Thursday 28 August 2014

Wag the Tail!

Eastern promise; Citrine Wagtail (David Kinchin-smith)

Farnes 6th Citrine Wagtail (David Kinchin-smith)

Mixing it with the waders (David Kinchin-smith)

Preening on Brownsman (David Kinchin-smith)

Thursday 28th August comments: Its been coming. After several months of settled weather we can safely say the autumn is now with us (from a bird migration point of view!). In the last few days the winds have switched to the east with the end result of dropping migrant birds onto the Farnes.

A scattering of common migrants were discovered before mid-afternoon produced the bird of the autumn (so far!). An immature Citrine Wagtail was discovered on Brownsman favouring the mudflats on the pond. The bird is a rare eastern migrant and follows on from two last year. Overall it is the sixth Citrine Wagtail to reach the Farnes following the first in 1989.

With more east winds predicted, what else will arrive….

Saturday 23 August 2014

Spitting Success

Fulmar party!

Chick about to be ringed

One leg and a special bird ring being attached by trained staff

Almost ready to go
Saturday 23rd August comments: The Farne Islands support twenty-three breeding species of seabird and most have now departed the islands after a successful breeding season. However we still have one remaining; the Fulmars.

Fulmars are notoriously slow breeders with the first eggs laid in mid-May before spending up to sixty days incubating. Once hatched (in early July) the single chick takes another eight weeks to fledge before departing in late August (talk about taking your time!).

Over the last few weeks as part of our long-term monitoring programme of Farne seabirds, we’ve been ringing the chicks and it’s a messy job. The species main defensive weapon is to spit an oily substance at ‘would-be-attackers’ and it works; nothing goes anywhere near them…apart from us (yes someone has to do it!).

So we’ve successfully ringed all the chicks but blimey, do we smell (even more than normal) as we took plenty of direct hits! We have to hand it to them Fulmars are certainly good at raising chick sand looking after themselves!

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Shear Greatness

Manx Shearwaters galore (Bex Outram)

Wednesday 20th August comments: It’s been an interesting week as we remain cut off due to the heavy seas and strong winds. However things are gradually improving and we’ll be back in business before we know it. Despite the lack of visitors, we’ve been recording and monitoring as usual and it’s been a good few days…

On Tuesday a GREAT SHEARWATER was tracked up the Northumberland coast and just after 14:30 we discovered the bird flying north trough Staple Sound. This rare visitor was only the thirteenth record for the Farnes and the first since 2007. Also of note were the number involved as today produced 507 Manx Shearwaters and 6 Sooty Shearwaters north past the islands.

Other noticeable highlights included an adult Pomarine Skua (with full ‘spoon’s’) along with plenty of Great and Arctic Skuas. Its not just sea passage as waders are also on the move with four Ruff, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank seen on the Farnes today. It’s never dull!

Monday 18 August 2014

Pups At The Ready!

Adult Grey Seal on Brownsman (David Andrews)

Checking us out...Grey Seal on the look out (Graeme Duncan)

Nearly ready to pup

Monday 18th August comments: Whilst the seabirds have been busy, the visitors have been visiting and the rangers have been ranging, one Farnes animal has gone largely unnoticed. The Atlantic Grey Seal.

The Farnes are home to some 5,000 Grey Seals (although you won’t see them all at the same time) but during the autumn months ‘pups’ (young Seals) are born across the rocky Farnes. Throughout the summer months, pregnant cow seals have been fattening up whilst letting the world go by…but not for much longer.

It’s only a matter of six weeks before the birth of the first pup on the Farnes and once they pop, they won’t stop! And then be warned, Seal season 2014 will begin.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Migration Magic!

The bird of birds...the male Red-flanked Bluetail on Longstone, Farnes September 1998
(thanks to ex-warden Mark Cornish - the finder of this stunning bird!)

Robin in the hand
Sunday 17th August comments: As the seabirds move off, the islands will change into a motor-way service station for migrant birds. Over the next few months, millions of small passerine birds leave the northern hemisphere for warmer climes in the south and the Farnes acts as a fuelling station as birds will stop off to feed up on the vast crop of caterpillars and insects on the islands.

