Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Farne Islands - A Farnetastic day!!

Things were looking up for today - I woke up and a quick look outside revealed clear air with a brisk Northerly blowing. At least visibility would be OK, never mind the temperature!

I rang to book my place on the boat...

If you are in the area and fancy a trip out to the Farnes, I really can recommend Billy Shiel's operation. They are really friendly and well organised with a small fleet of boats and there's no pressure when booking tickets etc (this may change in high season of course!)






The harbour was looking good - the Farnes were actually visible - there was just one slight snag! The Northerly was developing a bit of a 'sea' and I was warned that landing on Staple island may not be possible. What the hell I thought, there was no way I was not going now......






I was not alone either, the boat was packed with like minded individuals although no-one seemed to be carrying the 'boatload' of gear I had with me!! We made our way out of the harbour and then caught the swell. I guess it was only a metre or so but in a small boat, it was shall we say, interesting - everyone kept their breakfast down though!








After a general tour with close views of the seabird and seal colonies, the skipper decided to attempt a landing on Staple Island. After a couple of aborted attempts to come alongside the landing steps, we finally had a sort of loose connection with land. The swell meant the landing ropes had to be loose to allow for the vertical motion and slowly but surely with masterful timing with the rise and fall we all made it off the boat (and no-one got wet!)






Everyone disappeared, not that there was far to go! I realised that on top of the cliff I was in a good spot for Puffins.....












.....especially inbound Puffins. They were just starting to sit in their burrows with some carrying in nest material - which makes a change from the classic sand eel shot!








Here's a few more representative flight shots. This was the reason I had made this trip and at the end of the day, I had to be well pleased with the results.












Puffins may be good in flight, they move pretty quickly but they are very very bad when it comes to touching down!! No grace, just a steep glide and then splat - it was not unusual for them to fall over....










Staple Island also provided a fly past by a Great Skua - brought to my attention by the screaming large gull in tow!






We rejoined the boat at lunch time and made our way to the next landing on Inner Farne. There were some great views of the Grey Seal colony on the way.....








I turned my attention to the other birds here, Razorbills for starters.






And there is nothing quite like having a Shag on a lonely windswept island is there? They were nesting within touching distance although that razor sharp bill is not to be trifled with!






Kittiwakes are one of the most endearing of resident UK Gulls. The pristine white plumage with striking black primary tips make them a scarce 'must see' inland. Here they were present in the thousands!! But yes, endearing or not, the constant Kit-ee-wake screams do grind you down after a bit!!






Terns - Arctic and Sandwich here in flight.....








Fulmars may not may not have elegance and none seemed to be nesting just yet but there were plenty of flight opportunities to catch these stiff winged masters of effortless glide.....










An Arctic Skua flew by, mugging a Tern but this was overshadowed by a mean moment I sadly missed. A Bonxie, probably the same one I saw on Staple, took on, killed, then proceeded to feast on a Herring Gull!! (I really did wish those lucky witnesses hadn't told me)

It was over all too soon and time to head back to Seahouses. Time then for the local post sailing ritual - a bag of fresh hot Doughnuts!!






Then more calories to follow - fresh fish and chips!! The gym will be beckoning when I return home, to shed a pound or two!!

It was truly, a Farnetastic day......

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