Tuesday 30 September 2014

Ring-tail and Risso's

Ring-tail record shot - today's Hen Harrier

Ringing continues - Rock Pipit (Left), Meadow Pipit (Right)

Juvenile Gannet soaring over the islands (David Kinchin-Smith) 

Auk-tumn's here - a winter plumage Razorbill
Tuesday 30th September comments: September certainly went out with a bang today on the mighty Farnes! Autumn is always an unpredictable time on the islands and today was no exception. Just as the team on Brownsman were settling down to breakfast there was an excited shout as a Hen Harrier flew past the cottage window. This is a rare bird for the islands, this being only the 17th record and the first since 2011. And the shout was followed by an equally loud one from Inner Farne as on a morning cetacean watch a Risso’s Dolphin was picked up in Inner Sound. This is a very rare cetacean for the islands with only 3 previous recent records, and an impressive sight of a dolphin that can grow up to 4 metres in length!

Come out and experience things like this for yourself – no two days are the same out here! With bird ringing demonstrations and daily cetacean watches on Inner Farne, maybe you’ll see one of these sites for yourself. What will October bring!? 

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Barny Army!

Barnacle Geese on the move!

Mainland here they come!


Wednesday 24th September comments: The season advances on and we are now officially in autumn(although as birders we’ve been talking about the autumn since 1st July!). However it’s definitely autumn as over the last few days we’ve welcomed thousands of Geese, as they flood into the UK for the winter.

On Monday we welcomed the arrival of hundreds of Barnacle Geese coming in from the high arctic island of Svalbard whilst today we’ve seen a large movement of Pink-footed Geese. Diurnal migration is brilliant and you can’t get much better than this. If you live in East Anglia or over near the Solway Firth…be warned the Geese are coming…

Goose Totals

Mon 22nd Sept 
Barnacle Geese 1,740 west, Brent Goose (pale bellied) 28 west, Pink-footed Goose 165 west

Tues 23rd Sept
Barnacle Geese 295 and Canada Goose 2 west.

Wed 24th Sept
Barnacle Geese 45 and Pink-footed Goose 1,723 west.

Monday 22 September 2014

Fea-Lin Great!

Fea's 'type' Petrel - photo was taken in July 2013 by Gary Woodburn from Beadnell

Monday 22nd September comments: It proved to be an unprecedented day along the north-east coast yesterday as just after 8am a Fea’s ‘type’ Petrel was discovered flying north of Flamborugh Head in East Yorkshire. Over the next ten hours, 107 birders from 16 different sites connected with this amazing oceanic wanderer.

With all the modern day technologies and top of the range optics, the bird was successfully tracked all the way to the Scottish borders before darkness set in preventing further sightings to the north. This day and age it’s not uncommon for birds to be tracked up the coast but this was on an impressive scale.

For those who saw the bird, it was well worth it and although the individual involved can not be narrowed down to exact species (due to the difficulties of identification at sea) it will long live on the memory. Thanks to everyone who contributed times and totals of people – great work birding team!

Time       Location                                            Number of birders
08:15      Flamborough Head (E.Yorks)                            9

09:00      Filey Brigg (N.Yorks)                                        5

09:47      Long Nab, Burniston (N.Yorks)                         2

11:25      Cowbar (Cleveland)                                           3

14:00      Seaham (Durham)                                              1

14:23      Whitburn (Durham)                                            40

15:00      Tynemouth (Northumberland)                             1

               Cullercoats (Northumberland)                             1

               St.Marys, Whitley Bay (Northumberland)           9

15:51      Newbiggin (Northumberland)                             20

16:06      Snab Point (Northumberland)                             5

16:25      Druridge Bay (Northumberland)                          1

17:25      Beadnell (Northumberland)                                 3

17:35      Annstead Point (Northumberland)                       1

17:45      Farne Islands (Northumberland)                          4

18:15      Holy Island (Northumberland)                             1

...and not to forget all the other great seabirds which were sen including a Great Shearwater off the Farne Islands early in the morning. An epic day all round!!

