Monday, 29 August 2011

Big Seas

For two days the wind has blown, tides have gone ‘spring’ and we have therefore been cut off from society.

Tidal surge over Staple Island and onto Brownsman Flats

These huge tides and strong NW winds have resulted in some nice swell and surges as well as some nice seawatching!

At this time of year anything could pass by with Fea’s Petrels seen in previous years or Sabine’s Gulls however none of these crippling pelagic species have graced our waters as of yet…

However the totals for yesterday include 17 Sooty Shearwater, 16 Manx Shearwater, 7 Arctic Skua and a single Bonxie along with some Golden Plover and Swallow passing through.

My best attempt at Sooty Shearwater photo - 2 birds banking high (enlarge to see them!)

Today the wind had eased and the birds got moving in much better numbers with tally’s so far: 22 Sooty Shearwater, 142 Manx Shearwater, 24 Bonxies, 11 Arctic Skua, 2 Storm Petrel along with Auks, Plovers, Swallows and the likes.

The land has remained quiet with our resident Wheatears (2) and Whitethroat (1) still present while 2 Willow Warbler are new in.

The seawatching continues…..

Friday, 26 August 2011

Sunsets and Rainbows

The past two days have been spectacular! Sunsets and rainbows are a fitting metaphor:

As rares drop on the east coast the Farnes have broken their duck with an Egret and Wrynecks!

Last night some folks were visiting Longstone to have a cheeky seal related swim, and found a juv Little Egret (only the 3rd Farnes record!)..which showed well paddling, flying and fighting (with the resident Grey Heron).

Other non-passerine migrants include a splattering of waders such as Greenshank, Whimbrel, Common Sand, 300+ Golden Plover as well as fly over Shoveler and Sjuas aplenty.

However today brought a mega little beauty in the form of a four-toed crawler – not one Wryneck, but two! The first was found around lunch on Inner Farne by Jamie causing a mini-twitch where we connected with the bird getting nice views of this classic drift pecker. Then upon arriving back on The Brownsman clocking the Garden Warbler and 4 Willow Warblers a stroll down the boardwalk saw Beck’s lightning fast bins skills getting us onto Wryneck number 2!

Wryneck looking hansome on The Wides.

Other birds on Brownsman involve 2 Whitethroat and Wheatear while a single Swift darted over Staple.

Garden Warbler looking rare.

Insect migrants are also picking up with a Gem (a pale male individual) found in last nights trap.

Bad photo through the pot of this flightly little sod. Come a long way though.

The Farnes are magic. What will we pull out of our hat after rain hits this evening?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Grot to Snot

A Willow Warbler has a minute on Inner Farne 'stick'.

The time has come, wind have changed, frontal systems occluded, in, on and around Farnes waters and unfortunately unlike Newbiggin down the road we cant boast any wing-barred phylloscs. However we can (or could) boast a wing-barred finch! Let me set the scene.

Since my last posting I have become a resident on the mighty Brownsman. Traditionally this is the island of rare (or it is at least perceived to be – come on the Inner Farne!). Bird passage since my arrival has remained low however a few Willow Warbler and a Sedge Warbler have been about recently besides wadery stuff like Common Sands.

Brownsman Obs.

This morning dawned easterly with bright sun so didn’t seem promising but Greenshank (infrequent at the moment) meant hopes were sliiightly elevated. As we walked the Veg Patch area a medium grotbrown finch kicked up from near the pond  – Rosefinch! Alas it immediately carried on, and on, and on, and on…well north. Ciaran stayed on it til it was beyond a spec. First scarce of the autumn only went and pissed off. Damn!

So grotfinch showed very badly, time for something that showed VERY well. Upon examining last nights trap a few minutes later we struck gold with a moth that’s near enough top of my want list – Portland Moth! This snot coloured crippled showed very well in a pot for the remainder of the morning.


Beside that excitement very little occurred, a Reed Warbler flushing at 0.5ft range was mega rare while a Willow Warbler that dropped in at dusk gives us hope for tomorrow. Let’s bury the finch!

Other bits today included a Bonxie munching Lesser Black-backs in Staple Sound and some waders (Barwits, Dunlin, Whimbrel..).

