which will be home for the next nine months. On 1st April we'll then open our doors to the visitors and then the real hard work can begin...bring it on.

It's still early days at the moment as we haven't recorded our first Puffin this season, but Guillemots continue to increase in number with boatmen reporting several thousand on the cliffs last week. Good numbers of Shags are already present whilst Fulmars remain settled. The season is just about to start...

Thursday 9 February 2012

Gordon Allison R.I.P

News is just breaking that Gordon Allison, a Farnes 'old boy' died in his sleep on Monday 6th February. Only 50 years of age, this is a tragic loss for his family, work mates, birding colleagues, and friends in the wider world.

John Walton writes:

It was in 1990 that I had the pleasure of working with Gordon on the Farne Islands. With his shock of unruly, curly hair, his colourful bandannas, and his unbounded enthusiasm he was a character to remember. Way back then it was obvious he would forge a career in conservation - his passion, his drive, and his sheer dam' zest for life would see to that. Like most wardens there were a series of contracts before he settled at the place he loved. He became a much-respected Warden for the RSPB reserves at Elmley and Northward Hills in Kent. He posted a blog on the Saturday before his death which gave an indication of just how much he was enjoying his life - and his birding.

David and I were only talking to him last summer about his hopes for a 21st anniversary team re-union on the islands in October - no coincidence that this is our peak migration period! That fell through, but plans were well advanced for October 2012. That Gordon won't be here is our loss. He was, as they say up north, a 'canny lad' and will always be fondly remembered.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Stunning visit

The approach to the Farnes...Inner Farne lighthouse

View from Inner Farne looking towards outer group

Bare cliffs with a few Shags scattered across them

Quiet - Inner Farne mid-winter

Tuesday 7th February comments: What a day. I decided to take full advantage of the glorious (and unseasonable weather) as I made another out-of-season visit to the Farne Islands. It was almost disbelieving, as the North Sea was flat, the sun was shining and everything was perfect. I just had to remind myself that it is still only 7th February and not the 7th June. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

All appeared in good shape and Fulmars were scattered across the islands on their favoured ledges. Small numbers of Shags were on the cliff tops whilst the nearby sea held small numbers of Guillemots. It's still some time before we'll have huge numbers of seabirds, but it's a start. Even the Eider ducks were busy displaying - I was almost expecting a peck from an Arctic Tern.

The islands at this time of year remain quiet although a few Blackbirds, Robins and the odd Song Thrush and Woodcock indicated that spring passage has started. It won't be long before we are back for the summer and then the real work will begin. Bring it on.

Sunday 5 February 2012

What will the season bring?

Population decline - a better year needed for Cormorants

Puffins: Next year will bring a full population census - but how many?

Guillemots: Will they eventually topple the 50,000 mark?

Heading out - only 500 pairs of Sandwich Terns nested last year

Arctic Terns need another good year

Sunday 5th February comments: It's still early days but I've been wondering what the new season will bring. Just like any Farnes season, we'll have the good, the bad and the ugly. We'll have successes to shout about, but we'll also have the bad - those birds setting the alarm bells ringing. Last season both the breeding populations of Cormorant and Sandwich Terns continued their recent declines and if this year brings one thing, it could do with a reverse of fortunes for both of these species.

On a positive, we could do with some 'business as normal' for the auks (Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins) which have been doing well of recent whilst Arctic Terns, Shags and Kittiwakes could do with just a little tweaking.

Finally, we could do with some good weather during the summer months, so the birds can have a great breeding season, the rangers can have an enjoyable summer and just as important, that the public can come and share the lot with us. If you've never been before, its about time you did, so what are you waiting for, come and visit the Farnes and say hello.

Opening times:

April: Inner Farne open all day (daily)

1st May - 31st July: Staple Island opens 10:30-13:30 then Inner Farne from 13:30-17:00

1st August-31st October: Inner Farne open all day