Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Farne Islands...

Upon checking the weather for the week on Monday morning, Tuesday looked like it could be quite good so my girlfriend and I decided to try and book two last minute places on a boat trip around the Farne Islands on the last day of the breeding season tours by Billy Shiel ( The trip would take a tour around the Farne Islands and land for an hour on Inner Farne.

When we woke up on Tuesday morning and looked outside the weather was looking really promising with early morning sun and no wind at all. We made our way to Seahouses Harbour where the boat would depart, picking up our tickets at the booth on the pier on the way.

There were plenty of people waiting at the end of the pier (approx. 40) and the weather was just getting better and better. We sat at the back in the centre to allow for views all around. We left the harbour just after 10am and made our way out to sea!

Our boat the "Glad Tidings"
On our way out there wasn't a whole lot to see with a few Herring Gulls and Shags flying low over the water. About 30 mins into the trip and our captain informs us there are a few groups of Puffins coming up on both sides of the boat. I always enjoy seeing Puffins and they stayed on the water allowing the boat to get quite close before they flew off.

We continued on passing several more groups of Puffins out on the water and is was not long before we neared the first of the islands. There were 100's of Shags on the rocks looking impressive in the bright sunshine. Close by on the otherside of the boat was the colony of North Atlantic Grey Seals basking in the sunshine. The boat was less than 10 metres away and I couldn't believe just how big these mammals were when seen fully out of the water.

The tour carried on passing the Stacks which were very quiet with all the Razorbills and Guillemots already gone but there were still a few Kittiwake and Shag hanging around with the odd gull. We were then told about the story of Grace Darling as we passed the lighthouse.

The Stacks
Shag by the boat.
Shag on the rocks
After an hour and a half into the tour it was time to land on Inner Farne for an hour. The island was full of people unfortunately, but there were stunnings views all around. Either side of the small jetty were large numbers of Artic Terns with a few Common Terns mixed in. There were plenty of Juveniles begging for food from flyby adults. Making our way up the path (after paying a further £6.20 landing fee, another complete rip-off by the National Trust - really can't stand that organisation) there were more Terns flying overhead and a recently fledged juvenile just outside the information centre. There were Artic Terns on the walls, fences, roofs, everywhere! I have never had such great views and it was nice to take in the details and also compare with the Common Terns up close.

Adult Artic Tern showing characteristic short red legs and fully red bill.

Recently fledged Arctic juvenile waiting for food.

We made our way around the cordoned off path for visitors. There was evidence of washed out Puffin burrows from earlier in the season and a lack of Puffins still on the island with most out on the water getting ready to head off to their wintering grounds. There were a few adults seen returning with food however.

In the centre of the island was a colony of Sandwich Terns and Black-headed Gulls and what a racket they were making nevermind the overpowering smell of guano.

Sandwich Terns
Moving round to the cliff tops there were still a few Adult and Juvenile Kittiwakes and Shags giving close views.

Adult Shag with young.

Juvenile Kittiwake
Even though the islands were quiet compared to just a couple weeks ago an hour wasn't really enough time to appreciate all the action but it was still well worth it. Other birds spotted were several Starlings, Swallows and Feral Pigeons and a handful of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. On our way back to the jetty plenty more Terns and a few Puffins flying in overhead.

Once back on the boat we made our way back to Seahouses Harbour fairly directly but on the way a few Gannets and Eiders were seen. All in all a great trip considering how late in the breeding season it is and the weather was perfect.

Black-headed Gull at Seahouses Harbour
Year List additions:
126: Puffin
127: Arctic Tern

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