Anyways here’s another pic of the Portland Moth cos it’s a ‘belting stonker’.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Feeling the burn

Inner Farne jetty with Longstone lighthouse (left) and the moon (right - obviously). Welcome to the Farnes.

What a couple of days! Bird passage might still be just getting started but the weather has been ideal. Sunshine and warmth dominated despite the (westerly) winds meaning we can enjoy wondering around seeing, well, not much!

A day off on The Brownsman in blistering heat was fantastic but migrantless, however this shot of a Fulmar really sums up how special the Farnes are:

Fulmar doing stuff

Back on Fairyland (Inner Farne) it’s once again been those long-legged Mcdaddy’s; the waders, that are dominating the daily routine of counting and recording with thing s like Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit and Common Sand now almost expected – which is nice!

Passerine passage as I have eluded to is weak currently but things are beginning to happen with 38 Swallow through yesterday while 53 passed over today. The most unexpected bird of today was a cheeky Goldcrest (our first this autumn) found by Bex in the Info Centre – one word. Random! Hopefully this is a prelude to good time ahead!

A beautiful but confused Goldcrest with Bex's foot for comparison.

Peacock butterflies have become conspicuous over the past few days.

And good night.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Peeping at waders (or Wading through peeps)

Note this was written yesterday!

Here me now! Biggin’ up all the long legged birds up in this place. So yeah, not many Passeriformes on the land meant attention after work focused on the high tide wade roosts on around Inner Farne.

Totals were good but to be expected with a fair few birds flushed earlier in the day by an RAF cock flying stupidly low over the Inner Group – alas something we are used too.

Sunshine coupled with low wind speeds once again promoted Butterfly action with Red Admiral and Painted Lady dominating the totals while Meadow Brown was notable and Peacock numbers are building after a couple of month absence (gap in generations?).

However todays special treat was to ring Fulmar chicks around the islands (and a couple of cheeky Shag chicks). They aren’t the ‘fowl gulls’ fisherman state, nor the ‘gay gulls’ certain people have claimed - though I can see where they are coming from on both counts! I think beautiful smelling fat chickens are the best I can muster.

So we sit and wait for the easterlies to return. A Manx Shearwater and 2 Bonxies in a brief evening seawatch hold promise but not much!

See ya later.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Stuck in the middle

The last two days have been alittle unsettled with sun, cloud, rain, wind, poor vivibility and almost every wind direction without North in it. Basically we’re stuck in the middle of a load of ‘proper random’ weather!

This predictably has meant that most stuff has swaggered off southwards (presumably) leaving us with a few Wheatear and Willow Warbler while Swallows carry on dribbling through.

Waders are still dominating with Dunlin, Purple Sand, Common Sand, Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel being the highlights. Other ‘big stuff’ is about with 2 Bonxies pounding low over Inner Farne while an Arctic pranced around offshore.

Insects have also been sparse (perhaps demonstrating how reliant the Farnes is on dispersers/migrants from further afield). However Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Small White are all still pretty numerous.

Work on the islands habitat is ongoing with lots of muddy edged, semi-vegetated pools ready for common, scarce and rares of all shapes and sizes. No photos today really so here’s a picture of the moth trap in action…

Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

On the waterfront

Love is in the air...the breeding birds might have buggered off but it asnt offput these lovely Silver Y

So today was my day off and naturally I spent it doing WeBs and generally loafing in, on, and around the Farnes natural stuff.

Clear but mild conditions overnight meant most birds departed but 1 Whinchat, 1  Wheatear, 1 Whitethroat and 1 Willow Warbler remained. The variable westerly did bring down some Swallows which flopped through in a steady trickle all day.

But as the title and first sentence insinuate today was more about those long-legged Macdaddies, the waders. At hide tide we ‘zoded off’ around the Inner Group systemically counting all wetland bird species as we went. Passage here is getting going with nothing hugely amazing however 6 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Greenshank, 3 Dunlin and 3 Common Sand were more notable while commoner species such as Turnstone, Oyc and Knot numbered hundreds and other like Redshank and ‘Purps’ (Purple Sandpiper) numbered tens.

Common Sandpiper - 100% uncut bob action.

