Sunday, 30 October 2011

Summer Plumage Great Northern Diver

Friday was just a beautiful day and it started with an amazing sunrise. As I left the harbour you could tell it was going to be a good sunrise so I decided to steam up to the Inner Farne to try and get it coming up over the Island. I did and it was a beauty.

I was chuffed to bits the other day with my pictures of the Juvenile Great Northern Diver but on Friday we were just about to get to arrive at Staple Island and out of the corner of my eye I spotted another one.
As I turned the boat to get a closer look I noticed it was still in it's summer plumage. Wow, just beautiful.

Friday proved to be a good all round. The weather was great, the seas were calm and the birds were great.

Friday's Sightings

11 Bewick Swans flying south over the Wideopens
1 Great Northern Diver resting at Staple Island
1 Juvenile Common Scoter resting at Knocks Reef
72 Pink-footed Geese flying south over the Wideopens
2 Merlin resting. 1 on Big Harcar and 1 on West Wideopen
1 Peregrine resting at Staple Island
1 Bar-tailed Godwit feeding at the Kettle
1 Barnacle Goose flying west then east over the Inner Farne
3 Red-throated Divers flying south in the Inner Sound.
1 Little Gull feeding in the Inner Sound

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Branded Seal.

I was out on a trip with some customers on the 4th October, and when I arrived at the Longstone Island to see the seals, I noticed a seal climbing out onto the rocks, on it's back it looked like it had been in a fight as it was all cut. As I looked through my bins, I could see that it had not been in a fight but it had been Branded.

I have never heard of seals being branded before, well not in my generation anyway.

I got a few pictures and sent it to Sea Mammal Research Unit at Scotland's University of St Andrews, as they have been studying the animals on The Farnes for over 25 years.

When they got back to me I was shocked as they did brand seals in my generation.

I found out that the seal is a she and was branded as a post-weaned pup on the Isle of May in November 1992. They don't use this method of marking the seals anymore but they were really pleased to see her alive and well at the ripe old age of 19.

They were very helpful and delighted with the seal pictures. Any help they can get would be gratefully received as these guys do a great job.


Some pictures I have taken of the tagged seals. Below seal tag number 72544

The seal tag below was the wrong way around and I could not see the number but the guys can still identify the seal from the markings, so hopefully I will find more info about her.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Great Northern Diver

I went down the harbour at 6am this morning, as I had to move the boat out into the bay as the tides are really big at the moment and it was low water at 9.20am. If I did not go out into the bay I would not be able to pick my customers up until 12pm, and as they were booked on for 10.30am I had to get out.

As I stepped onto the boat I slipped over straight onto my arse. This was the first morning that the deck was frozen and with the clear skies it looked like it was going to be a cold day.

After I left the harbour and steamed out to the Inner Farne to anchor up in the Kettle. On the way out I stopped to take a picture of The Inner Farne as the sky was beautiful.

After I had anchored up the boat, I turned of the engines, made a cup of coffee and picked up my book as was going to be a long morning. As was indulged in my book I got such a fright when my mobile rang. It was Graham, a warden on the Inner Farne telling me that there was a Great Northern Diver just outside of the kettle. 
He had not even finished his conversation and I already had the engines started. I let go of the anchor and headed for the area where it was last seen.

Bingo, got it, and what a show off it was to. It seemed to be a real poser for the camera. As I was taking pictures it was diving down looking for food it popped up with a crab in its bill. I was gob smacked as I understood they only eat fish. Bang goes that one eh.

During the day we saw 2 Little Auks, 2 Merlin's, 1 Peregrine, 1 Red-throated Diver, 3 Rock Pipits, 12 Teal and lots of seals. A great day even though it was freezing cold.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Winter Tours for 2011/12

As the end of the season approaches we want to let you know that we do operate throughout the winter doing different kinds of trips.

Whether you want to see the Seals or take a longer tour around Holy Island. Then please just give a call or mail me as I would love to take you out.

As the Grey Seal season has now started we offer an 1.5 to 2 hour trip around the Farne Islands. Whether it's to photograph those Seals and Seal Pups or just to see them close up this is a great time of the year. The Seals have now started to give birth, and will continue until mid December, then after that the Seals tend to gather in large numbers all around the islands until the end of March. During this tour we will take around all the islands viewing those passing birds.

Our other tour will be a 4 hour trip around the Farne Islands, viewing the seals and passing birds and it will include a tour Holy Island mud flats. Serenity 2 is very shallow drafted and we are able to maneuver the boat around the mud flats. On doing this we able to get closer to all the wildlife. After that we will cruise along the coastline viewing all the grebes, divers etc, before heading back to Seahouses passing Stag Rock and Bamburgh Castle from the seaward side.

For those Birders amongst us who are familiar with the MAGIC of Holy Island will know from experience that winter time holds a special aura when it comes to winter birding.

Our booking office down the harbour will be closed from November 1st, but don't worry as we have a booking office and info centre on Seahouses main street beside Neptune Fish Restaurant.

During the winter period our licence is downgraded so we are only able to take a few passengers.

