Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Eight away!

Stunning - the Common Redpoll for its second day (by Mark Breaks)

One of two Litteralis Rock Pipits (by Mark Breaks)

Ready to go - the first Kittiwake released by Jason

Three in a box - Kittiwakes ready for release - safe and sound

Wednesday 31st March Comments:
It was another wild day, with driving rain and strong easterly winds. The Kittiwake saga came to a very satisfying conclusion as all eight survived the night and flew strongly out to sea at dawn. It was great work from Jason and the team, helping these birds through the night (I’m sure they would not have survived if we hadn’t intervened). The majority of our seabirds were very scarce today – it’ll be several days before we see them back again, such is the nature of the storm.

Although the seabirds were scarce – something replaced them – migrants and lots of them. The weather had grounded good numbers of common migrants with a sprinkling of rarer species including a stunning Bluethroat and an impressive nine Black Redstarts. Due to the weather (mainly the sea state), no other islands were checked but we did wonder what was out on the other islands, especially Staple Island and Brownsman…

Highlights (Inner Farne only): Long-tailed Duck 8, Goldeneye male, Lapwing adult, Snipe 3, Purple Sandpiper 60, Wood Pigeon 1 (a scarce visitor!), Dunnock 8, Rock Pipit 2 very smart summer plumage Litteralis birds lingering, Grey Wagtail west, Bluethroat (potential ‘white-spotted’), Black Redstart 9, Robin 20+, Stonechat, Wheatear 3, Song Thrush 7, Blackbird 3, Chiffchaff 5, Willow Warbler 2 (earliest ever Farnes record), Blackcap male (joint earliest ever Farnes record), Common Redpoll for second day, Chaffinch 13 and Reed Bunting.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Kitt Nightmare

Jason leads the rescue of adult Kittiwakes

Battered but alive - an adult Kittiwake in a bag

Tuesday 30th March comments:
Mother Nature wasn’t messing today – she threw everything at us including the kitchen sink. Backed by the highest spring tide (at a whopping 5.2 metres – we normally have tides of 4 metres), it was dramatic. The easterly gale battered us all day long and the rain never stopped. There were areas of the island under water which have never been underwater and its been an interesting introduction to island life for the new lads amongst the team.

The breeding birds were present all day – Puffins were on the islands in vast numbers – probably escaping the brutal storm that was raging out to sea, whilst Shags were clinging onto whatever nest structures remained. However its been a difficult day for Kittiwakes. The shear strength of the storm and brutal driving rain appeared to have weakened the condition of a lot of adults (and probably prevented them from feeding) but up step the warden team – led by Senior Warden Jason Moss.

A total of eight adult Kittiwakes, battered and bruised by the raging north sea were rescued from a narrow gut on Inner Farne. The birds were literally dragged from the surf where they were being battered and placed in boxes to dry and preen. The birds have remained with us overnight in the Pele Tower and fingers crossed for a safe outcome tomorrow morning. For everyone rescued, its frightening to think how many have been lost. Its been a deadly storm and we may be counting the cost for some time to come.

On a positive note, news was breaking that the first Shag eggs were discovered on the very early date of 28th March – although I'm not sure if they have survived the storm today. We’ll wait for conditions to calm and then we’ll pick up the pieces or what is left. Until then, we'll just wait and help where we can.

Highlights: Shoveler 2 pairs in the Kettle, Snipe 2, Sandwich Tern 3, Dunnock 2, Robin 16+ - major influx – this is just an Inner Farne count, Black Redstart 2, Ring Ouzel male, Fieldfare 2, Song Thrush 2, Chiffchaff 5, Goldcrest 2, Chaffinch 2, Common Redpoll male showed well all day.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Spring is on its way...maybe

The lingering Black Redstart on Inner Farne (By Mark Breaks)

Guillemots inspecting the cliffs (by Mark Breaks)

Sunday 28th March comments:

the clocks have jumped forward, the lighter nights are on their way and here comes...the snow. having turned the corner with the weather, it appeared sprig was very much here but looking at the forecast for early this week, the winds are switching to the east and snow is heading our way - time to warn the team to wrap up warm!! The Wheatears and the Sandwich Terns may be in for a shock.
The weekend brought a few highlights, including an immature Iceland Gull to the roost on Knoxes reef whilst the Black Redstart lingers on. Other birds of note included a male Snow Bunting and 13 pink-footed Geese north. the breeding birds continue to come and go, but Shags appear to be almost completed nest building - eggs will be next!
The etching on the ceiling is generating some interest and some news might be breaking soon - but waiting for confirmation.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Etching discovery

Etching in the ceiling
Friday 26th March comments:
Following yesterdays thick fog, we woke to clear skies but strong winds. The wind from the south had picked up during the night and it was battering the islands so we won’t going far. As part of the teams work during the first week back has been to paint the main dormitory of the Pele Tower and that led to an interesting discovery late this afternoon. New warden Tom Simon (whilst painting the ceiling) made a discovery of an etching on the ceiling which is shown above. The etching read…

“J.Buchan, Peterhead, HMT Hildina, 1940"

This has lead to much discussion amongst the team and thanks to the wonders of the Internet we have discovered a few things about the etching. HMF Hildina was a 300 ton steam fishing trawler assigned for a Navel Mine Sweeping role from 1939-1946. It appears to have survived the war and was returned to her owners in April 1946 but sank in Muckleflugga off Shetland on 1st December 1953.

