Tuesday 29 October 2013

Count continues

The boys are at it....fighting as usual

One of 200+ pups

Whats all the fuss about?

Lazy days...

Feeding time for pup

The Seal colonies are filling up

Farnes rangers in action

Tuesday 29th October comments: The dust has settled after last nights viewing of 'Tales from Northumberland' featuring Robson Green on the Farnes (it was good wasn't it?). We've been back in action on the seal colonies and it's kicked off, big time.

We now have 265 pups born across four islands with Staple Island, Brownsman, South Wamses and North Wamses all boasting new born. The bull seals have arrived and fighting has already started although the main focus of the mothers is on raising healthy young ready for the big world (well the big sea at least). As we approach November, we still expect another 1,300 pups to be born, so plenty more to go. We are now in Seal season and its all go.    

Sunday 27 October 2013

Tales from Northumberland – one to watch!

Robson Green and head ranger David Steel

Robson's team behind Tales of Northumberland

Enjoying the Farnes views

Robson meets our Puffins
Sunday 27th October comments: It’s been an incredible year. It’s been a great seabird breeding season, our Puffins are bouncing back in number, the weather has been fantastic and thousands of visitors have come out and enjoyed this amazing place.

It’s also been an impressive year for media, as everything has been covered, from us moving out here in March up to our Puffin census mid-summer. One of the rewards of the hard work put in over the summer will be shown on Monday night, as local lad Robson Green will show the Farnes and Northumberland off in its fully glory.

Over eight episodes, Robson travels the length and breadth of Northumberland by land, sea and air to see things he’s never seen before and discover a side of the County that he never knew. On Monday Robson spends 24 hours on the Farnes and for all fans of the islands, it’s well worth watching. You heard it hear first!

Tales from Northumberland

8pm on ITV1

Monday 28th October

Friday 25 October 2013

It's a Seal life

Netherlands to Farnes in three weeks

Dots represent haul out site on north edge of Brownsman

Pregnant Grey Seal mums

Friday 25th October comments: our fiends and colleagues from the north coast of the Netherlands have forwarded some very interesting information in recent days regarding a pregnant female Grey Seal which they tagged in recent weeks. The animal has moved from the Netherlands to the Farnes as indicated by her recent movements:

27th September: departed Netherlands at 23:00

29th September: arrived British east coast, Suffolk 23:00

5th October: arrived Donna Nook (Lincolnshire)

6th October: departed northwards

9th October: arrived in north-east of England

21st October: arrived Farne Islands

22nd October: hauled out on Brownsman (Farne Islands)

Grey Seals are known to move around colonies, but with ever-improving technology, we can now follow individual animals on a daily basis to help us understand these fascinating animals even further. Nature, it’s amazing and so the next time you are visiting the Farnes, just pause for thought and be amazed, because we are.

Many thanks to Geert Aarts of the IMARES Wageningen UR & AEW Wageningen university, Netherlands who supplied this great information.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Autumn leaves

our 'tatty' adult Peregrine remains and feeding well (Ian Fisher)

Four day star; our recent Olive-backed Pipit (Ian Fisher)

Double trouble: our recent two Little Buntings on Brownsman (David Kinchin-smith)

One of our nine Woodpeckers remains! (Graeme Duncan)
Wednesday 23rd October comments: Migration is gradually starting to wind down as the autumn progresses. Winter thrushes have replaced summer warblers and Grey seal pups have replaced Puffins and other seabirds. The Farnes is once again changing and soon we’ll be at the peak of the seal pupping season (where has time gone!).

Interestingly one of our Great Spotted Woodpeckers (a migrant Scandinavia bird) remains on the islands and was recaught yesterday. In the eight days since it was originally ringed, the bird has put on 11.5g of body weight, which is great news and shows just how important the Farnes can be at this time of year for hungry migrant birds looking for food and shelter.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Seal of Approval

40 Stone bull....would you mess?

New born pup on Staple Island

It's that time of year again....

Lazy days for our pups

Mother and pup on Staple Island

Saturday 19th October comments: We’ve had our fill of weather, we’ve had our fill of birds and now its time to have our fill of Seals! The Seal tours have begun (get yourself out here!) and the pupping is under way. We now have pups on three islands with a total of 35 born to date but things are hotting up. Over the next eight weeks, we'll have an incredible 1,600 born on these rocky outcrops and as usual, we'll bring you all the drama of the seal season.

