Monday, 30 April 2012

It's raining birds, hallelujah!

Grasshopper Warbler on seaweed covered rocks (Graeme Duncan) 

Stunning views - Grasshopper Warbler (Graeme Duncan) 

Reedbeds anywhere? Grasshopper Warbler (Graeme Duncan) 

One of five Whinchat to arrive (David Steel) 

First of the year - Pied Flycatcher (Bex Outram) 

Wrynecks still here (David Steel) 

Tame Siskin (Ciaran Hatsell) 

Male Brambling feeding on birdtable (David Steel)

Monday 30th April commentsWHAT a day (I say that a lot, but what a day). The Farnes are a migration hotspot for birds making the long arduous trek across the North Sea and are often the first area of land they encounter. Today the conditions were favourable and a deluge of migrants rained down upon the islands. No fewer than eight species were recorded for the first time this year and some stunning sights included a Grasshopper Warbler feeding on seaweed covered rocks on Longstone, a siskin feeding at the feet of the observers, a singing male Ring Ouzel on Brownsman, two Wrynecks actively feeding and no fewer than seven species of warbler. This is birding…Farnes style.

The birding on the Farnes can be epic as views and number of birds can be outstanding. Today was just ‘one of those days’ on the Farnes – unforgettable for those who witnessed it’. Now we just need settled weather so we can get back to business and focus on the breeding seabirds and more importantly share it with you!

Today's totals: Moorhen 1 (still here!), Green Sandpiper 1 for 2nd day, Wood Pigeon 2, WRYNECK 2 (Staple and Brownsman for 5th day), Sand Martin 1 (first of the year!), Swallow 18, Chiffchaff 5, Willow Warbler 39, Blackcap 12, Lesser Whitethroat 2 (first of the year), Whitethroat 5 (first of the year), Grasshopper Warbler 2 (including 1 on rocks on Longstone), Sedge Warbler 1 (first of the year), Wren 1, Ring Ouzel male singing on Brownsman, Blackbird 4, Fieldfare 4 (late!), Song Thrush 3, Redwing 1 (late), Robin 60, Pied Flycatcher female (first of the year), Redstart 3, Whinchat 5 (first of the year), Wheatear 54, Dunnock 2, Yellow Wagtail male (first of the year), ‘White Wagtail 1, Tree Pipit 3 (first of the year), Meadow Pipit 10, Brambling 2, Siskin 1, Lesser Redpoll 1 and Reed Bunting 2.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Will awaits his lift (Bex Outram) 

Visitors at last - Seahouses lifeboat Grace Darling at the Inner Farne jetty (Bex Outram) 

 Goodbye Will - Seahouses bound (Bex Outram)

Green Sandpiper on Brownsman Pond (Graeme Duncan)

Sunday 29th April comments: Last night resident ranger Will had the misfortune of standing on a rusty nail in the vegetable garden on Inner Farne, which penetrated to the bone (ouch!). Following the incident, the swelling (and pain) intensified and the decision was made to get Will to a local A&E to have it checked out. However that’s not easy when you live on an island.


As northerly winds have prevented visitor boats from sailing, there was no chance of us using our own boats or calling for help from local boatmen. So the boys in yellow were called – the local RNLI lifeboat. Humber coastguard was informed and soon the boat was powering its way through the white horses to rescue ranger Will.

I’m glad to report all ended well, as Will was treated for his injury (we think he was using it as an excuse to get off to have a shower!) and the islands owe a big thank-you to the local coastguards and RNLI. We don’t need them often but when called upon, it’s great to know they’re on hand. Great work and great ending.

Today brought our fifth consecutive day of closure (will this wind ever ease?) and once again the islands experienced low temperatures and yet more rain showers. The seabirds appear just to be getting on with it, although once again focus will be back on the Puffins…not more rain.

