Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Happy Birthday Will!

25 today...Will Scott

Tuesday 30th August comments: An early blog post as we are celebrating yet another birthday on the islands, this time Will Scott is 25 today. The boy from the Isles of Scilly (he's a long way from home!) has enjoyed his first season on the islands as an Inner Farne warden and I suspect it won't be his last.

On a bird front, seawatching has continued this morning with 162 Manx Shearwaters, 18 Sooty Shearwaters and 8 Great Skuas all heading north before 10am today. Happy days!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Eyes to the sea

Manx Shearwater in full flow

Monday 29th August comments. The strong north-west winds resulted in a second day without boats but all eyes were trained to the sea as seawatching produced some reasonable totals.

Today's totals: Sooty Shearwater 33N, Manx Shearwater 357N, Great Skua 15N 9S, Arctic Skua 3N 15S and Storm Petrel 2N.

Not a bad result with a few waders noted included Greenshank, Whimbrel 2 and Common Sandpiper. It'll be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Never mess with a Fulmar...

A Fulmar chick ready to fledge (Ciaran Hatsell)

Fulmar saved by warden Will Scott (Anne Wilson)

Saturday 27th August comments: After the last few days excitement, the islands have gone quiet again, as the winds have switched to the north-west and yesterday's Wrynecks have moved on. However we've still got plenty to do and that includes helping our birds.

The Fulmar population is at record levels (almost 300 pairs nesting on here) and their chicks are now just fledging (yes, it takes a long time for them to fledge!). Yesterday the team spotted one such newly fledged bird, struggling out at sea and soon the bedraggled bird was rescued and placed in a box to allow it to dry. Although it never really thanked us for this act (it just tried to oil us), the bird was soon recovering and was returned to its nesting area, to try again. This time, try not get waterlogged Mr Fulmar!

Friday, 26 August 2011

New A-wry-vals

Little Egret on Longstone (Graeme Duncan)

3rd for the Farnes (Graeme Duncan)

Stunning in flight (Graeme Duncan)

Inner Farne's Wryneck (Andy Denton)

Friday 26th August comments: The Farnes…it’s a crazy place. The seabirds have gone, the islands are quiet but a switch in wind direction at this time of year can result in an arrival of migrant birds. The last 24hours has been no different, as the wind has blown from the east and sure enough, the islands have not disappointed.

First the radios crackled as the team had discovered a Little Egret below the lighthouse on Longstone. Little Egrets have gone though an amazing change in the past decade on a national scale, as good numbers now breed throughout the UK, but on the Farnes, they remain rare. Soon after the news broke, all nine wardens were assembled on the Longstone and were enjoying the Farnes third ever Little Egret and the first since 2003.

More was to follow today as two stunning Wrynecks arrived, as individuals performed well on Inner Farne and Brownsman, with a light scattering of common migrants. It’s been a good spell and hopefully this is just the start of things to come…

Sunday, 21 August 2011

August continues

A nice surprise - a Wood Warbler (Ciaran Hatsell)

Shag family ready to go (Andy Denton)

Last of the Puffins (Andy Denton)

Suneet over Inner Farne (Andy Denton)

Sunday 21st August comments: Late August is a quiet time on the Farnes as the majority of our breeding seabirds have gone and only a handful remain. The last few breeding Puffins can be seen daily although as they are feeding hungry chicks, they spend one a brief moment on the islands before disappearing in search for more food. I did wonder whether these late besters enjoy having the place to themselves, after all, the waters around the Farnes have plenty of fish but with less competition!

The warden team are busy working on various management aspects of the islands including plenty of vegetation work alongside some ground preparation for next year. Small numbers of migrants are filtering through the islands including a stunning Wood Warbler recently, but any switch in wind direction to the east will bring a lot more birds. Watch this space, the forecast next week looks very very interesting….

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Beneath the waves

A beautiful nudibranch or "sea-slug"

A sand mason worm sits inside its grainy shelter

Brittlestars can be found aplenty on the shores

Sunday 14th August comments: Continuing the theme of having a look at the sometimes overlooked aspects of the Farnes, today’s blog looks at the islands’ non mammalian sea and shorelife.

The seas around the Farne Islands are incredibly rich in nutrients, which allow the water to support a vast number and diversity of animals (and plants!) The most obvious and numerous of these is the sand-eel, the plankton-eating fish which supports an entire population of breeding seabirds and seals, but there are many more critters to be found in Farnes waters. In the summer months, huge swarms of common or “moon” jellyfish come to the warming seas, accompanied by the purple Cyanea lamarkii and red lion’s mane jellyfish, the only stinging locally British jelly.

Amongst the rocks and boulders of the shoreline, swimming, shore and edible crabs await their next meals alongside the plentiful lobster and smaller squat lobsters. There are however many more weird, and wonderful small creatures here. Tiny but beautiful nudibranchs or sea-slugs (not a very attractive name for something so nice!) can be found amongst the rocks, sand mason worms build peculiar tubular homes from the ground around them and young fish hide in crevices from any would-be predators.