Beside the ornithofest the lepids (‘cool’ term for butterflies) were dominating in the hot, sunny conditions with 60 Red Admiral, 11 Painted Lady, 6 Small Tortoiseshell, 1 Peacock, 7 Meadow Brown and 3 White Species made for entertaining strolls in the absence of our recent bird migrants.

On the subject of night time antics I tried some night photography of Bamburgh and’s our view every night…beautiful!

Saturday, 13 August 2011


The golden easterlies subsided overnight giving way to SW winds and sunshine by dawn. This didn’t seem promising but a jolly round Inner Farne pleasantly racked up some lingering bits, while this evening brought a couple of newbies.

So close yet so far..a Whinchat ponders the mile between it and Bamburgh Castle on the mainland.

Lingering nugs included 2 Wheater, 2 Whinchat, 1 Sedge Warbler, 4 Willow Warbler (1 in off the sea…so new I guess) and 1 Pied Fly. But despite the unfavourable winds (however a change in direction can bring birds down, but another story for another time) migration continued with highlight of the day being a Wood Sandpiper that flew low west calling! Lovely!

Visual migration continued throughout the day with 13 Swallow and 2 Swift north and 2 House Martin south overland. Over the big, swell fringed North Sea 18 Wigeon went north while 269 Golden Plover went west.
Other interest involved 1 Common Sandpiper, 19 Curlew, 2 Whinbrel and 160+ Knot chilling around having a cheeky peck here or there.

With the humidity hanging in the glorious sun haze filled air a walk produced Grasshopper Warbler and Whitethroat – both new (or overlooked, especially in the case of Groppy McGee). Historically tomorrow has held 2 Greenish Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, Icky, Bluethroat etc on the Farnes so lets hope these flipside winds keep giving.

Whinchat loving life on the Veg Patch wall.

The Farnes poolige is primed for mud peckingrare, our water table is looking great at the moment and with lots of exposed mud when will the Wilson Phal pitch down here? (If you dont know what one is then search female Wilsons Phalarope - it will blow your eyes out!).

See ou tomorrow.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Hangover

Well here we are, the proverbial hangover, or day after the one before.

There wasn’t much (or anything) new on the land with 2 Wheatear, 2 Whinchat, 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler and 1 Pied Flycatcher all providing better views in the dryer conditions.

Pied Fly chilling in the sun.

Willow Warbler 'looking rare'.

However the sea was where the actions at, with an incontinent trickle of birds passing including 5 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 8 Common Scoter and 5 Arctic Skua. Later in the day wader passage reared it’s frustratingly distant head with 1 Greenshank west, 37 Golden Plover west while the shores held 180 Knot, 2 Whimbrel, 8 Curlew and 4 Purple Sandpipers.

Warden life has changed a lot since my last update on these matters with management work being the main occupation currently. That is strim, strim, rake, strim, rake, discuss, strim, rake. But it’s looking awesome and we’re making great progress (I think!).

The courtyard is sorted, bar the thistle which have been left for nectar and seed.

Check out our piles....of grass. Pied Fly has used it already, will the next species be Red-backed Shrike?

Having been closed due to bad weather (and therefore cut off from civilisation if you can call it that cf riots), today was extremely busy with lots of people eagerly running off boats ready for Puffins – there isn’t any. This makes the job of entertaining them pretty difficult! But there’s plenty to see birdwise in the form of the aforementioned migrant species; however they’re perhaps less charismatic than our parrot-billed friends.

Under-rated:  Red Admiral underwing.

Tonight I trap moths with big light (said in caveman voice). Wonder what we’ll get.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

August Rain

Well look at that, two posts in a day?! Can it be? F*ck yeah. We knew something would happen today, our weather fixation led us to veritably jibb out over the forecast E/NE winds with heavy rain showers. This sort of weather (for those who aren’t obsessed like me) is pretty good at sweeping birds across the North Sea from Europe, Scandanavia and if we’re lucky Siberia while the rain causing them to make landfall as soon as possible.

Now today’s conditions weren’t ideal but boy did they produce!

