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Posted (edited)

It's hard to believe that 3 years have passed since my last visit to the Farne Islands.

That memorable visit was organised as a Get Together by @Safari Cal and gave me the chance to meet up with safaritalkers @JohnR, @kittykat23uk, @BigBaldIan and @africapurohit.

 

Farne Islands 2014 - TR

 

The company was great but the weather wasn't kind to us on that occasion and the grey, wet and windy conditions were not ideal for photography.

I was hooked though and promised myself that I would go back again as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

 

The visit to the UK of @Bugs and his wife Jenny seemed like just the incentive I needed to plan another visit.

 

When we arrived in Seahouses the omens were not good. There had just been 3 days of storm force winds and rain and the campsite was littered with leaves and small branches torn from the trees by the wind.

I checked with the Billy Shiels office and they told me that they had not been able to go out at all for the past 3 days due to high winds and choppy seas making it too hard for them to let people ashore at the islands.

Tomorrow was looking much better though. We crossed fingers and toes.

 

Sure enough as the day wore on the wind dropped and the clouds cleared, leaving us with a lovely evening to walk along the cliffs to Dunstanburgh Castle.

Dunstanburgh-Castle.jpg

 

A huge improvement on how it had looked at 8 o'clock that morning

dunstanburgh-fog.jpg

 

The morning brought blue skies. Not the same deep blue of an African sky but a much paler British version of a blue sky; very welcome nonetheless.

The quayside was heaving as we picked up our tickets; packed with people who had been unable to make the trip on previous days.

 

The weather was typically British; alternating between clear sky and clouds, with even a short rain shower, but it was good enough.

Unlike my previous visit we were able to go ashore at both Staple Island and Inner Farne.

 

As we approached Staple Island we could already see puffins in the water, which was god as it meant they were out there collecting sand eels.

 

puffin-_-water-take-off.jpg

 

puffin-water-take-off.jpg

 

For anyone who has not seen it before, the sheer volume of sea birds congregating on the islands is incredible.

Guillemots and kittiwakes cover the cliffs

 

guillemots-_-en-masse.jpg

 

guillemots1.jpg

 

kittiwakes.jpg

 

And when we went ashore, the puffins were right there to meet us.

puffin.jpg

Edited by Soukous
edited to correct links to member names
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Very cool @Soukous - thanks for sharing your photos and descriptions.   Glad the weather worked out for you and @Bugs and Jenny.

 

 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, offshorebirder said:

Very cool @Soukous - thanks for sharing your photos and descriptions.   Glad the weather worked out for you and @Bugs and Jenny.

 

 

 

 

 

Thansk @offshorebirder more to come. I'm getting used to placing photos in the updated ST. 

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@Soukous

A great start - and lucky with the change of weather. We have just been talking about possibly visiting next year, so we will be following with particular interest+ all details welcome. What dates were your vist?

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1 hour ago, TonyQ said:

@Soukous

A great start - and lucky with the change of weather. We have just been talking about possibly visiting next year, so we will be following with particular interest+ all details welcome. What dates were your vist?

 

@TonyQ We were there on 9 June. I think that next time i will probably go at least 2 weeks later. By that time the pufflings should have hatched and some may even have started heading for the sea.

It's brutal when they do as the kittiwakes and gulls dive bomb them, trying to snag a meal.

They also try and dive bomb the adults bringing in the sand eels, trying to make them drop their food in panic.

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Posted (edited)

Staple Island

The main attractions of Staple Island are the Puffins and the Shags.

From the moment we stepped ashore the puffins were there, on the rocks beside the stairway, seemingly unbothered by the influx of people and the number of cameras being pointed at them.

puffin5.jpg

puffin14.jpg

 

Although the pufflings (yes, that is what they call puffin chicks) were not out, we did see plenty of adults flying back to their burrows with a beakfull of sand eels.

pif9a.jpg

 

pif13a.jpg

 

The puffins nest in burrows, either ones they dug for themselves or old rabbit burrows that they have taken over.

 

puffin-burrows.jpg

 

The sand eels must be one of the reasons for the huge congregation of sea birds as almost all species seem to rely on them for food. We saw guillemots, kittiwakes, terns and gulls with sand eels in their beaks.

 

Shags

shag-family.jpg

 

shag.jpg

 

Inner Farne

A different kind of welcome here as we ran the gauntlet of diving Arctic terns that had laid their eggs beside, sometimes even on, the boardwalk. Each nest site – I say nest site but the Terns don't actually build a nest, they just lay their eggs on the bare ground – was marked with a hand painted pebble and National Trust Rangers were on hand to make sure that no eggs got stepped on.

