Tuesday 30 July 2013

High as a Kite!!!

First for the Farnes, a Beautiful Red Kite!! (Ciaran Hatsell)

Long awaited and much predicted, lazily drifting over, WHAT a bird! (Ciaran Hatsell)

Number 299 for the Farnes, what will 300 be?! (Ciaran Hatsell)
Tuesday 30th July comments: What a month it has been. July isn't famed for being the best month to see migrant birds on the Farnes. It is usually the time to see Puffins coming and going with fish hurriedly feeding chicks before leaving. Today though, the Puffins took a back seat!!

At just after 11 O' clock, news broke from Inner Farne of a large raptor flying over the island being mobbed by the Terns and Gulls which turned out to be the Farnes 2nd ever BLACK KITE!!!! Amazing!!!! The bird flew west and along the coast, mobbed by seemingly every bird on the islands! It was then seen over Bamburgh shortly after! The team were buzzing, another great bird for the islands and one hell of a July!

And then, the unthinkable happened......

At 12.28pm, just over an hour after the Black Kite had headed inland, a visitor came into the information hut on Staple and said to a Ranger "theres a large raptor heading over the island!" Rushing out the hut, the Ranger team were stunned as an immaculate and stunning RED KITE flew low overhead! A FIRST FOR THE FARNES!!!! The bird drifted slowly over, sending the team into shock and delighting many happy visitors!

A first and a second for the islands in the same day. It is almost unbelievable!! The Red Kite also represents the 299th bird species to be recorded on the islands! Not bad for a small collection of islands in the middle of the sea! Who knows what the 300th will be, this is the Farnes, and it's always full of surprises!!!!

Monday 29 July 2013

When it rains, it pours!

Not a good sign, Puffins in trouble (Ciaran Hatsell)

When it rains, it pours (Ciaran Hatsell)

Rangers in action, saving lives! (Ciaran hatsell)

Back from the brink - fluffy once again! (Ciaran Hatsell)

They don't all make it. Newly ringed Shag chick succumed to the weather (Ciaran Hatsell)
Stunning Curlew Sandpiper appreciating the fresh wet mud! (Graeme Duncan)

Monday 29th July comments: After virtually no rain throughout the whole of July, a months’ worth came down at once! The heavens opened on Saturday night and it didn’t stop raining until around two o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday. The islands saw at least 43mm of rain fall in less than 24 hours. This meant bad news for our seabird chicks….

Many small chicks succumbed to the constant downpour, with Arctic Tern and Shag chicks struggling to find shelter and Puffin burrows flooding out. The extent of the damage was not as bad as first feared; seabirds are resilient critters! However, a little helping hand never goes amiss!

The Ranger team once again took to hair drying Tern chicks that were on their way out. Birds that were literally on the brink of death were brought back to life with a blast of warm air. It really was an incredible Tern around! Shag chicks also got the ‘hairdryer treatment’, but sadly it just isn’t possible to save them all. There was some small consolation in all the doom and gloom though….

Although the rain meant bad news for seabird chicks, it was an absolute blessing for our ponds! The ponds, which have resembled the Sahara desert for most of the month, slowly started to fill and within hours of holding water, the pond on Brownsman attracted six Dunlin and a cracking summer plumage Curlew Sandpiper! The bird fed for around four hours before departing, providing a valuable re-fuel for the bird on its migration. These birds breed in arctic Siberia and winter in Africa, so it was undoubtedly grateful for some nice wet mud!

The seabird season is slowly starting to wind down but there’s still plenty to see out on the Farnes in the autumn months. With ringing demonstrations, the seabird exhibition in the Chapel, the Seal season beginning and much, much more; the Farnes really is an amazing place, so come out and see it for yourself!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Chick 'n' mix!

A surprisingly colourful youngster! Ready to fledge!

Young Puffin chick checking our data

Young Guillemot chick with ring

Out for a Duck! Shelducks having a good year, mother and three well grown chicks. 

Fluffy and fashionable - Fulmar chicks getting big!

Hello world! A late Arctic Tern chick hatching.
Saturday 27th July comments: So they’re still here, but not for much longer!

