Sunday 29 June 2014

To the Moon & Back

Nearly 31 years old (with a few grey feathers)

Ring still in good condition

Sunday 29th June comments: Birds are incredible. You have to hand it to them and there are very few which can match our breeding Arctic Terns. We know from bird ringing recoveries and recent studies that these birds spend the winter off the pack-ice of the Antarctic, but we are just discovering how old these birds can live for. In recent years on the Farnes, ringing recoveries have suggested that birds can live into their early thirties, and yesterday we proved it once again…

An adult Arctic Tern (still breeding and showing some grey in the head – its got some way to catch me!) was caught on Brownsman and the ring sequence revealed something very special about this individual. The bird ‘CE94161’ was ringed as a chick on Brownsman on 11 July 1983 making it just thirteen days short of its 31st birthday! WOW!! (It’s older than all my staff on the Farnes!).

Not only is this an incredible age, but considering this bird has been travelling to the other side of the world on an annual basis ever since, makes you wonder just how far this bird has travelled in its lifetime! A quick calculation reveals that it is 19,986 mile all-round journey from the Farnes to the Antarctic (now that’s a stat!) and therefore this bird has been travelling that distance for thirty-one years, which is roughly 620,000 miles travelled (and that’s without feeding flights etc). So this bird has travelled the equivalent of flying to the moon and back (!) and back half-way to the moon in its lifetime. Get your head around that!!!!

What amazing birds and hats off to these long distance travellers (although not during the breeding season otherwise they will peck you head). Well done Arctic Terns, a true wonder of nature.

Thursday 26 June 2014


Guillemot parent with chick

'Bridled' Guillemot on the sea

Goodbye; chick leaving the islands

Father and chick on their way

Thursday 26th June comments: It’s a tough life being a Guillemot chick! No fancy comfortable nest (adults lay a single egg and incubate between their feet – Penguin style!) and you have no brothers or sisters – just one egg, one chick!

Then after just twenty days of life, you’re father drops down onto the sea (some 80ft in places) and call’s you down. You have no choice as the food is not coming to you, so with one huge leap of faith, you jump!
At this time of year (and for the next three weeks) the 50,000 or so Guillemots across the islands are doing exactly this, as they lead chicks away from the islands to the relative safety of Dogger bank (60 miles out to sea!). It’s away from the islands that the chicks will grow flight feathers and learn to become independent but it’s a tough start to life. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be jumping down cliffs at twenty days of age!

However the strategy works because the Farnes population of Guillemots has grown from 1,500 in 1971 – up to its current total and increasing by the year! So life as a Guillemot is tough and extreme but it all ends happily for the next generation of birds.

Monday 23 June 2014

Summer Days

Newly hatched Arctic Tern chicks

Rock Pipit fledgling

Hello world! A Guillemot chick amongst adults 

Taking it Kittiwake

Fans Puffin

Monday 23rd June comments: Another day on Planet Farnes and another good day for all concerned. The resident seabirds are full of activity and things are going well. Guillemots and Razorbills are already starting to leave the cliffs with young (success!) whilst Puffin chicks grow stronger by the day.

Elsewhere Arctic Tern chicks are hatching across the colonies, whilst both Sandwich and Common tern chicks are being well fed. It’s great to see so much food being brought in and its all pointing towards a great season, but we’ve still got some way to go, so we wont shout to loudly…just yet.
For those interested, the Bridled Tern performed well all day and continues to display to Sandwich Terns. Could it hybridise with a Sandwich Tern? Could it really? Watch this space…

Sunday 22 June 2014

A Good Tern Out!

A little bit different...Bridled Tern with Sandwich Terns

The returning Bridled Tern

A very distinctive individual!

Sunday 22nd June comments: It’s been a fabulous weekend as the fine weather continued (we’ve got a few sunburnt rangers!), the seabirds are active raising their chicks and the star of the show remains; the Bridled Tern.

The bird has been showing well all weekend although frustratingly today it disappeared just as the first visitor boats arrived and did not return until after 6pm. However generally it’s been on show and has been much admired by many of our visitors.

It’s not just the Bridled Tern which has caught the attention as the Tern chicks (Common, Arctic and Sandwich) continue to grow in strength and size and it’s pleasing to report that the food supply (the vital sand-eels) appears to be in plentiful supply at this moment.

It’s a brilliant time to visit the islands and with the addition of our rare Bridled Tern, isn’t it time you made the journey?

Friday 20 June 2014

'Re-tern' of an Old Friend...

Look who's back....(David Kinchin-smith)

Its a cracker!!! Bridled Tern returns (David Kinchin-smith)
Friday 20th June comments: Last year on 1st July an adult Bridled Tern arrived on Inner Farne causing birders from as far away as Kent and the south-west to jump into cars, drive overnight and admire this beauty from the Caribbean (it was the first accessible Bridled Tern in the UK since 1991 and only the 24th record for Britain).

However last week the bird (which is presumed to be the same individual) was amazingly rediscovered this year on Fair Isle off the Shetlands (by ex-Farne wardens – nice one lads!) and has been lingering for several days on the famous northern isle. However last night the bird departed….and headed south.

Today the Farnes welcomed back an old friend.

Just after midday, the adult Bridled Tern had indeed ‘re-terned’ to the place it had been originally discovered all those months ago and I suspect it may now be with us for some time yet. According to the statistics, it was last seen on Fair Isle at 5pm last night and if the bird had of departed straight away (and giving it three hours of sleep during the night) then it was flying at 17mph (in a straight line) back to the Farnes. Impressive stuff (and thanks for the stats David Parnaby of Fair Isle!).

