Friday 31 May 2013

Black-headed Bunting Video

A quick addition to the Black-headed Bunting of yesterday. The ranger team placed a video camera next to the feeding station in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the bird in action, and were excited by the results! The female bunting was recorded on several occasions feeding up before her return flight back down to her breeding grounds in southern Europe and beyond...

Good luck to her on her journey south!

Thursday 30 May 2013

Black-headed Bunting (more photos)

Female Black-headed Bunting on Brownsman (David Kinchin-smith)

6th record for the Farne Islands (Will Scott)

Third in five years! (David Kinchin-smith)

Long distant traveller..Black-headed Bunting (Will Scott)
Thursday 30th May comments: (15:20 update): This female Black-headed Bunting was found this morning on Brownsman on the outer group of islands. The bird is the sixth record for the Farnes and the third in five years as the islands go though a 'purple' patch of records.

Black-headed Bunting just in....

Female Black-headed Bunting just arrived on the Farne Islands (Graeme Duncan)

...and showing well (Graeme Duncan)
Thursday 30th May comments: (09:30 update) News just breaking that the islands have scored with its first major rare bird of the spring, as a female Black-headed Bunting has just been discovered. The bird, showing well, is the sixth record for the Farne Islands following a male from 23-28 July 1971, another male from 10-20 July 1999, first-winter individuals on 23 August 2004 and 14 September 2009 and a female on 31 May 2011.

Interestingly the Farnes has the near-monopoly of Northumberland records as the only other County record involved a male at Hauxley on 26 July 1977. Unfortunately the weather is poor today (no boats sailing due to strong northerly winds) but if the bird remains, we will be trying to organise access tomorrow. More updates later.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Oh Shrikey!

Butcher bird on show (Will Scott)

Showing usual (David Kinchin-smith)
A stunning male (David Kinchin-smith)

Butcher bird on view (Will Scott)

Ranger team enjoying the newly arrived  visitor
Wednesday 29th May comments: Its been a busy period of recent with lots going on although a change in wind direction today resulted in rough seas and fewer people visiting (but thankfully this will be short lived and the forecast looks great!).

However the ranger team were not disappointed tonight as a stunning male Red-backed Shrike arrived on Inner Farne and in true Shrike form, showed very well, often perched on dock stems whilst hunting the local insect population. These carnivorous migrants are known as 'butcher birds' as they impale their prey on thorns (which acts as a larder) and are seen annually down the east coast (and the Farnes has already boasted a female two weeks ago). Alongside the shrike, a small number of other common migrants also arrived including Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat.

As the weather is due to settle again (the weekend is looking very good), we can hopefully look forward to more warm weather and then we'll be into June and the seabirds will take centre stage. Bring it on.  

Monday 27 May 2013

Coming to a head near you....

Arctic Tern at sunset 

Welcome back and now on eggs...Arctic Terns

Coming to a head near you! Arctic Terns - you have been warned

Looking at me? Puffins galore

Puffins on parade
Monday 27th May comments: Welcome to planet Farnes. The Arctic Terns are back, you have been warned. With up to 2,000 pairs, the Farne Islands are a crucial colony for this long distant migrant and with birds now on eggs, it won't be long before full head pecking will commence. If you ever wondered how bad it gets, then take it from me, wear a hat because if you don't, you'll know about it.

It's great to have them back, on eggs and settled for the summer and we'll look forward to working with these stunning birds. It's not just the terns which are settled, as all the seabirds are now on eggs so the ranger team are now in full flow; busy with visitors and busy with birds. We've got Puffins to count, seabirds to ring and people to talk too. Come along and say hello, we'll be delighted to share our knowledge about this wonderful place.

If you've got a free night, then why not come along to our exclusive ranger talk in Bamburgh tomorrow night (Tuesday evening). Doors open at the cricket pavilion at 19:15 (for a 19:30 start) with teas & coffees served. We are charging £4 for entry and all money raised will be going towards our conservation work on the islands. It should be fun!

Friday 24 May 2013

Simply the Best

Puffins on eggs and back in huge numbers

Not one or two....thousands...

Bench out of action....nesting Eider

Razorbills now on eggs

Guillemot chicks wont be far from hatching (David Kinchin-smith)

Back....Arctic Terns will be pecking heads soon....

At last! Kittiwakes on eggs.

