Tag: Guillemot

Never trust a weather forecast; Farne Islands Safari 15/06/16

by on Jun.16, 2016, under Farne Islands

With a Farne Islands Safari on Wedneday, I’d been keeping an even closer eye than usual on the weather forecast and particularly the forecast sea state and swell height.  1m waves, strong NE winds and heavy rain wasn’t the most promising of forecasts…

I collected Paul and Rose from the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel and we headed north of Seahouses for a few hours birdwatching before our sailing across to the Farnes.   A singing Reed Bunting was eventually located, and finally came out obligingly into the open, as Meadow Pipits displayed overhead and Sand Martins hawked back and forth low over the water.  Gulls aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring all lined up obligingly next to each other for a mini-ID masterclass.  A Shoveler escorted her ten ducklings across the pool as Coots fed young, Moorhens crept around in bankside rushes, Lapwing roosted in nearby fields and a Skylark, just a tiny dark speck against the clouds overhead, sounded inconceivably loud at the height it had reached.

Sitting and eating lunch overlooking the islands, the one thing that was really obvious was that the sea was calm, it wasn’t really windy and it wasn’t raining – so much for those forecasts then 🙂  We boarded Glad Tidings VII and headed towards the inner group of islands.  Puffins, Guillemots and Razorbills were all heading back to their nests with food, Grey Seals were lazing around on the rocks and the sound, and smell, of the islands intensified.  The onomatopaeic calls of Kittiwake echoed off the cliffs and a leucistic Guillemot caught my eye as it sat on the rocks amongst all of it’s regular-coloured relatives.

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Once we landed on Inner Farne, the Puffins took centre stage.  We watched as they headed back towards their burrows, only to be harried by Black-headed Gulls.  One Puffin dropped it’s load of small fish right next to us, it’s wingbeats whirring audibly just over our heads as it tried to evade it’s pursuers.  Large, ungainly, and very, very fluffy Shag chicks had grown to big to be contained in their nests and the grumpy moaning of the assembled auks added to the wall of sound.  Sandwich, Common and Arctic Terns were all tending eggs or chicks, with the Arctic Terns being as feisty as ever, and a couple of them taking a particular dislike to Rose’s hat!  As we walked back down the jetty to sail back to the mainland, Rose’s sharp eyes spotted one of those birds that are so cryptic in some habitats as a Ringed Plover dashed around between pebbles and rocks on the shore line.

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Dolphins; Farne Islands Bespoke Photography 07/06/16

by on Jun.09, 2016, under Farne Islands

Tuesday was a trip I’d been looking forward to for a long time, a bespoke photography trip to the Farne Islands, for the parents of one of our Seal Safari clients from back in 2009.

I arrived in Seahouse to collect Jill, Pete, Liz and Bernie and we had a couple of hours on the coast before heading back to the harbour and boarding Glad Tidings.  We were only just out of the harbour when the skipper slowed the boat almost to a halt…as a group of 5 Bottlenose Dolphins passed across our bow 🙂  We watched as they had a quick fly-by of another boat that was leaving the harbour and then they were gone.

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As lines of Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot passed by, there was a notable change in the weather.  Blue skies and sunshine were replaced by cloud and falling temperatures, and a heavy mist was shrouding the islands.  The Farne Islands are a surreal place as it is, but when some of the islands were just dark shapes in the mist they took on a whole different persona.  The loud cries of Kittiwake echoed around the gullies, Sandwich, Common and Arctic Tern were all incubating eggs or chicks, a handsome male Red-breasted Merganser was sitting on the water just off the Inner Farne jetty and the whirling parade of Puffins carrying fish back to their nests was the focus of everyone’s attention, although female Common Eider sitting motionless on nests with small ducklings were greatly appreciated too.