Friday 19 September 2014

YES Farnes!

New arrival today; Barred Warbler (David Kinchin-smith)

Bird ringing produced a Red-breasted Flycatcher...and...

...a Yellow-browed Warbler!
Friday 19th September comments: It was a mixed day today on the Farnes but not in bad sense as rare migrant birds remained with a few new arrivals to shout about. Alongside our lingering Buntings, Shrike, Flycatcher and Rosefinch, a new Barred Warbler arrived on Brownsman early morning to quicken the pulse.

Later in the day a new Little Bunting was discovered on Inner Farne (unringed) whilst the ringed bird was still on Brownsman. The day was even capped off by a bird ringing session which produced a good number of common migrants including the Red-breasted Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler!

All in a days work….

Today’s highlights:

Little Bunting 2 (one Inner Farne, one ringed Brownsman)

Rustic Bunting

Red-backed Shrike

Common Rosefinch

Yellow-browed Warbler two

Barred Warbler

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Thursday 18 September 2014

Fantastic Farnes!

Gone but not forgotten...yesterday's Golden Oriole, eating caterpillar! (David Kinchin-smith)

Farnes third ever Golden Oriole (David Kinchin-smith)

Little Bunting for fifth day (David Kinchin-smith)

Ringed together; Common Rosefinch and Little Bunting (David Steel)

Thursday 18th September comments: The blog feels like a ‘stuck record’ at this moment; another day, another pile of good birds! The Farnes are going through a purple patch and a lot remained after yesterday’s epic haul. However the stunning Golden Oriole had moved on but was replaced with a Red-breasted Flycatcher on Inner Farne, so few were complaining.

The week has certainly put the islands back on the ‘bird map’ after a quiet spell and with more easterly winds forecast, what else will we see? One thing is for sure, it’s never dull and today’s list of birds will show that;

Rustic Bunting (for fourth day on Brownsman)

Little Bunting (for fifth day on Brownsman)

Yellow-browed Warbler (two; singles on Inner Farne and Brownsman)

Common Rosefinch (present on Inner Farne)

Red-breasted Flycatcher (present on Inner Farne)

Red-backed Shrike (for third day on Brownsman)

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Gold Rush

Farnes third ever Golden Oriole (David Steel)

Showing well on Brownsman (David Roche)

Previous records in 1992 and 1976! (David Steel)

Little Bunting caught and ringed (David Steel)

One of two Common Rosefinch (David Steel)

Juv Curlew Sandpiper (David Steel)

Wednesday 17th September comments: Madness, utter madness. The Farne Islands are an amazing place for seabirds and wildlife, but its also a well known sport for migrant birds. On a good day it can challenge with the best and today was one of those days…

As dawn was breaking, news that our the long staying Rustic and Little Bunting were still present and the Red-backed Shrike which arrived yesterday (and bit fingers) was still around. However that was just the start of things to come. More migrant birds were being discovered by the hour and just after 10:30 the big news broke…

GOLDEN ORIOLE…Brownsman. Mega. These stunning birds are very rare breeders in the UK and are rarely seen on passage. The Farnes have boasted just two previous individuals in 1992 and 1976. Until today.

There is was, an immature on Brownsman, showing well and soon the entire Farnes team were enjoying this golden wonder. However more excitement followed as not one, but two Common Rosefinches were discovered. Throw in our first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn and Farne scarcities like Curlew Sandpiper and Sanderling, you can see what kind of day it turned out to be. Our day was even topped off with some bird ringing of various migrant birds including the Common Rosefinch and Little Bunting.

And breath.

Darkness fell at end of the day which had produced; Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike,  Yellow-browed Warbler, two Common Rosefinch and a Curlew Sandpiper. Tomorrow anyone? Bring it on.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Butcher Bird in Town

Impressive beast; Red-backed Shrike in the hand (Emma Witcutt)

Juvenile Butcher bird (Emma Witcutt)

The smallest of all birds; Goldcrest (David Kinchin-smith)

Stunning sunset over the islands

Tuesday 16th September comments: Another day another good day on the Farnes. Overnight mist and easterly winds continued to bring in migrant birds, adding to our totals from yesterday.