On the bird front, migration continues unabated as winter thrushes move in whilst the last of our summer migrants depart for southern warmer climes. The Olive-backed Pipit managed to linger on Inner Farne for four days whilst two Little Buntings enjoyed each others company on Brownsman. With two months of the season still to go, there is still a long way to go and no doubt we'll have a few more surprises to talk about over those forthcoming weeks. So tune in and we'll keep you posted!

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Land of Hoopoe Glory!

Blackcap saying hello to a....Hoopoe! (Graeme Duncan)

Unmistakeable visitor (Graeme Duncan)

Welcome to Planet Farnes (Graeme Duncan)

Farnes birding; Hoopoe feeding in Kittiwake nests... (Graeme Duncan)

At home on Brownsman (Graeme Duncan)

Check this out...stunning! (Graeme Duncan)

Olive-backed Pipit joy (David Steel)

Present all day (David Kinchin-smith)

Mealy Redpoll invasion is on (Graeme Duncan)

Winter theme; Glaucous Gull (Bex Outram)

Tuesday 15th October comments: Good morning Farne Islands! Planet Farnes was alive and well this morning as radio communication between the two islands burst into life. “Olive-backed Pipit” went the shout from Brownsman setting the team scurrying off in all directions. Fifteen minutes later “Olive-backed Pipit relocated Inner Farne” crackled back from the inner group team.

However moments later, the Farnes froze.

The radio scream said it all “HOOPOE Brownsman north rocks”. Enough said.

This is birding like you’ve never seen it before. The world was turned upside down in the space of one crazy hour before breakfast as bird, after bird, was being discovered across the rocky archipelago. Thrushes were on the move, Great Spotted Woodpeckers remained, the Little Bunting performed well and a Glaucous Gull drifted over reminding us of winter.

However all thoughts were on the Hoopoe and soon the entire team were enjoying great views of this exotic beauty. The bird showed well feeding on worms and grubs before settling in a Kittiwake nest; this is the Farnes after all.

It’s been another exciting period for the Farnes and I suspect there is plenty more in the locker. Watch this space…

Today’s Highlights:

Hoopoe (first for the Farnes since 1996 and only the sixth in the last 60 years!)
Olive-backed Pipit – 8th record for the islands and fourth consecutive year of records

Mealy Redpoll - invasion with over twenty present today

Great Spotted Woodpecker - two caught and ringed with wing lengths in excess of 141mm – northern race individuals (as we suspect all our woodpeckers have).

Little Bunting - still present on Brownsman

Lapland Bunting - one feeding alongside the Hoopoe!

Sunday 13 October 2013

Seal Tours 2013

Hello! Grey Seal Pup

Mum and pup suckling

People enjoying viewing the seals last autumn

Sunday 13th October comments: As this year’s Grey Seal breeding season gets underway on Northumberland’s Farne Islands, the National Trust is once again offering visitors a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with these fascinating animals.

The Farne Islands are home to England’s largest population of Atlantic grey seals, with numbers continuing to increase annually. Last year, a whopping 1,603 pups were born on the islands and with an excellent food supply this year- we are hopeful that 2013 will be another successful breeding season.

For the second consecutive year, the rangers are opening up one of the islands to give you an exclusive tour around an active Grey Seal colony. You can see first-hand the challenges that a young pup faces during its first few weeks of life. The first seal pup of 2013 was born on 27th September so come along to see his progress!

From Monday 14 to Thursday 31 October, boats will sail to Staple Island, although numbers are very restricted to minimise disturbance (Seals come first as we do not want any undue disturbance to the breeding animals). Also the tours are very much weather dependant and we advise anyone visiting to wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing, including waterproofs.

Tours cost £10 for adults and £5 for children under 16, including National Trust members.

Boats are sailing from Seahouses:

Mon-Fri at 11am, 12pm and 1pm;
Sat and Sun 12pm, 1pm and 2pm.

There is an additional charge for the boat trip. Bookings are advisable.

The two boat companies participating in this unique tour are:

Glad Tidings: (01665) 720316 or evening (01665) 720308

Serenity: (01665) 721667 or evening (01665) 720760.

I’ll keep everyone posted on a daily basis, especially with regards to weather conditions on both the Farnes blog and twitter: @NTSteely so keep a close eye on both!

Hope to see you out here!

Saturday 12 October 2013

Can't see the trees for the wood!