With the first rain drops beginning to spatter on the car windscreen just after we returned to dry land we headed along the coast so I could reveal some of the better spots for wildife photography; what’s there? what time of day? what time of year?  Then it was time to head back to Seahouses.  Are the Farnes the best wildlife experience you can enjoy in England? Britain? the world? Possibly…

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When the north wind blows; Lindisfarne Safari 02/06/16

by on Jun.07, 2016, under Holy Island, Lindisfarne

Thursday was a Lindisfarne Safari where we had the option of either staying on the island over the high tide period, or concentrating on the mainland sites in the Lindisfarne NNR…

I collected Stephen and Kate from The Swan, and we headed up the A1 to collect Gordon and Mandy for their 4th day out with NEWT.  With a stiff chilly northerly breeze we decided that the mainland would be the better option, but we started on the Holy Island causeway.  Knot were hunched against the wind on the mud as the rising tide approached, flocks of Dunlin flew just inches above the road and we had the opportunity to compare the size difference between Sandwich Tern and Little Tern as both species hovered obligingly close to each other over the South Low, diving into the water in pursuit of small fish.  Curlew probed the mud on the periphery of the encroaching tide and Grey Seal were ‘bottling’ as they were lifted them from their low-tide haul outs by the water.  The simple song of Reed Bunting carried on the breeze from their exposed perches on hawthorns and fence posts as ‘parachuting’ Meadow Pipits displayed nearby.  Golden Plover were stunning in breeding plumage, and flocks of Ringed Plover were accompanied by Dunlin sporting the jet black bellies of the breeding season.  Offshore, Eider were riding the impressive swell as Gannet and Fulmar soared on the wind, Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns were plunging into the water, Shag and Cormorant flew by and lines of Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill flew to and from the Farne Islands.

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Rising tide; Northumberland Coast Bespoke Birdwatching 09/10/2015

by on Oct.10, 2015, under Druridge Bay, Northumberland Coast

Friday was Tony’s third, and final, day of bespoke birdwatching with NEWT and we headed north in similar weather to Thursday…

Travelling north, Roe Deer seemed unsure which way to run across the road so dodged back and forth in front of us.  On the rising tide, Little Egrets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank and Oystercatcher were hunting along the water’s edge, Pale-bellied Brent Geese were leapfrogging north, Pink-footed Geese flew south high overhead as the ‘choo-it’ calls of a Spotted Redshank and eerie moaning of Grey Seals cut through the tranquil air.  A Common Buzzard was perched on a telegraph pole and the rising tide brought more birds towards us, Herring, Common, Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Ruff, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Goosander, Mallard and Teal were more obliging than distant swirling flocks of Lapwing and Barnacle Goose and a noisy tribe of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees behind us.  Lunch at Stag Rocks produced Common Eider, Guillemot, Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Shag, then Greenshank and Shoveler were soon added to the day list as we continued south down the coast.  Panic amongst Herring Gulls and Cormorants revealed a Grey Seal swimming along the River Coquet and Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye were the final new birds for Tony’s holiday as a juvenile Marsh Harrier flew by and Greylag and Pink-footed Geese began arriving at their overnight roost.

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Out of the gloom; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 13/07/2015

by on Jul.17, 2015, under North Sea

Our fourth North Sea Pelagic for 2015 had a reasonable weather forecast – overcast, but should have been otherwise ok…

Quite good visibility meant we were soon watching Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot, Puffin and Razorbill…then the rain started.  Sailing through what appeared to be low, and very wet, cloud we came out of the other side of it and continued north.  Then ahead of us, we could see weather that we really didn’t want to be sailing into.  We decided to turn back south and have a slow journey close inshore as the almost obligatory flock of Common Scoter flew by.  I suggested an area to Allan that I thought would hold White-beaked Dolphins towards dusk…and there they were 🙂

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Tailwind/Headwind; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 10/07/2015

by on Jul.17, 2015, under North Sea

Heading north on the third of our 4hr evening North Sea Pelagics, the rate at which Gannets, Fulmars and Manx Shearwaters were passing by suggested that the wind was going to make the journey back south a slightly different proposition 😉  Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill were sitting on the sea, but not in the numbers of the previous two sailings and, as we turned south, the journey home was into a stiff breeze with low glowering cloud that meant it was nearly dark not long after 9.  A dense flock of Common Scoter, tossed on the breeze, passed by in the gloom as we made our way back to port, and our thoughts turned to Monday and our next sailing.

