Friday 28 June 2013

One Sandwich Short of a Picnic

Plenty of Puffins having a good season (Ciaran Hatsell)

Duck crossing; Eider duck with ducklings

Supper time for Guillemots (Bex Outram)

Razorbill chick showing off (Bex Outram)

Shag chicks growing strong

Picnic take over...Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls (Bex Outram)

Friday 28th June comments: Its all go on the Farnes as the breeding season is coming to a tremendous climax. All the seabirds have now got chicks, so parents are actively coming and going with food as there are plenty of hungry mouths to feed! As a guide, here is what is happening at this moment on the Farne Islands:

Puffins: some birds still on eggs but the general majority are now feeding chicks. The 'Puffin Cam' chick is growing stronger by the day and the full census of the population continues.

Arctic Terns: all now have chicks although pecking still continues so bring a hat!

Sandwich Terns: a 'third wave' of birds has arrived and just started nesting...on our picnic site. This site has never been used before and we've had to temporarily close it - its 'their' island after all!

Roseate Terns: at least one pair seen daily on Inner Farne and are showing signs of breeding, so fingers crossed.

Guillemots and Razorbills: Chicks are growing up and some have already departed for the open sea, having 'jumped' over the last few days.

Shags: All still on nests with many feeding small young.

Kittiwakes: A mixed bag, as some have small chicks but others are still incubating - its going to be a protracted season!

Overall the season has been good for the seabirds, as warm weather and plenty of sand-eels is ensuring everything continues to tick along very nicely. So fingers crossed for much the same over the next five or six weeks and we'll be happy. However as everyone knows, things can change very suddenly. Its still all to play for...

Thursday 27 June 2013

Farnes Flock Alive!

Kate Slater Farnes flock now on display in the chapel

People admiring the flock

Impressive viewing

Kate with her creation
Thursday 27th June comments: Today book illustrator Kate Slater brought a new and exciting art exhibition to the Chapel on Inner Farne, as a 'Farnes flock' was reproduced covering all the breeding seabirds of the Farne Islands.

Kate has created her illustrations using collage, creating images by cutting up old magazines and other found paper. The results are remarkable with over 450 birds suspended from the Chapel rooftop with each bird having been cut out by hand. The exciting project can be seen by all visitors to Inner Farne as the Chapel is open throughout the normal opening period. Normal prices will apply and we hope lots of people will visit to enjoy something special and unique for the Farne Islands.

Monday 24 June 2013

Hatch of the Day

Chick starts hatching on Sunday (Bex Outram)

...and finally hatches (Bex Outram)

A proud parent with its new born chick (Bex Outram)

Our view this morning on Monday...looking healthy (David Kinchin-smith)

Visitors enjoying the moment the chick hatched

Monday 24th June comments: It’s hatched! On Sunday our ‘Puffin cam’ pair, who have been incubating their egg for 39 days, finally welcomed their chick into the world! With the help of some swish technology, we have been beaming live images of the incubating Puffins to screens in the visitor centre on Inner Farne ever since.

Having been incubating since 15th May (when we caught the egg laying moment on camera), the birds have been diligently sitting, and finally on Sunday afternoon, the egg began to hatch. After nearly six hours, the youngster was out and the proud parents have now got a young puffling to tend for.

Over the next 40 days, the adults will rear the chick and we’ll see it all (and we’ll bring you all the highlights as the chick grows up). Its exciting times on the Farnes as this week will also see the arrival of the Farne flock….but that’s another story….

Sunday 23 June 2013

Tern Up For The Books

Should we visit? Arctic Terns nesting by the pathway

Tern stone - monitored by the ranger team

Young chick by the boardwalk

Visitors arrive to share the wonder that is the Farne Islands

Sunday 23rd June comments: At this time of year we are often asked; is it right we allow visitors onto Inner Farne during the breeding season? People are often concerned that the disturbance caused to the birds (as they nest on the edge of the pathway – in some cases on the pathway!) is too much and should we allow access. It’s a good question and a fair point to raise but the answer is very intriguing…

Over the last thirty years, the Arctic Terns have altered tactics and they now choose to nest close to the buildings and the people on the islands – the closer the better. The islands (thankfully) are predator free apart from the Herring and ‘Black-backed Gulls, which will predate eggs and chicks of the Tern species.

