Friday, 24 October 2014

Ready, Steady, Pup!

Sleeping babies...

One of many Seal pups on the Farnes today

Hello world!

Mother and pup on South Wamses

Friday 24th October comments: At long last the weather has eased and we’ve gained access to our Grey Seal colonies and it’s kicked off in a big way! Several islands are now boasting good numbers with North Wamses island leading the way.

A total of 124 pups were counted this morning across the colonies with 53 on North Wasmes, 42 on South Wamses with a scattering on Brownsman, Staple, Northern Hares and Longstone End.

It’s that time of year as we’ll be bringing you lots of Seal news from now on so keep reading whilst we’ll keep counting!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Speedy Gonzalo’s

North rocks being hammered by the sea

Not a day for sailing

Our Seal pups cling on to the shingle banks

Staple Sound looking interesting

Waves breaking looking towards Bamburgh Castle

Shags still feeding in the stormy seas

Tuesday 21st October comments: There she blows! As promised (and forecast!) the tail end of hurricane Gonzalo smashed the Farne Islands today. The wind picked up quickly overnight and by dawn, white horses were riding high across to the horizon. The hatches were battened, the boat moored safely and we let Mother Nature do her thing.

Throughout the day the wind maintained itself and it certainly wasn’t a day to be working outside! Thankfully the forecast is suggesting that the wind will ease by tomorrow morning and then we can get on with ‘normal life’ on the Farnes.

We hope to visit our Grey Seal colonies in the next few days so we’ll have a full roundup soon but our pups were safe today…but only just.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Hello Hurricane Gonzalo


Hurricane Gonzalo from the air (NASA image)

Wind forecast for the Farnes for Tuesday (Windguru website)



Monday 20th October comments: We’ve seen our fair share of bad weather over the last few weeks on the Farnes but tomorrow we’ll experience the next level. Say hello to Hurricane Gonzalo.


The shipping forecast for the next twenty-four hours says it all:

Farnes: South-west 6 to gale 8 veering west 7 to Severe Gale 9 occasionally Storm Force 10 later. Rough becoming or very rough later.

Enough said…lets see what happens tomorrow. One thing I will predict; we’ll not have any visitor boats, so count this place closed!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Seal Season begins...sort of.

Seal pup on Northern Hares (David Steel)

Cute as can be....


...but motther not very far away! (David Steel)
 Sunday 19th October comments: It’s been a strange old start to the Grey Seal pupping season on the Farnes although hopefully things will sort themselves out in the next week or two. The first pups have now been born and appear to be doing well despite the stormy conditions of last week.

However the Seal strongholds of Staple Island and South Wamses islands have yet to produce a single pup whilst even more unusual, the Northern Hares (a satellite colony which does not start until mid-November) has six! Why this should be the case is any one’s guess but with the recent storms, it may suggest that mums have been displaced. However hopefully things will get back to ‘normal’ and we’ll be alive and kicking with Seal pups across all the islands. We'll keep you posted....

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Owl-packed Farnes

Olive-backed Pipit for second day on Brownsman (DavidSteel)


Creeping around the vegetation (David Steel) 

Peek-a-boo Short-eared Owl (David Roche)

One of three Short-eared Owls on the Farnes today (David Roche)
Thursday 16th October comments: Today brought much promise but delivered so little. The easterly winds continued and despite the occasional rain shower, very little new arrived on the Farnes. The Olive-backed Pipit remained for a second day on Brownsman (and showed well!) whilst a new Yellow-browed Warbler arrived (joining one from yesterday).

Interestingly three Short-eared Owls were discovered across the outer group as they moved westwards to winter in Britain from Scandinavia whilst two Lapland Buntings were discovered on Inner Farne.

Tomorrow should, at long last, see a drop in the winds and hopefully we’ll welcome our first visitors of the week (and we can restock on food and water!). Then we’ll be taking a closer look at our Grey Seal pups….

Today’s highlights: Short-eared Owl 3, Olive-backed Pipit for second day, Yellow-browed Warbler 2, Mealy Redpoll 1, Lapland Bunting 2 (first of the autumn)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

O'live and Kicking

Farnes 9th Olive-backed Pipit (David Kinchin-smith)

Keeping migrants on their toes; Merlin (David Steel)

Not a great photo but its our Grey Phalarope (in the sun!)

Wednesday 15th October comments: We’ve been waiting patiently. We’ve been waiting our turn. Over the past two days we’ve have had strong easterly winds but with very few migrant birds to show for it (and despite a good influx along the coastline further south). Today however, was our turn…

We didn’t have too much (Redwings and Blackbirds were seen in small numbers) but by mid-afternoon two Yellow-browed Warblers and our first Grey Phalarope of the autumn had brightened up our day.

This however was superseded by the arrival of an Olive-backed Pipit on Brownsman! This rare Eastern Pipit from Russia is going through a boom period as this was our seventh in just the past five years (we only recorded our first ever in 2001!). Despite its recent upturn, it was still enjoyed by the team!

Despite the rough seas, the Rangers also spotted 15 Bottle-nosed Dolphins travelling South through Staple Sound. With the weather showing signs of easing, we may get visitor boats in the next few days and our focus will be back into counting our Grey Seal pups and to start our seal tours.

Today’s Highlights: Grey Phalarope (first-winter), Pomarine Skua 4N, Olive-backed Pipit, Black Redstart and Yellow-browed Warbler (2).

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Gull-iver’s Travels

Little Gull on the move (Joe Cockram)


Sunday 12th October comments: The dainty Little Gull is generally a summer visitor to the British Isles with the nearest breeding colonies in Eastern Europe. In recent days the Farne Islands have experienced an unprecedented passage of these fantastic gulls with record numbers recorded:

Wed 8th: 170 North

Thurs 9th: 92 South

Fri 10th:  - 2,184 North - new Farnes record!

Sat 11th: 791 North

The majority of the birds have been adults and the count of 2,184 on October 10th eclipses the previous highest ever island count of 1,747 on 14th October 2002. Why we’ve had so many remains unclear although recent weather systems across the North Sea have probably pushed birds into the Southern North Sea.

Speaking of weather, Easterly winds are forecast for the next few days across the Farnes so watch this space…the winds may bring in something unusual (fingers crossed) so keep an eye on the blog and we shall keep you posted!