The stunning Rustic Bunting remained alongside the Little Bunting but most birds were on edge with the arrival of a butcher bird; a Red-backed Shrike. Despite the bird being a recently fledged juvenile, it’s still more than capable of killing and eating the majority of the passerines on the islands, so it was certainly a day not to be caught off guard.

However during the afternoon the tables were turned as the bird was caught and ringed during our bird ringing operations. The beast of a bird certainly let it know what it thought of this by pecking our hands and drawing blood but its all part of the science. I’m glad to report both bird and ringer survived the ordeal and the Shrike was soon back on the prowl across the islands.

It’s never dull on the Farnes and anyone visiting tomorrow (Wednesday) will see bird ringing in operation, so come and have a closer look but if we’ve got a Shrike in the hand…stand clear. Butcher bird in town.

Monday 15 September 2014

Hunting for Buntings!

Rustic surprise (David Kinchin-smith)

6th Farnes Rustic Bunting (David Kinchin-smith)

Present all afternoon (David Kinchin-smith)

...and just for back up - Little Bunting (David Kinchin-smith)

Monday 15th September comments: Yesterday was good, today was even better. Low cloud with easterly winds (and the occasional rain shower) resulted in a downpour of migrants…and a bit extra.

Good numbers of birds were seen with yesterday’s Little Bunting remaining for a second day although both Red-breasted Flycatchers had moved on. However the real star of the day arrived mid-afternoon as an immature Rustic Bunting was discovered on Brownsman (that island is the place to be at this moment!). The bird showed well and represents the sixth Rustic Bunting for the Farnes following individuals in October 1992, May 1993, May 1994, October 1995 and June 2012.

Its top birding at the moment and I suspect it’ll be more of the same tomorrow…bring it on!

Today’s passage highlights: Skylark 8, Tree Pipit 4, Meadow Pipit 61, Song Thrush 5, Wheatear 13, Whinchat 2, Redstart 4, Robin 12, Pied Flycatcher 6, Spotted Flycatcher 1, Chiffchaff 2, Willow Warbler 7, Garden Warbler 5, Blackcap 3, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Whitethroat 2, Goldcrest 8, Chaffinch 12, Lesser Redpoll 1, Rustic Bunting 1 and Little Bunting 1.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Eastern Promise

Red-breasted Flycatcher - one of two on islands today (David Kinchin-smith)

Showing well! (David Kinchin-smith

Migrants on the move; Redstart and Blakcap (David Knichin-smith)

Sunday 14th September comments: BANG! Welcome to September, welcome to the Farne Islands. It was heading for a very ordinary day (light winds and calm conditions) when things started changing towards the late afternoon. Just after 3pm an easterly weather front arrived across the islands and BANG…a Red-breasted Flycatcher was discovered on Brownsman.

Within two hours the islands were rocking with a plethora of rare birds including:

Little Bunting on Brownsman

2 Red-breasted Flycatchers (both first-winter birds)

Corncrake (flushed from West Wideopens)

Wryneck on Brownsman

As well as these beauties, a good handful of migrants also arrived including our first Redwing of the autumn alongside Grasshopper Warbler, Redstart and plenty others. With more easterly winds forecast over the forthcoming week, I suspect the islands may be producing a few more noteworthy birds. Watch this space, whilst we watch this space!

Thursday 11 September 2014

Ort-umn Starts Here!

Migrant cracker; Ortolan Bunting (David Steel)

Showing well on Brownsman (David Steel)

First since 2010 (David Steel)

Present late afternoon on Brownsman (Laura Shearer)
Thursday 11th September comments: It’s September and anything can happen. This is the Farne s and boy when it happens, it can happen, and today was one of those days…

Today witnessed a continuation of the recent mild weather with warm conditions and flat seas. A few migrant birds were on the move as three Pied Flycatchers, Reed Warbler and Garden Warbler all arrived but then Brownsman pulled it out of the bag.

Just after 4pm, an obliging first-winter Ortolan Bunting was discovered feeding along the east rocks of the island and showed well to the admiring ranger team. This represents the first record on the islands since three were together in September 2010 and is this just a sign of things to come? Watch this space…its about to get interesting…

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Basking in the Glory!

Not today's animal - this was the first for the Farnes in 2007

A very distincitive profile!

Which way now?

Tuesday 9th September comments: It's been another stunning start to the week on the Farnes as the mild weather and flat seas continue to dominate. Migrant birds continue to move through the islands on their way to southern wintering grounds whilst the first sign of winter has been noted; Brent Geese on the move (heading back into the UK).

However this morning was all about another visitor, a slightly bigger and more impressive visitor. Just after 9am the team were carrying out their daily cetacean watch of Inner Sound (the stretch of water between Inner Farne and the mainland) and spotted the distinctive shape of a Basking Shark!

These huge fish have been seen before; in 2007 (two) and 2012 and this represented the third confirmed sighting in Farne Waters. Although no photos were taken (a bit too distant) I thought I'd share the photos of the very first animal spotted in Farnes waters in 2007. It's one huge, impressive fish and lets hope it sticks around because this is one visitor you really DO want to see. Hopefully more sightings to follow....

Sunday 7 September 2014

Sylvia Shocker

First Barred Warbler of the autumn (Ed Tooth)

A dead Barred Warbler (Laura Shearer)

Sunday 7th September comments: Migrants have continued to arrive over the weekend although we had the unusual case of a ‘two bird theory’. On the usual birding round of Inner Farne, a skulking Barred Warbler was discovered in the veg garden on the island which remained all morning (our first this autumn). However with the presence of visitors, the bird disappeared and not much more was thought about it.

However later that day a Barred Warbler was found freshly dead under the elder bushes on Inner Farne (a sad demise for such a brute of a visitor). So we thought that was that, the bird had perished and we moved on. But was it? Within twenty minutes the original bird was rediscovered! Re-incarnation? Maybe or a case of two Barred Warblers on Inner Fane, one of which had died.

So the strange and wonderful world of Planet Farnes keep on throwing up surprises…

Friday 5 September 2014

More Migrants In

Up to seven Pied Flycatchers arrived on the Farnes (David Roche)

Showing well as usual (David Roche)

First Lesser Whitethroat of the autumn

Spotted Flycatcher caught and ringed

18 Whinchat arrived across the islands on Thursday

Friday 5th September comments: More migrant birds have arrived on the Farnes over the last few days with a good number of Whinchat, Pied Flycatchers and Willow Warblers amongst others. With favourable light winds predicted over the weekend, the islands will hopefully produce even more over the next few days so come out and visit and see what all the fuss is about!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Little Fall

Little Stint on Brownsman pond

Little Gem!

Present all day on Brownsman pond

Goldcrests on the move

Wednesday 3rd September comments: Light south-easterly winds with misty conditions produced a reasonable arrival of common migrants with one or two noticeable highlights. A Little Egret north was only the seventh ever (although records now increasing n an annual basis) whilst a very obliging Little Stint showed well on Brownsman pond.

It’s now September so things are hotting up and you can’t take your eyes off the islands at the moment.

Today’s Highlights: Little Egret (7th Farne Islands record) Common Sandpiper 1, Little Stint 1 juvenile, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Golden Plover 1,200, Greenshank 1, Snipe 2, Knot 1, Whimbrel 2, Roseate Tern 15, Whinchat 2, Wheatear 7, Redstart 1, Sand Martin 1, Swallow 23, Yellow Wagtail 4, Garden Warbler 1, Willow Warbler 9, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Goldcrest 5, Spotted Flycatcher 2, Pied Flycatcher 2 and Tree Sparrow 1 on Brownsman.