On the migrant front the Wryneck remains on Brownsman, at least two Redstarts are still in resident, whilst a Green Sandpiper on Brownsman pond all day was only the tenth spring record in the past thirty years.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

It's been a wry old start

Wryneck - one of three on islands in recent days (Graeme Duncan) 

A cracker - male Redstart (Graeme Duncan) 

Last of the Barnacle Geese heading east (Graeme Duncan) 

The breeding season continues - nesting Eider (David Steel)

Saturday 28th April comments: The northerly backed winds continue to cause problems for us on the islands as today (Saturday) brought our fourth consecutive day of closure. The team remain island bound as we welcomed our last visitors on Tuesday, which now feels like something of a distant memory.

Regardless of the lack of visitors, we still have a job to do and a job we have done. Today we concentrated on the accommodation on the islands as Brownsman kitchen was painted whilst the work shed was cleaned and spruced up for the summer. We also took the opportunity to complete some concreting - the rangers are certainly 'jacks of all trades'.

On the islands, the strong wind and glorious sunshine has helped our Puffin population and hopefully we’ve seen the last of the heavy rain. The breeding season continues to advance with news filtering out that we have our first Razorbill on eggs whilst Arctic Terns continue to display over breeding colonies. Migrant birds also continue to impress with two Wrynecks together on Staple Island while a splash of colour was brought to the islands in the form of a male Redstart.

On a final note, the forecast looks dreadful for a few more days, so where not out of the woods yet. April has been such a disappointment for visiting the islands, lets hope the month of May is better!

Friday and Saturday highlights:
Barnacle Geese 7E on 28th

Moorhen - the long staying adult remains on Inner Farne
Wryneck 2 on the outer group on 27th-28th – seen together on Staple Island

Redstart 2 on 27th-28th including an impressive male

Ring Ouzel male on 27th

Snow Bunting male on Inner Farne on 27th

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Wry does it always rain on me?

Wryneck magic on Staple Island (Graeme Duncan) 

From the kitchen window - one of four Ring Ouzels on islands today (David Steel) 

Male Redstart in building (Will Scott) 

Robins galore (yet again) 

 Not good...Puffin burrows under water (Ciaran Hatsell)

Thursday 26th April comments: It’s been another interesting few days on the Farnes as once again the weather has been the main talking point. Following a few settled days (a rarity!) earlier in the week we find ourselves in yet another low pressure system which is bringing northerly winds and yet more rain.

The end result? Closure and difficult conditions for the breeding seabirds. The heavy rain continues to fall and the Puffin burrows on some islands are starting to suffer, especially on Brownsman. Flooding is very apparent on that particular island and we really can’t take much more of this wet stuff. Thankfully as it’s still early in the breeding season, birds will have time to recover…we hope. Watch this space for more news on this subject…and hopefully its positive!

Despite the difficult conditions, migrant birds have been pouring into the islands with some stunning highlights. The most noticeable being two Wryneck’s discovered on Inner Farne and another on Staple Island (which later moved to Brownsman). These cryptic critters are stunning birds and really brightened up another grim day up north. The Farnes could have hit the 'birding headlines' today but unfortunately the bird got away and that story is best left for another day, buts its a real interesting one for anyone listening....  

Other highlights included the lingering Moorhen on Inner Farne for its fourth day (with another on Staple Island), four Ring Ouzels (great spring for them) and three stunning Redstarts. A great day for the islands although we really need the weather to change…please.

Today’s highlights: Great Northern Diver 1N, Golden Plover 35N, Teal 2, Moorhen 2 (Staple Island and Inner Farne), Wheatear 13, WRYNECK 2 (Staple Island and Inner Farne), Ring Ouzel 4 (3 male, 1 female), Song Thrush 19, Fieldfare 2, Redwing 1, Redstart 3 (2 male 1 female) – first of the year, Robin 39+, Chiffchaff 4, Willow Warbler 9, Blackcap 6 and Reed Bunting 2.

Monday, 23 April 2012

How do you like it? Moor moor moor?

Moorhen in the garden (Bex Outram) 

Like a local duckpond; Moorhen and Mallard together (Bex Outram)

Our first chicks of the year - Mallard with ducklings (Bex Outram)

Monday23rd April comments: An interesting day on the islands as the breeding season continues to gather momentum. However the wind remained in the east, cooling conditions and bringing very few visitors to the islands (it's been a disappointing month).

