Sunday, 29 December 2013

What a season 2013 was..

When I started to think about this blog more and more things came into my head and I have to say this has been the best year for me personally, but a cracking year all round.

We started the year of with dreadful weather and we struggled to get the boats ready for the new season and then gales hit us which made it worse.

It started on the morning of March 16th at 7am when I got a call about a boat on the rocks. At first I thought the lad was pulling my leg but then I realized he wasn't.

I went out the harbour for a look for myself and was blown away by the size big ship sitting on the rocks. I could not believe it to be honest, especially with todays technology.

After a few dreadful weeks of bad weather the salvage team managed to get it of without any hiccups and off she went.

The weather did not really pick up or a good while and I was praying that we were not going to have a season like we did the year before.

The only good thing was that it brought some beautiful Long-Tailed Ducks into the harbour, but on a sad note we had lots of dead birds along the beaches and as the season was approaching this was the last thing the Farnes needed.

The weather really never started to get settled until mid April and then it was still freezing, but the time May arrived the weather was much better. The Islands were starting to get that buzz again.

We even managed to raise four Mallards successfully and we released them onto Monks House Pond and to this day Joan (my wife) keeps asking me to go along and check to see they are okay, and yes before I do go along but sometimes it takes me a long time to check them.

June was a nice month and we started to see some Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise and the odd Minkie Whale.

The Sunset Cruises were in full swing and we had some cracking trips this year. I must admit I do love these trips even though it makes it long days.

We first encountered some Bottlenose Dolphins on our way home from the Sunset Cruise and as you can tell we were a wee bit late that night. (Nothing to do with me really).

They disappeared for a couple of days and then they returned but it was at low water early in the morning and I was outside the harbour just waiting for my guests when I saw then again and they were in the mood to play.


Things were picking up and the breeding season was in full swing. We had lots of film crews on the Islands this year and most of you have probably seen the programs and I must admit I am really enjoying Robson Green in Tales of the North. It just shows you what a wonderful place we live in and it was funny looking at him after his nights sleep on the Inner Farne. He looked like s**t.

We also had Tony Robinson (Baldrick) out on the boat for a program he's filming for Channel 4 called Walking Through History at 8pm, 30th March, so keep your eye out for it.

Then July came with an almighty bang. Oh yes the bird of the year. A Bridled Tern showed up on the Inner Farne and caused havoc in the birding world.
I must admit it was a cracking bird which I had the privilege of seeing quiet a lot but still enjoyed every moment.


We also saw lots and lots of Minkie Whales in July and they were seen on a daily basis by everyone. I was very lucky to have them around the boat a few times and Peter even managed to get some video footage.

Infact this has been the best year for ever for seeing Minkie Whales as we were still seeing them in August, Sept and even some fisherman seen them in October.

We also had lots of Harbour Porpoise and of course was those beautiful White Beaked Dolphins playing with the boat.

By the end of August we had seen loads and I have never even mentioned the weather. Amazing to be honest.

In August we had thousands of Manx Shearwaters rafting around the Islands and one day while my guests were on the Island I went to have a look at them and found a Baleric Shearwater in the middle of them. I was gobsmacked as there was not just 1 but 3 in total. I also heard that this was a Farnes record which was great news.

In September we started to get birds passing through the Islands and we had lots of Skuas stopping to attack the terns for their food.

We were also at the end of our Sunset Cruises and the light was just fantastic for photography.

In October I was alerted about a Greenland Shark on the beach at Embelton which is really rare. We were also getting closer to the seal season and it would not be long before loads of seal pups were around.

In November the weather was still holding up and we had 2 Common Dolphins swimming around the boat which was amazing and again a first for the Farne Islands.
They even followed a boat back to the harbour.

When December arrived we were still having nice weather and for this time of the year was really good until the 6th and then it all changed. Yes we got hit by a storm and the weather has not really settled since then, but after the storm the winds had dropped and we were given a treat on Seahouses Golf Course by an Ivory Gull.

What a beautiful bird and a mega for Northumberland. We were even more lucky as we got 2 later on in the day by Beadnell on the beach. 