 

Arctic Tern

tern-_-arctic.jpg

 

tern_arctic_with-eggs.jpg

 

The advice to wear a hat was well given as the terns chittered and dived to peck at heads.

tern-_-attack.jpg

 

This one guy had a tern perched on his head which kept pecking at his ear. I wondered why he didn;t shake it off until I saw that he was using his phoen to take a video of the tern pecking him. Suffering for his art.

tern_arctic_attack.jpg

 

3 kinds of tern on Inner Farne, Arctic, Sandwich and Common. Plenty of Black Headed Gulls too as well as Shags, razorbills and Eiders.

 

Sandwich Tern
sandwich-tern.jpg

 

Black Headed Gull with chick

black-headed-gull-and-chick.jpg

 

 

Razorbill

razorbills.jpg

razorbill1.jpg

 

It was a fantastic day; made all the more special by the fact that when we awoke next morning the rain had returned.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Soukous
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@Soukous

Thank you for the advice on dates. Beautiful photos - especially those beaks full of fish! I know from our recent experience in Lunga off Mull how difficult photographing puffins in flight is, and you have done it brilliantly. I love the picture of the Shag pair with chicks - I don't think I have ever seen a picture of their chicks before.

 

It looks like it was a wonderful day - thank you for posting.

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Posted (edited)

awesome stuff Martin, some great shots indeed..  I would love to go there one day - it's not even far from 'home' (my folks live quite near there) but the only bloomin' time I can get away is the dead season of Jan/Feb.....  

 

 

Edited by KaingU Lodge
typo!
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20 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

@Soukous

Thank you for the advice on dates. Beautiful photos - especially those beaks full of fish! I know from our recent experience in Lunga off Mull how difficult photographing puffins in flight is, and you have done it brilliantly. I love the picture of the Shag pair with chicks - I don't think I have ever seen a picture of their chicks before.

 

It looks like it was a wonderful day - thank you for posting.

 

@TonyQ One bit of advice on gear.

We saw dozens of people with lenses the size of bazookas heading out to the islands. Once they arrived they very soon replaced them with much shorter lenses.

You can get so close to the birds that long heavy lenses are not practical.

 

I took almost all my shots with a 300m lens. (on a crop frame camera that is equivalent to a 450mm lens.

For the birds in flight it was perfect - light enough to move quickly and enough range to get them pretty large in the frame.

 

Apart from that I used a 70-200 mm lens for the shots of birds on the ground.

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lovely photos @Soukousone of the joys of the Farne islands is watching your friends and family be "attacked" by the terns on the path up!-until it's your turn. and don't wear your best gear! For no very good reason, I've just remembered that the people of the now abandoned island of St Kilda used to include in their diet  a bowl of porridge with a puffin in it 

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Fantastich shots, @Soukous ! Opening photo looks like it was taken somewhere in Scotland ... and by googling I can see Farne Islands are not that far away :).! The puffins are ... well, puffins :D! They do avoid me even more than leopards :( ... Which month have you been to Farna, and are you planning any similar trip/GTG in next year(s)? 

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Posted (edited)

5 minutes ago, xelas said:

Fantastich shots, @Soukous ! Opening photo looks like it was taken somewhere in Scotland ... and by googling I can see Farne Islands are not that far away :).! The puffins are ... well, puffins :D! They do avoid me even more than leopards :( ... Which month have you been to Farna, and are you planning any similar trip/GTG in next year(s)? 

 

@xelas The puffins can usually be found on the Farne Islands from mid May to mid July every year. They won't avoid you. The best time is probably from mid June onwards. The weather is usually better and they are bringing sand eels back to the burrows so the photo opportunities are better too.

If you want to think about a GTG there next year you can count me in. Just don't pick a Bank Holiday weekend. Mid-week is much better as it is usually less crowded.

Edited by Soukous
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Hope you don't mind me gate-crashing the party but visited the Farne Islands yesterday. (22/6/2017). Huge numbers of Guillemot, Shag, and Puffins. Significant numbers of Razorbill, Kittiwake and the 3 relatively common species of Gulls. Several Gannets also seen and Oystercatchers. Arctic, Common  and Sandwich Terns were seen in large numbers. (Arctics as aggressive as ever!).

Tend to visit annually and can safely say yesterday for sheer numbers of birds was the best to date. Photography was limited due to inclement conditions, warm but very overcast with some light rain, previous 4 days apparently hot and sunny. Visitor numbers were incredibly high on both Inner Farne and Staple Island, spent 3 hours on each island. High tide for most of the visit so no Grey Seals observed. Last year went early August, too late, very few birds although lots of seals and several dolphins. 2016 visited late May bird numbers good but not as good as yesterday. Any interest generated by this thread for a visit in 2018, please let me know would enjoy meeting up with some members.

