Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 3, 2013

Birthday treat with Billy

This blog is 5 years old (Happy Birthday, Pageant!) and to celebrate, it took another trip to the Farne Islands, courtesy of

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Once again, the Zephyrs took kindly to the idea, and gave a day of sunshine and flat seas…

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{Bliss!}

On the shoreline, before setting off, a Grey Heron passed by.

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Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

and on the seaweed covered rocks, a male Eider Duck.

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Eider (Somateria mollissima)

More from the Cuddy ducks later…

Our final shoreline visitor before the boat sailed was a Pied Wagtail.

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Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)

The Farnes are about 1½ miles offshore, which on a flat calm sea is quickly reached. Home to many seabirds…

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it is also home to Grey Seals, which bask around the islands.

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Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

The birds were also bobbing on the waters, in a way they haven’t done in previous visits.

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closer up, the birds (Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins)

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escape the boat by taking off ‘running’ on the water and generating lift with their wings, until airborne.

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Guillemots are by far the most numerous birds on the Islands. Staple Island is home to a vast colony.

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True seabirds, Guillemot only come onshore to breed on cliffs and remote islands around the UK.

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Guillemot (Uria aalge)

In the air, their flight is powerful, in  a body adapted to moving through two fluids; the air and the sea.

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Note the virtual absence of a tail, with the legs held behind serving a similar purpose.

When the birds come in to land, they angle their body, feet down to slow their descent. They looks like ski jumpers when they approach the colony.

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Once on the ground, the birds waddle across the colony to share the seas spoil (a single sandeel) with their partner, brooding the egg.

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There is an ecstatic greeting when pairs of Guillemots meet.

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Bridled Guillemots are in the mass of birds {about 1/100}. These have a white eye ring.

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Bridled Guillemot (Uria aalge)

There are about 100,000 Guillemots on the islands…

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Razorbills are much less common. They have a similar look, but have thicker bills.

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Razorbill (Alca torda)

There is a small colony of Cormorants on the islands.

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Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Cormorants are bigger birds, with white throats, which distinguishes them from the smaller Shags. These are true sea birds.

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In the air, their wingspan is impressive.

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On land, their large webbed feet become apparent.

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They nest using whatever vegetation they can find.

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Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Seagulls cover the islands, especially Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Black Headed Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls.

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Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

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Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

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Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

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Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

There were three types of duck on the islands. First, a fine Shelduck in the air.

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Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

Then a Mrs Mallard, with chicks.

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Whilst Mr Mallard flew overhead.

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Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Finally, Mrs Eider duck, and her chicks.

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Eider (Somateria mollissima)

Rock Pipets were on Inner Farne.

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Rock Pipet (Anthus petrosus)

Whilst overhead, Oystercatchers flew.

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Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Inner Farne is home to colonies of three types of Terns. First, the least numerous, which are Common Terns.

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Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Note they have a red bill, with a  black tip.

Next are the second largest colony, the Sandwich Terns. These have a black bill with a yellow tip.

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They carry sandeels in their beaks.

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Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

And finally the most numerous, and certainly the most aggressive; the Arctic Terns.

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They squabble among themselves.

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and hunt for sandeels by hovering, then diving into the sea.

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With eggs on the ground and nesting birds

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they are vociferous in defending them, by flying around, ‘bombing’ and pecking the people walking past.

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This does not detract from the beauty of their flight.

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Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

Arctic Terns have a pure red bill.

Puffins are everywhere. Their droll beaks make them unmistakable.

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Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

Finally, the day belongs as much to the sea.

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