Friday, 30 September 2011

A Scattering of Scandinavians

A passing Kestrel on its way west (Graeme Duncan)

Female Wigeon takes a break on Inner Farne pond (Graeme Duncan)

A Song Thrush on Brownsman Jetty (Graeme Duncan)

A visiting Redwing lingers on Inner Farne (Will Scott)

Friday 30th September comments: Our glorious leader and head warden David Steel left the islands today at 11am to visit Fair Isle for two weeks, in the company of several ex Farne wardens (his holiday blog posts to follow!) No sooner had he left than the islands sprung to life with visiting birds (as usual). Easterly-flavoured winds brought several passage thrushes and finches to the islands from Scandinavia.

Inner Farne's good autumn duck records continued, with a male Pintail passing west over the island, and a female Wigeon lingering on the pond, accompanying the resident female mallard and her newly born late brood of ducklings!

The islands also experienced their first real fall of Bramblings this autumn, with 11 of these cracking birds recorded across the islands, calling confidently and showing well to admiring wardens. 10 Redwing were recorded on the Farnes along with 3 Song Thrushes, hopefully a good sign of things to come. It won't be long until the Farnes hopefully experiences another year of busy thrush passage, as thousands of these birds come over the islands to spend the winter in Britain!

Today's Sightings: Pintail 1, Long-tailed Skua 1, Brambling 11, Linnet 14, Redpoll 2, Redwing 10, Song Thrush 3, Whinchat 1, Wheatear 3, Blackcap 2, Garden Warbler 1, Chiffchaff1, Willow Warbler 1, Skylark 3, Black Tern 1, Grey Plover 1, Kestrel 2, Peregrine 2, Sparrowhawk 1.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Its a boy!

Alive and well, out first Seal pup (Graeme Duncan)

A boy! (Graeme Duncan)

First of many (Graeme Duncan)

Thursday 29th September comments: The first Grey Seal pup of the Farnes is a boy and is doing well on the South Wamses. Its mother (a Cow seal) has visited on several occasions and with fine weather predicted, everything seems well in the world. This will be the first of many born across the islands over the next few months and as usual, I'll bring you all the news, views and photos from the island colonies.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Seal or no Seal

Sweet dreams - a distance shot of our first Seal pup (sleeping)

I'll post close-up photos tomorrow (Graeme Duncan)

Yesterday's male Redstart (Ciaran Hatsell)

Sunny day brought out the butterflies (Ciaran Hatsell)

Wednesday 28th September comments: Its been a cracking day on the islands as the weather has improved and we've experienced some unseasonal sunny weather. The southerly based wind has brought lots of Silver-Y moths and plenty of butterflies as well as a few birds. Highlights included lingering Merlin, a fly-past Black-throated Diver and a flushed Short-eared Owl amongst others.

However our attention is turning to the Seals as the first pup was born the previous day on the South Wamses. When dawn broke across the islands this morning, there appeared to be no sign of the youngster and we feared the worst. With large autumn tides, we thought it may have been washed off the shingle bank and lost to the cruel mistress that is the North Sea.

However, our worst fears were dispelled later in the day, as the pup was discovered, with mother, back on the shingle bank. The little tinker must have been hiding during the early morning round, but at least it was fine and well. We're hoping to get across to check its health tomorrow and bring you some close-ups of our first Grey Seal pup. Its never dull on the Farne Islands.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Breaking news...

Just a quick update from this morning (Tuesday 27th September). Our first Grey Seal pup of the autumn has been born, discovered on the South Wamses. Now just 1,498 to go.....

Monday, 26 September 2011

Skeins of glory

Welcome back - Pink-footed Geese heading to the mainland (Jamie Coleman)

Pink's heading over (Jamie Coleman)

Monday 26th September comments: Autumn has arrived. Today the wind eased and bird migration kicked in as 651 Pink-footed Geese moved west over the islands (in numerous skeins) heading towards wintering grounds further south, most likely ending up along the Norfolk coastline. Wave after wave crossed the north-sea, flying over the islands and onwards with their journey. It was great to see and hear them again and it reminded us all, that autumn is well and truly here.

However summer hasn't completely gone as nine Swallows, two Sandwich Terns and even a late Swift reminded us that it really is the cross-over of seasons. Other highlights today included the lingering Icterine Warbler, present for its second day on Brownsman, whilst Whitethroat, two Chiffchaffs and two Tree Pipit added some spice.

On the Seal front, we still await our first pup of the autumn, but surely it is any day now, isn't it...

