Apologies at the start of the blog it will be a lengthy one overladen with images, but hopefully not too much!
Some months back I booked myself onto my first ever visit (2 full day tour) to the Farnes with Yorkshire Coast Nature, which is run by Steve Race and Richard Baines the trip was over 2 ½ days in mid-June. A campsite in Seahouses; the departure point for the boat across to the Farnes; was sorted also.
I arrived on June 15th and got sorted at the campsite by mid-afternoon, the plan was to attend a meeting the same evening for a meet ‘n’ greet with Steve (who I knew), Richard and the other 10 or so birders attending the trip.
The fact the meeting was not until 6.30pm gave me the chance to take a walk for an hour on the dull, cloudy Seahouses coastline, immediately Eider including a few young birds were visible along with the usual mix of Gulls you would expect to see.
The meet ‘n’ greet took place in the cricket pavilion directly opposite the imposing Bamburgh Castle on the impressive Northumberland coast.
Steve and Richard outlined the plans to the group with Steve the tour photographer talking about where to go to get the best images of the sea birds we would encounter and just how close we would be getting to some of them.
Friday morning meeting time was planned and we met up as agreed for our first full day on the Farnes, on the agenda was a brief tour around the islands looking up close at the seabird and Grey Seal colonies then onto a couple of hours on Staple Island then onto Inner Farne for about 3 hours.
Now usually when away in my Motorhome we get Mallards calling in to see what they can get from us in the way of food, I had this again but also had lovely close views of three young Moorhen, look at those feet!
The weather was not the best so with the National Trust being responsible for visitors’ safety on the Farnes they decided they would not be letting anyone land due to the swell making embarking unsafe. So, as an alternative we walked a couple of minutes near Seahouses harbour to see Eider, hopefully up close on the small beach area adjacent to the main harbour.
The tide was just heading out and so a decent number of Eider we in this area and we enjoyed some time watching Eider, mostly females with young and couple of male who were in different stages of adult plumage development.
While we watched the Eider someone said they were like the Mallards of the sea and the birds will come up to people to get food from the and to prove the point a couple arrived on the opposite side to the ebbing tide to start to feed the birds what I think was bread and all the birds left us to see what was on offer on the other side of the water along with Black Headed and Herring Gulls.
I think that we were all happy with the alternate to visiting Staple Island and made our way to the boat to head onto Inner Farne to see if we could spot a Puffin or two!
After the slow tour around the islands off to land on Inner Farne we went, a few pointers from Steve and Richard and we all headed off to do our thing. My best image on a dull day was a headshot of a Kittiwake on this float past of the breeding colonies.
Bridled Guillemot were seen all over the rock formations in with the standard species and of course the odd Puffin was seen too.
A lone Ringed Plover was seen when we landed, I looked for a nest but to no avail.
The warnings about needing a hat as you walked through the Arctic Tern (a lifer) were soon proved justified as I was attacked by several birds and was not only pecked on the top of my head but also the tops of my ears and the side of my nose, which even drew blood! Well I suppose they were going for the largest target there before you say it! J Soon though I was witnessing lots of people with Arctic Tern on their heads and soon it was my turn (pardon the pun).
These Terns and others are choosing the strangest places to nest and even parts of the walkways are marked off to indicate a nest!
There some great photo opportunities being so close to the birds though even on a dull day.
It was really difficult to decide what to do with there being so many birds both on the ground and in the air at the same time, as I am sure you can imagine the sight, sound and smell was intense. I had never seen a Shag before so was guaranteed another lifer on the day and I could not believe just how close you could get to the birds while on the nest, you could have stroked the birds easily. Young were in the nest all around but also a few dead young were visible too.
Gulls (Lesser Black Backed & Black Headed mainly) were strategically placing themselves near the Puffin burrows and sometimes were successfully getting a snack.
I got so many Puffin images I could easily put 100 of them in this blog but here is a selection from day one with more to come from day two.
Day two was a much better day with the sea being a whole lot calmer so Staple Island was on the cards. Another boat this time, a bigger one with around 80 people was boarded and this time enjoying views like this with the Guillemots in particular enjoying the smooth seas.
Arriving on Staple Island on a lovely sunny day brought new challenges in trying to get decent photos harsh light on the white parts of the birds and heavy shadows but all part of the learning process eh?
A few Guillemot pairs were made of one Bridled and one normal, I do prefer the Bridled bird though myself.
As with Inner Farne the previous day the activity levels were high maybe higher with conditions being settled. Guillemots were darting around the airways all over some with fish some without.
I always love to see a Fulmar and a few were around.
A good wander around Staple lead me to a nice place to sit and have a drink & snack, soon a Shag popped its head up from nowhere enabling a nice close up after putting me sandwich down before it disappeared from sight again.
I tried to get some decent flight shots of Puffin while sat here, Puffin pics will follow later as I was advised to go to a certain place to see if close-ups could be achieved so will put a selection of these all together.
I did not see many Razorbill but some were with a huge colony of Guillemot and a few visible Guillemot chicks were seen to the north eastern side of Staple Island.
Here too on Staple the Lesser Black Backed Gulls were in stealth mode awaiting the Sandeel laden Puffins.
Awaiting the boat to go to Inner Farne and I had a few minutes with some close-by Puffin, some with food and some not.
We moved onto Inner Farne and was soon being sprayed with you know what and attacked by the Arctic tern once again. I managed to take an image with my iPhone of an attack and a selection of pleasing flight shots, not with my iPhone the latter I hasten to add.
This time I tried to get a few pics of the Sandwich Tern colony and birds in flight.
A few Common Tern were in the same area also but there were not that many about.
I got one shot of a female Red Breasted Merganser, my first image ever of this species as it flew over the Puffin colony, which was nice.
Just to make my point on what I said earlier in this massive blog that the Arctic Tern picked the weirdest places to nest on Inner Farne look at this photo, one pair were nesting right in the middle of the picnic / rest area!
Both Steve and Richard were not too far away from helping advising their group if this was required and both had great levels of local knowledge to help in directing you to areas that best suited the type of images you were after – which was great to know was a first time visitor.
As you would expect most of my time was photographing Puffin and mostly this was trying to get birds in flight, boy they can fly fast.
This was a great few days, Northumberland is a wonderful part of the country that I had never previously been to but will be coming back to visit and as for the Farnes I could quite easily see this being an annual trip now I know what is what regarding the trips over the water. Some 2,500 images taken in total with a hell of a lot being out of focus but I ended up with a few decent pics, hope you like the ones featured in this blog and I hope this has not been too long a read for you folks!
Same words lots of different photos on my website blog can be seen here >> http://www.stevenesbitt.co.uk/blog/2017/6/farne-islands