During this exciting time, literarily anything can arrive from the commonest Robin to the incredibly rare Red-flanked Bluetail. It’s all to play for and during this period we’ll be running bird walks and bird ringing events for people to enjoy the amazing spectacle so come along and find out more. It’s never dull on Planet Farnes…

Monday 11 August 2014

Scottish Sandwich

Adult Sandwich Tern on eggs on Inner Farne

Special 'darvic' rings for Sandwich Tern chicks

Fledged Sandwich Tern chick on Inner Farne beach sporting a darvic ring

And now on Findhorn beach, northern Scotland! (Richard Somers Cock)

Monday 11th August comments: Over the last few months the Farnes team have been going about their ‘usual’ business from dealing with thousands of visitors to monitoring the precious wildlife.

Part of the scientific work we undertake includes bird ringing, a tried and tested way of discovering so much about our birdlife. For the second consecutive season, as part of a larger UK wide scheme, we ringed almost 200 Sandwich Tern chicks with special ‘darvic’ rings. These rings are plastic with three digit codes allowing observers to read them with binoculars and telescopes.

As our Sandwich Terns have now started leaving, it’s been great to receive news of our birds on their first travels. Up to six Northumberland ringed Sandwich Tern chicks have been sighted on a beach at Findhorn in northern Scotland by Richard Somers Cock and this will hopefully be the first of many sightings.

It’s interesting to learn that our Sandwich Terns always depart north before eventually heading south for the winter (why do this?). This scheme is only in its infancy, but already it’s producing some impressive results and long may it continue. So if you see a Sandwich tern, check its legs…it could be ours!

Sunday 10 August 2014

Big Bertha

Big Bertha...

Sunday 10th August comments: Welcome to storm season. Hurricane Bertha hit the Caribbean islands on Monday before dissipating over the central Atlantic but has now reached our shores and is about to batter the farne Islands. The shipping forecast is just in and we kid you not…

‘Westerly severe gale force 9 expected soon, increasing storm force 10 later’

That’ll do. Its going to be a windy night on the Farnes. Time for the tiles to dance…

Friday 8 August 2014

Butterflies Galore!

Red Admirals galore (David Roche)

Small tortoiseshell (Nick Covarr)

Plenty of Red Admirals around (David Steel)

Wall butterfly (David Roche)

Migrant Painted lady (David Steel)
Friday 8th August comments: No one can deny it’s been a good summer; the sun has shone, the birds have thrived and huge numbers of visitors have enjoyed the Farne Islands. It’s not just the breeding seabirds which have enjoyed a bumper summer as other wildlife has done well.

Over the last week or so, we’ve had an emergence of butterflies on a grand scale with hundreds of Red Admirals on the wing alongside others including migrants like Painted Ladies. It’s evidently been a good summer for them (302 Red Admirals counted on one transect on Inner Farne alone!) and this back’s up last years good showing.

This is all good news for the biodiversity of the Farnes and long may it continue!

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Rosé on the rocks

Family party of Roseate Terns (David Roche)

Stunning adult Roseate Tern (David Roche)

Fledged juvenile Roseate Tern (David Roche) 
Showing well (David Roche)

Plenty of Roseate Terns on the move (David Roche)

Wednesday 6th August comments: The last ten days have produced plenty of Roseate Terns which are on the move from nearby breeding colonies and as a result, we've got some cracking photos of them so thought it would be good to share (again!).The birds are loafing around the jetty system on Inner Farne and we're getting up to thirty daily which are present all day.

In other news, migration is now swinging into action with two Green Sandpipers and seven Willow Warblers the highlight recently and hopefully it won't be long before we have even more to shout about in the near future. Bring it on!

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Fish Food

Look carefully...sand-eels galore in the beaks of the Gulls! (David Kinchin-smith)

Food galore (David Kinchin-smith)

Kittiwakes getting there fill (David Kinchin-smith)

Kittiwake line (David Kinchin-smith)

Success; full Kittiwake (David Kinchin-smith)

Tuesday 5th August comments: It’s very plain and simple; Sand-eels, the bringer of life. These small silver fish are the linchpin to life on the Farnes and without them this place would not be what it is. The vast numbers of seabirds (all 85,000 pairs & chicks) all depend on this valuable food source and it’s been a real bumper year for them.