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Icterine Warbler on the Brownsman (Graeme Duncan)

Pied Flycatcher saying hello to the Icterine (Graeme Duncan)

One full Peregrine - remains of a Corncrake discovered (Graeme Duncan)

First Brambling of the autumn (Jamie Coleman)

Spotted Flycatcher (Jamie Coleman)

Sunday 25th September comments: WHAT a day. It's been a quiet spell for the islands (despite the Curlew Sand and Long-tailed Skua's trying their best to cheer us up), as the westerly dominated winds have prevented very little migration though the islands. However today produced a flurry of birds with some noticeable highlights.

The morning had produced a reasonable movement of wildfowl past the islands whilst the first autumn Brambling dropped into Inner Farne. However, Brownsman was the place to be mid-afternoon, as the seasons first Icterine Warbler was discovered near the pond and remained until dusk, showing well to all the warden team.

However the day didn't all go according to plan, as the remains of a Peregrine 'kill' were discovered on the south end of Brownsman which proved to be a Corncrake. The 'kill' was very fresh and the bird must have arrived earlier in the day but sadly succumbed to the the resident raptor. Despite the disappointment of not seeing the bird alive, the wardens couldn't complain as it had proved to be a cracking day as the totals will show;

Today's sightings: Red-throated Diver 13N, Breant Goose 2N, Pink-footed Goose 93W, Shoveler 7N, Tufted Duck 4N, Wigeon 33N, Teal 68, Common Scoter 13N, Corncrake - 1 found dead - raptor kill on Brownsman, Wheatear 6, Whinchat 3, Robin 2, Icterine Warbler 1 on Brownsman, Blackcap, Chiffchaff 4, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Brambling 2 and Lesser Redpoll.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Lone piper

Curlew Sandpiper remains (Graeme Duncan)

23rd September comments: The islands remain quiet and not much to report from today's observations. The most noticeable highlight was two juvenile Long-tailed Skuas, north, and it appears to be turning into a bit of a purple patch for them. The first autumn Pink-footed Geese moved west over the islands whilst the Curlew Sandpiper remains on Brownsman.

The team took on a full sweep of the outer group for Seal pups, but sadly no sign and we still await our first pup of the year. It won't be long before we have hundreds of the little white pups, but for now, nothing.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Sand Bagged

Curlew Sandpiper back on Brownsman (Graeme Duncan)

Showing well, the juvenile Curlew Sand (Graeme Duncan)

Bathing time (Graeme Duncan)

The team view it from the Brownsman veg garden wall (Wez Smith)

Thursday 22nd September comments: It was back (almost) to normal as the wind decrease as quickly as it had increased yesterday. Visitor boats returned to normal sailing and the team went about their business as normal (from painting to construction of a Tern terrace).

Although birding has been generally disappointing throughout September due to westerly dominated winds, we've still had a few noticeable highlights. Today the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper returned to Brownsman pond, having not been seen since the weekend, allowing the entire warden team to successfully twitch it (it was the first since 2003 after all). Otherwise we still await our first Grey Seal pup of the autumn (surely its just a matter of time) and life on the islands continues.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Telling Tails

Lapland Bunting, the first of the autumn

Rainbow team - another mixed weather day on the islands

Wednesday 21st September comments: Its been a quiet start to the week as westerly winds have continued to dominate (nothing new there then!) bringing very few migrant birds. However the Farnes being the Farnes, we still have produced some highlights including two Lapland Buntings over on Monday, the first records of the year. Following last seasons impressive haul (unprecedented numbers across the UK), we're hoping this is a sign of another good year.

Today brought a major highlight as (unexpectedly) seawatching produced a stunning seven Long-tailed Skua's, the islands highest day total since 1995. The birds were seen within a two hour period (just after midday) and the passage all involved juveniles all heading north. The birds were split between Staple Sound and the south end of the islands, although one bird decided to fly over the Big Harcar, close to the observers on Brownsman. A cracking find on an otherwise uneventful day...

I mention uneventful day, the wind has once again kicked in and we're cut off from the outside world (which has been common place in recent weeks). It's hurricane season and don't we know it. Bring on some settled weather.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A good weekend

A cracker and our first since 2003; Curlew Sandpiper (Andy Denton)

First of the autumn; Short-eared Owl (Graeme Duncan)

We can see you (Andy Denton)

Back for the winter; a Snow Bunting (Andy Denton)

Pied Flycatcher on the move (Andy Denton)

Sunday 18th September comments: It's been a good weekend on the islands as the wind (at long last) switched to the east and produced a good scattering of migrants. Pick of the crop was a Curlew Sandpiper which was discovered on Brownsman pond - amazingly the first island record since September 2003 (remember that Ashy?). Why the species is so scarce on the Farnes is any one's guess as they remain an annual in the local area and were regular on the Farnes until 2003. However it was a welcome return and hopefully we'll have a few more to shout about by the end of the season.