Our seabird chicks have had a fantastic season, with lots of food and plenty of settled weather. That’s all they need!!! It really has been a sensational summer and with all the doom and gloom stories with seabirds around Britain, the Farnes are holding strong (touch wood!). The Sand Eel population is brilliant, with Puffins recorded bringing in over thirty fish at a time!!

The late start for the seabirds means there are still lots of birds around, so if you’re thinking of coming out to the Farnes to enjoy our seabirds, get yourselves out here soon!! It's an amazing place!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Behind the scenes...

Head ranger David being interviewed

Bex in on the action too

Puffins coming to a screen near you!

The real stars of the show....
Tuesday 23rd July comments: Its been a hectic season and the team have worked hard to deliver some stunning results. The Puffin census was finally completed and last Friday we brought you the good news that our numbers were up - a welcome relief following recent concerns.

The world's media took interest in the Farnes and by Friday lunch-time, BBC Breakfast, BBC News24, Look North, Radio Four and Five amongst many others were broadcasting live from the islands. It was a nerving but interesting experience as the Farnes were beamed into the front room of millions. Over the month of August we'll be rounding up the full results of our seabird population counts from this year as well as the Puffin results. Its been good, very good...  

Monday 22 July 2013

Fea Comment

Fea's Petrel - not the bird from the Farnes but a piccy to show what one looks like!

Monday 22nd July comments: It was another magic moment for the Farne Islands, as this morning news broke that a Fea’s Petrel had been seen flying north off Newbiggin, just to the south of the islands. Amazingly just after 11am, the bird was seen from the islands, as it flew north off Staple Island much to the delight of those who saw it.

However agonisingly, with fog dominating, the bird was not seen by many, leaving the team divided; some were ecstatic to have witnessed such a special seabird but others felt gutted having missed this amazing visitor. With the Bridled Tern still gracing the islands today, it certainly wasn’t a dull morning on the islands.

Putting everything into context, the species has only occurred on 47 previous occasions in the British Isles and impressively the Farnes boast five of these records. Previous Farnes records included individuals in Sept 1993, Sept 1996, Nov 1999, Sept 2002 and the most recent in October 2009, so this becomes number six for the list.

The Farnes continues to produce some high quality moments and visiting has to be high on everyone’s priority list; it certainly was for this Fea’s Petrel.

Friday 19 July 2013

Puffin Numbers Up!

Good news at long last

People enjoying Puffins on Staple Island

Sand-eels galore

Health of a colony - young Puffin returns

Hands down - 70,000 Puffin burrows checked and counted

A tired but happy Puffin counting ranger team

Friday 19th July comments: Results from a three-month survey of puffins on the world famous National Trust Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, have shown an eight per cent increase in the number of breeding puffin pairs since 2008 when the last census showed a dramatic fall in numbers.

A team of eleven National Trust rangers carried out a full census of the population, which happens once every five years, across eight islands with the final figures showing that there are just under 40,000 (39,962) pairs of nesting puffins.

2003 was the peak year for puffins on the Farne Islands with over 55,000 (55,674) nesting pairs recorded and numbers had been steadily increasing since the 1960s. However the 2008 survey revealed a dramatic crash in numbers by nearly one third to just 36,835 pairs.

David Steel, Head Ranger on the National Trust Farne Islands, commented, "The results of the puffin census come as a real relief following some difficult years for them – with the flooding of burrows last year and a very challenging winter. We had feared that the numbers of puffins would be down again as has happened on other colonies, including those on the Shetland Islands.

“The bad weather during recent seasons has had some impact on numbers, but with a good nesting habitat secured by us and a plentiful supply of food in the area, numbers have been recovering pretty strongly, which is great news for the puffins and other seabirds.”

Extreme weather has had a major impact on puffins in the north-sea in the last couple of years. The 2012 breeding season was hit hard with the second wettest summer on record flooding many burrows, where puffins live.

Earlier this year, just as puffins were returning to the colonies in March, storms resulted in the deaths of thousands of seabirds along the coasts of north-east England and Scotland. Over 3,500 bodies were collected and ringing recoveries suggested that many of the birds involved were breeding adults from local colonies.

