Monday, 14 December 2009

A splash of colour

Stunning male Bluethroat on Brownsman in mid-May

As rare as they come - a Black-headed Bunting in mid-September

A rarity on the Farnes - a Moorhen with Puffins!

Eastern promise - a summer-plumage Red-throated Pipit
Your can't see me - a Barred Warbler on Staple Island

Five Yellow-browed Warblers graced the islands this year

Monday 14th December comments:
The festive period is upon us and to continue the overview of the season, I though I'd bring you a splash of colour with some of the bird highlights of the year. It was another good year for the range of migrants which were recorded on the Farne Islands, as 178 were recorded with the outer group edging the inner group by 159 to 158 for the total number of species seen. Without doubt, three stunning highlights captured the headlines, as the islands boasted only their second ever (and twelfth English) record of Lanceolated Warbler in late September, with fifth Fea’s Petrel and Black-headed Bunting, all three worthy contenders for ‘bird of the year’.

Although spring passage was disappointing compared with the previous season’s impressive showing, the islands produced their sixth and seventh Red-throated Pipits, both on Brownsman in late April and mid-May respectively. As well as the outstanding rarities, other birds of note included Spoonbill, Balearic Shearwater (2), Cory’s Shearwater (3), Leaches Petrel, Storm Petrel (10), Garganey, Osprey, Marsh Harrier (3), Hen Harrier, Quail (2),Wood Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Grey Phalarope, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Mediterranean Gull (4), Sabine’s Gull, Long-eared Owl, Wryneck, Cuckoo (3), ‘Blue-headed’ Wagtail (2), Richard’s Pipit (2), Bluethroat (2), Barred Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler (5), Red-breasted Flycatcher (2), Firecrest (4), Red-backed Shrike, Hooded Crow, Common Rosefinch, Common Redpoll, Crossbill (6) and Ortolan Bunting. I'm sure a lot of east coast locations would be proud of such a list!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Seabird Breeding Season 2009

At last a good year for Kittiwakes

Sandwich Terns galore

A brilliant season for Shags

Record numbers now breeding - Guillemots galore

Friday 11th December comments:
The 2009 breeding season on the Farnes was one of the best in modern history and overall productivity revealed ‘best returns’ for several species in over a decade or more. The influencing factors during the year included the weather, remained settled throughout the breeding season whilst food supply was excellent, verging on brilliant. Sand-eels of good size and age were in abundance whilst the problematic Snake Pipe-fish was almost non-existence. Overall the season was excellent with very few complaints.

Seabird Breeding Figures 2009
Shelduck 1 pair
RB Merganser 1 pair
Eider 681 pairs
Fulmar 258 pairs
Cormorant 141 pairs
Shag 838 pairs
Oystercatcher 38 pairs
Ringed Plover 9 pairs
Kittiwake 3,699 pairs
Sandwich Tern 1,415 pairs
Common Tern 98 pairs
Arctic Tern 2,198 pairs
Guillemot 48,126 ind
Razorbill 332 pairs
Puffins 36,835 pairs
Swallow 1 pair
Rock Pipit 25 pairs
Pied Wagtail 6 pairs
Wren 1 pairs

Some shinning examples included:
Kittiwake – best productivity since 1996 – 702 chicks fledged from 593 nests (compared with 202 fledged chicks from 616 nests last year!)

Shag – best productivity since 1992 – 499 chicks fledged from 333 nests

2 pairs of Roseate Tern on Brownsman although sadly both failed. Away from the ‘norm’, Wrens bred for only second time, Red-breasted Merganser for fourth consecutive year and Swallows bred for first time since 1997.
So there you go - a good season and a repeat next year would do very nicely. As we departed the islands last weekend, we did notice that Shags had breeding crests and Eiders were displaying, as after all, its only three months before it all start again...

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Seal pups

Just having a look - a Farnes Grey Seal pup

Who are you?

Valuable milk for a new born pup

Only three weeks old but looking very different

Bulls will be bulls - fighting in the surf
Tuesday 8th December comments:
It was another roller coaster ride for the Grey Seal population on the Farnes. The first Seal pup of the autumn was discovered on the South Wamses on 4th October, and thereafter the ‘seal pupping season’ was underway. Numbers were slow to begin with, as the islands had produced only twenty-six pups by 18th October, although numbers started to increase thereafter. A total of ten islands were utilised, with South Wamses regaining its crown as the number one colony on the Farnes, having been outstripped by Staple Island the previous year.

