Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Little winged wizard

The Little Winged Wizard...Merlin back for the autumn 

Wheatear on the north rocks 

Rainbow over the Brownsman

Wednesday 29th August comments: A very mixed day on the islands today as the wind continued to blow with added rain showers which resulted in very few people venturing out (and I couldn't blame them). On the bird front, our Greenish Warbler finally departed overnight after a three day stay (gone but not forgotten), although some new arrivals brightened up the day including our first autumn Merlin alongside a scattering of common migrants including two Pied Flycatchers.

Tomorrow will see yet more change, as strong Northerly winds are forecast, so seawatching could be productive and we celebrate yet another rangers birthday...but you'll have to tune in tomorrow to find out what has happened...bring it on!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A swift update

Greenish Warbler for its third day on Inner Farne (Will Scott) 

Boardwalk replacement on Staple begins... 

Out with the old....

Tuesday 28th August comments: We appear to be bouncing from one extreme to the other at this moment, as last week we basked in warm sunshine and ‘mirror calm’ seas. The sun has remained this week, but the wind has been strong and it even resulted in the closure of the islands yesterday.

Today, a stiff westerly wind was blowing although the islands were open and visitors enjoyed the shelter of Inner Farne beach. As well as the visitors, a few of our migrant birds took advantage of the shelter including the Greenish Warbler (for its third day) and it was even heard in ‘sub-song’. The bird actively fed all day and we suspect it’ll be on its way this evening, fully fuelled and ready for its long migration. The evening also brought a good passage of Swifts, with 190 west over the islands, a noticeable count for us out here.

On the work front, the replacement of boardwalks has begun (on Staple Island) as the Puffins have departed allowing us to concentrate on the management side of the Farnes. Its never dull out here, it really isn’t.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Green(ish) with envy

Present and correct; Greenish Warbler for second day (Will Scott) 

Performing well; Greenish Warbler (Will Scott) 

Greenish Warbler on Inner Farne (Will Scott)

Fulmar enjoying the windy conditions 

Grey Herons migrating across the North Sea!

Monday 27th August comments: It’s been generally a grim day on the islands as the wind increased steadily from the south, bringing with it rain and heavy seas. The end result brought closure of the islands to the public and the team got on with paperwork (plenty of seabird monitoring data to sort out).

On the bird front, no new arrivals made it in although the Greenish Warbler performed well all day on the dock bank of Inner Farne whilst at least one Barred Warbler was still present on Brownsman.

Seawatching picked up at late afternoon with the highlight involving a stunning juvenile Long-tailed Skua north with double figure counts of Arctic Skuas and a few Bonxies thrown in for good measure. Another noticeable day on the Farnes and now we’re all wondering what tomorrow will bring!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Two-barred Greenish...

What a stuuner; Greenish Warbler showing well (Graeme Duncan) 

Check those eye stripes (Graeme Duncan) 

Farnes tenth Greenish Warbler (Graeme Duncan) 

Flycatching from dock (Graeme Duncan) 

Two in the hand...Barred Warblers together

Sunday 26th August comments: (for those birders reading this, don't panic, its two Barred Warblers and a Greenish....) The Farnes is an amazing place and having spent twelve years living out here, I’m in a good position to say such things. And today was one of those days, one of those magical days which will live long in the memory.

With the sun shining all day, it was a cracking day which only got better. Just after 5pm outside the Pele Tower on Inner Farne, a cracking Greenish Warbler from northern and eastern Europe was discovered feeding in hemlock. The bird showed well for the admiring rangers – only the tenth ever record and the first since 2008. Hopefully we’ll be able to show it off to visitors tomorrow!

The excitement didn’t stop there, as bird ringing activities on Brownsman produced not one, but two Barred Warblers together at the same time!! Both birds were ringed and released unharmed and it capped a magical end to a great day. The Farnes, it’s awesome.

Today’s highlights: Ruff, Common Sandpiper 2, Whimbrel 2, Wheatear, Whinchat 4, GREENISH WARBLER 1 on Inner Farne, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler 7, Barred Warbler 2 together on Brownsman both ringed, Garden Warbler 2, Pied Flycatcher 2.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Barries Back in Business

Our second Barred Warbler of the autumn arrived today

Saturday 25th August comments: Where at it again. The Farnes are one of the best English localities for Barred Warblers with 48 recorded in the past twelve years, although unexplicitly we didn't record any last year (so much for our boasting). However we are back on track with these bulky Sylvia warblers as today the second of the 'autumn' arrived, following a small 'fall' of migrant birds (and known as 'barries' on the Farnes). The bird showed well on Brownsman late afternoon and came hot on the heels of our previous on 6th August. With more favourable conditions over the next few days, we'll hopefully expect a few more exciting migrants to drop in...fingers crossed. 

Today's highlights (so far): Tree Pipit, Whinchat 2, Barred Warbler 1 (second of autumn), Willow Warbler 15, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler and Pied Flycatcher 5.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Time sealing away

 Grey Seals have started massing on the Farnes

Heavily pregnant Grey Seal keeping a close eye on things 

Haul out time

Friday 24th August comments: Just where has time gone? The Puffins and the majority of seabirds have now departed the Farnes for warmer climes (they've got more sense!) and its now only five weeks away before we'll be starting our next chapter on these rocky outcrops; its the Grey Seal pupping Season.