However the Terns are one step ahead; nest close to the people and predation will drop. It’s a simple ‘protection racket’ which works and works well. The monastic courtyard on Inner Farne is heavily disturbed by visitors, but remains the premier location for nesting Arctic Terns. Predation is virtually zero and this area is one of the most successful Arctic Tern colonies on the Farnes (and probably in the UK) as the number of chicks fledging is impressive on an annual basis. Last year it was the most successful area by some stretch.

However it’s not all simple stuff as we still have to manage it right. Too much disturbance and the birds would be physically wrecked and unable to carry on. So we ensure our opening times are tight, with the disturbance down to 3.5 hours per day on Inner Farne which opens from 13:30-17:00.

It’s a delicate balancing act and we make sure we get it right each year through our research and observations. It ensures the Farne Islands Arctic Tern colonies thrive and ensure we can share it with lots of people and that’s what makes the islands so unique. Managed by the experts, for people to enjoy. Simple. 

Friday 21 June 2013

Sea Swallows

More Arctic Tern chicks are hatching

Adult Arctic Tern in all its glory

Pecking heads near you

Ringing Arctic Terns; providing vital scientific data

Not always Sand-eels...Shrimps brought in by one adult Arctic Tern
Friday 21st June comments: If anyone has visited the Farne Islands recently, you'll remember a visit to Inner Farne for one reason; a peck to the head (or may several pecks to the head). The culprits?  Our Arctic Terns and with just over 2,000 pairs nesting on the islands, we are a significant colony in a UK context (and arguably the most successful from a productivity point of view).

Thankfully the weather has been excellent this summer (in contrast to last June!) and our Sea Swallows (Arctic Terns are known as Sea Swallows) are having a good year. In recent days we've seen more young hatch and with it, our scientific work has increased two-fold. Bird ringing is a vital component of the job we do and this was demonstrated this morning, as an adult Arctic Tern caught in the courtyard of Inner Farne was originally ringed their in 1986. An impressive haul for an impressive bird.

Other seabirds are also hatching young, with all species now feeding hungry mouths. Its a busy time on the Farnes and a great time to visit, so don't know what to do.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Coming soon: Kate Slater Farne Flock

Coming soon...

St.Cuthbert's Chapel getting a clean up

Nick in action with hoover

John taking a closer look

Tuesday 18th June comments: In little over two weeks time, the Farne Islands will be hosting something very special and very different. Illustrator Kate Slater will be filling the rafters of St.Cuthbert’s Chapel with life size collaged seabirds – in fact all the species which breed on the islands!

The birds (up to 600 in total) will be suspended from the ceiling of the chapel as part of a major exhibition which will be open to the public from 30th June-31st October (normal visiting hours will apply). We hope it will add an extra dimension to a visit to the islands and it really will catch the wow-factor.

For latest news of the exciting project you can take a look at Kate’s blog:

As part of this work, we have been getting a helping hand from National Trust conservators from Lindisfarne Castle and Nunnington Hall, to help clean and prepare the Chapel, ready for the exhibition. I can guarantee one thing; it’s going to be well worth a look, so visit the islands to find out more.

Monday 17 June 2013

Fast Food

Showing off - our Puffins are not shy! (Ciaran Hatsell)

...and we have plenty of them! (Ciaran Hatsell)

Kittiwake chicks now hatched (Ciaran Hatsell)

Saying hello with a peck; Arctic Tern as loud as ever (Ciaran Hatsell)

Fast food; Guillemot feeding young
Monday 17th June comments: Busy, busy, busy! It’s not just the rangers who are busy at this time of year with all the census and monitoring work, but our breeding seabirds are also in full swing as they all have chicks to feed and that is a lot of hungry mouths!

Summer has finally arrived and the recent spell of good weather has allowed us to welcome many visitors to the islands to experience the sights and sounds (and smells!) of this impressive seabird city. Although it’s been a delayed start to the season, the birds are finally settling down and most species are now feeding chicks. It really is the best time to come out and visit the Farnes, with the weather looking settled for the week, its time to visit, its time to get closer to nature.

Friday 14 June 2013

Arctics Roll!