Professor Mike Harris from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology added, "The wreck was unusual in that it occurred when puffins were returning to their colonies and were close to land. It's likely that a very high proportion of the total number of birds that died were found, therefore exaggerating the severity of the mortality.

“The Isle of May puffin population, 100 km to the north of the Farnes, has also shown no sign of a decline in numbers following the winter puffin disaster. Puffin survival over the last winter was not exceptionally low, despite fears after the wreck.”

The unmistakeable puffin with its bright beak and slightly comical walk is a much loved symbol of the British coastline. During the survey, which began in May, the rangers put their arms into holes to make sure that the nests are occupied.

David Steel concluded, “The poor spring weather affected the timing of the breeding season, with the birds that did survive, breeding late”. “However this late start may result in puffins remaining at the colonies until later in the summer than normal, giving people even more opportunity to enjoy watching them.”

For the first time, nest cameras have been inserted into puffin burrows to record the birds’ behaviour in intimate detail. The footage, along with details on how the rangers are progressing with the 2013 puffin census, can be seen at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/puffins or follow progress on twitter at @NTSteely #puffincensus

Thursday 18 July 2013

Mother Caey's Chicken

Storm Petrel; one of three caught last night (David Kinchin-smith)

Puffin chicks growing ever bigger (CIaran Hatsell)

And the star of the summer remains (David Kinchin-smith)

Thursday 18th July comments: It was a late night last night, as the team worked through the night to tape lure a small, mysterious nocturnal visitor; a Storm Petrel. These small birds (no bigger than a House Martin) feed under the cover of darkness and breed as close as Shetland to the Farne Islands.

Up until the early 1990's, no one knew that these small birds were feeding along the north-east coastline until someone suggested the crazy idea of tape luring during the night with mist nets to allow ringing to take place. The result? Storm Petrels! Last night we tape lured three during the session and were ringed before being released to continue their journey.

Interestingly Storm Petrels have many associations with the sea and its most common folk name is "Mother Carey's Chicken" - Mother Carey was a supernatural figure representing the sea and the birds were sometimes thought to be the souls of perished sailors.

Away from the Storm Petrels, the Bridled Tern continues to delight visitors on a daily basis whilst our first Puffin chicks have fledged - discovered last night during the Storm Petrel ringing. Once again, its all go.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Seabirds galore

Puffin results out on Friday

Sandwich Terns galore

Another great season for Guillemots

Fulmars on the up!

Mind your head...
Tuesday 16th July comments: It’s coming to an end. The seabird breeding season is almost over as large chicks start to fledge and adults head off for winter climes. It’s been an amazing summer on the Farne Islands as the combination of good weather and great food supply has resulted in one of the best years in recent memory.

On Friday we’ll be bringing you the full results of the Puffin census, followed by full details of all the other breeding species. The team have worked incredibly hard, and soon we’ll be celebrating but do not think that that is it. We’ve got plenty more on offer as we approach August and migration will begin again. The Farnes is never dull!

On a final note: the Bridled Tern remains with us and has dropped into a regular routine. The bird is gone for long period in the morning and usually appears back onto Inner Farne early afternoon where it remains on and off daily. Plenty of visitors are still enjoying this exquisite visitor and why not, its superb.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Many Happy Re-terns

Look who's back... (Will Scott)

but this time at the lighthouse (David Kinchin-smith)

On the wall at the lighthouse (David Kinchin-smith)

With Arctic Terns (David Kinchin-smith)

Sunday 14th July comments: Expect the unexpected with the Farne Islands. Its an amazing place and anything can happen at any time. And so it did on Saturday. Our outstanding visitor of the summer (Britain's 24th Bridled Tern) reappeared having been away from the islands on a tour of the north-east of England.

Since its departure, the bird has visited southern Northumberland, County Durham and was last seen three days ago heading south past Flamborough Head, off East Yorkshire. Birders in Norfolk and Suffolk were on full alert, as surely the bird would appear in a Tern colony at Titchwell, Minsmere or Blakeney Point. Surely? However against the odds and to the shock of the ranger team, its back and enjoying life on the Farnes.