Low in number but still plenty to see; Shags

Friday 24th May comments: If you are are looking for somewhere to go this week, or unsure about weather, do not worry, the Farne Islands will be open and its going to be spectacular - trust me, I know these things. The weeks forecast is suggesting light winds (and even some sunshine!), the sea state should be good to sail and the breeding seabirds are doing their thing. It is a must this week - the Farne Islands, get it pencilled in.

For all those wanting to know, here is a quick seabird update....

Puffins - present in huge numbers, all now nesting and we've even got a live 'Puffin Cam' beaming images from a nest

Eiders - numbers appear up from last year and plenty nesting (one even nesting under a bench)

Arctic Terns - now on eggs so bring a hat - you have been warned!

Sandwich Tern - the colony is increasing daily but over 500 pairs now nesting on Inner Farne

Shag - the population has reduced but still plenty nesting

Razorbill - all now on eggs

Guillemots -  thousands present on eggs and the first chicks could be hatching later this week

Kittiwakes - finally now on eggs! Its full steam ahead.

So there you go. The Farnes will be open daily and in words of a certain Mr Bill Oddie recently "There are just a few places that I would recommend to anyone and feel absolutely confident that they would have an unforgettable experience.

The Farne Islands in Northumberland is – or are – one of them. 'I’d recommend April to early September, with June and July for maximum bird activity. I have visited sea bird colonies all round the world and believe me the Farnes are the best place to literally walk amongst terns, shags, kittiwakes and the photogenic and endlessly entertaining puffins. Simply the best."

So there you go. Get yourself here. The Farne Islands, the best in the business.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Farnes Chatter

Farnes Talk
As part of our new events program, we are bringing you an exclusive talk about the Farne Islands next Tuesday (Tuesday 28th May) at Bamburgh Cricket Pavilion. The talk will feature a 'behind the scenes' look at the Farnes from the amazing wildlife to life on a rock for nine months. The talk will be brought to you by the rangers and it should prove to be a highly entertaining evening for all. 

The doors open at 19:15 with teas and coffees served. The talk will begin at 19:30. An admission price is £4 per person and all money raised will help go support the amazing wildlife of the Farne Islands. All welcome! So come along, have a great night and support the Farne Islands.

Monday 20 May 2013

Wooden Expect That!

Wood Warbler on Inner Farne (David Kinchin-smith)

First spring record since 2008 (David Kinchin-smith)

Despite the weather...looking good (David Kinchin-smith)
Monday 20th May comments: Its been another interesting day on the Farnes and another day without seeing the mainland! The thick fog remained and at one point, we couldn't see the end of the island, never mind the sea! Despite the conditions, migrant birds continued to arrive including a stunning Wood Warbler; our first spring record since 2008.

The bird showed well, feeding actively in wet conditions on Inner Farne and looked good alongside our Puffins! The male Bluethroat remained although both the Shrike and female Bluethroat have moved on. Soon we'll be into the world of seabirds, so these migrants have been a nice distraction. The fog is due to lift tomorrow, so come out and visit, you'll not be disappointed.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Reddy Meals

Bluethroat Farnes style - with a nesting Eider (Bex Outram)

...and a female Bluethroat... (Bex Outram)

Female Red-backed Shrike (David Steel)

Distant but showy (David Kinchin-smith) 

A migrant 'White' Wagtail

Lesser Whitethroat Farnes style...on the boardwalk

Rare's habitat - lichen covered rocks ideal for migrant birds
Sunday 19th May comments: Another spring and yet more Bluethroats on the Farne Islands. It may sound blasé, but the Farnes remain part of an exclusive handful of UK localities which can still boast annual records of Bluethroat, despite numbers on passage decreasing considerably in recent years.

In 60 years of recording, the Farnes have boasted records in every year apart from nine seasons’ with recent ‘blanks’ only occurring in 2005, 1999, 1983 and 1982. Following on from last years five records, we’ve bagged another two this weekend as a stunning male and then a female were discovered on the outer group of islands.

Both birds were part of a larger movement of common and scarce migrants which arrived on Saturday across the islands and remained all day Sunday. Bluethroats are related to Robins (but with blue chests!) and breed in Scandinavia but have been caught out by our inclement weather as they head north from southern wintering grounds. However once the weather settles, they will reorientate themselves and continue their journey north.
Also amongst the arrival of birds, a 'butcher bird' was discovered; a female Red-backed Shrike on the West Wideopens as well as a good scattering of commoner migrants including a Long-eared Owl. Its been a busy weekend, following our Puffin press day, but we'll bring more news of that tomorrow. For the time being, the migrant birds have been grabbing the headlines.