The autumns weather was reasonably kind, although a series of westerly gales in mid-November brought a few problems. However just when we thought we had escaped the worst, a northerly storm battered the islands in late November resulting in the greatest loss of pups off the north edge of the islands. Although it’s early days, the mortality rate will be pushing 50% of pups which never made it to the crucial independent age of three weeks. This may appear high, but in Farnes terms, it’s just another average year.

Seal Pup Births 2009:
South Wamses 413
Staple Island 367
North Wamses 277
Brownsman 170
Northern Hares 87
Longstone 11
Knoxes Reef 9
Big Harcar 7
West Wideopens 4
Nameless Rock 1

Total: 1,346

Monday, 7 December 2009

Departure Day

Belongings ready to go - goodbye to Brownsman

Waiting in the wings - Glad Tidings 6 ready to pick us up

Bedraggled but happy - the team on board heading west

The clean up operation - boats being sorted

Monday 7th December comments:
Morning arrived early on Saturday as the team were active by 06:30, making final preparations for the big day – we were leaving. The wind had rattled the cottage for one final time during the small hours but hopes were high for a final retreat. Darkness disguised the fact that there was a stiff southerly breeze with white tops, but we weren’t going to let that stand in our way, not this time.

The team worked hard as dawn broke over Brownsman, as the islands were packed for the winter and we were ready. The driving rain made things unpleasant and the fact the boat couldn’t get to our jetty due to the southerly swell, resulted in a scramble down a cliff face and shuttle runs with out trusty Zodiac inflatable. Eventually the job was complete, Adam and myself were the last two standing on Brownsman, as we waved goodbye for another season.

Once safely across the Sounds, we returned to Seahouses just before 11am, with the final sort underway. Recycling was sorted, the boats pressured hosed down, various equipment off for service and eventually the team could relax and start enjoying the comforts of the mainland. In true Farnes tradition, the team stayed in a local hotel and celebrated into the small hours. The hangovers may have been long, but it’s been a cracking season and everyone connected with the islands should be congratulated on a brilliant nine months.

Over the course of the next five days, I’ll be bringing you the highs and lows of the season, starting tomorrow with the first story – the Grey Seals, so don't go anywhere.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Saying Goodbye...maybe

Grey Seal Pup of the Farne Islands

Friday 4th December comments:
It’s been a long tough week on the Farnes, as work has been non-stop and it’s kept the team busy. And why you may ask? It’s that time of year - where leaving, its time to head west to the mainland and depart the islands for the winter.

The year has flown by, having landed on the rocky outcrop which is known as the Farne Island on 20th March, we’ve lived, breathed and slept the Farnes ever since. We’ve seen and had it all – storms, sunshine, thousands of visitors, vast numbers of seabirds, migrant birds, rare birds, huge whales and let’s not forget the Grey Seals. However it’s almost over for another season and we’ve been busy preparing for the big day.

The big day should arrive tomorrow morning as where scheduled to be picked up, however it’s never that simple with the Farnes and its 50-50 whether we escape – another south-easterly weather front is about to hit us, but can we escape in time? I’ll reveal all with a complete round-up, including those important final Grey Seal numbers and a round-up of the season on Monday. Keep those fingers crossed for our final escape.

It’s time to say goodbye…maybe.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Tystie day

A Farnes speciality in winter - a Black Guillemot near Brownsman

Smart - the first-winter in flight

Monday 30th November comments:
Another day of strong winds from the north and there was even a threat of snow, although it never arrived, not yet anyway. The team were confined to the cottage today as we made progress on various bits of work and reflected on the overnight storms. The cottage was battered and although a few tiles had become dislodged, this place is built to last, so no lasting problems.

The outcome of the storms on the Grey Seal pup population remains unknown as the weather prevented us from accessing the colonies, but that may change tomorrow with the changing of the weather. Today seawatching brought only a handful of noticeable passage birds although their was a stunning surprise - a Leach’s Petrel showed well near Brownsman as it pattered its way north across the raging sea.

