Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Another reason to visit...

5 star rating from Trip Advisor

Follow head ranger David Steel throughout the year on twitter: @NTSteely

Wednesday 23rd January comments:

...and another reason to visit the Farne Islands this year….because we’re good.

Trip Advisor have sent a lovely certificate and announced we were given a rating of five stars by you, our guests. The certificate of excellence covers 2012 and so if you commented on the Farnes last year; thank you.

It’s a wonderful place to visit and if you’re not planning a trip, why not? I hope you all keep following the blog throughout the highs and lows of the season and if you are on twitter, you can follow me, head ranger on @NTSteely.

2013 here we come...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Spring break

Inner Farne opens its doors on 29th March 2013
Puffins will be back in big numbers
Guillemots will begin pair bonding
Open; St.Cuthbert's Chapel

Cheer up, its only snow! The cold grip of winter is very evident at the moment, so to cheer everyone up, I’m going to bring you some great reasons to look forward and plan a trip to the Farne Islands in early spring. The islands will open its doors to the public on Friday 29th March 2013 and there is so much to see during the early spring, its well worth a visit. Some of the reason include…

• Thousands of Puffins will be back to spring clean burrows ready for the main nesting season; with very little vegetative growth you can get some really good views!

• The clifftops will be full of activity as Shags will be collecting nesting material and if lucky, the first eggs may already have been discovered.

Guillemots and Razorbills will be squabbling over cliff ledge space, as over 50,000 individuals cram onto the rocky outcrops of the Farnes to nest annually.

• Noisy Kittiwakes will be present in good numbers with pair bonding activities underway.

• The first Sandwich Terns will also be back from their African wintering grounds, but with no Arctic Terns due until early May, you can have a hat free day – no worry about being dive-bombed!

Grey Seals will be present in huge numbers and visitors will get superb views on the tour around the islands.

• Its not just the wildlife which will have returned; the ranger team will be back living on the islands (for another nine months!) so chat to them about their experiences and life on a rock in the north sea – its never dull out here.

• If the wildlife does not take your fancy, then try the solitude of St.Cuthbert’s chapel, built in honour of this famous northern saint. Cuthbert lived and died on Inner Farne in the seventh century.

• If none of this interests you, then just relax and take it all in. The Farne islands are a stunning place and well worth a visit come snow, rain or shine.

Quite simply, the Farnes remains one of the most accessible (and best) seabird colonies in Britain and it really is a MUST DO experience, so why not visit this year. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Return to the mainland

Frozen Brownsman pond this morning
Bare Pinnacles on Staple Island
New arrival; Skylark - hard weather mover? 
Boat picks up team from Brownsman
The team of four saying goodbye to Brownsman...
....but still birding to the last

Wednesday 16th January comments:  We're off! It was 'plain sailing' today as we departed the islands having spent the previous six days based on Brownsman. Under normal circumstances we do not return until March but with the mild weather (lack of wind at least), we took full advantaged and completed some mid-winter management work on Staple and Brownsman.

The team of four have had a good (but cold) time on the islands and with such highlights as Long-eared Owl, Black Guillemot and a few more (including Twite and Skylark today) the 2013 bird recording season got off to a good start. The cottage on Brownsman even housed a hibernating Small Tortoiseshell butterfly...a hardy individual indeed. The islands did not see much snow during our stay although the ground (and pond) was frozen solid today.

We'll be back out in the near future for day checks but it'll be another eight weeks before we return as a team to kick-start the 2013 season off in style. I'll keep you posted over the next month or so and tell you why you must visit the Farne Islands this year; you'll not be disappointed! 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Job done

Young Grey Seal pup

A snowy scene across to Inner Farne today

Snow filled clouds across Staple Island

The boys working hard at the weekend

Base of the boardwalk on Staple Island complete

Fulmars present in good numbers

Empty Kittiwake nests
Tuesday 15th January comments: Job complete. We've had a good spell on the islands and although short, it's been productive. We've achieved a lot since stepping back on to the islands with stone walls built, boardwalks complete and of course, Grey Seal pups counted.