A walk this morning produced a single Willow Warbler. But by lunchtime the totals had grown to 3 Whinchat, 2 Wheatear, 2 Garden Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 3 Willow Warbler, 2 Pied Flycatcher. While a Greenshank and Green Sand passed over together along with a grounded Common Sand.

Recently we have been hard at work creating a lovely heterogeneous (varied) habitat complex for the different species that will pass through. All this work was well placed and it was great to see the different species using the various ‘niches’ provided.

News of birds on Staple Island saw us hitting the outer group like SE swell, scoring with Storm Petrel as we crossed the sound. Staple held 2 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Sedge Warbler, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Pied Flycatcher and another Common Sand.
To the east on the mighty Brownsman birds were less numerous but Tree Pipit was a great addition to the Farnes day list while Whinchat, Whitethroat and 3 Willow Warblers brought some warblish diversity.
Further to the east at Longstone lighthouse we had 3 Wheatear, 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Garden Warbler, 7 Willow Warbler and another Pied Flycatcher…and this is mid-August! Man oh man this autumn’s going to be EPIC.

It was perhaps optimistic setting the moth trap last night but 174 moths of 19 species don’t lie (that’s good by the way!). New for the year was Common Carpet and possibly Square-spot Dart (pending confirmation). Immigrants were few and far between but 1 Dark Sword-grass and 2 Silver Y were better than nothing!

Here’s to tomorrow.

Out of the ether….

Well. Hello. Er, so. Eeeerrrrm it’s been a while. Again. Apologies for my general slackness in updating the blog, to be honest I’ve been out birding, mothing and enjoying life so finding time to sit and upload words and pics through a horrifically slow dongle connection has been low on the priority list.

BUT tis the season of change and there’s a lot to say, and over the coming days and weeks I will hopefully get updates on the go ‘reggers’ to cripple, grip and molest your perceptive capacities.

Right first off birds: The Farnes breeders have nearly all departed, with the last Arctic Tern fledging yesterday while Sandwich Terns remain in very small numbers while all the Auks have f*cked off!

Roseates are heading orf too.
Fulmar chick looking cute.

However as the breeders depart, the migrants arrive! On the sea some good northerly storms at the beginning of August produced good numbers of Storm Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Manxies as well as Skuas of both Arctic and Great shapes. A night of Petrel ringing at this time also produced a Leach’s which in the hand near enough disabled most of the team through chronic griptigue.

Stormy getting the treatment.

Leach's eat stormy for breakfast.
Passerine migrants have been thinner on the ground but weirdly a NW storm on 7th August produced a bonus fall consisting of Whinchat, Tree Pipit (2), Whitethroat, Willow Warbler (3) on Inner Farne. While non-passerine migrants have been repped by Merlin and Black Tern. as well as a 'good few' waders.

Can you find the Chlidonia?

Cheeky Knot.
We then battled the large swell to bird Brownsman, and oh was it worth it! Upon arrival me and Ciaran put our bins up and simultaneously locked onto a stonking Wood Warbler! Also on the island was Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler (8) and Wheatear. But Woody stole the show giving prolonged views just chilling on the wall truly proving it doesn’t have to be rare to totally blow your balls off!

How good is that!!!
Along with migration, the Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies – but you knew that, right?) are also picked right up. Moth Trapping has occurred regularly recently and to date 2314 moths of 81 species have been recorded while another 14 species have been added by casual sightings such as checking nectar sources. Migrant species are disappointingly low in numbers but the locals are maintaining interest. Here’s some pics:

Dark Spinach

Ear Moth species.

Garden Tiger

Wormwood Pug (Ling form for the geeks).

For the haters - Mircos are beautiful! Eudonia lineola

Plain Pug

Six-striped Rustic

Marbled Beauty

July Highflyer

Butterflies, which started slow, are also appearing in larger numbers with a purple patch on the 5/6th August producing 11 species (none are resident on the islands). The hightlights
were Dark Green Fritillary (8th for Farnes), Comma (3rd for Farnes), Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood which were all new for the year while Painted Ladies and Red Admirals were present in large numbers. Stick these pics in your facial space:

Small Tortoiseshell with my house (Pele Tower) in the background.

Dark Green Fritillary - just!

Painted Lady

There's currently a decent fall ongoing so we'll speak later, yeah?