However it was focus back on the migrants as a Moorhen was discovered wandering around Inner Farne before eventually settling in the vegetable garden to feed. In the 'real ' world, these birds are commonly found along British waterways, ponds and lakes, but on the Farne's it's a different story (what more would you expect!?).

Moorhen's are far from annual, having only occurred in thirteen of the previous twenty years, and the majority of records refer to one per year. The Farnes will always continue to attract unusual birds, and this is just a reminder that we are no ordinary place. Next stop Blue Tit - last seen...1977... 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Weekend News

Summer surprise: male Black Redstart (Bex Outram)

Kittiwake with nest material (David Steel) 

I want some! Kittiwakes collecting nest material

 Grounded - the first Sandwich Terns land at next colony (David Steel)

Sunday 22nd April comments: It's been another interesting weekend with more rain, more unsettled weather but at least we could share the islands with visitors, as boats were able to sail. It's been a difficult start to the season, as the weather has dominated and now the rangers, islands and more to the point; the breeding seabirds, could do with some sunny calm weather.

Despite the difficult start, the seabirds have been getting on with life as normal, as Kittiwakes are now frantically nest building, the number of Arctic Terns increase daily (and now displaying) whilst Sandwich Terns have grounded on the main nest colony on Inner Farne. Shags won't be too far away from recording their first hatchlings with a female Mallard producing the first ducklings of the year today.

On the migrant front, two Black Redstarts graced the islands, whilst a handful of migrants remained from last weeks 'fall'. A total of 45 Barnacle Geese flew east over the inner group today whilst a 'white' wagtail reminded us of summer. A wader roost survey across the islands today revealed: Purple Sandpiper 331 (!), Turnstone 155, Redshank 7, Oystercatcher 155 and Ringed Plover 8.  

Friday, 20 April 2012

White Wing Surprise

White winger - Glaucous Gull on the islands today

Ring Ouzel - one of three today

Friday 20th April comments: It was a strange day today as bright sunshine gave way to heavy rain showers before returning to glorious sunshine. However one thing didn't change - no visitor boats again. The frustration of the early season continued and although the winds dropped considerably, the large swell prevented boats from sailing. People keep telling me there is always fingers crossed.

On the bird front, the vast numbers of Robins and common migrants remained from yesterday with the addition of two more male Ring ouzels (these 'upland Blackbirds' are migrating in from Africa) and it's great to have so many in the spring. However the biggest surprise of the day came in the form of a 'white-wing' Gull - a Glaucous Gull in Inner Sound - always top birds to see as they migrate north through the UK (and look so much better than our Gulls).

Apart from the birding, the team got on with lots of strimming (in preparation for our breeding Terns) whilst some staff members got on with the task of opening up Staple Island (scrubbing jetties etc) for that particular islands opening on 1st May. Its all go on the islands, and surely we'll be welcoming visitors back on Saturday? Won't we?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Spring Ouzel

Male Ring Ouzel -first spring record for two years (Bex Outram)

One of two young Male Black Redstarts on the islands (David Steel)

Grasshopper Warbler under bench (Will Scott)

Robins galore - four of ten released from Brownsman cottage! (David Steel)

Robin on the bed (Ciaran Hatsell)

Thursday 19th April comments: The unsettled weather of April continued as the islands were closed again due to bad weather. The moderate easterly winds brought rough seas and rain, resulting in no boats sailing. This week we have been open, closed, open, closed. Such is life at the moment on the islands and we're all hoping for a settled spell of weather, sooner rather than later.

However if every cloud...well you know the rest, but the easterly winds brought a deluge of common migrant birds to the Farnes including an impressive arrival of continental Robins. Noticeable highlights included a stunning male Ring Ouzel on Inner Farne alongside a confiding Grasshopper Warbler (the first of the year) whilst Brownsman produced two male Black Redstarts.

The day totals were impressive (see below) but without doubt, the stars of the show were the vast number of Robins. The islands were carpeted in a sea of 'red breasts' as birds could be seen feeding or sheltering around the building on the islands. Some even ventured into the buildings, including up to ten in Brownsman cottage - all of which were released safely. It's been a great day and hopefully tomorrow we'll share some of this Farnes magic with our visitors; the forecast looks good for sailing, so fingers crossed.

