Friday 29 June 2012

Set dryer to the rain

Chicks in the rain (Ciaran Hatsell)

Friday 29th June comments: That was an epic few hours last night, and looking elsewhere in the north-east we may have got off lightly, as the Newcastle region was hammered. Above is a montage of videos taken during the storm of our Arctic Tern chicks and the 'storm salon'. Sadly this morning we have had casualties with small numbers of Kittiwake, Shag and Arctic Tern chicks not making the night. However it could have been a lot, lot worse...

Thursday 28 June 2012

Storm salon

Down pour: the Farne Islands 5pm Thursday afternoon 

Tern chick looks on - the pathway has become a river 

Trying to shelter under mother 

No escape for the adult and chick Kittiwake 

Looking bleak for the Arctic Tern chicks 

Time to step in - hair dryer treatment for the chicks!

Back from the brink;  fluff balls and ready to go back out

Thursday 28th June 7pm update: In the last two hours we've had everything thrown at us. Thunder and lightening has battered the island and rain has fallen like never seen before. Everything has suffered and its been a battle but the ranger team have clicked into action and have been working their magic.

Armed with a hair dryer, we've managed to help over thirty Arctic Tern chicks by drying and warming them and releasing them back to their parents. Its worked a treat as we've brought some from the verge of death, back to full life, kicking and screaming as we released them. This season has had it all and now I have seen it all. Thanks rain, thanks.

Hello rain my old freind...

Ringed Plover chick on the way to fledging (and now ringed!) Laura Shearer 

Oystercatcher chick hiding in the undergrowth (Graeme Duncan) 

Arctic Tern chick growing up! 

Kittiwake youngster with parent

Friday 28th June comments: Another day and yet more bad weather - it's what we expect now from this summer so I might even stop talking about it one of these days, maybe. On Tuesday evening the islands experienced some heavy downpours with some flash flooding...sadly a typical scene this year which has and unfortunately will be repeated this summer. With heavy rain forecast over the next few days, we'll hold our breath as this dreadful season continues.

On a lighter note, the resilient seabirds are raising young and it won't be long before we have more on the wing. The first fledgling Kittiwakes are not far away from taking their first step off the nest whilst both Sandwich and Arctic Tern chicks continue to grow ever bigger and stronger. However it's back to that weather and we'll start getting prepared. Hello rain my old friend...

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Peak season

Let's go son...Guillemot chick with Father heading out to sea 

Success all the way - Guillemot chicks on the way! 

Like father, like son... 

It's a tough life being a Farnes Grey Seal... 

Icterine Warbler number five for the spring

Tuesday 26th June comments: It’s an exciting time of year on the Farne Islands as thousands of seabirds are feeding hungry youngsters as the season has reached its peak. All the seabird species on the islands have young and ever some are fledging now with young Shags and Cormorants on the wing. It won’t be long before the first tern chicks are flying and learning from their parents on what to do best – peck heads!

Guillemots and Razorbills continue to lead their small young out into the open sea as numbers decline on a daily basis – by mid-July the entire Guillemot population will be gone – a real contrast to the current scenes on the islands. Puffins have suffered with the excess rain, but where they’ve been successful, their young are growing up strong and fast ready for life at sea.

Even to do this day the Farne continues to surprise us, as our fifth (yes 5th!) Icterine Warbler of the spring arrived on Brownsman – a bright adult which showed well before departing overnight. The Farne is a great place and I recommend a visit if time and money allows.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Mixed weather again!

Sunset from the Farnes 

Proud parent - adult Guillemot 

Nearly time to go - Guillemot chick 

 Showing well - ranger Will checking out the roosting Hobby (Andy Denton)

Turbulent seas - the 'norm' this year (Will Scott)

Saturday 23rd June comments: Where has time gone? We've already passed the longest day of the year and yet we feel we are still waiting for our summer to start! The week has brought the usual mixed weather
as we've had rain, wind and glorious sunshine. The week began in sunshine, with heavy rain later in the week and we finished with strong winds. Great! As I said, the 'usual' weather.

