Thursday 28 February 2013

Fab Feb!

Looking from Inner Farne to West Wideopens

Pinnacles looking clean..too clean!

Clifftops bare and empty

Chapel locked down but looking good

Singing Twite was a surprise!

Seals present in good numbers
Thursday 28th February comments: As day's go, it was stunning. It's not often late February produces a day of sunshine and calm seas, but yesterday was impressive. We could not have asked for anymore as we visited the islands for various work reasons and for a general check of the islands health.

Seabirds were few and far between although by late afternoon, Guillemots were rafting and a few Shags had descended onto the cliffs. A small group of Eider ducks were seen displaying around Inner Farne whilst Rock Pipits were singing in territory - spring may have sprung?

As expected, two Peregrines were seen (these birds over-winter on the Farnes) whilst a scattering of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Wrens and Robins were present. The most noticeable bird was a male Twite, seen and heard singing on Inner Farne - a very welcome addition to a crisp warm late February day. On the water, a few Long-tailed Ducks and Goldeneye indicate that winter isn't over just yet. Elsewhere Grey Seals were present in good numbers on their haul out sites but slowly and surely the Farnes is coming alive and in three weeks time, the rangers will return, then the fun will really begin! 

Monday 25 February 2013

Not long now

Puffins galore on the Farnes

Not long until Puffins return

Monday 25th February comments: Slowly and surely the spring is on its way and that means one thing - the farnes are back in action. In only a month away before the ranger team return to the islands, followed by the seabirds and then we'll open our door's. The team are starting to dust down their hats, find their binoculars and contemplate life back on the rocks. The Farne Islands are stirring and it'll soon be all go. Are you with us?

The islands open to the public from Friday 29th March and will remain open daily until 31st October (weather dependant!) and I hope you can find the time to visit this stunning seabird colony. If not, keep reading as we'll bring you all the news and views on the blog...its Farne Islands live. 

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Dutch Delight

Easily seen and read in the 'field'

Proud ringed Shag parents

Ringing kit at the ready
Wednesday 20th February comments: It’s at this time of year when we start receiving various reports from the BTO bird ringing scheme about reports of Farne seabirds being seen elsewhere. In recent years, the Shag ringing scheme (birds are fitted with red plastic rings which can be read with telescopes, so no need to recapture the bird) has produced some good sightings including recent movements to Orkney and north-east Scotland from the Farnes.

However yesterday news filtered through of one going further afield....

Age when ringed: Chick Location: Brownsman Island
Date ringed: 17th June 2012

Finding date: 18th November 2012 (red ring read in the 'field')
Location: West Terschelling, Netherlands

Distance moved: 509km in 154 days since bird was ringed.

This kind of information is so vital to our understanding of seabird movements and shows the importance of such schemes. The work put in by the ranger team is starting to pay dividends and we look forward to more reports which I'll share with you as they filter in.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Spoke to soon!

Patricia in heavy seas

Trinity House boat Patricia

Rough seas at the harbour
Wednesday 13th February comments: No sooner had the Guillemots returned and I mentioned that Spring had 'sprung' we then got this! Strong easterly winds, heavy sea and snow. Forget spring, its still winter. 

Patricia, the Trinity House boat which patrols the east coast, visiting and checking lighthouses, was observed heading north off the islands in heavy seas. It's always difficult to capture rough seas, as scale is difficult, but one thing is for sure, I'm glad I was not on that boat! With little over one month to go before we open our doors to the public, the pre-season work continues. the team has been selected and we now can move forward in getting ready for the big kick off.  

Monday 11 February 2013

Spring is sprung!

Soon the cliffs will be full

Guillemots are back in town

'bridled' Guillemots are back
Monday 11th February comments: Spring is slowly and surely creeping upon us as the milder weather threatens to arrive, the lighter nights are drawing ever closer and the Farne Islands is waking from its winter slumber. Last Friday the first real indication of spring arrived as thousands upon thousands of Guillemots invaded Farnes waters for the first time this year. The birds arrived and landed on cliff tops and although not unusual, it's the start of things to come.

Nearly 50,000 individual Guillemots call the Farne Islands 'home' and unsettled weather over the next month or so will see these birds head back out to sea. But gradually birds will settle and by early April, the clifftops of the Farnes will be alive once again. So don't miss it, we open our doors to the public on Friday 29th March - it's not to be missed. This is the Farne Islands, one of Britain's most outstanding nature reserves.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Sir David Attenborough

Wednesday 6th February comments: Today saw a question and answer session with Sir David Attenborough live on the BBC website between 13:00-14:00 covering all questions on the recent hit ‘Africa’ but was asked this question…

“Where in the UK offers the best opportunity to capture magnificent nature?”

The answer…

“the Farne Islands during the breeding season in spring would be my favourite”.

That’s some accolade from Sir David Attenborough and I can not disagree. The Farne Islands are simply a stunning place for wildlife and no one will ague with that.

Winter blues

Stunning drake Long-tailed Duck in Seahouses harbour


A very quiet harbour with some boats out for winter work
Wednesday 6th February comments: It's been a little while since the blog has been updated as midwinter is a quiet time for the Farne Islands. The team are living far and wide (some are even currently in India!) whilst report writing and all the pre-season prep which goes with the territory has been keeping me occupied.

The north-east has been dominated by strong westerly gales in recent weeks, restricting any access to the islands and it appears to be making life tough for our seabirds. News is filtering in of a 'wreck' of Shags in north-east Scotland, as birds find it difficult to feed in relentless gales. From recent studies, we know some of our Shags winter in the affected area, so we'll have to wait and see what effect it will have on our breeding stock. Another troubling story comes from the opposite end of the country where Auks are being washed up on the south coast following 'spillage of an unknown substance'. Just like our Shags, that area is also a known location for our wintering Guillemot population. Troubling times.....

On a lighter note, Seahouses harbour has been playing refuge to seaducks including some stunning Long-tailed Ducks, whilst the boats are out of the water, ready for their winter cleaning. It won't be long before we're back and the Farnes is open once here we go again. What will the summer of 2013 bring?