Highlights: Red-throated Diver 2N, Great Northern Diver 2N, Black-throated Diver 1S, Red-necked Grebe 2, Leach’s Petrel 1N at 15:30 in staple sound, very close to Brownsman, Black Guillemot 2 in staple sound including a first-winter on the sea near Brownsman.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Tought times ahead

Helpless - a seal pup in trouble

Looking on - a concerned female

Sunday 29th November comments:
Storm force by name, storm force by nature. The Farnes have been battered today, as the northerly winds arrived, hammering everything in its sight, with big breakers smashing over the islands. Anything or anyone wouldn’t take this beast on, it had intent as temperatures plummeted and the sea grew in size and force. It’s back to business, the hard way.

With food, water and gas supplies in plentiful supply, our attention now focuses on the Grey Seals but it’s not going to be easy. The northerly storms will claim pup lives, but that’s what we expect at this time of year – it more the survival of the fattest than the fittest, but if pups can get away from the rocky shorelines, they’ll stand a chance. If they don’t, they’ll just become another Farne Islands statistic. We won’t know the extent of the damage until we enter the colonies, but looking at the forecast, that’s probably going to be mid-week.

The northerly backed wind also produced some reasonable sea passage including a lingering Storm Petrel, which spent over four hours feeding just offshore in the lea of Brownsman – a delightful sight in the chaos of the North Sea. We also had five Black Guillemots and four Puffins.

Highlights: Storm Petrel 1 lingering for four hours off Brownsman, Sooty Shearwater 2N (late!), Great Northern Diver 2, Black-throated Diver 2N, Wigeon 13 on the pond, Velvet Scoter 1N, Long-tailed Duck 6N, Black Guillemot 5N, Little Auk 1N, Puffin 4N and Guillemot/Razorbill – good numbers moving north.

Cetaceans: Porpoise 1 breaching in Inner Sound.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The tempest is coming

Not a care in the world - a Grey Seal pup on the Farnes

Saturday 28th November comments:
It’s been a whirlwind 24hours as the seas have calmed, we’ve been to the mainland and life now goes on as normal on the Farnes. Its now back to the real business of monitoring the Grey Seal population and living on the islands for another week at least…

I’ve now been on the islands for nine years and part of the job appeal is being part of the local Seahouses community and today was such a welcome ‘home’, as people greeted and welcomed our return to the mainland. During the season, I can’t walk down the main street without someone asking how the seabirds, seals or wardens are coping on the islands and today was no different. I should also thank those who sent messages of support – where out of the troubles and it was great to know people cared for our wellbeing. However this is the Farnes, its back to work, we’ve got a job to do.

So we’re stocked up again – thanks to William Shiel for supplies of water/gas/fuel (and the shower wasn’t bad either). The wind is going to return and the shipping forecast flashed a warning…

Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger: Becoming cyclonic in southeast Dogger later, otherwise mainly northerly or northeasterly 5 or 6 increasing 6 to gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later except in Cromarty. Rough or very rough.

This will be big, it’s got the entire North Sea to cross and the Grey Seals will have some problems. How bad things will get for them is anyone’s guess, I’ll keep you posted but fear the worst… the tempest is coming.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Mainland beckons...

Seal pup with the mighty Longstone in the background

Heading to shore - the lads in the Zodiac
Friday 27th November comments:
What a difference a day makes. Having been marooned on the islands for some time, it was a huge welcome relief when the sea allowed departure from Brownsman as our Zodiac headed west, mainland bound.

However it wasn’t all straight forward, as only three could make the journey due to weight restrictions in the choppy sea, so myself and Adam Scott remained behind to fight another day, as we had work to do. The band of three, Adam Hick, Davy Still and Jason Moss arrived on the mainland just after 10am with great relief and even the staff in the Co-op cheered at their arrival. The wait was over, stock supplies were replenished and we’ll eat like kings tonight. However myself and Adam Scott have to wait a bit longer but where due in tomorrow and that long awaited shower will be the first port of call...

Its also never that simple. The weather system has changed for the week ahead and we’re now looking at a serious north-easterly storm brewing, ready to batter the islands for a few days from Sunday. Although myself and my team will be fine in our cosy cottage on Brownsman with good food supplies, the same can not be said about the Seal pups. It really will be a matter of life and death for them and hold onto your hats, things are about to get interesting...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Food glorious food

Food glorious food

Stop press...

Just got this lovely photo sent to me by my good friend and ex-Farnes warden Alex Ash... I dont understand, what is this? Where's the kelp, lentils and Seal milk?

Deal or No Deal?

Dinner? maybe...