So here we go again. The Bridled Tern is back and my advice to anyone; come and see it, it’s a stunner! Inner Farne is open daily from 13:30-17:00 and well worth a visit!

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Best thing since sliced bread

Sandwich Tern on nest

Colony looking good on Inner Farne

Plenty nesting

Adult and young Sandwich Terns

Counting Sandwich Tern nests

Wednesday 18th June comments: The islands have been basking in glorious sunshine in recent days which has been good for our visitors but more importantly it’s been good for our seabirds.

With plentiful supplies of sand-eels, parents of all species have been busy feeding hungry chicks and it’s a great time to visit the islands. One species which is doing particularly well is our Sandwich Terns with almost 1,000 pairs nesting and plenty of chicks having hatched. The food supply has been brilliant and they’re heading for a successful breeding season, so long as the weather holds…

Monday 16 June 2014

Rangers to the rescue!

Eider pair on Brownsman

Female Eider

Ducklings in a box! Mainland bound!

Ranger Andy with the ducklings

Success; ducklings with new mums!

Monday 16th June comments: Eider mothers are brilliant (most of the time!). They have a very interesting breeding biology as the chicks are lead to the open sea within 24 hours of hatching to the relative safety of the nearby rocky shorelines and harbours of North Northumberland. Here they will crèche to provide extra protection for the chicks with non-breeding birds and failed breeders lending a helping hand (or should I say helping wing?!).

And so cue today. The ranger team discovered five ducklings wandering around, looking confused (abandoned for reasons unknown). So we did what we do best; we gave the birds a helping hand. Once rounded up, they were soon en-route to the mainland with the aid of our zodiac boat and a cardboard box!

Ten minutes later we arrived in the harbour and located a crèche with twenty females and over one hundred chicks. The ducklings were then safely re-released and joined their new mums. Hopefully these birds will remember our good deed and one day return to breed on the islands and maybe even entertain our visitors (after eating a few chips along the way!).

Farnes rangers: saving lives everyday!

Sunday 15 June 2014

Jumpin' June

Shags nesting at lighthouse cliff on Inner Farne

Not often seen; Puffin chicks

Life; Arctic Tern chick just hatching

Inner Farne looking good!

Sunday 15th June comments: The month of June is traditionally a big month in the Farne Islands calendar and it’s proving no different this year.

It’s all go for our nesting seabirds as chicks have started hatching and with hungry mouths to feed, the attentive parents are busy whirling backwards and forwards with a glut of Sand-eels. All three Auks now have chicks including our Puffins whilst Shags, Cormorants and Eiders all have young to care for. Even the Terns are now in on the act as all three; Sandwich, Arctic and Common terns have young to fend for. It’s a crucial time of year and let’s just hope our weather maintains itself as we really could do without a wet or windy summer…

It’s not just the seabirds as the team are working hard, counting all the seabird populations and monitoring several thousand nests to see exactly what is going on across the Farnes. It’s all vital work and adds to our knowledge and understanding of just what is happening to our Seabirds, good or bad. The world of the Farnes is never dull (or quiet) and as ever we’ll keep you posted.

Saturday 14 June 2014


Farne Islands sunset

Gateway to the Farnes

Guillemots Galore

That's no Sand-eel

Saturday 14th June comments: Here we go again. At long last the technical issues have been sorted and the Farnes blog is back under way. Over the next week we'll be bringing you all the updates, highlights and lowlights of the islands, so be warned and brace yourself. Planet farnes is back on the web!

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Feeding Frenzy

Dinner time for a Shag chick (David Steel)

Its all about regurgitation! (David Steel)

Sand-eels being brought in by Artcic Terns (David Kinchin-smith)

Rock Pipits feeding young (David Kinchin-smith)

Wednesday 4th June comments: It’s becoming a crucial time of year on the Farne Islands as chicks of all species are now hatching. That means one things for parents; hungry mouths to feed. The seabirds of the Farnes will be on the move from first-light (04:00) through to dusk which can be beyond 23:00 during this time of year and its tiring work.

The non-stop activity is vital to the success of the colony as birds seek out their favourite prey; the Sand-eels. It’s very early days but indications suggest its going to be a good year for food supply, so we now just need the weather to hold and we’ll be celebrating another Farnes success season in a few months time. However there is a long way to go before then, so fingers crossed…

Monday 2 June 2014

Welcome Home

Head those Arctic Terns!

Puffins galore

and chicks are hatching!

Female Eiders settling down

.....and some have chicks

Ringed Plover hatching

Population counts begin

Rare visitor; today's Nightjar (David Kinchin-Smith)

Monday 2nd June comments: It’s been a while since we updated the blog as we’ve been full of busy and had a few minor technical difficulties along the way. However we are up and running and away again…

So what has been happening recently? Answer; a lot! The seabird breeding season is now reaching an impressive peak as young are hatching across the islands including our first Puffins chicks. Hungry mouths need feeding and foraging parents are busy finding vital Sandeels.

As well as the birds, the ranger team are full of busy as plenty of visitors are enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Farnes whilst monitoring, ringing and much much more is taking place. The long days have really started as the team are undertaking cliff counts; population counts of all the birds. Its going to be a long month ahead…

Latest Farnes news

Puffins with chicks

Shags and Cormorants with medium chicks

Arctic, Sandwich, Common Terns all on eggs

Kittiwakes on eggs

Migrant birds have been few and far between in recent weeks although today Brownsman welcomed a Nightjar; our third in three years. These ‘Goatsuckers’ are rare visitors (only seven since the early 1950’s) but we’re going through a purple patch at this moment with Brownsman producing records in July 2012, September 2013 and today!

As ever we’ll be keeping you posted with all the Farnes news so stick with us, because here we GO!