Invasion of the Woodpeckers (Graeme Duncan)

Stunners on wood (Graeme Duncan)

Our third Little Bunting of the autumn (Ciaran Hatsell)

Little but mighty (Ciaran Hatsell)

Predator on the rocks; a resident Kestrel (Ciaran Hatsell)

Autumn arrival; Twite (Ciaran Hatsell)

Sea sickness tablets at the ready; no boats today (Ciaran Hatsell)
Saturday 12th October comments: Welcome to the Farne Islands, one of the most important woodlands in the north, which boasts important numbers of Great-spotted Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon and Goldcrest (Please note we are still an important seabird reserve and don’t have any trees!).

It’s been another crazy day with plenty happening including eight (yes EIGHT) Great Spotted Woodpeckers. These birds are migrating from Scandinavia to winter in the UK and we are now cashing in, with three yesterday increasing to eight today; six on Brownsman and singles on Staple and Inner Farne. Despite being a relatively common bird on the wooded mainland, a Great Spotted Woodpecker is very much a scarcity on the treeless Farnes, and a very special bird to drop in….let alone eight of them!

Other highlights included our third Little Bunting of the autumn, the Pallas’s Warbler for a second day, two Long-eared Owls alongside a Short-eared Owl and three Mealy Redpolls. This was only the tip of the iceberg as the true story of migration on the Farnes today was even more impressive if you chuck in everything else from 30 Goldcrests to twenty Robins. It's all go and I haven't even started on the Seals…

Friday 11 October 2013

Great Spot!

Woody (Graeme Duncan)

Inner Farnes Woodpecker (David Kinchin-smith)

Great Spot on the Farnes (Graeme Duncan)

Can't see the wood for the...Chapel? (David Kinchin-smith)

Double trouble on Brownsman (Graeme Duncan)

Seven stripe sprite; Pallas's Warbler (Will Scott)

The autumn's second Red-breasted Flycatcher (Graeme Duncan)

Migrant on the rocks; Long-eared Owl (Graeme Duncan)

Lingering Stonechat (David Kinchin-smith)

Friday 11th October comments: Easterlies and October, it’s a good mix. The severe storm of yesterday subsided and in came the birds. Birds from the north arrived, birds from the south departed and birds heading for the open oceans sheared past.

When the Farnes ‘cooks on gas’ it cooks on gas mark nine. A quiet start was shattered by the arrival of a northern Great Spotted Woodpecker. This isn’t your local woodland we are taking about, this is the treeless Farnes. This impressive bird looked for anything resembling timber, so the stunted Elders, a door frame and St.Cuthbert’s Chapel were all utilised by the foraging woodpecker. This arrival did not come as a shock as Shetland have been experiencing a similar invasion so therefore we were not surprised when a second, then a third arrived, both on Brownsman later in the morning.

The excitement didn’t stop there as a seven-striped sprite; a Pallas’s Warbler was found on Inner Farne seconds after the discovery of the Great Spotted Woodpecker. The birds kept on coming as a Long-eared Owl was discovered in a Kittiwake nest on Brownsman whilst the same island hosted a Red-breasted Flycatcher later in the day.

All of this excitement didn’t even include the seawatching. A record number of Great Skuas were recorded flying north, alongside a Leach’s Petrel and an impressive 22 ‘Blue’ phase Fulmars (northern Fulmars). You couldn’t take your eyes off the Farnes today and I suspect tomorrow may just bring just as much excitement. You have been warned….

Seawatching: Great Northern Diver 2N, Black-throated Diver 1N, Red-throated Diver 11n 3s, Manx Shearwater 44N, Sooty Shearwater 62N, ‘Blue’ Fulmar 22N, Balearic Shearwater 1N at 14:40, Great Skua 216N (new Farnes record), Arctic Skua 1N 1S, Leach’s Petrel 1N at 17:30, Velvet Scoter 8N, Common Scoter 108N, Red-breasted Merganser 1N, Goldeneye 6N, Long-tailed Duck 3N and Little Gull 1N.

Migrants: Peregrine 2, Merlin 1, Kestrel 1 male, Long-eared Owl 1 on Brownsman, Wood Pigeon 1 on Staple (first of autumn), Grey Wagtail 1, Great-spotted Woodpecker 3 (first live birds since 2003), Stonechat 1 lingering for third day, Redwing 138, Pallas’s Warbler 1 (first this autumn in the UK!), Goldcrest 15, Red-breasted Flycatcher 1 on Brownsman and Mealy Redpoll 1.