Our first autumn Redwing (welcome back!) and Snow Bunting brought a distinct winter feel about it, whilst other highlights included a majestic Short-eared Owl and a scattering of migrants including Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchats and common warblers. Just outside the recording area, a Minke Whale and Grey Phalarope were recorded by a visitor boat, so the the islands still have plenty of potential.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Grim day

Sunset over Inner Farne lighthouse (Andy Denton)

Oystercatcher flock on Inner Farne (Andy Denton)

Shag having a wash (Andy Denton)

Friday 16th September comments: Its been a grim day today on the islands as a south-easterly wind increased preventing boats from sailing. It was in complete contrast to the previous day and by mid-afternoon, heavy rain had descended across the islands. Work was mainly confined to the buildings although occasional birding sorties were made, but with very little reward. The conditions made viewing difficult and very little had arrived but as always on the islands, there is tomorrow and the potential for migrants. Bring it on...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Flaring up!

Lifeboat flares (Jack Ibbotson)

Safely into the sea (Jack Ibbotson)

Lesser Redpoll caught on dock bank (Ciaran Hatsell)

Wednesday 14th September comments: We welcomed visitors back to the Farnes today, although the wind was still breezy from the west and the islands remained fairly quiet for birdlife. The major highlight involved the capture of one of yesterdays Lesser Repoll's on the dock bank before being released unharmed. A few raptors moved through with Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and Kestrel all recorded whilst the first Skylark of the autumn was noted.

The evening brought the unusual sight of the local Seahouses RNLI lifeboat firing flares from their boat, the Grace Darling. The practice session was impressive as a number of flares were fired, much to the entertainment of the warden team. Other than that, the team are looking forward to a quiet spell of weather and getting island life back to normality.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Storm troopers

Tuesday 13th September latest...

Check out the above video compiled by resident warden Graeme Duncan during yesterday's storm. Its a bit mental and that is just the wardens in it! As you can also see, the blog has had a much needed 'make-over' and I owe a big thanks to Fiona Whitworth and Graeme Duncan for the support and help.

Keep following us and enjoy the blog!

No let up

Hammer time...

We can see you...the mainland

It goes on...

Tuesday midday update. The wind has decreased but its still windy, very windy...gale force in fact! Here is some more piccis...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Rock and roll

Wind swept Inner Farne (Graeme Duncan)

Mainland in the distance (Graeme Duncan)

Hard-core seawatching (Graeme Duncan)

Latest update (16:30) The storm continues to rage and there is no sign of relenting as the shipping forecast is just in....

"Forth, Tyne, Dogger: south-west severe gale 9, occasionally storm 10"

That's that then. Bring it on.

Aye, we'll give it a go!

Latest storm pictures (2pm)...

Island visit anyone? (Jack Ibbotson)

Boat in a storm (Jack Ibbotson)

Heading home (Jack Ibbotson)

Over the bench (Ciaran Hatsell)

Latest update; the wind had notched up another level and unbelievably we noted a dive boat heading back to Seahouses at 13:30. WHAT a journey that must have been. More photos to follow later.

Farnes lock-down

Blow out (photos taken today at midday) (Jack Ibbotson)

Smashing the islands (Jack Ibbotson)

Hello Bamburgh (David Steel)

Monday 12th September comments: Its started, the wind is now smashing the islands and its only midday - we're still some time away from the peak wind strength. With high-tide not forecast until 17:00 this evening, its going to be fun. More news and photos to follow.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The quest for the holy Quail

The quest for the holy Quail

The team seawatching

Ready for s torm - boat tied down

Sunday 11th September comments: It was a quiet day on the islands today as we prepare for the tail end of a hurricane which will cut us off from the mainland for the next three days at least. We're fully stocked and ready for this, so we'll watch Mother Nature hammer the islands and pick up the pieces at the end of it all. Its going to be interesting and I'm just so pleased I'm not reporting this during the breeding season.

On the islands, a Quail was discovered running across the main baordwalk on Inner Farne today, only several feet from the observers. What a sight! Although almost annual on the Farnes, this was only the second ever autumn record for this scarce summer visitor. Despite the best efforts of the team, we could not relocate this little gem.

Now hold onto your hats, there's a storm brewing....