Tag: Farne Islands

Seal of approval

by on Dec.06, 2009, under Birdwatching, Farne Islands, Grey Seal, Lindisfarne

Saturday was scheduled for our “Seal And Seaduck Special”  (sounds like a really bad curry concocted by the Farnes wardens to see them through the ‘hard times’, is in fact a 4 hour NEWT cruise around the Farne Islands and Holy Island).

The weather forecast hadn’t been particularly promising (that’s not entirely true – it had been promising…heavy rain and howling southeasterlies) but a ‘phone call to William on Friday raised the possibility that we would be able to run the trip.  As we arrived at Seahouses Harbour we could see Glad Tidings VI approaching with the wardens safely on board and their zodiac towed behind.  We had time to welcome David Steel back onto the mainland and then we all boarded and set out into a noticeable swell. 

The trip had a really good social event feel to it (as all of our pelagic trips tend to do); all three NEWT guides were on board, one of our clients was on her 5th trip with us (this time bringing two of her friends, for a trip they’ll probably never forget – for all the right reasons) and our friends Tim and Vera from Cottingburn House in Morpeth were among the other passengers.  Once we were across at the islands there were a lot of seals, and many of them were ‘singing’ their mournful song; surely the source of many legends of sea-monsters and mermaids.  1347 pups have been born on the islands this year and most of them have departed or moulted out of their cute baby fur already.  A Peregrine Falcon entertained everyone on board as it perched on the Pele Tower on Inner Farne before being pursued towards the Wideopens by a Herring Gull.  The next leg of our journey took us up to Holy Island and several Red-throated Divers flew by and a Great Northern Diver was on the water near Guile Point.  The weather changed at this point and sunlight illuminated Lindisfarne Castle.  We then began a slow run down the coast in search of seaduck.  Flocks of Common Scoter scattered well ahead of our arrival but Sarah managed to get some good images, showing the typical appearance of a flock of flying scoters;

Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra)

Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra)

Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra)

Common Scoters (Melanitta nigra)

We also encountered one of the most beautiful birds that winters off Northumberland – Long-tailed Duck.  Camera shy?  These birds made the scoters look like they were hogging the limelight;

Long-tailed Duck, the 'Stag Light' and St Aidan's Church

Long-tailed Duck, the 'Stag Light' and St Aidan's Church

The increasingly choppy seas were making photography frustrating but Sarah stuck gamely to it.  As she was using my camera, and a lens that she wasn’t familiar with, it was even more challenging than pelagic photography usually is.  As we passed by Bamburgh Castle (as impressive from the sea, if not more so, than it is from land) and then Monk’s House the tide turned the last 10 minutes of the cruise into a real experience.  That’s always the point when somebody on board reveals that they usually feel seasick on the boating lake in their local park…

Nobody was adversely affected by the swell, everyone saw plenty of seals, and the flocks of seaduck flying around us added up to a real winter pelagic treat.  We couldn’t have asked for more from our final journey into the North Sea for 2009.

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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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And we’ve also…

by on Aug.26, 2008, under Wildlife

Had several very successful tours with clients. August 11th saw us venturing across to the Farne Islands on one of our Seal Safaris, excellent views of the Grey Seals were had by all, as well as brief views of two adult Puffins flying by and a Puffin chick that had only recently entered the water. The Cheviots were a little damp on August 18th but a break in the rain produced Peregrine, Merlin, Buzzard, no less than six Black Grouse and a Hare. August 19th saw us visiting the Grey Seals on the Farne Islands again before heading up the coast and across onto Holy Island to search for more seals and wading birds, then back down the coast as far as Amble. 20th involved an early start (for some…) and a walk along the Blyth. Heavy overnight rain had left the river as a raging torrent the colour of milky coffee and the highlight of the morning was a Red Squirrel making it’s way through the trees on the opposite bank of the river as Jays screamed at us from their hidden vantage points. Druridge Bay trip later the same day and we were treated to large roosts of Lapwing and Oystercatcher as well as a mystery mammal running across the roof of the hide we were sitting in at Hauxley. By the time we raced outside it had disappeared into the trees…
August 21st and we were back in Druridge Bay. Highlights were a Common Toad that was walking up the path ahead of us, Noctule Bat flying past (and picked up later on our bat detector) and, due to the incredibly clear sky, excellent views of Jupiter and it’s moons through the telescope – leading to an impromptu astronomy extension to our evening.

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