Information is still limited (any help would be very much appreciated) but it appears that there were two J.Buchans from Peterhead, but sadly both lost theirs lives in 1941. Was one of these men the resident of Inner Farne who scribed his name on the ceiling? It’s raised a lot of questions and if anyone reading has any information, please drop me a line as it’s a great story from the islands history.

On the islands, very little was happening although Puffins returned despite the strong winds. Migrant birds were few and far between, although a few ‘left-overs’ lingered from yesterdays arrivals.
Highlights: Whooper Swan 11N Inner Sound, Black Redstart for second day, Wheatear 2, Fieldfare 3 and Chiffchaff 2.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Fog bound

Thursday 25th March comments:
A very cold, bleak day as heavy rain in the morning gave way to thick fog in the afternoon, but things don't stop because of the weather - the team have work to do! It was also good for birding as a flurry of migrant birds descended onto the islands including an impressive Black Redstart.
Highlights: Snipe 3, Sanwich Tern 1 fishing but we couldn't see the roost due to the fog! Skylark 2, Meadow Pipit 42, Robin 2, Fieldfare 15, Redwing 6, Song Thrush 1, Blackbird 2, Black Redstart female - favouring Lighthouse, Wheatear 2, Chiffchaff 3, Goldcrest 2, Brambling male and Reed Bunting 2.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Winter 'Terns' to Spring

The team in action preparing boardwalks
Wednesday 24th March comments:
The wind may have been blowing but it was another day for the team to prepare the islands for the visitors (we open on 1st April!!). The breeding birds remain erratic as Puffins have completely gone (as forecast in the previous blog write up) but the Guillemots have arrived in numbers. It was another interesting day for migrants, as the first Sandwich Terns arrived in the roost, having winged their way all the way from West Africa. Other long distant summer migrants arriving on the islands for the first time this year included Wheatears and a Chiffchaff. Despite their presence, the low chill factor (it was cold today) reminded everyone its not quite summer yet!

Highlights: Common Scoter ca 100, Shelduck 5N also pair on island, Sparrowhawk female, Peregrine, Snipe, Sandwich Tern 4 (first of the year), Wheatear 3 males (first of the year), Chiffchaff (first of the year), Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Reed Bunting 2

Breeding Birds: Plenty of Guillemots but Puffins have gone!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Breezy Monday

Female Eider inspecting Inner Farne

Monday 22nd March comments:
The start of the first full week back on the Farnes brought breezy weather which restricted the wardens to the islands but appeared to encourage Puffins. All across the islands, huge numbers of Puffins were present, all sitting around familiarising themselves with the islands once again (its been eight months since they last set foot on solid ground!). However stormy weather will drive the birds back to sea for several more days before eventually settling in mid-April.

Although we’ve only been out for a few days ourselves, the team are settling and getting use to island life. The Farnes look barren at this time of year (as expected) but it hasn't stopped our breeding birds - as the first eggs have been discovered – a female Mallard sitting on eleven eggs on a nest site in the lighthouse compound. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had Shags sitting on eggs within a week or two, but watch this space.

Highlights: Red-throated Diver 2N, Common Scoter 32, Shelduck 2, Goldeneye 3, Pochard female north, Woodcock flushed, Bar-tailed Godwit 12, Curlew 244, Fieldfare 3, Redwing 4, Song Thrush and Rook 2.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Back home

Landing day on Friday - everything but the kitchen sink

The team in the Zodiac visiting the outer group

Back on nests - Shags in fine form

A true rare - the Farnes fifth record of Magpie

Sunday 21st March Comments:
Welcome back, we’re back!! We’re back on the Farnes and over the next nine months, I’ll bring you the news, views, spills and thrills from the islands so log in and enjoy the world of planet Farnes. Following the customary mainland training for the week, the team moved back onto the islands on Friday and so life begins for the island warden team.

As usual a large amount of equipment and personal stuff was moved from the mainland – a job which took the majority of Friday. On arrival the ‘old hands’ noticed a few changes – we’ve had a major revamp of the accommodation, but I’ll tell you more soon. However some things don’t change, and Shags were present in good numbers on breeding cliffs whilst Puffins and Guillemots were noted in reasonable numbers. It’ll be a few weeks before everything settles, but the calm conditions have encouraged some early activity on the islands.

Migrant birds have been recorded moving through the islands with Siskins, Greenfinch and a singing Reed Bunting standing out whilst other highlights of note include 27 Whooper Swans through Inner Sound, whilst a drake Goosander was seen on arrival. The usual ‘resident’ Peregrine has been seen daily whilst a Sparrowhawk moved off west to the mainland. However the real star bird came in the shape of a Magpie this morning – only the islands 5th ever following records in 2007, 1997, 1993 and 1983. They may be common on the mainland but not out here - they are rarer than Yellow-breasted Buntings and Red-throated Pipits!!
So welcome back and its nice to be back - the Farnes season starts here.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Monday 8th March comments:

Not long now - little over one week before the wardens restart and will head out to the islands during the following week. News breaking of the first Puffin back in Farnes waters on 3rd March, whilst a Black Guillemot was seen near Staple Island on 6th March. Small numbers of Kittiwakes have returned whilst Shags were on breeding ledges on Sunday 7th March.
Its that time of year again....