Our first winter 4 hour tour is on November 5th at 10.00am at a cost of £25 per person, with hot drinks supplied. We also have a toilet on board.

Please check my Winter Wildlife Tours page for more dates.

To book please call  Andrew on 07984668093 and mail me at

Monday, 17 October 2011

Summer's Day

I was out with divers today, but this gave me a chance to bird watch all day. We were at the Knivestone this morning and as the divers were in the water I watched 96+ Guillemots fly east in an hour. I also saw 2 Arctic Skua's also flying east.

The weather was just amazing today. The sea was like glass, the sun out to play and it felt like a summers day, but then I remembered it was October. At one point there was no wind at all and you could have lite a candle and it would have never gone out.

After the divers were back on board we decided to head up to Holy Island to dive a wreck near Ross Sands. On the way across we past Gannets and many more Guillemots. (Thought to myself, write down all the Guillemots I see, as there were a lot more).

Once we had arrived at Ross Sands we spotted 2 Red-throated Divers, 1Great Northern Diver and 1 Arctic Skua, all going south along the beach.

Once the divers were in the water, I switched of the engines and it was so calm and silent the only thing we could hear was the little wave crashing along the shore.
It times like this that I realize that I live in a wonderful place with wonderful scenery and I'm so lucky to do the job I do.

On the way home, as we passed Bamburgh Castle, I spotted 7 Common Scoters and a Sandwich Tern.

A lovely end to the perfect day.


Saturday, 15 October 2011

Testing the water

A seal pup was testing the water yesterday but her/his mother was not to far away in case it got into danger.

We also saw a pup drinking it's mother's milk

Pups are relatively helpless, and rely totally on their mother's milk for the first few weeks. The milk is more than 50 per cent fat, and the pups grow very quickly, depositing a thick layer of blubber that will protect them from the cold and sustain them as they are learning to hunt for themselves. 
Grey seal mothers feed their pups with milk for 16 to 21 days, during which time the pup gains an average of 30 kg (66 lbs). During this period of intensive care, the mother might lose 65 kg (143 lbs) of her own body weight.  When the female is forced to return to sea to feed, the pup might remain at the breeding ground for another 14 days or so before heading out to sea to forage for itself.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Red-throated Diver

We have been seeing Red-throated Divers all week, but I have never been able to get a picture, so on Wednesday I decided to go back out at the end of the day, to see if I could get that elusive picture. Everytime I got close they either dived or flew away, but I did eventually get some picture's.

On the way home this afternoon the sun appeared for 5 minutes and I got a few more pictures.

2 day's of great birds

We had a great day on Tuesday and Wednesday, with lots of birds passing. Yesterday we saw a male Peregrine hunting a blackbird near Staple Island. It was fascinating to watch this beautiful bird doing what it does best, but this time  it did something that I have never seen before. It hit the Blackbird with so much power, that it stunned the bird and it fell into the water, but the Blackbird was not going to give up. It tried so hard to get out of the water, but the Peregrine never give it a chance. Next thing we saw, was the Peregrine hitting it again, killing it,and then grabbed it with it's claws and of into the sky. It flew towards Staple Island with the Blackbird tightly gripped in it's claws and then landed on the rock with it's kill. Nature is cruel but it was amazing to watch. The picture is not very good but it shows the Blackbird in it's claws.

We also saw a lovely Merlin watching the Pigeons, but then it spotted us and did not hang around for long. Well just long enough for me to get a picture.

On Wednesday it was windy but we had beautiful blue skies and on Thursday we had no wind but rain in the morning and very overcast. When it gets to this time of the year Keith and myself try to keep a look out for as many things as possible as we don't have the thousands of breeding birds around, and people still ask if the Puffins are still here. When you say NO they are a bit disappointed, but if we can find a Peregrine they seem to be more than happy. Yes it's harder work for us but it can be very rewarding, especially when I get we see people faces and I get some good pictures.

This is just a mixture of pictures I got but we see lots more.

2 Arctic Skua's flying North
1 Great Skua flying North
1 Pomarine Skua flying North
1 Puffling feeding
21 Curlew resting on Longstone Island
22 Common Scoters flying North
1 Peregrine on Staple Island
1 Merlin on Staple Island
6 Guillemots feeding
1 Sandwich Tern feeding
2 Rock Pipits
4 Kittiwakes
1 White Wagtail on The Inner Farne
16 Fieldfare flying West
Lots of Gannets, Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Purple Sandpipers.

5 Arctic Skua's flying North
1 Great Skua flying North
2 Adult Puffins
1 Adult Razorbill
17 Guillemots feeding
2 Short Eared Owls flying West from the sea and landed on Longstone Island
6 Red-throated Divers feeding
1 Great Northern Diver feeding
62 Fieldfare flying West
1 Rock Pipits
Lots of Gannets, Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers. 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Arctic Skua verses Redwing

A couple of Saturdays ago I saw a Arctic Skua attacking a Redwing just the east side of the Longstone Lighthouse. You will have to excuse my pictures as I was a bit to far away, overcast and it all happened very quickly, but you can the action as it happens.

The Redwing escaped, but I don't know it survived.