A few images attached from the visit, straight out of the camera. 

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_U4A5656.jpg

_U4A5738.JPG

_U4A5750.JPG

_U4A5829.jpg

_U4A5887.jpg

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Excellent stuff.

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Posted (edited)

Farne islands are a real paradise! It is the place to go as a wildlife photographer in England, especially for bird lovers.

Edited by jeremie

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A SELECTION OF IMAGES FROM 2015 & 2016 - FARNE ISLANDS. U.K.

5U4A8698.jpg

5U4A9587.jpg

5U4A9639.jpg

5U4A9692.jpg

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5U4A0041.jpg

5U4A0085.jpg

5U4A0134.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Excellent report @Soukous and some nice additions too @johnweir 

I visited the Farne's twice in one week when I was staying near there a few years ago. The big problem as you mentioned is the weather. I met one guy who had arrived for his fourth attempt to get there, the three previous being cancelled after he'd arrived in Seahouses, but I'm pleased to say he got there this time and deservedly so as he'd driven 200 miles from home.

It's not just the weather on the day though, it's the swell that makes a big difference as to whether it's judged safe to land people and on Staple Island in particularly where there wasn't and probably still isn't a good landing stage. Despite it being a glorious sunny day and without that much wind, my second visit in the week was limited to Inner Farne which was disappointing as other than for the Terns, I much preferred Staple Island from a photographic point of view.

I haven't returned since as I'm now a member of the Isle of May Bird Observatory where the ex warden of the Farne's is now based. He's doing a fabulous job increasing breeding Tern numbers and hopes to get Roseate breeding there within his 4 year personal target. As a day tripper though your time on the island is far more limited than is available on the Farne's, usually only 2-3 hours.

I would agree that the second half of June and the first week or two in July are the best times to go for seeing birds returning with food for their young and getting the classic sand eel shots but if the weather is anything like it has been this week you have no chance of getting across.

Worth thinking about before deciding how far to travel to meet up!

Edited by Dave Williams
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Who doesn't delight at seeing puffins?! They are such amusing looking birds. You have some wonderful shots!! I especially love all the ones with the mouthfuls of sand eels :) Perhaps next time for the pufflings! :)

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Wonderful birds.  Just yesterday I was talking with someone who had wanted to see puffins along the coast in the UK (not Farne Islands) and did not due to stormy weather.  He'd cry at your report.

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12 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

Wonderful birds.  Just yesterday I was talking with someone who had wanted to see puffins along the coast in the UK (not Farne Islands) and did not due to stormy weather.  He'd cry at your report.

 

It happens quite often @Atravelynn

 

Even nesting sites where a boat trip is not needed can be shrouded in fog.

 

Right now it should be brilliant - wish I was there.

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That first bird on hat shot is a Tilley hat I believe.  The lore surrounding Tilley's is that anyone wearing one must be interesting and you're supposed to ask the wearer to relate a tale of adventure that occurred while wearing the hat.  I see a little adventure right in that photo.

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Posted (edited)

I'm not sure that it is a Tilley as mine doesn't have a label on the back @Atravelynn

I only bought a Tilley as it's one of the few that make a hat big enough for my outsized skull. (so much grey matter to pack in!) and no one has ever asked me for a tale but I will tell you one!

When I bought it online I didn't realise they came with a lifetime guarantee even if you lose it. Well I nearly did not long ago after I'd bought it when being told to remove it to go through airport security check in. I was told to place it on top of my hand luggage and it was sent through the scanner machine . By the time I'd collected my trays, put on my shoes, belt and fleece, re-packed my camera gear etc I walked off without realising my hat wasn't there. It wasn't until 10 minutes later my wife noticed I hadn't got it so I rushed back to security and fortunately found it sat on top of the scanning machine. Must have been knocked off the top of the tray.

A close call at loosing £80 worth of hat and one I wouldn't have claimed on after a mere couple of weeks. 

To be honest I don't actually like it that much as my head gets too hot, the air cool band doesn't work very well.

 

Edited by Dave Williams
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@Dave Williams It certainly is a Tilley hat and is on the home page of the Tilley UK website. There are multiple different styles -- I use a Tilley rain hat as my sunhat then I'm ready for anything :lol: . 

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@Soukous Lovely report and beautiful images. I think puffling is my new favourite word.

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