As a result huge numbers of chicks have been fledging the islands in recent weeks and it’s been a similar story along other east coast seabird colonies. However as well documented, things are on a knife-edge as if we lose these valuable fish we’ll lose our nesting seabirds. Everything from climate change to over-fishing can have an impact and that is why it is important we do what we do on the Farnes; monitor, protect and manage.

The Farnes is a very special place and long may it stay that way.

Monday 4 August 2014

Pink Perfection

Adult Roseate Tern, Inner Farne

Looking good in the evening light

Family party; adult and chick

Not one...several!

Monday 4th August comments: Its been a few (sad) years since Roseate Terns lasted attempted to breed on the Farne Islands and almost the entire British population of this endangered seabird now nest on nearby Coquet Island (85 pairs).

However at this time of year; family parties disperse from Coquet and use the Farnes as a staging post on their migration. Over the last few days the jetty area on Inner Farne has been filled with the sound of Roseate’s and today we counted twenty-nine individuals.

The birds show extremely well (down to a matter of a few feet at times) and are very photogenic. If you’re looking for yet more excuses to visit the islands, then you have one; come and visit and enjoy this rare and distinct visitor. Its rosy heaven. 

Sunday 3 August 2014

White-beaked Dolphins!

White-beaked Dolphin off the Farnes (Bobby Pearson)

Moving alongside the boat (Bobby Pearson)

Great views of a fantastic animal (Bobby Pearson)

Sunday 3rd August comments: The sea’s around the Farnes are teeming with life and this year the breeding season has been a huge success for our seabirds due directly to the amount of prey (sand-eels) which has been available (its been phenomenal). As a consequence, it’s also been a great year for cetaceans.

Since mid-April, we’ve had a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins which have been roaming along the north-east coast and at times, were been recorded daily from the Farnes. The first Minke Whale of the summer arrived with us last week (hopefully the first of many) and yesterday our second sighting of White-beaked Dolphins occurred.

A pod of up to ten animals were spotted just south of the Farnes and remained to feed for several hours allowing visitors to enjoy the great spectacle. The photos above were provided by Bobby Pearson, skipper of Glad Tidings I – showing just how well they were showing!

With the rest of August and September to go, what else will be seen? Come on you Orca’s!

Saturday 2 August 2014

Going, going...

Last of our Puffins

Almost all gone

The last fledgling Arctic Tern nearly ready to depart

Final few Guillemots ready to jump

Saturday 2nd August comments: So welcome to August and its all change. Over the next few weeks, the last of our seabirds will depart for the open sea and that is mission accomplished. breeding season over for another year (sad I know!). In general its appears to have been a cracking breeding season with plenty of chicks fledging, but we'll have a few numbers to crunch before then to confirm just how good it has been.

Over the next few weeks, I'll bring you the highlights of the season with the good (and bad) news for our breeding seabirds because before we know it, we'll have pupping Grey Seals on the islands. Then the fun will really begin...

Friday 1 August 2014

Things that go bump in the night...

Leach's petrel (left) Storm Petrel (right) (Paul Baker)

Friday 1st August comments: It’s been all go on the nocturnal petrel ringing sessions, as more Storm Petrels have been caught whilst our Leach’s Petrel total has reached four; an unprecedented number for the Farnes. This oceanic wanderers are impressive birds but to see them in the hand, is another thing again. We even had the delight of listening to them ‘sing’ around the nets. The Farnes never fails to impress.

In another noteworthy bird sighting, the Farnes produced a major rarity on Wednesday as an immature COOT was discovered on the sea off Staple Island. A reasonably common breeding species in Northumberland this represented only the 24th ever record for the islands and the first since March 2007! It may not be noteworthy on the mainland, but a few Farnes birders were pretty pleased with that sighting!

So onwards into August and what will the month bring? The seabirds are shipping out, the migrant birds are moving through and who knows what the sea will produce? Orca anyone (it’s long overdue!).