Birding has produced a few noticeable highlights including a Long-eared Owl on Staple and Brownsman on Saturday whilst Black Guillemot, Long-tailed Ducks and Common Scoter have made it feel like mid-winter. Although the weather has been kind during our visit, today we've had a dusting of snow and the temperatures have dropped. With the onset of gales later in the week, its time to leave before we become stranded out here. 

Its time to leave but we'll be back and in greater numbers. Time to say goodbye to the Farnes, for the time being. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Top of the Pups

Farne Island Grey Seal Pups on the up
Over 1,600 born this autumn/winter

Today's seal pup outside Brownsman cottage

Adult Seals galore across Brownsman
Saturday 12th January comments: Today brought our final seal count of the 2012 (and early 2013) season. The finish line has been crossed and the islands have experienced another noticeable increase in the population. This mirrors the pattern shown in other east coast Grey seal colonies, although we've not shown the huge increases that the Lincolnshire and Norfolk colonies have experienced.

With a further 11 new pups to add to our total, the Farnes have now had 1,603 pups born across these rocky shores since the first on 21st September 2012. It’s been an epic autumn/winter but what will the autumn of 2013 bring? Yet more increases?

Major Seal colonies on the Farnes:

Staple Island 463
Brownsman 373
South Wamses 380
North Wamses 279

Overall total: 1,603

The two other major Grey Seal colonies down the English east coast have also experience record numbers of pups born with counts including:

Farne Islands (Northumberland) 1,603
Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) 1,525
Blakeney Point (Norfolk) 1,220

Overall it’s a very healthy picture and now we’ll have plenty to consider over the forthcoming weeks and months. We still await news from the Scottish colonies, but without doubt, its top of the pups for the Farne Islands. 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Squatting Seals!

Young seal pup saying hello

One of a few holes in the stone wall - by Grey Seals

Andy's handy work...wall sorted

Local fishing boat going about its business
Friday 11th January comments: Our first full day back on the Farnes was enjoyable as we went about work on Brownsman. The Grey Seals are out in force with huge numbers present as it's moulting season. We spent some of our time today repairing the damage caused by our noisy neighbours as one or two had literally gone though our stone walls...they're impressive beasts when they get going!

The day produced some good mid-winter bird sightings including an adult Black Guillemot and three Long-tailed Ducks. The odd passerine was also seen including Fieldfare and Blackbird. Its strange being back on the islands at this time of year and with snow forecast, what's the worst that could happen? Life is good and tomorrow we'll bring you our final Grey Seal count...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Look who's back...

Arriving Brownsman

Moulting Seals all over Brownsman

Seals galore

New pup on the Brownsman

Mixed weather...Inner Farne

Fulmars present in good numbers

Thursday 10th January comments We’re back! Following the recent mild weather (which looks set to continue), a small team have returned to Brownsman for several days to carry out some essential winter management work.

We arrived today, sailing at midday on Brownsman and quickly reacclimatised ourselves to island life. We soon had the LPG (gas) reconnected, the cottage opened and we were back. Our first job was to check for any more Grey Seal pups which had been born since our last visit in late December. We’ve got ‘one or two’ more but I’ll bring a full report tomorrow.

So we are back and it’s a good to see the place for the first time this year. Birding highlights were few although 2 Peregrines and a Merlin brought a dash of excitement whilst 2 Wrens are wintering on this island. Tomorrow we’ll get out and about building boardwalks and counting seal pups, the team are back and so is the blog. Here we go. 

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

2013...The Year of the Puffin

Full census this summer

Tuesday 1st January comments:

Happy New Year!

So that was 2012. What a year. We’ll not forget it for many reasons and if we can have just half the excitement we had this year, then we’ll be going well. However one thing we (especially the breeding seabirds of the Farne Islands) do not need is any more rain. A nice, warm relaxing summer would do just nicely.

So what has 2013 in store for us….  It’s a big year for the islands as we’ll be carrying out a full census of the Puffin population across all the islands. We only carry out the census every five years (such is the scale of the job – it takes 3.5 months to complete!) and with worrying dropping trends in the Puffin populations, what will it bring this year?

The only way to find out is to keep on reading and discover the trials and tribulations of the Farne Islands. Here we go again….