Friday 17 May 2013

Little brother is watching you...

It's a magical moment, and one that few people have ever seen: a puffin has been caught in the act of laying an egg on one of Inner Farne's new 'BurrowCams'. The mum-to-be was observed by rangers contracting heavily and acting rather uncomfortable, and over 10 minutes later after a lot of shuffling around, she laid a single white egg in her nesting chamber.

Both adults have since taken it in turns to incubate the developing egg, and hopefully in five to six weeks we'll see the chick hatch and be able to follow its development into a fully fledged puffling!

Puffin Census 2013

Puffin census year!

Just a few to count....

Nest burrows to check

New 'Puffin Cam' in visitor centre on Inner Farne

Hands down....

The team counting burrows

Do we have one?
Friday 17th May comments: It’s time for lift off. Having been in the planning for several months, today we launch our Puffin census, the first full population count of the Farne Islands in five years. The count, which will take two months to complete will bring the very latest population trends for the islands and will reveal more about our iconic birds which live on the Farnes.

The census takes place every five years and records date back to 1939 when 3,000 breeding pairs were recorded. The last survey in 2008 recorded 36,500 pairs of puffins across eight islands. Over the next two months, the ranger team will be surveying all the islands (a mammoth task as you could imagine!) and counting occupied burrows.

Puffins nest underground in burrows which means the Rangers will have to put their arms into the holes to check for occupation and until 2008, each survey since the census began 65 years ago showed a steady increase in numbers. However the last count indicated numbers had fallen by a third as in 2003 the census revealed there were 55,674 pairs living on the Islands. We hope to have the results by early July and it’ll be interesting to see what has happened since the last census.

On an even more exciting level, for the first time on the islands we have ‘Puffin Cam;’ two cameras beaming live pictures back to the visitor centre on Inner Farne of ‘life in a burrow’. At present one pair are incubating an egg and anyone visiting can watch Puffins like they have never seen them before. Stay tuned to the Farnes blog as we'll bring you more information a bit later today with some amazing film which was recorded from a burrow on Wednesday.

Welcome to the Year of the Puffin. Its going to be epic.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Fulmar Eggs

Welcome to egg club: Fulmars now on eggs

Stunning Black Redstart remains
A giant Swift - our first of the year

Summer is here!
 Thursday 16th May comments: What a difference a day makes. Yesterdays gales and driving rain were almost forgotten as the Farnes bathed in glorious sunshine and flat seas, which was much appreciated by everyone connected with the islands. A few migrant birds lingered including a stunning Black Redstart (which showed well alongside a male Redstart) and out first Swift of the year; summer is on its way.

Our breeding seabirds enjoyed the weather change and so much so, we discovered out first Fulmar eggs. We now just need Kittiwakes to join the 'egg club' and then our season will be going places. It's been a busy week and its only going to get busier as the Farnes and its Puffins are about to hit the big screen...but more of that tomorrow. We've got a long day ahead tomorrow so an early night have been warned. 

Wednesday 15 May 2013

'Owling Gales

Sedge Warblers on the move (David Kinchin-smith)

Garden Warbler in the undergrowth

Spot the Owl...a snap shot of the Short-eared Owl (Will Scott)

Wednesday 15th May comments: Its never dull on the Farnes, it just never is. I’ll bring the full story of our day on Friday but with the wind reaching almost gale force north-easterly with lashing rain, it certainly wasn’t a day to forget. For the vast majority of people a day like this is one to spend indoors, sheltering from the wind and the rain and keeping warm. But not for the rangers of the Farnes!

At this time of year, birds are migrating north, heading for their breeding grounds in continental Europe. With the Farnes lying off the east coast of the UK, easterly winds are very welcome over here with birds being blown onto the islands and grounded by the rain. Today produced a good scattering including a stunning Short-eared Owl which flew low west over the islands.Tomorrow the weather is due to settle and we’ll open our doors again and look forward to seeing everyone.

Today’s highlights: Common Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl 1 west, Tree Pipit, Blackbird, Black Redstart 3, Redstart 2, Wheatear 7, Garden Warbler 3, Sedge Warbler 2 and Willow Warbler 7.