Given a wide berth - a Bull Seal checks out the Brownsman cottage

Back in action - the team on the Northern Hares

Thursday 26th November 2009 comments:
Day fifteen and we had two options. The sea had calmed for a few hours to allow a quick trip to Seahouses or were we going to visit the Seal colonies to see exactly what had been happening out there? True to the spirit of the Farnes and the dedication of the team, we took the latter option.

Madness? Possibly. Crazy? Certainly. It may have been those kelp crisps affecting us from yesterday or just the desire to get the job done. Either way, we didn’t go to Seahouses and by midday, the strong westerly winds had returned and we weren’t going anywhere. People have asked how we have been stuck for so long, but to get an 18ft Zodiac inflatable boat across the North Sea from Brownsman to the mainland to get some shopping and return safely, takes time. At this time of year the weather and the sea state can change instantly and we can’t take chances, you only get one with the North Sea.

So the mainland remains distant but we’re not too worried, the weather looks good for the weekend and hopefully, if our calculations have worked, we’ll be off and celebrating in a pub. If not, then Seal milk might just be on the menu…

Its been a while since we were on the seal colonies, especially the South and North Wamses, and its early days but we’ve certainly had some casualties in the storms. The Farne mortality rate is always high, up to 50% of pups do not make independence and looking at the state of the colonies, we’re heading towards that figure for this season. The strong winds and big seas have seen youngsters washed away but only time will tell, once numbers have been crunched. Its a harsh world out here, for wardens and seals alike.
Farnes Seal pup population to date:
North Wamses 269
South Wamses 393
Northern Hares 69
Longstone 4
Big Harcar 6
Nameless Rock 1
Brownsman 140
Staple Island 315
Island total: 1,197
So with the Seal work complete, our attention returns towards the mainland. Will our gamble have paid off? Deal or no deal...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Game on

Kelp crisps - just don't ask Kelp collection - just don't try this at home!

Wednesday 25th November comments:

Welcome back, but we’ve been nowhere. The gale force winds have remained with us and it’s been an endless week of gales or strong winds. The mainland seems a distant memory as we approach a whopping fourteen days since we last seen a shop or a pub. The milk has gone, the margarine tub is empty and I can’t recall what beer looks like, never mind tastes like. I’m not sure if it’s the sign of the times, but the kelp crisps and lentils are currently being cooked…

Gradually supplies are running low as the storms batter us from all angles but team morale remains good as we discuss the if/when we’ll escape. We’ve even started to discuss what we’ll do first when we touch mainland soil – a pint of beer is near the top of most lists (and probably a shower…). Everything is being rationed as it’s not over yet, not by any stretch. As I type, the kelp crisps have arrived – crikey – don’t try this at home, only one word sums them up – vile!

The forecast looks bleak tomorrow and looking at the weekend, Saturday looks interesting…northerly storms. Where not out of this yet, not by any stretch. We’re heading to day fifteen. Game on.

Friday, 20 November 2009

No let up

Friday 20th November comments:
The day brought glorious sunshine and calmer conditions, but this wasn’t our lucky day, we weren’t escaping and that was that. The wind remained defiant and no boats could sail, so very little chance of making it off the islands. The ‘white horses’ remained and the big waves continued to pound the Farnes - we can only but stare at the distant mainland – it may as well be fifty miles as apposed to three. Where going to have to hang on a bit longer.

Despite the perilous situation we find ourselves in, the team remain upbeat and morale is high and as usual, we just got on with work. Today saw Jason paint the hallway of the cottage, Davy constructed a new fenceline within the confines of the vegetable garden and the two Adam’s had a huge clear-out of the works shed. Life goes on and some day soon, we’ll get off…maybe.

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Jason’s birthday, but its going to be no ordinary birthday – a lack of cake or pressies may make things a little different and I suspect the postman won’t make it either, so not even any birthday cards (and lets not even discuss beer). Welcome to storm season, where heading into day ten.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Payback time

Storm time

Thursday 19th November comments:
It’s the first time I’ve written the blog with a troubled mind. This time it’s not about the seabirds or the Seals, it’s about me and my team. This autumn I’ve been blasé about the weather, as we’ve had the occasional storm, but it’s blown through within a matter of days. But not this time, it's payback time.

Mother Nature has coming calling and don’t we know it. The team were last on the mainland on Wednesday – last Wednesday, now some eight days ago. I can handle the lack of fresh milk or bread and even forgive the team for eating all the biscuits, but things are looking bleak.

