Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Monster monster monster!

Monster in the hand (Phil Joyce)

It's big! (David Steel)

Obvious markings in wing (Laura Shearer)


Forked tail (Laura Shearer)

Tuesday 22nd July comments: Its that time of year when bird ringing on the Farnes takes on a completely different form; nocturnal bird ringing! For the previous two evenings, tape players have been played off the islands in the hope of catching Storm Petrels or something even better!

The idea of playing a tape to attract birds at night has been working for many years up and down the east coast and our success rate continued as seven Storm Petrels were trapped and ringed on Monday evening. However this was all eclipsed by something much bigger; a Leach's Petrel, caught and ringed just after midnight last night.

The bird, a nocturnal migrant which breeds in far remote Scottish islands was only the second ever to be ringed on the Farnes and its been a good start to the 'Storm Petrel' season. Hopefully a few more will follow in the next few weeks...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Lift off!

On the move; Puffins heading off

End of the season for our Guillemots

Not far behind; Arctic terns getting ready to leave

Fulmars now have chicks

Friday 20th July comments: The Farnes season continues to move on and it’ll be a matter of weeks before our seabird numbers start dwindling following a very successful breeding season. Over the next few weeks, the final touches to the population counts will be made and then we can reveal exactly what has been happening this year; the good, the bad and everything in between.

In general we are heading for a cracking breeding season with lots of chicks of all species fledging from the islands. It appears a similar story is occurring at other east coast colonies which is tremendous news for our embattled seabirds. It’s been a tough few years (especially in the northern isles) and it’ll be good to report some positive news for a change.

So if you want to see our puffins, you’ll have to be quick; I’ll give it three weeks before they depart for another season…

Friday, 11 July 2014

Puffin Patrol

Puffin adult and chick

Scientific work on Puffins

Living under ground can be a messy place!

Weighing of a Puffin chick

Large chick having its wing measured

Ringing operations

messy work; team having a wash!

Friday 11th July comments: Although this year we are not carrying out a full Puffin census across the islands, we still continue to monitor the population on a smaller scale and indications this year suggest good numbers are nesting and more importantly, the birds are doing well.

With plenty of Sand-eels being brought in (the principal diet of Puffins) and good weather (very little rain to cause us problems) the breeding season is heading for a very successful outcome. In recent days the team have been putting hands down burrows (it’s a messy job but someone needs to do it!) and have been ringing chicks and adults as part of our scientific work. The numbers of large chicks is very encouraging and let’s keep our fingers crossed for the final few weeks, because we could be celebrating a very good seabird breeding season. Keep crossing those fingers.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The End is Neigh

Visitors enjoying Staple Island Puffins

Plenty of fledged Arctic Terns on the wing

Some dramatic skies of recent

Not all about birds; an impressive Garden Tiger moth


Heavy rain on Saturday took its toll (but many were saved)

Wednesday 9th July comments: The end is neigh. We are into the latter stages of the breeding season and its make or break time for all our seabirds. We are heading towards a very productive season as huge numbers of chicks are starting to fledge from Puffins to Arctic Terns.

With a little bit of luck (from Mother Nature) it will end well but we are reminded just how precious the situation is out here as on Saturday some heavy downpours resulted in the loss of several Arctic Tern chicks. It’s a thin line between life and death out here and things can turn in an instance.

However overall things are looking good and it’ll be a matter of weeks before the majority of our seabirds have departed so if you want to experience the Seabird City that is the Farnes, you’d best be quick!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Operation Darvic

Shag family on Staple Island

hello! Shag chick in hand

Farnes ranger team in action

Special 'darvic' ring
Saturday 5th July comments: The Farne Islands is a thriving buzz of activity at this time of year from the thousands of seabirds getting on with their daily lives to the hundreds of visitors who arrive on a daily basis. Without doubt, this is also the busiest time of the year for the resident ranger team as there is plenty of work to keep them occupied.

At the moment it’s all about seabird research and currently the team are tagging and ringing various seabirds. Recently we have focused on the Shag population as we are continuing our studies including using special plastic rings (called ‘darvics’) which allow people to read them at distance with binoculars and telescopes.

Interestingly last year, three chicks from the lighthouse cliff colony on Inner Farne wintered in Rotterdam harbour, Holland! The world do seabirds never ceases to amaze.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Seabird summer

Sunrise on the 1st July over the islands

Sunset over Inner Farne

Arctic Tern chicks fledged!

Kittiwake chicks growing strong

Star Tern; Bridled Tern remains on Inner Farne 
Wednesday 2nd July comments: Welcome to July and we are now at the peak of the season and we are now entering a crucial period for our seabirds. With just a few weeks to go, it’s now make or break as everything is going well on the islands, but just a change in weather patterns or a sudden food shortage could change everything. Fingers crossed we have a good month and hopefully we’ll be celebrating a successful season by early August…hopefully.

Just to bring you up to speed on the latest seabirds news:

Puffins all now have chicks (but be quick, as we’ll only have them for four weeks before they start leaving!)

Guillemots and Razorbills have started leaving in huge numbers after a very successful breeding season

Shags; a real mix – having a good season but some with large chicks, some still on eggs!

Kittiwake’s have plenty of chicks

Sandwich Tern; the first fledglings are on the wing

Arctic Tern chicks growing bigger by the day with the first fledgling discovered yesterday

Eider the majority have now gone and large crèches can be seen in Seahouses harbour and along the nearby coastline

On the migration front, its still quiet but the star of the islands in recent weeks; the Bridled Tern remains but can be a bit erratic in appearances. So if its seabirds you want to see, get yourself out on the next visitor boat because you don't have long!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

To the Moon & Back

Nearly 31 years old (with a few grey feathers)

Ring still in good condition


Sunday 29th June comments: Birds are incredible. You have to hand it to them and there are very few which can match our breeding Arctic Terns. We know from bird ringing recoveries and recent studies that these birds spend the winter off the pack-ice of the Antarctic, but we are just discovering how old these birds can live for. In recent years on the Farnes, ringing recoveries have suggested that birds can live into their early thirties, and yesterday we proved it once again…

An adult Arctic Tern (still breeding and showing some grey in the head – its got some way to catch me!) was caught on Brownsman and the ring sequence revealed something very special about this individual. The bird ‘CE94161’ was ringed as a chick on Brownsman on 11 July 1983 making it just thirteen days short of its 31st birthday! WOW!! (It’s older than all my staff on the Farnes!).

Not only is this an incredible age, but considering this bird has been travelling to the other side of the world on an annual basis ever since, makes you wonder just how far this bird has travelled in its lifetime! A quick calculation reveals that it is 19,986 mile all-round journey from the Farnes to the Antarctic (now that’s a stat!) and therefore this bird has been travelling that distance for thirty-one years, which is roughly 620,000 miles travelled (and that’s without feeding flights etc). So this bird has travelled the equivalent of flying to the moon and back (!) and back half-way to the moon in its lifetime. Get your head around that!!!!

What amazing birds and hats off to these long distance travellers (although not during the breeding season otherwise they will peck you head). Well done Arctic Terns, a true wonder of nature.