The breeding birds are having mixed fortunes throughout all of this, as food supply remains very good so for those birds which have young, things are going well. However it's not all been good news as Puffins continue to struggle especially on Brownsman.

Although its generally quiet for birds migrating through the islands at this time of year, the adult Hobby roosted overnight on the Pele Tower and was still present the following morning (showing well from its roost point!). Eventually the bird departed west towards the mainland and joins the catalogue of good birds we've seen out here this year.

However what will next week bring? I suspect rain, wind, sunshine..... snow anyone?

Thursday 21 June 2012

Sodden Subbuteo

Roosting out of the rain on the Pele Hobby (Will Scott)

Turn with a difference - adult Hobby over Inner Farne (Will Scott) 

Hawking over lighthouse (Will Scott)

Thursday 21st June comments: Well another day and another blog post about the weather. Following three stunning days of bright sunshine (was that our summer?), we were back to ‘square one’ today as heavy rain and easterly winds swept the islands. The visitor boats found themselves restricted once again and the ranger team were confined to the indoors. However, the weather forecasts suggest it’s calming and it can’t come quick enough.

However every cloud has…you know the rest, and today the only positive came in the form of another good bird for the islands. Late afternoon, an adult Hobby was discovered on Inner Farne, which delighted the team (celebrating only the sixth ever Hobby for the islands) but the same couldn’t be said about the local seabirds, which were not that impressed by its presence! I’m glad to say that the Hobby was no real threat to the nesting birds and as dusk arrived, the bedraggled visitor was roosting on the Pele Tower hoping, like us, that tomorrow will bring some better weather…

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Rain keeps falling on my head

From sunshine to flooding in ten minutes! 

Safe, but only just...Arctic tern chicks sheltering 

Brownsman bathroom visitor...

Tuesday 19th June comments: Just a quick morning update - the islands have been basking in glorious sunshine over the last 24hours (it makes a lovely change) but this morning we had a freak heavy downpour which lasted all of ten minutes. In that time, the pathways were flooded and the Terns were in shock. Even the Puffins were sheltering in our bathroom, but as I type, the sun is back out and all is forgotten. This British summer keeps on changing...

Monday 18 June 2012

Jump around

Video of guillemot chicks jumping (Ciaran Hatsell)

Happy parent; adult and chick Guillemot (Will Scott) 

Youngster waiting to go (Will Scott) 

Monday 18th June comments: Guillemots are amazing birds. They nest on the Farnes in their thousands, laying a single egg and incubating it under their feet (Penguin style!). Once hatched, the young chick is raised and then at 20 days old, the chick is called down to the sea and the adult male takes the youngster out into the North Sea where it grows its flight feathers, learns how to fish and discovers what life is like as a Guillemot. It’s an amazing strategy which works- the Farnes increasing population is testament to that.

On calm nights, late in the evening, the first thing that becomes apparent is the noise increase. With both adults and chicks constantly communicating, it is not long before the whistling and jabbering creates an absolute cacophony, echoing off the cliff faces and carrying across the water. This is the pinnacle of activity in the seabird city that is the Farne islands. A month of incubation and a further 20 days of tending to the chick culminate in this spectacular evening event.

The video above gives a snap shot of the first ‘jumplings’ filmed last night by Ciaran and I suspect over the next few weeks, we’ll have many more following. Despite the weather, the Farnes is bouncing back.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Rares on the Hares

Chicks sheltering under mother 

Its wet Arctic Tern on nest 
Day three for our Tern chick - his sibling has now hatched 

Big Harcar Cormorants on nests 

Gull chicks staying warm together

Our third Red-breasted Flycatcher of the spring!

Saturday 16th June comments: It’s been another interesting day as the weather has continued to dominate life on the islands. Overnight rain had cleared bringing brighter conditions in the morning but then we were back to the ‘usual weather’ as the rain had moved back in and by late afternoon, it was raining heavy. Life on the Farnes this season has been tough and that’s no exaggeration.