In late September, the first pup will be born on the Farnes and throughout the autumn and early winter, over 1,500 pups will be born across these rocky outcrops. As usual, we'll bring you all the news and views from the colonies this year, and we might even be bringing you some very exciting news about seeing them up close and personal but more news to follow in the near future. Keep reading and get ready, its Grey Seal season and don't we know it. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

And its Gold for Farnes

First Goldcrest of the autumn

Visitors enjoying views down to one metre of the bird!

Wednesday 22nd August comments: It’s been another pleasant day on the islands with the sun shining (although we did get a very brief and heavy rain shower) as the islands continue there good run of weather form. A reminder that autumn is kicking in, came in the form of a Goldcrest on Inner Farne, which showed extremely well to visitors (down to a few metres at times). The smallest bird in Britain migrate from Scandinavia during the autumn and this bird was fresh in. With the winds potentially switching back to the south-east next week, we could have a few more to report...gingers crossed.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The most wader-ful time of the year

Nationally important numbers of Purple Sandpipers now present 

Impressive Turnstone numbers recorded today 

Oystercatchers very evident

Monday 20th August comments: It’s been another busy but enjoyable day on the Farnes as the sun continues to shine and the flat, calm seas remain. As well as our usual work on the islands, the team participated in a complete wader count of all the islands (all 18 of them) as part of the national Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) organised by the BTO.

WeBS are carried out monthly at high tide (the best time to count waders) and as we are experiencing peak wader passage at this moment, we knew it wouldn’t be dull. Some impressive totals were accumulated especially Turnstone and Purple Sandpipers, with a few highlights thrown into the mix including five Greenshanks.

All island totals: Golden Plover 632, Turnstone 887, Purple Sandpiper 225, Oystercatcher 257, Greenshank 5, Bar-tailed Godwit 5, Common Sandpiper 4, Green Sandpiper 1, Redshank 12, Knot 22, Curlew 123, Whimbrel 19 and Dunlin 23.  Impressive!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

A migrant Migrant Hawker

A Migrant Hawker Dragonfly - rare on the Farnes (Graeme Duncan) 

 Good numbers of Swifts on the move (David Steel)
Brownsman Pond looking good for waders (David Steel)

Saturday 18th August comments: It was a strange old day yesterday as the wind increased preventing visitor boats from sailing and with the added extra of rain showers the islands looked set for a major intake of common migrant birds. However the expected ‘fall’ failed to materialise with only a handful of new arrivals amongst the lingering hordes. The Farnes don’t win every time but I’m sure we’ll fight another day…

Amongst the birds lingering, the Green Sandpiper remained in residence on Brownsman pond (which looks great for waders at this moment) whilst Swifts were on the move yesterday, heading south for Africa as they leave 'what summer' we had.

The most interesting sighting proved to be a non-bird – a 'Migrant Hawker' Dragonfly, discovered in the visitor centre on Inner Farne. These powerful insects are amazing to observe but the Farnes rarely record such beauties, so it was very much appreciated by those who saw it. With lighter winds on their way, we should be back open to the public with still plenty on offer. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Welcome Willows

Influx of Willow Warblers today (Bex Outram) 

Lesser Whitethroat checking for insects (Bex Outram)

Thursday 16th August comments: It was a day of two-halves today as the wind, swell and incoming tide produced some impressive heavy seas during the morning, but by early evening, the sea was mirror flat calm - so much was the contrast today. The south-easterly winds continued with yet more migrants arriving, most noticeably a Willow Warbler influx. The wind is set to continue in the south-east, so if you're visiting, come and enjoy our migrant birds and learn a little bit more about our special visitors. 

Today's highlights: Wigeon 1, Teal 16, Kestrel 1 still present, Green Sandpiper on Brownsman pond, Ruff on Staple Island (for second day), Common Sandpiper 3, Whimbrel 3, Bar-tailed Godwit 4, Ringed Plover 25, Knot 8, Tree Pipit, Robin, Whinchat 5, Wheatear 2, Willow Warbler 24, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Garden Warbler 2 and Pied Flycatcher 4.   

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A ruff day

A fog bound Brownsman early morning (David Steel)

One of two migrant Kestrels in residence (Bex Outram) 

Our first Ruff of the autumn (Bex Outram) 

Pied Flycatcher utilising the solar panels (David Steel) 

Young Pied Wagtails ready to fledge the nest (David Steel) 

Drake Eider starting to moult out of 'eclipse' plumage (David Steel)

Wednesday 15th August comments: It’s been a mixed day on the islands as we started in thick fog, had some blazing sunshine in-between before finishing the day in torrential rain and strong south-easterly winds.

