Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Waxwings on the move

Seal pup on Brownsman (David Andrews)

Cow seal basking in the sun on Brownsman (David Andrews)

Wednesday 27th October comments: It’s been another difficult period as the weather continues to play havoc with daily life on the islands. In recent weeks, we’ve hardly seen the mainland and today brought yet more strong winds (from the west) although thankfully the forecast is set to improve over the forthcoming days.

On the Seal colonies, everything is well and we’ve now reached 200 pups with plenty more to come. On the bird migration front, there are huge numbers of Waxwings arriving in the country from Scandinavia, with huge numbers seen (c4,000 in Scotland alone yesterday). Its one of the largest and earliest invasions on record and we’ve had a few in recent days as they move west too the mainland.

Recent Highlights :

Wed 27th Oct: Little Auk 185N, Grey Phalarope one on the sea in Staple Sound, Jack Snipe, Iceland Gull first winter over Knoxes Reef, Merlin, Peregrine 2, Sparrowhawk

Tues 26th Oct: Waxwing 16 west during the day, Woodcock 6
Sun 24th Oct: Little Auks 142N

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Moody seas

A moody sea against the backdrop of the Longstone Lighthouse

Saturday 23rd October comments: The forecasters got this one right. The stormy weather arrived, hammering the islands during the small hours of Friday night and as dawn broke on Saturday, we were greeted by heavy seas and constant drizzle. The islands, as expected, remained closed to the public (a great start to the half-term!) although eyes were trained on the sea, as a good number of Little Auks were logged flying north.

As for the Grey Seals and their pups, they just got on with business as usual, finding shelter away from the worst of the weather and keeping those pups safe from the moody sea. It'll be some time before we get a chance to inspect the colonies and until then, we'll be keeping safe and warm ourselves.
Today's highlights: Little Auk 118 north, Sooty Shearwater 39N, Manx Shearwater 2N, Great Northern Diver 1N along with a small scattering migrants including Woodcock.

Friday, 22 October 2010

110 and counting

Yawn - Seal pup saying hello to the world (Graeme Duncan)
Our first second-coat pup - success (already!)

Friday 22nd October comments: we made it onto the Seal colonies early this morning although with a mountainous sea, we didn't stay for long. The islands have remained closed to visitors since Monday and things are not about to improve - the forecast for the weekend is brutal - these early born youngsters are going to be in for a torrid time. Hold on to your hats, the storms of the autumn are about to kick-off and for some old timers, its a case of here we go again...
Away from the impending chaos, the seal colonies were full of life this morning, with the islands boasting over 110 pups, the majority on the North and South Wamses with a light scattering on Brownsman and Staple Island. Time appears to be slipping by quickly as we even discovered our first 'second-coat' pup - success already and we've only just begun! We also witnessed a youngster from previous seasons, in amongst the adults on the colonies - Archie? Lucky? - maybe but regardless, all was well with the Farne Islands Grey Seals for the time being.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

It's time...

My island now - a Bull seal saying hello to Jason (Graeme Duncan)

fight club - two bull seals getting to know each other (Graeme Duncan)

Double trouble - a Meadow Pipit flies for its life against two Merlins (Graeme Duncan)

Thursday 21st October comments:
Tomorrow we’ll start the process of counting the young, logging the dead and watching the trials and tribulations of the Grey Seal colony on the Farne Islands. The team are poised and ready, and so are the Seals – the pups have started to be born and we’ll soon be in the thick of the action.

However it’s been a frustrating time on the islands as strong winds from the north (we weren’t expecting it!), have prevented movement to the colonies (we’ve been cut off since Monday). However the wind is expected to ease tomorrow and so our seal mission will begin and as usual, I’ll bring you all the news.

Due to the switch in wind direction, only small numbers of migrants birds are passing although things have become a little more deadly for them, as the islands now boast resident Merlin and Peregines. Its interesting to watch the change in the seasons as Eider ducks are starting to display again whilst Long-tailed Ducks and Goldeneye have returned to winter around the islands in small numbers. Its all change once again and it won't be long before those clocks go back and the dark nights set in...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Rescue time

Ouch that has to hurt

Hook, line and sinker - removed from the adult Gannet

Goldcrest - one of several hundred on the islands
Thursday 14th October comments: Its been another frantic and exciting time for the Farnes as the wind (once again) blew in from the east, bringing with it hundreds of common (and not so common) migrants to the islands. From the outstandingly rare Olive-backed Pipit (a bird of central Siberia) to hundreds of Robins, Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs, which have descended onto the islands. The Farnes at this time of year transform, from the seabird colonies of the summer to the 'service stations' for migrant birds of the autumn - it really is a magical place.

However our attentions were drawn to seabirds for a brief period as we had to undertake a full on rescue, as an adult Gannet was discovered entangled in fishing-line complete with large hooks and lead weight. Thankfully we were able to rescue the bird and remove the offending material, before releasing the bird unharmed back into the wild. This bird got lucky (unlike its rescuers which were bitten to shreds by its powerful bill) as discarded fishing-line can be a real concern for seabirds but I’m glad to report that these kind of incidents are very rare (and long may they stay that way!).

Away from the wonders of bird migration and the Gannet rescue, it won’t be long before I start bringing you the news of our Seal pups as its mid-October and its ‘pupping time’ once again, so watch this space…

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Good birds continue

Olive-backed Pipit - third for the Farnes (David Andrews)

A real rare - Olive-backed Pipit on Brownsman (David Andrews)

Pallas's Warbler - the first in England this autumn (Graeme Duincan)

The third this year - Great Grey Shrike (David Andrews)

Northern Bullfinch on Brownsman

Major highlights during recent ‘fall’:
Olive-backed Pipit – 3rd Farnes record on Brownsman on 12th October
Shorelark two birds 9th-12th October on Inner Farne and Brownsman
Pallas’s Warbler 8th-11th October, Inner Farne (first in England this autumn)
Great Grey Shrike 9th October, Longstone (third this year)
Northern Bullfinch 9th-12th October, Brownsman (first since 2004)
Yellow-browed Warbler 8th on Brownsman, 11th-12th Inner Farne

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Saying goodbye

Little Bunting, Brownsman (Mark Breaks)

Saying Goodbye - Mark on his way

Saturday 2nd October comments: It’s been a time of change on the Farnes as the weather has switched to the south, the number of migrant birds present on the islands has started to decline and we’ve started saying goodbye to some of the team.

The last few days has brought yet more rarities including Little Bunting and Richard’s Pipit on Brownsman, although in general, the majority of common migrants has declined. Interestingly, our long staying gem: the Arctic Redpoll remains happy and content on Brownsman.

However it’s not just the migrants which have been departing. At this time of year we say goodbye to some members of staff as the team reduces in number for the final two months. Recently we have said goodbye to Sarah, Wez, Michael and Tom, whilst another member Mark, waved goodbye yesterday. Mark, a Brownsman warden has enjoyed finding and photographing some of the best birds on the islands this year – this blog is certainly thankful for Marks photography skills. So we wish him and everyone else well for the future – good luck team and hopefully we’ll see some of you back soon!

Today’s highlights
Richard’s Pipit on Brownsman then onto nearby Staple Island
Arctic Redpoll still present on Brownsman