Today's totals: Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Wheatear (7), Black Redstart (2), Blackbird (3), Ring Ouzel (male, first of the year), Redwing (1), Song Thursh (14), Robin (81), Dunnock, Grasshopper Warbler (first of the year), Blackcap (5), Willow Warbler (3), Chiffchaff (15), Goldcrest (3), Lesser Redpoll, Brambling (2) and Reed Bunting.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

You can leave your hat on!

'Retern' of the peck

Fulmar's present in good numbers (Ciaran Hatsell)

First nesting Eider on Brownsman (Ciaran Hatsell)

Skylark on passage (Ciaran Hatsell)

Yesterday's weather...another bad day at sea (Ciaran Hatsell)

Thursday 18th April comments: It's been another interesting few days on the Farnes as the weather has had its say (yet again) as strong south-easterly winds closed the islands to visitors yesterday. However calmer conditions returned today bringing some light migrant passage (and visitors) to the islands.

Noticeable highlights included three Blackcaps, two Willow Warblers and our fourth Hooded Crow of the year (our best season for this species since 1995). Other highlights included a Scaup north through Staple Sound, our first Grey Plover of the spring and an immature Mediterranean Gull in the evening roost.

However the day was stolen by the return of one of our most iconic summer visitors - the Arctic Tern. At least four birds were present in Farnes waters this morning and it won't be long before they're pecking heads. We can't wait....

Sunday, 15 April 2012

No let up

Puffins on a wall (Ciaran Hatsell)

Puffins all over Brownsman

One of seven Mallards currently on nests (Ciaran Hatsell)

Prospecting Shelduck

Sunday 15th April comments: It proved to be a disappointing weekend as the wind which had closed the islands to visitor boats on Friday continued and strengthened. The end result was heavy seas with no visitors on Saturday or Sunday.

However work does not stop despite the closure as the team went about their duties getting involved with a variety of work including painting window frames, sorting Arctic Tern habitat, strimming vegetation and boardwalk construction. However for those involved, the least favourite job was fixing of a sewage pipe...and I'm glad to say, it went well!

On the breeding bird front, more Guillemots were on eggs by Sunday afternoon although the northerly winds and cool temperatures appeared to have slowed everything down. Sandwich Terns numbers have now surpassed 500 whilst we've had an unexpected influx of Common Gulls with over 400 counted at roost.

Although the weather has been poor, we're expecting to be open again on Monday...fingers crossed.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Double Yolker

Brownsman covered in Puffins

Dirty Puffin - burrow cleaning has it's downsides

Eiders prospecting and now on eggs

Eiders from the Kitchen window! (Ciaran Hatsell)

Friday 13th April comments: The unsettled start to the season continued as the wind switched to the north overnight preventing visitor boats from sailing (it is Friday the 13th after all). Despite the disappointment, the team got on with various work, from painting toilet cubicles to scrubbing jetties to even a bit of water management - too much water in the pond for the Puffins!

However the big breaking news came in the form of the first eggs of the year for two species. A check of the Puffin colonies on Inner Farne revealed their first eggs (the second earliest on record) whilst an Eider on Brownsman has popped out her first egg. The breeding season now feels like its gathering momentum and it won't be long before the Terns are joining in.

Today brought a big step in the breeding season and hopefully the wind will ease and we'll be able to share it with everyone again soon. Until then, keep reading and fingers crossed for some good weather.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Sunshine Seabirds

Puffin enjoying the sunshine

Puffins galore back on islands

Welcome back - Guillemots return in vast numbers

Sunning it up - Razorbills

Kittiwake on cliff ledge

Thursday 12th April comments: Its been another cracking day on the islands as breeding seabirds returned in good numbers. It was great to see the vast numbers of Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins return to the island tops - it won't be long before all three species are on eggs. Kittiwakes have started next building whilst Shags continue to sit - having been on eggs since 23rd March!

Bird highlights included a Great Skua north, whilst our first Common Terns (two of them) were discovered in our evening roost of Sandwich terns. Only a matter of time before the Arctic Terns are back - oh joy, Arctic Terns...I remember them. peck.