Grey Seal

A harrowing story…

by on Nov.26, 2009, under Farne Islands, Grey Seal

of suffering and depravation. That’s the ongoing tale of heroics, kelp crisps and seal milk over on the Farne Islands blog. I’ve always been impressed by the majesty of the North Sea, particularly when it’s crashing against the east coast in the early winter. It can’t be much fun for the lads out on the Farnes though, with food supplies almost exhausted and beer just a distant memory…

I was once asked to list my top 5 birdwatching experiences and the Farne Islands are right near the top of that list. The islands feature regularly on the NEWT itinerary; between April-October we run Seal Safaris, from May-July we include landing trips, and in November and December we have our exclusive ‘Tystie Trek’ and ‘Seal and Seaduck Special’ cruises.

A seabird colony at the height of the breeding season is a thing of great wonder. One of our trips this year was for a journalist from Coast magazine, who we took across to the islands to give her the experience of our beginners birdwatching courses and we arranged an interview with the Head Warden, David Steel, for her as well. At this time of year the birds (well most of them anyway) may be gone but the seals are there. There can’t be many creatures more resilient…but the Farne islands wardens are giving it a go.

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Like a millpond

by on Nov.15, 2008, under Farne Islands, Grey Seal, Holy Island, Northumberland

Today featured two very unusual occurences; a mid-November boat trip and all three of the Northern Experience guides on one trip together.

Watching the weather forecasts for the last few days meant that we were confident the trip would go ahead; and our confidence wasn’t misplaced. Twelve enthusiastic participants gathered at Seahouses harbour at 10am and we boarded the Glad Tidings VI. Heading across to the Farne Islands, the sea was calm and blue, visibility was excellent for many, many miles around and it was just cold enough to make it a proper pelagic experience. Shags and Eiders were around all of the islands but the main entertainment was provided by the Grey Seals and the many pups that they have produced so far this year; little white bundles of fur, marked with bright orange, yellow or red so that the wardens know if a pup has already been counted in their regular surveys of the breeding colony. A seal falling off a jetty in to the sea had several of our participants laughing so hard it’s a wonder they didn’t join it for an impromptu dip. The photographers on board had frame-filling opportunities to fill the memory cards in their cameras.

Searching around the Gun Rock and the Megstone failed to produce any sightings of Black Guillemot (a rare winter visitor in Northumberland) but a majestic Great Northern Diver flew close past the bow of the boat as we headed back towards Seahouses. Back on dry land we arranged an otter safari for tomorrow with two of today’s participants and answered a few queries about our next boat trip; an exclusive winter cruise taking in the Farne Islands Grey Seal colony, Holy Island and the seaduck of the Skate Road.

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