Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Flashback: July 8th 2014 The Farne Islands

Female Eider
As you may know, for this festive period, I am reliving moments from my adventures from before I had even started writing this blog. Today, I share with you a day from last year during my holiday in Northumberland for a week in July. I was with my parents for the majority of this holiday, but on day 3, we decided to split up to do our own thing. For me, it was a day trip to the Farne Islands to see the colonies of sea birds, which included everyone's favourite, the puffin! I joined a boat full of tourists from across the world at Seahouses harbour. As we exited the harbour, a family of eider ducks with a huge creche of duckilngs swam past us.

Eiders with ducklings
Lighthouse on the Farne Islands
Before we arrived at our first stop, the boat took us to see some grey seals first. Most of them were looking at us from the sea near a small island with a couple viewing us from the island's shoreline.

Grey Seals
Next, our boat took us along the cliffs of Staple Island. The strong, unmistakable odour of fishy bird droppings made you aware that you were approaching them. Then comes the sound of each individual sea bird, which hits you in a deafening chorus. Finally, the birds themselves surround you on the cliffs and in the sea. Kittiewakes, shags, guillemots, razorbills and... puffins!!

Staple Island
Guillemots and Kittiewakes

A cloud of Puffins
We boarded the island and as we did, a cloud thick of puffins flew out to sea over the boat. This island was covered in nesting seabirds (especially puffins) and were close to the path as we arrived. I was greeted by the sight of one puffin with a bill full of sandeels that it took down it's burrow to feed it's single chick. Some Guillemots here have white eye rings called bridled markings, a unique feature to the Farne Island's birds that know one knows why. The shags were my favourites, croaking at me while sitting on their large bowl-shaped nests. My least favourite thing, though, was trying to get round the unsteady, slippery rocks (which was the only way to explore the island).

Guillemot with a bridled eye ring
Puffin with a beak full of sandeels

Guillemots with chick

After an hour on Staple Island, we waited at the jetty for our boat to pick us up. But the sea got a bit choppy at the jetty side of the island and the boat couldn't get to us. So, we had to cross this rocky obstacle course to reach the jetty on the other side of this island. One man in our group actually fell and broke his leg on this journey. He had to be carried off the island and onto the boat via steep and slippery outcrops of rock.

Arctic Tern
Before taking the man to the mainland and to hospital, we were dropped off to our second island of Inner Farne Island. Puffins, shags, etc were here too, but it was the colony of Arctic terns that brought you to their attention. Though there were sandwich terns here as well, it was the Arctic terns that attacked you. We all knew about them in advance and were prepared by wearing anoraks and covering our heads with hats and hoods. Thanks to this preparation, the anorak cushioned the blow of their diving peck attacks. One even sat on my head briefly, which made me jump. But the worst part to being attacked was from being pooped on (yuck!!). Chicks and young terns were on or near the pathways of the island and the adults were pretecting them. It was hard to not laugh at being attacked, especially when one bird made a mess on my binoculars (right on the lens of my right eyepiece too!). I had to clean that up right away, but with no running water, I had to rely on a large bin full of water in the men's.
Tern attack!!
Selfie with a tern!
Arctic Tern with chick
Church on Inner Farne Island
Sandwich Tern
Young Puffin
More Puffins
Razorbill and a Kittiewake
So what did I think of the Farne Islands? The wildlife is fantastic with the puffins being the main attraction. But beware of slippery rocks and protective terns if you decide to make a visit. Don't forget to bring a hat and an anorak either. You will need them!

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