Migrant birds continue to be a feature as more new arrivals were noted including an immature Ruff on Brownsman (the first this year) which showed well on the pond and then the nearby ‘flats’ area of the island. The first Lesser Whitethroats of the autumn also arrived whilst a scattering of Flycatchers kept things ticking along. On the breeding bird front, a family party of Pied Wagtails are ready to fledge whilst Eider numbers start to increase once again, with drakes starting to moult out of 'eclipse' plumage (their summer moult dress). With yet more south-easterly winds (and rain this evening), we suspect we haven’t seen the last new arrival on the islands…

Today’s highlights: Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper, Ruff on pond and then Brownsman ‘flats’, Snipe 1 on pond, 2 Kestrel including one killing a Starling, Swift, Tree Pipit, 3 Whinchat, 3 Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler, Garden Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 10 Willow Warbler, 4 Pied Flycatcher and Spotted Flycatcher. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

More migrants

The mighty Brownsman cottage towards sunset (David Steel) 

Lingering Kestrel (Bex Outram) 

Several Whinchat remain (David Steel) 

Fieldfare (Bex Outram)

Tuesday 14th August comments: Another day on planet Farnes, another stunning one (the sun was shining) and migrant birds were still present in good numbers. The forecast suggests we may even get more birds, but time will tell. On the migrant front, the early Fiedlfare remained along with plenty of migrants including six Whinchats, eight Pied Flycatchers and four Garden Warblers amongst others. A Green Sandpiper on Brownsman Pond was the most noticeable passage wader highlight along with a flock of six Whimbrel.

Despite the migrants, we haven't forgotten our seabirds as we had a late Puffin chick fledge today and reasonable number of Sandwich Terns remain. Small numbers of Shags and Kittiwakes are still present on the cliffs, but otherwise its thinning out even more. Noticeably winter plumage Guillemots have been sighting in Farne waters...winter already.....not quite. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

Field day on the Farnes

The first autumn Pied Flycatchers arrive (Andy Denton) 

Whinchats arrive (Andy Denton) 

A grainy shot of our first autumn Fieldfare - early!! (Andy Denton) 

Waders on the move - Dunlin on the pond (Andy Denton) 

One of two Sanderling on Inner Farne beach (Bex Outram)

Monday 13th August comments: Its a busy time on the islands again as our seabirds have been replaced by the autumn passage migrants. Birds heading south to winter in Africa are stopping off and using the islands as a service station, filling up on 'fuel' (lots of insects) before making the big journey south. It wasn't just birds heading south as we had a VERY early Fieldfare (a young bird) on Brownsman - just two months sooner than we expect on here!

The most noticeable highlight proved to be an Icterine Warbler discovered on Inner Farne although was elusive at times. In a normal year we'd have been really happy with this discovery, but with five spring records, its now just the 'norm' for this season. Its great to see these birds and if you visit the islands, we'll be happy to show these interesting migrants. Its never dull on the Farnes and I suspect we'll have more to shout about in the forthcoming days.

Todays highlights: Common Sandpiper 8 (including 5 together on Brownsman pond!), Sanderling 2, Snipe, Kestrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover 350, Green Sandpiper 3,  Fieldfare (early), Whinchat 4, Garden Warbler 2, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler 6, Chiffchaff 1, Icterine Warbler 1 on Inner Farne, Pied Flycatcher 9 and Spotted Flycatcher.  

Friday, 10 August 2012

Summer time

Longstone and the North Sea looking stunning 

Stunning sunset over Inner Farne 

Whimbrel on passage 

Made it; fledged Shag chick

Friday 10th August comments: Its been a stunning week on the Farnes as we've had the weather we only dreamt about a few months ago. The season will long be remembered for its total wash-out, with heavy rain throughout causing problems. However its all change (typical, just after the seabirds have gone) but at least we are experiencing some form of summer.

Lots of birds have fledged but the Farnes still offer plenty, with the tranquil Inner Farne beach now open and some great things to see including our aquarium with various interesting sea critters on show including lobster (and no, we don't eat them!). The forecast suggests more good weather, so bring it on and come out and visit, you'll not be disappointed.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tube-nose day

Keep clear - Fulmar chick spitting oil 

So hot - Fulmar chicks panting in today's heat 

Staying calm - Fulmar chick being ringed by Ciaran 

Dr Chris Redfern leading the task 

Ringing pliers with a lump of plastic coughed up by a Fulmar chick

Wednesday 8th August comments: It was a special day on the islands today, for it was tube-nose day. Those ultra specialist seabirds; the Fulmar, have been nesting since mid-May and today we made the team effort of ringing all the chicks across the islands.

Fulmars are long living birds, some individuals are reaching their mid-60’s (yes, over 60 years of age!) and having been on eggs for over fifty days, the first chicks started hatching from 1st July. It takes forever to fledge Fulmar chicks and so the team went about the business of systematically ringing every chick before they fledge in a few weeks time.

However that’s not an easy job as these oil spitting seabirds use projectile vomit to ward off predators and they hit their mark with amazing accuracy every time, as every ranger was covered in lovely Fulmar vomit by the end of the day (who said this was an easy job!).

Sadly the total number of chicks reached only 96, almost 74 down on last year; the impact of our poor summer weather still leaving its mark. Also one individual coughed up a lump of plastic – mans impact on our seabirds is far reaching.