Thursday, 30 October 2014

Thrushed with Success

Thrushes in their thousands going over (David Kinchin-smith)

Dusky Warbler caught and ringed (David Kinchin-smith)

One of five Black Redstarts (David Steel)

Yellowhammer (David Kinchin-smith)

Farnes rare! Moorhen! (David Kinchin-smith)

Thursday 30th October comments: It’s been some day. Over the last few weeks, dominating westerly winds have held up all the thrushes hoping to leave Scandinavia to head to the UK for the winter…until today. At long last the winds switched, favourable conditions prevailed and the floodgates opened. And the Thrushes took their opportunity in some style.

From first light until darkness (and even beyond that) huge numbers of Thrushes were counted heading westwards towards the mainland for the winter. This spectacular site is always impressive but even more so today as nearly 20,000 birds were counted flying over the islands (including a Farnes record count for Fieldfare).

Alongside the Thrushes good numbers of other birds recorded today heading to Britain for the winter included Bramblings and Woodcocks amongst others. As expected for the Farnes we also pulled in a ‘good rarity’ as an elusive Ducky Warbler was discovered on Brownsman. This was only the seventh ever record of this rare Siberian visitor to the islands and the first since 2003 and was caught and ringed late on in the day.

All in all, an impressive day with some birds. What will tomorrow bring…

Thrush Passage (all counted flying west):

Ring Ouzel     1
Blackbird       1,372
Redwing         9,407
Fieldfare         8,245 *New Farnes record*
Song Thrush   200

Black-throated Diver 1N through Inner Sound
Water Rail on Inner Farne
Moorhen juvenile on Brownsman (rare on Farnes!)
Short-eared Owl 1 over the outer group
Woodcock 34 (noticeable influx)
DUSKY WARBLER 7th record for the Farne Islands but first since 2003
Yellow-browed Warbler 3
Black Redstart 5

Other highlights; Whooper Swan 3N (adults), Brent Goose 9N (pale-bellied), Wigeon 201N, Teal 40, Goldeneye 4N, Red-breasted Merganser 2N, Goosander 1N, Red-throated Diver 2N 1S, Sparrowhawk 1 west, Peregrine, Golden Plover 2, Ruff 1 west, Lapwing 3 west, Snipe 12, Arctic Skua 1S, Great Skua 2N, Little Gull 40 south, Goldcrest 6, Skylark 12, Blackcap 22, Chiffchaff 3, Robin 22, Dunnock 10, Wheatear (late individual!), Twite 4, Brambling 42, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting 4 and Yellowhammer 2.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Seal Tour Information

Seal tours are Go!

Tuesday comments: Seal Tour Information: The weather forecast (and sea state) for tomorrow Wednesday 29th October and Thursday 30th October suggests we will get landing boats on Staple Island (hopefully) to view the Grey Seal pups up close and personal. 

Boats will sail from Seahouses daily with allotted times of:


There are three boat companies sailing at this time (in alphabetical order)

Glad Tidings 01665 720 316 (til 3pm) or 01665 720 308 (after 3pm)

St.Cuthberts 01665 720 388 (day)

Serenity 01665 721 667 (day) or 01665 720 760 (night)

Please check availability and book direct with the companies.

As this is a special National Trust event, the cost of entry is:
Adult: £10
Children: £5

This applies to all visitors including National Trust members. Throughout the Seal Tours (which occurs on Staple Island), Inner Farne will remain open with normal opening times and prices applying (National Trust members free).

To ensure the safety of all visitors on an active Grey Seal colony (and to avoid any undue disturbance to the Grey Seals), all visitors will be escorted and given a full briefing on landing. Anyone visiting should be aware of the physical nature of the seal tours as you’ll be walking over unstable terrain and negotiating uneven ground. Sturdy footwear is therefore recommended along with warm clothing.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Pups Away!

Can everyone be quiet please! Pup sleeping (Robert Hunt)

Thats better...nap time (Robert Hunt)

Pup and cow together (Robert Hunt)

Fight club; bulls fighting already (Robert Hunt)

Monday 27th October comments: We are now into the thick of things as the number of Grey Seal pups increases on a daily basis. Our last visit to the nurseries produced 124 pups and if weather allows, we’ll be back in for more counting in the next day or two.

As for the pups themselves, all appear fine as those youngsters born in recent weeks are being looked after by attentive mothers. It's not just the mothers, but Bull seals have arrived (and have started fighting...boys will be boys) whilst more and more cow seals arrive to give birth.

It’s never dull in a Farne Islands Seal colony and I’ll bring you more news and pictures in the next few days.

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....