Friday 31 January 2014

Simply the (third) best

People love the Farnes!

Longstone and proud

Fans favourite: the Puffins

Guillemots galore
Friday 31st January comments: Just how good are the Farne Islands? I’m glad to announce we’ve been voted third in the ‘Best Nature Reserve’ category in the latest BBC Countryfile Magazine awards, voted by the public.

The magazine received over 66,000 votes and the Farnes came out third, behind Sherwood Forest and overall winners Brownsea Island in Dorset. The islands are a very special place and thanks for the all the votes!

If you’ve not visited the islands before, I would suggest you pencil it in and if you’ve been before, come back; it’s an amazing place and only getting better! The islands open on 1st April and will be open daily until 31st October. Staple Island opens from 1st May.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

The Seal Deal

People enjoying Grey Selas on Staple Island

On the up....

Mother and pup

Tuesday 21st January comments: As the dust starts to settle on another Seal season, final counts are starting to filter though and it appears the English east coast colonies have had a bumper year. On the Farne Islands, a total of 1,575 pups were born, showing a very slight decrease on the previous year (when 1,603 were born).

However it’s a different story further south, as Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) have reported record numbers with 1,670 born during the autumn. A similar story is unfolding in Norfolk where Seals only bred for the first time in 1993, but now Blakeney Point recorded a record number born; 1,565 last autumn.

The UK boasts approximately 45% of the world population of Grey Seals and it’s certainly a bumper time for them in the North Sea although with numbers either stable or dwindling elsewhere (in northern and western Scotland) it remains a complex picture to piece together.

England’s three main Grey Seal colonies (pup production):

Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) 1,670

Farne Islands (Northumberland) 1,5,75

Blackeney Point (Norfolk) 1,565

Thursday 16 January 2014

Seal Success!

You can't see me, right?

Let sleeping babies...sleep

Yes, you can come in!

Success; a pup after three weeks (moulted)

Inner Farne beach taken over in late December

Staple colony strong as ever

Farnes pup population increasing (1952-2013)
Thursday 16th January comments: It was another successful year for the grey Seals of the Farne islands as the population remained strong, with a total of 1,575 pups born across the islands. The first pup was discovered on the South Wamses beach on 28th September and thereafter pupping increased with a peak in the second week of November.

Staple Island has cemented itself as the number one nursery, with 497 pups born on that island; the third consecutive year it has been the number one colony. Nearby South Wamses had 382 whilst Brownsman had 368 pups born.

Individual islands:

Staple island 497
South wamses 382
Brownsman 368
North Wamses 230
Northern hares 31
West Wideopens 43
Knoxes reef 15
Inner Farne 5
Big harcar 2
Longstone Main 2

Despite the storm surge in early December, the colonies were largely unaffected by the weather this autumn and although numbers still need to be crunched, it is expected mortality of young pups will be low.

Overall the final pup count finished on 1,575 and compares favourably with recent years (the third consecutive year the islands have produced over 1,500 pups). The Farnes Seals are doing well and if you don’t believe me, my advice is to visit and see (and smell) for yourself!

Tuesday 14 January 2014

All Quiet on the Farne Front

The quiet world of the Farne Islands

Empty cliffs...

...and empty nests

Few young Seals still around

Boats out for winter cleaning and painting

Tuesday 14th January comments: The winter is a quiet time for the islands, as very little happens, with very few seabirds matched by very few puppng Seals (it is the end of their breeding season now). Even the resident rangers have long since departed to wintering quarters far and wide.

However when the weather allows, we still keep a close eye on it and today was one of those days, with calm seas, allowing us to head east back onto the rocks for the first time this year. Despite the storms and surges, the islands were in 'good health' and if it wasn't for a scattering of Shags, Fulmars and Eiders, it would be easy to forget that this place becomes a Seabird City in just under three months time.

The only noticeable birdlife came in the form of a large female Peregrine on Inner Farne which had just devoured an unfortunate Woodcock, whilst a wintering Red-necked Grebe was seen near Staple Island. Soon we'll be back, but until then, we'll let the sleeping giant snooze and leave the Seals to rest, because it won't be long before we're have been warned. 

Thursday 9 January 2014

Small is Beautiful

Sallow Kitten moth; first for the Farnes (Will Scott)

Another first; Green-brindled Crescent (Will Scott)

2nd record; Beautiful Golden Y (Will Scott)

Good season for Frosted Orange (Will Scott)
Thursday 9th January comments: Although the Farne islands attracts lots of attention because of its breeding seabirds and Grey Seal colonies, there is also another side to life on the islands.

Over the year the team (mainly down to the efforts of Will) trapped moths on 111 nights on Inner Farne and 56 nights on Brownsman. However please don’t worry; the moths are just attracted to light traps at night and once identified, are released safely the following morning!

As a result a record 12,465 moths’ of 138 species were recorded including some very noticeable records; an unprecedented 23 species were recorded for the first time bringing the Farne Islands moth list to 263. This effort and great work helps us to understand  the complwhat makes the Farnes tick

Monday 6 January 2014

Here we go again...

Coming soon...

Not one but thousands

Three months and counting
 Here we go again…

Welcome to 2014. Are you ready? Here we go again…

In just under three months we’ll be opening our doors and welcoming visitors to the Farne Islands as we open our jetties on Tuesday 1st April. Throughout the month of April, Inner Farne will be open all day (Staple Island opens on 1st May) and we’ll be welcoming back our seabirds including thousands of Puffins, Guillemot and Razorbills.

April is a great time to visit as this early period will see lots of courtship displays and with very little vegetation growing, it’s a good chance to see the Puffins really well! Also our Terns will be winging their way back from the southern hemisphere wintering grounds and by mid-April, we should have plenty of Sandwich with a few Arctic Terns present (I’m glad to report; the Arctic Terns won’t be attacking by then so no need for hats!).

So are you with us this year? If I advice you to do one thing this summer; it’s visit the Farne Islands, you won’t be disappointed!