The radio crackled in the front room…

Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger: South or southwest 6 to gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later. Rough or very rough. Occasional rain. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

That isn’t good. The stormy weather has been with us for some time, but surely it’s going to reside to allow vital supplies and even grab an opportunity to check on the Grey Seals? No, no its not. A quick check of the internet reveals a depressing sight – gales until Tuesday at the earliest. I can’t bring myself to tell the team and my stomach is rumbling, I’m hungry…

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Life goes on

'Hiya' - a seal pup introducing itself

No longer white - a 'second coat' pup on Brownsman

Team in action - Davy and Adam in action marking a seal pup
Sunday 15th November comments:
It’s been a turbulent few days although we avoided the big storms which lashed southern England although we were whipped by the tail end of it. A calm spell on Friday allowed us access to the Seal colonies once again and things are looking good. We’ve broken the 900 barrier and I’m glad to report that mortality is lower than average (for second year running) although one big northerly blast could change all of that.

The team are working hard with various projects around the islands although boardwalk building has become a bit trickier due to the presence of pupping Seals – one mother has taken up residence on a new section – it’ll test the durability of it at least! Otherwise life goes on, and we'll continue monitoring the populations and counting any migrant birds which move through.
Highlights: birding is quiet although 3 Snow Buntings are lingering alongside a small flock of Twite. Otherwise the typical wintering birds including Red-necked Grebe and Black Guillemots - but more of that tomorrow

Grey Seal pup population: population counts so far
North Wamses 238
South Wamses 357
Longstone 1
Brownsman 64
Staple Island 199
Northern Hares 48

Total 907

Monday, 9 November 2009

Counting continues

Waving goodnight; Seal pup at dusk

Not a care in the world - a Farnes Seal pup

Watching us - a mother Grey Seal

Monday 9th November comments:
Its been an excellent few days as fine weather and calm seas have been the order of the day and this allowed the team to enter the Seal colonies once again to count and tag the pups born on the islands. The number born on a daily basis continues to increase and after the weekend counting, we were almost on 700 and things are looking good.
Last seasons star pups, Archie, Lucky and Nemo will all be one year old now and Seals around the Farnes are doing well at this moment - although a change in the weather can and will change all of that, so fingers crossed for some calm weather. As for migrant birds, its all quiet on the islands as migration starts coming to a slow end.
Grey Seal pup population: population counts so far
North Wamses 204
South Wamses 283
Longstone 1
Brownsman 40
Staple Island 133
Northern Hares 29

Total 690

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Fight club

Stand clear: Bull seals fight it out
(more top photos from Davy Still - standing well clear!)

Welcome to fight club

Young and innocent - a Seal pup looks on

Wednesday 4th November comments:
November is now upon us and the islands are now officially closed to visitors although visitors boats do ‘sail around’ showing people the breeding Grey Seals and their pups. The final few days of October and the opening few day of November were dominated by one thing – the weather. However following several days of strong winds, yesterday and today brought a refreshing change – a clam spell of weather!

The weather window allowed the team to access the Seal colonies and we’ve now peaked at 506 – an impressive number but with plenty more to follow. Both days were spent marking, tagging and counting the pups, both dead and alive. Thankfully, the number of dead remains low and we hope to keep it that way. However life as a small seal pup can be brutal, as we witnessed a bull seal, defending his territory, just throw a pup across the colonies like a rag doll. Thankfully the pup survived although rather shocked and dazed. As for the bulls, there is some serious fights starting and its best to stay clear, these guys don’t mess and it can get bloody.

On the migration front, the Richard’s Pipits finally departed the islands on 30th October having been here since 11th October – no surprise that it broke all previous Farne records for lingering Richards Pipits. The island avifauna has also changed as a lingering flock of Snow Buntings (up to 21) reminds us that winter is almost upon us whilst Twite and Linnet are present daily. One disturbing sight today involved a few oiled Guillemots around the islands – we’re hoping its not a serious issue and we’ll keep a very close eye on this situation.

Highlights: Red-necked Grebe 1 lingering, Teal 48 on Knoxes Reef, Woodcock 1 Skylark 6 over, Black Redstart 2 first-year birds lingering, Chiffchaff 1, Blackcap male and female, Twite 20, Linnet 40, Snow Bunting 21 lingering.

Grey Seal pup population: population counts so far
North Wamses 174
South Wamses 226
Longstone 1
Brownsman 21
Staple Island 73
Northern Hares 11

Total 506

Friday, 30 October 2009

Welcome back storms

You can't see me - a Brownsman Seal pup

Who's that...