The Farnes wardens, along with a team from Natural England, perform surveys on the islands’ rocky shores to keep an eye on the sea’s general state. Much like the butterflies and moths, as well as being incredibly interesting to look at, the small shoreline creatures with their fast reproduction and short lifespans provide a very up-to-date view on the water’s health. A change in the populations of these shoreline beasts could be a warning of changes to come in the much longer-lived breeding seabirds, allowing the wardens to take action on a problem before it is too late.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Autumn arrives

A Reed Warbler flicks out of the Longstone grass and onto a rock

A Whitethroat takes shelter on Staple island
A pied flycatcher arrives in the rain

The birthday boy of the day...

Friday 12th August comments: Well, our first sample of ‘rare’ weather this autumn – easterly flavoured winds and rain – occurred yesterday and has brought in quite a haul. With visitor boats stranded for the day due to the high swell, wardens were able to thoroughly check the islands for any migrants that dropped in throughout the day, and did they ever! Although the fall didn’t produce any big rares, the sheer number of other migrants made the day enjoyable for all, as Whitethroats and Pied Flycatchers showed well for onlookers. Two Grasshopper Warblers were found skulking in the orache fields of Staple Island, staying true to form and flushing at very close range before heading deep into the vegetation again for another run. Hopefully this marks the beginnings of a good autumn migration season for the Farnes...

And on another note, a happy birthday today to our glorious leader and head warden David Steel, currently enjoying his 11th year on the Farnes, his knowledge and experience keeps the whole place running smoothly and the Farnes has definitely improved significantly under his reign. Best wishes from the whole team here on the Farnes!

11th August highlights: Pied Flycatcher 4 lingering on both Inner Farne and outer group islands, Sedge Warbler 2, 1 Reed Warbler managed to find the only grassy area on Longstone, Garden Warbler 4, Whitethroat 3, Grasshopper Warbler 2 on Staple, Whinchat 3, Wheatear 5, Spotted Flycatcher 1 showing on Inner Farne, Lapwing 2 settled on Inner Farne’s north rocks and a flyover of a Greenshank and Green Sandpiper.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Lepidoptera madness!

Two hummingbird hawkmoths sun themselves on the pele tower roof (Will Scott)

The stunningly iridescent burnished brass moth

The beautiful garden tiger moth

A wall butterfly on Inner Farne (Will Scott)

A painted lady butterfly relaxes on a thistle flower (Will Scott)

Wednesday 10th August comments: The Farnes is well known for its birds, both breeding and migratory, and with these obvious and beautiful creatures constantly reminding us of their presence; it’s often easy to overlook the smaller, but just as beautiful beasts.

The Farnes also plays host to Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths – and this year is rife with them, especially now what we’re into August! On the 5th and 6th of August alone, 86 butterflies of 11 species were recorded. These included a Dark Green Fritillary (8th for the Farnes), Comma (3rd record), 11 Painted Ladies, and over 30 Red Admiral all on the 5th.

The night is equally as hectic, as wardens have lured plenty of moths into their traps too. Dark Swordgrass, the migrating Silver Y, the spectacular Garden Tiger, Burnished Brass and Hummingbird Hawkmoths have all been caught, proving the farnes really is the place to be for any beast with wings! Ghost Moths are abundant, their lavae feeding on the island’s dock roots, whilst Dark Arches and Dark Spinach are found in huge numbers. This is by no means an exhaustive list - in total over 2700 moths of 95 different species have been caught so far!

Lepidoptera are useful fast indicators of environmental change, due to their rapid population turnover, so their numbers on the Farnes are closely monitored. And being such spectacular critters to view, it’s not an arduous task at all.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The migrants have landed

A Black Tern takes a rest on the Inner Farne rocks

A female Black Redstart sunning itself on the Brownsman cottage solar panels

Roseate Terns are still turning up daily on the islands

Tuesday 2nd August comments: It seems that the summer ‘dead zone’ is finally over, and the first migrants are starting to make their way to the Farnes on their journey to their wintering grounds. Large numbers of waders are beginning to gather on the islands’ rocky shores, and the Farnes has boasted flocks of up to 315 Golden Plover, over 200 Turnstone and 280 Knot.

Arctic and Great Skua are being sighted regularly, with some very close views of the former today as one lingered over the Inner Farne jetty.

Smaller birds are also on the move, with a bright young Willow Warbler showing well on Brownsman on 30th July along with a female Black Redstart. Just to remind us that this wasn’t a one-off early occurrence, we were visited today by a Yellow Wagtail and a moulting adult Black Tern, which showed well for visitors on the rocks to the south of Inner Farne jetty.

Here’s hoping that this is a sign for an oncoming deluge of migrants. We’ll be keeping our eyes to the skies and keeping you all updated!