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Bait ball; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 03/07/2015

by on Jul.17, 2015, under North Sea

Our second North Sea Pelagic of 2015 was accompanied by the usual cast of Fulmar, Kittiwake,Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin, and we sailed north a few miles from the shore.  Passing Newbiggin, Bruce spotted a whale heading north, and I managed a brief sighting of it although it was travelling north rapidly and lost in the swell.  We were just about to turn south again when there was a moment of pelagic magic 🙂  Allan and Jimmy spotted a distant fin to the north, and there was a growing flock of Gannet, Kittiwake and Fulmar in the area where the fin had been spotted.  Then a Minke Whale surfaced amongst the birds 🙂  Once I was sure that everyone had seen the whale I started a 360 degree scan – past experience suggests that good feeding often attracts multiple Minkes…and it was soon clear that there were two whales to the north of us and a third to the south 🙂

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Calm; NEWT’s North Sea Pelagic 29/06/2013

by on Jul.17, 2015, under North Sea

Our 2015 North Sea Pelagic season got underway at the end of June, with Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets galore, Guillemots, Razorbills and plenty of Puffins on the sea and a dense flock of Common Scoter towards the end of the evening.  Despite sightings of Bottlenose Dolphin, White-beaked Dolphin and Minke Whale in the days leading up to the sailing, they weren’t hanging around any of their usual haunts.  Perhaps our second evening pelagic of 2015 would bring better luck…

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Birds in Flight; Bespoke Photography 19/06/15

by on Jun.26, 2015, under Farne Islands

Our Bespoke Photography ‘Birds in Flight’ workshop was a day out for Max and Nigel – Max’s prize for winning the ‘Young Person’s’ category at last years North East Wildlife Photography Awards.
We met up at Newbiggin and drove up the coast to Seahouses.  Before sailing across to the islands, we had a session covering ‘birds in flight’ techniques and camera settings, with Kittiwakes and Fulmars as the guinea pigs for Max to practice various techniques.  In a stiff breeze, the birds were proving quite challenging – passing a few feet above our heads into the breeze and then racing back with the wind at their tails 🙂  Once on St Cuthbert II we were soon surrounded by an almost limitless supply of photographic subjects; Grey Seal, Shag, Cormorant, Razorbill, Guillemot, Gannet, Puffin, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns and, the most surprising sight of the day, a Rock Pipit dripping with water and holding a small fish!  It was a great day out with two talented photographers, and I’m hoping to see more of Max’s images displayed at the wildlife photography awards evening on July 9th 🙂

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Birds in Flight; Farne Islands Bespoke Photography Workshop 07/06/2015

by on Jun.10, 2015, under Farne Islands

Sunday dawned bright and breezy, but thankfully not quite so breezy as Saturday…

I arrived in Seahouses and met Greg, John and Lee for their bespoke Farne Islands photography workshop.  We were booked on an afternoon sailing to Inner Farne, but we started on the clifftops around Seahouses, practicing techniques for photographing birds in flight.  Kittiwakes and Fulmars make great subjects for practicing techniques, prior to landing on Inner Farne – which is a little bit more hectic 🙂

Sailing on Glad Tidings IV we were soon surrounded by Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Grey Seals.  The cliffs were a hive of activity and once we landed on Inner Farne we braved the Arctic Terns as we explored the varied photo opportunities that the island offers.  ‘Puffin with beakful of sandeels’ was top of the photography target list for the day, and that was soon ticked off, before we enjoyed an extended stay on the island before leaving on the last boat of the day.

Our Farne Islands Beginners Photography Workshops on June 28th and July 11th still have spaces available so give us a call on 01670 827465 to book your place, or get in touch if you’d like a bespoke photography day 🙂

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