Feeding by the cottage - Woodcock showing well
Friday 30th October comments:
Welcome back to storm season – a day of strong wind and heavy seas. Although we’ve been technically open to visitors for the past two weeks, we’ve only welcomed them on two days – Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to us recently. However Farnes life continues and yet more Seal pups have been born today, although we don’t have an official count for a few days. The team made the most of the day, as we went about daily tasks including construction of more boardwalk and applying much needed wood preserver to various wood doors.

On the bird front, the south-easterly winds brought in a small number of Thrushes but also at least ten Woodcock – like the Thrushes, moving from the near continent to winter within the UK. It allowed for some great views as birds fed around the buildings and give us a great opportunity for photos – nice work Davy! The Snow Bunting flock remain whilst the Richard’s Pipits are still here although due to the weather, we could not confirm the presence of a second bird…

Highlights: Woodcock 10 – a noticeable influx, Lapwing 2 south, Richard’s Pipit 1+ - still here although second bird not seen, Redwing 32 west, Blackbird 82 west, Fieldfare 21 west, Chiffchaff 1, Brambling 1, Snow Bunting 9 lingering

Thursday, 29 October 2009

All change

Up close and personal - a Farnes Seal pup

Keeping tabs on us - a Cow Grey Seal

Given respect - a Bull Seal on the rocks

Thursday 29th October comments:
It’s all change on the Farnes. Yesterday and today have witnessed some fantastic weather, and it was almost hard to believe that it was late October. The sun was out, the sea was flat calm and the team were full of busy! It allowed us access to the Seal colonies, visitors arrived in their droves and we even made it the sanctuary of the mainland for vital supplies (although Anne Wilson, the Farnes historian, brought some fantastic cakes and biscuits out for the team!). So a busy 48 hour period.

The visit to the Seal colonies was productive as the number of pups has topped the 200 mark with the island of North Wamses leading the way with 103 born. Last season we witnessed a Cow on the north shore of Brownsman suckling not one, but four pups and we’ve seen it again! However this time it involved a female on the South Wamses suckling three pups – it was very unusual to record it last year but a repeat – unheard of!

Migration through the islands continued as the Richard’s Pipits remain although they did consider departing (at one stage we watched them fly off west towards the mainland before returning – they have to go soon!). Interestingly a Yellowhammer arrived on Brownsman (the first on the islands in two years) alongside 21 Twite, whilst the Snow Bunting flock on Brownsman peaked at fifteen. As for the forthcoming few days, its looks like where in for a turbulent time and don’t look at Sunday’s weather, its going to get very, very interesting…

Highlights: Shoveler 1N, Water Rail one feeding on Inner Farne (2nd of the year), Skylark 12 west, Richard’s Pipit 2 remain on Brownsman…heading for November, Chiffchaff 2, Snow Bunting 15 together on Brownsman, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet 60, Twite 21, Siskin 2, Yellowhammer immature on Brownsman – first since 2007, Reed Bunting 1

Grey Seal pup population: population counts so far
North Wamses 103
South Wamses 94
Longstone 1
Brownsman 11
Staple Island 27

Total 236

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Over they go!

Spot the dots - thrushes galore over the Farnes today

Counting the lot - Jason on the obs roof on Brownsman

Tuesday 27th October comments:
Another day, another on Brownsman. There has been no escape since last Monday and today was no different. The wind increased overnight from the south-east and the sea prevented any escape, so it was a case of “life goes on” in a Farnes kind of way (just without any milk or sugar!).

On a positive note, the day produced an impressive movement of Thrushes, as birds moved from the near-continent to winter in the UK. The Farnes act as a key flyway for passage migrants and today saw a typical movement, as good numbers of Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares were logged throughout the day. The spectacular sight involved small flocks moving west with the occasional bird dropping in onto the island looking for a deserved well earned rest. How many actually moved across the North Sea down the east coast today will never be known but it must have involved some huge numbers.

Thrush passage west:
Blackbird 1,736
Redwing 1,506
Fieldfare 766
Also Lapwing 3, Woodcock 6, Goosander female north, Merlin hunting, Skylark 4, Richard’s Pipit 2 – as happy as ever together on Brownsman, Willow Warbler, Brambling 6, Snow Bunting 5 together and Reed Bunting 2.