Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 3, 2010

Birthday Treat

This blog is 2 years old today (Happy Birthday, Pageant!) and to celebrate, I took another trip to the Farne Islands. Once again, the Zephyrs took kindly to the idea and gave a full days sunshine and flat seas…

The swallows of Seahouses performed split turns above the foreshore.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

In the far distance Eider floated on the calm sea, known locally as Cuddy Ducks, after St Cuthbert, of the Farne Islands.

A family group broke away and headed towards the harbour.


A male Eider drifted over.



Eider (Somateria mollissima)

The islands can only be visited by boat, so the day’s trip was courtesy of Billy Shiel.


They kindly point out the seabird colonies as we pass each little isle that makes up the 15 to 20 group, comprising the Farnes (number depending on the tide).

First were the Cormorants.


(Phalacrocorax carbo)

It has a white underneck with a yellow patch. It’s bigger than the Shag, which is shown below.
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

These are much more numerous birds on the Farnes than their Cormorant cousins. Here’s a selection of pictures of them, nesting (with young at various stages of development), together with some in flight.

Here’s one with eggs on display.

Here’s another with a chick in the nest.


See if you can spot the chick in the bottom left hand side of the nest!

Just in case you can’t, this is what it looks like.

And you can’t miss this fluffy one!






Kittiwakes nest on the cliffs.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

Fulmars are quite distinctive in the skies with their stiff winged flight, much like an albatross, as they glide all over the islands.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

Notice the nostril gap in the beak, which you can see more clearly from this photo of a Fulmar on the ground.

Lesser and Great Black Blacked gulls were all over the islands.

First, the Lesser Black Backed Gull, with its bright yellow legs.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

Then the Great Black Backed Gull, which swept over Staple Island, looking for any weakness below. It’s a big, powerful seabird, and is distinguished from the Lesser Black-backed Gull by its size (bigger), colour (darker back and wings) and legs (pink, not yellow).

Great Black Backed Gull (Larus marinus)

More common seagulls were Black Headed gulls, which nest on Inner Farne.

This gull mugged a Puffin for his catch.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

Which bring me to Puffins, the delight of the Isles. They are everywhere, simple as that. Here’s a selection of photos, which displayes them to their best, both on the ground and in the air.

Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

There were more Razorbills this year than last year.

Razorbill (Alca torda)

Guillemots are a staple item on Staple Island. They are in the air, on the waters, on the rocks, everywhere! Guillemots carry only one sand eel, unlike the Puffins, who take many before returning to shore.

Guillemot (Uria aalge)

They nest in huge colonies. These are extremely noisy and busy places.

The camera manages to capture their ponderous landing well, making them appear frozen in the sky.

A few (about 1/100) are Bridled Guillemots, with a white eye ring and a thin white line extending behind the eye, which marks them from the common (99/100!) type. If you look carefully, you’ll see them in these pictures.

Contrast the Guillemot on the left and right and you’ll see the difference easily.

And this bird also shows off the eyerings well.

Bridled Guillemot (Uria aalge)

Between Staple Island and Inner Farne, an Oystercatcher flew overhead.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Once on Inner Farne, you are immediately mobbed by Arctic Terns, which defend their nests with vigour. Take a hat before you go!

Once you get further onto the isle, you can get fine views of these birds at very close quarter.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

These aren’t the only terns on the Isle. There’s also a small colony of Common Terns, and a bigger, vociferous colony of Sandwich Terns.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Spotting the difference between these Terns is a matter of looking at their bills. Common Terns have red bills with blck tips, Arctic Terns have just red bills, and the Sandwich Terns have black bills with yellow tips. They also have much longer, thinner wings.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

Trips to the Farnes have one final delight for the naturalist. These are Grey Seals, which lounge in abundence on the various smaller isles between Inner Farne and Staple Island. Here’s a collection of photos, showing them at their best in the sun.

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

What a day!


  1. Happy Birthday, Pageant!

    Would give a lot right now to be a swallow, free to ride the sea breeze. =)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: