Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 17, 2018

Tenacity with Tv – or a decade of nature blogging

This nature blog is now 10 years old (happy birthday, Pageant!), and to celebrate this tenacity with Tv a trip to the Farne Islands beckoned.

The North Sunderland harbour is in the town of Seahouses,  Northumbria, and the boats depart at regular intervals (thanks to Billy Shiel and the other operators).

Before getting to the boats a group of young Starlings were begging for scraps of food on the Quayside.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

In the harbour were Eider ducks, known locally as Cuddy ducks.

Eider (Somateria mollissima)

It’s out at sea in the Farne Islands where the wildlife lives. First, let’s see the Grey Seals on the islands, and in the North Sea.

Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)

The boat sweep on, towards the seabird colony on Staple Island and its three stacks.

The island is home to thousands of seabirds, including Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Herring Gulls and Lesser Black Backed Gulls.  These latter two birds are part predators and pirates on the rest of the birds, forcing them to disgorge or drop the sand eels they have caught , or catching the birds themselves.

Let’s look first at Herring Gulls, and their chicks.

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

The adult guards the nest most of the time, but also must leave to feed itself and get food for the chicks. At that time, a chick breaking free of an egg could be seen, calling to the outside world it hasn’t joined.

It will take hours to emerge fully. Here is a more recently hatched one, with feathers still wet.

The adult soon returns to stand guard.

The Lesser Black Backed Gulls are bigger than the Herring Gulls, and have bright yellow (as opposed to pink) legs.

Lesser black-backed gull (Larus fuscus)

You get a sense of the menace they exert here, as they stand around waiting to rob returning Puffins of their food.

Puffins are, of course, the most delightful looking of all the birds on the islands. Whether out at sea

or emerging from their burrows

They stand around, as if waiting for something to happen.

They take to the air with some labour…

…but once there, it’s a delight to see them return from the sea laden with Sand Eels for their young called Pufflings.


You get a sense of how bust the sky is with Puffins in these videos.

There are thousands of them on the Farne Islands, but there are even more Guillemots who nest together in huge colonies.

Notice the frenetic way in which they land – fast frame photography captures this well.

In the air they show determined grace whilst carrying their bulk through the air, especially when carrying a solitary Sand Eel.


Taking off is frenetic too.

Guillemot (Uria aalge)

There are also Bridled Guillemots there, which have a white eye ring.

Bridled Guillemot (Uria aalge)

Like Puffins, Guillemots are true seabirds, only coming onto land to nest.

They are closely related to Razorbill, with a more powerful bill than the dagger like Guillemot.

Razorbill (Alca torda)

Shags are other seabirds that come to land to nest. They are long necked, and have a whiff of the Jurassic about them.

Their hooked bill is for catching fish underwater.

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Other gulls on the islands were Kittiwakes and Fulmars. First, Kittiwakes.

Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)

And Fulmars.

Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)

Note their tube nose. They glide like Albatrosses, with stiff, outstretched wings.

They too are pelagic birds, living on the open sea outside of the breeding season.

The champion bird for flying on the Islands have to be the Terns, which in the case of the Arctic tern travel thousands of miles each year, as the migrate from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere. They breed on the Farne Islands in a colony.

They defend their young with ‘full intent’

But they are graceful flyers, and don’t mind too much where they land.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

There are also Sandwich Terns nesting at this time of year. These are bigger than the Arctic Terns, and have their own colony amongst the Black Headed Gulls.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)

The Black Headed gulls also nest on the Islands.

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

Finally let’s leave the tableaux of these busy islands with a solitary Oystercatcher, preening itself.

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)



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