Hello world! (Graeme Duncan)

Enjoying the sunshine! (Graeme Duncan)

Taking shelter! (Graeme Duncan)

Lazy Puffin! More chicks hatching every day (Ciaran Hatsell)

Caption anyone?! (Ciaran Hatsell)

Friday 14th June comments: They’re hatching!
Yes, the reason for all that head pecking and projectile pooing has finally become apparent, the Arctic Tern chicks are here! The first eggs hatched yesterday and the chicks got their very first glimpse of Planet Farnes! As long as the weather stays fine and the food supply is strong (which it seems to be!), life as an Arctic Tern chick can be rosy. All they have to do is put on as much weight as possible in a short space of time, which basically means sitting around in the sun waiting to be fed!
So that first few weeks must seem like absolute heaven to them! Little do they know that after just a couple of months they will be embarking on the longest annual migration of any bird in the world! A trip down to their wintering grounds in Antarctica is the challenge they face. Weeks spent out at sea battling huge storms and monstrous seas means that Arctic Terns have to be tough. Some adults can reach the ripe old age of thirty years and beyond and with an annual migration of around 43,000 miles, those birds will travel at least 1 million miles just migrating to and from their breeding grounds! Impressive stuff!
So from little bundles of fluff, they will soon grow into lean mean migrating machines, making them arguably one of the toughest seabirds out there! In other news, our Puffin colony is boasting more and more chicks by the day, so why not get yourself out and see what the Farnes has to offer, it really is a special place to see Britain’s most spectacular wildlife!

Thursday 13 June 2013

All in a day's work

A quick blog post for those that have not seen the footage of a day on Inner Farne.

Taken during the nest-count day on Inner Farne, you can see the Inner Group team surveying the island tops before the visitors arrive on the island at 1:30. Keep an eye out for rogue curious puffins, a rising tide and the current moving through the kettle!

Monday 10 June 2013

Counting continues

Counting the veg garden on Inner Farne

Transect lines down

Lines being set

Counting with some attention

More ropes to lay

Counts in
Monday 10th June comments: Our seabird counting cranked up a notch on Sunday as the team went about an all-day island count of Inner Farne. The purpose of all the counting is to establish the exact number of ground nesting seabirds including Sandwich, Arctic and Common Terns, alongside Eiders, Mallards and Black-headed Gulls. 

The island is divided up and all areas are walked, with any nest discovered, logged and counted. Each nest is equal to a pair of birds, so plenty to count! After a full day counting, the team were exhausted but happy in the knowledge they had contributed to yet more scientific data for the islands. We'll be bringing you the full low down on all the results, once we have completed the job, which will hopefully be later this week. We've had some long days but very rewarding and we'll share it all very soon. I'm certain the team will be counting seabirds in their sleep!

Saturday 8 June 2013

Visitors welcome

Icterine Warbler in the visitor centre (David Kinchin-smith)

What's this in the veg garden.... pea's growing this year!

The 'class of 1973 and 1974 visit for a reunion
Saturday 8th June comments: I'm almost starting to sound like a stuck record, as the weather continues to remain settled with high temperatures and flat seas becoming the 'norm' (please note - we're not complaining!). In complete contrast to last year, we're having a great summer (so far) and things are looking good, so fingers crossed for another few months of this! 

Today was another eventful one, as we got on with our main populations counts across the islands early morning whilst we had a few unexpected visitors today. An Icterine Warbler was discovered on Inner Farne in the visitor centre before flitting out - but was never seen again! More accommodating was the Farne wardens of 1973-74 who were having a reunion on the islands; a lot has changed behind the scenes since then, so it was great to catch up and share stories about times on the Farnes from yester-year.

On the seabird front, our first few Puffin chicks have hatched, more Guillemot young are now present, whilst our two breeding waders; Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover are both now proud parents. Tomorrow Sunday) we undertake our biggest count of the year 'nest count' on Inner Farne starting at 5am, which will hopefully reveal the health of our Eider, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern populations. It never rains, just pours....

Friday 7 June 2013

Rosy Summer

Roseate Terns showing well on Inner Farne

Potential breeders?
Friday 7th June comments: This morning the team went about the 'usual' routine of counting the nesting seabirds (six counts down - which is great news) as the glorious spell of weather continues. On Inner Farne a pair of Roseate Terns have arrived and although I suspect a breeding attempt will not be made (boo), it's great to have the birds around. Top tip: Anyone visiting the island should check the roost areas near the jetties, as the birds often loaf amongst other Terns.