Today it's been present on and off, showing well to visitors and at one stage was even enjoying the Farnes with a pair of Roseate Terns. It's never dull and the summer of joy continues. The Bride has returned.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Census continues

Puffin chick with Andy

Puffin burrow being inspected

Survey continues

No gain without pain

Thursday 11th July comments: The long days continue but its all for a good cause. We’ll probably not have a summer like this again, so we may as well enjoy it!! The team have been working hard on the Puffin census in recent days and the good news is we are nearly there (much to the delight of the team; those Puffins do a lot of biting!).

The final few islands are being surveyed and we hope to have a result by late next week, so watch this space, because Farne Island Puffins will be making the headlines once again. You have been warned….

On a final note, BBC Nature are featuring a short interview with me on-line and its well worth a read: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22875751

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Kate Slater Timelapse

Tuesday 9th July comments: There is lots to see on the Farne Islands and its not all birds...well real birds anyway. The exciting 'Farnes Flock' by illustrator Kate Slater was installed in St.Cuthbert's Chapel and can be viewed until the end of October. The entire flock is made up of life-size cut out birds (all the breeding seabirds of the Farnes) and the above timelapse shows how it was done in three days. Its well worth coming over to see; normal times and prices apply.

Monday 8 July 2013

Summer Success

Food supply is excellent...feeding frenzies are common

Yet more stunning weather reaching the Farnes

Media interest continues..its been an impressive year.....

...whilst our research goes on

Gone but never forgotten...our Bridled Tern

Monday 8th July comments: It has been an epic season; from seabird success to media madness, the Farnes has produced, delivered and continues to delight. Last weeks excitement of the Bridled Tern eventually calmed as the bird moved south, further down into Northumberland (and it even visited Teesside for a day). The bird brought lots of appreciative birders and it will stick long in the memory for all those that witnessed it.

The breeding season is heading towards a stunning climax, as the beautiful summer weather has encouraged great breeding success. The results are very evident as thousands of Guillemot and Razorbill young have already departed the islands having successfully 'jumped' whilst Tern and Puffin chicks continue to be well fed. The amount of food availability is impressive - sightings of large 'balls' of Sand-eels are common place whilst feeding frenzies by Gulls, Gannets and all other seabirds are numerous. Its good to be a seabird on the Farne Islands this year. 

As for this week? Well we'll bring you some great timelapse from the Kate Slater Farnes Flock exhibition and some details of some fine dinning on the islands. Its never a dull moment on the Farnes, so come on, keep up!

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Here Comes the Bride

A star arrive...the 24th Bridled Tern for the UK (David Kinchin-smith)

First for the Farne Islands (David Kinchin-smith)

Local Arctic terns look on (Bex Outram)

The birders arrive...

With some very happy customers!

Like father, like son, Ranger Ciaran and his father visiting

The 'rares' map on Birdguides - a real big rare in Northumberland...

Wednesday 3rd July comments: WHAT an extraordinary few days for the Farnes. The islands are world renowned for their breeding seabirds, but the limelight fell elsewhere on Monday 1st July. Mid-afternoon an adult BRIDLED TERN landed in the roost near the jetties of Inner Farne and has continued to show well on and off ever since. The bird breeds as close as the Caribbean and south-east Asia and is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

In a rarity context, this is the first Bridled Tern in the UK since 2010 but that bird was only seen by two people for twenty minutes. You have to go back to 1991 since the last accessible Bridled Tern in the UK and this is the first ever sighting for the Farne Islands. Interestingly this represents the 24th record in the UK and its being very much appreciated. As a result, the response has been outstanding…

Birders have been travelling in their droves from all four corners of the UK (its second day brought people from Surrey, Sussex and beyond) whilst today we’ve had enquires from Cornwall. It has that pulling power. As a result we have arranged special access to see the bird (ensuring no disturbance to our nesting seabirds), including boats at 6am in the morning.

The bird has performed well at times, but can go missing for several hours when it is presumably off out fishing. Over 219 visiting birders made the trip on Tuesday and a lot more will follow if the bird remains. It’s a great spell for the islands and with our seabirds doing well, we are not complaining. Planet Farnes, you can’t beat it.