Interestingly spring migration continued with the discovery of our third Red-breasted Flycatcher of the spring, found on the eastern rocky outcrop known as the Northern Hares. The bird, a female, showed well (the island is just rock – no vegetation so it was always going to show well) and considering the Farnes only boasts five previous spring records of the species, three this year is very unusual!

One story we’ve been meaning to bring was the discovery of a roosting Nightjar on Brownsman on 12th June. The bird was discovered on the north end of the island and later found by the main Kittiwake colony near the cottage, but sadly no photographs were taken. Despite this, it was a great discovery – the islands first since 1995! Its been a brilliant spring for migrant birds but that may be the only positive coming out of the islands this spring... 

Friday 15 June 2012


Its grim outside - view from the kitchen window, Terns sheltering 

Adults sitting tight on small young 

Hatched yesterday - Arctic Tern chick...

...and today looking healthy

Friday 15th June comments:  The weather forecasters made no mistake today as strong easterly winds combined with driving rain has made the day very grim for everything and everyone connected with the islands. The breeding birds have had it tough this season and it continues to challenge them as the conditions have been far from perfect. However with just very small young, many birds may just get away with it, as chicks can shelter under parents and escape the worst of it. We could just do with it brightening up and staying that way for a few months, then we might be happy!

Across the Arctic Tern colonies, small chicks continue to hatch and without disturbance, will be fine under their parents. The weather appears to be clearing as the rain clouds are predicted to be moving on, so hopefully life will return to 'normal' on the islands. I keep saying it, but what a summer we've had so far. Will it ever improve? Fingers crossed (yet again) as we move into mid-June.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Theres a storm brewing...

Saying hello to the world...Arctic Tern chick 

In evening light; Kittiwake with chicks 

Guillemots galore on Staple Island

Wednesday 13th June comments: No-one will argue that its been a tough year so far, as unsettled weather over the last few months have made it a challenging season for the islands. The ranger team have found it difficult, the visitor boats have found it tough (one of the worst ever years for the number of lost sailing days) and without doubt the seabirds have found it tough. Heavy rainfall in April flooded Puffin burrows whilst strong winds and heavy seas washed off cliff nests in May.

So welcome to June and welcome to our next storm. The forecasts suggest that Thursday night and all day Friday will bring easterly gale force winds with heavy rain. The storm will only last 24hours, but how bad it will be is anyone guess. It's the last thing the newly hatched chicks need and I'll bring you all the news as it happens, but start preparing yourself for the worst. The Farnes don't need this at this moment in time, but where getting it and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Disaster? It could be...

Monday 11 June 2012

Mint and co starting to grow! 

 Lettuce doing well

Life in the garden of inner Farne

Monday 11th June comments: On occasions, it's nice to report something away from the hustle and bustle of the seabird city and I thought I would bring you an update on our new vegetable garden. Last month a team of hard working, dedicated gardeners from Nunnington Hall restored the old vegetable garden on Inner Farne for the resident ranger team. One month on and the garden is looking good as the first sign of life has started to appear. 

A number of plants are now growing and although the team have been watering the garden daily, the weather has also helped (at least something has been benefiting from the rain on the islands!). The hope of producing some editable produce looks a real possibility and with a little more help (a bit of weeding and thinning out is needed), I suspect the ranger team will be a happy bunch come the autumn.  

Sunday 10 June 2012

On the up

Razorbill with chick 

Big and strong; Shag chicks 

Getting ready to leave - Guillemot chicks 

Kittiwakes with young 

Veg garden growing well

Sunday 10th June comments: The weather has turned for the better although it has left its mark on the Farne Islands. The heavy seas and wet conditions over the previous few days has resulted in the loss of small young, but we have to turn our attention to the living and hope there is no repeat of what we have already experienced. On a lighter note, the islands are back open and the forecast looks promising, so hopefully things are on the up. However only time will tell, so keep reading and we'll keep you informed.