For me personally this has been the best year for birds, cetacean's and weather. I hope next year is just as good and not just for me but for everyone.

I would like to thank everyone that has joined me this year, to Steely and the Rangers, to Gary Woodburn for helping me become a better birder, to the girls in the booking office who are the ones that make my job easy, to all my followers on Twitter and Facebook and last but not least to my right hand man Andy who puts up with me 7 day's a week and of course Peter who has to put up with Toby. LOL.

Cheers guys and I hope you had a great Christmas and an even better New Year form everyone at Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Seal Pictures

The grey seal breeding season has now peaked but we will still have the odd late arrival or two.

The National Trust Rangers have now left for the year and they have had an amazing season. Lots of lows but this year more highs.

They finished their season by recording all the seals that are born on the Farne Islands and this is very important part of what the Rangers do on the Farne Islands.

They didn't beat last years record and they lost a few right at the end of the season with the gales we had.

I don't know the final count but the last I heard it was 1,487 but this number will be down but hopefully not much.

The Rangers spray the pups with different colours of  paint and this help them do their counts every year. This is nothing to worry about as once they shed their first coat the paint comes off.

Anyway the seals are all over the place at the moment, so its hard not to enjoy it, and it will not be long before they are on their own fending for themselves.

A mother giving her pup a little bite but it's a loving bite.

Mother and her pup.

This seal was sound asleep.

A loving couple

Seal....ed with a kiss.

ending with a cuddle.

You should have seen the mess of the other Bull.

A cute little pup

A total poser

Lazy Dayz

Soaking up the winters sun.

Pink is the new colour.

I stopped to take this picture of Bamburgh Castle on the way home.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Ivory Gull

What a day......

It started by watching my 2yr old opening his present's and then followed by a text from my friend Gary saying their was an Iceland Gull on the golf course at Seahouses. I texted back saying I would be done in 10 minutes and then 5 minutes later I got a call saying get your arse down here now theirs a f*****g Ivory Gull here now.

I jumped into the van and raced to the golf course.

On arriving I saw Gary beside the trees waving come on it's over there. We  were like 2 paratrooper's sneaking through the trees with our cameras in our hands like they were guns.
"This way he whispered" and the next thing splash he was in a ditch full of water, but this did not hold a man on a mission. He shook his foot and got with it like a true pro he is. We got to the end of the trees and onto the edge of the fairway. We looked around as if the enemy was approaching and slowly crept towards this beautiful bird.

We both crouched down aimed our cameras and fired a few shoots off. He looked at me as if to say he missed and waved his arm to move forward.

It was standing out like a sore thumb and after a few more shoots of this stunning bird we were both very happy lads.

Mission (IVORY GULL) Accomplished.

Gary was just about to put it out to the rest of the birders but then realized that in the middle of our mission he had lost his phone. We turned and traced of footsteps back to the beginning with myself ringing his phone along the way.

While we were going back for his phone we realized that we did not have permission to be on the golf course, so yet another quick call and we got the go ahead.

We were nearly back to the start when we found his phone in the long grass. His face was nearly as excited as it was when he saw the Ivory Gull.

He got on the phone and put it out to the world what he had seen.

The first people to arrive were the Farne Island Rangers. How lucky were they, as they had just come of the Island in the morning and were packing all their gear away, but that got left as they ran along the golf course to see this fantastic bird. Now those guys have had an amazing season and this just topped of for them.

I decided to leave and see the second half of the game and in the mean time the bird had moved to the beach.

Not only had it moved to the beach but their was 2 Ivory Gulls together. Amazing really as the last time two were seen together in Britain was 1907 in Cornwall, but never have two been together in Northumberland so it just shows you how special it was and on my son's birthday too. A day I will not forget in a hurry.

I have also heard that the last county record was on December 23rd 1979 at Seahouses harbour which is not surprising really as we had lots of fishing boats around then but now we don't have any trawlers around it makes it a little bit more special.

After all the running around I decided to take my dog for a walk along the beach and hopefully spot something else, but nothing to report.

On the way home I stopped at the harbour to see if there were any gulls around and when I walked to the cliff top caravan park I noticed the rangers watching a Ivory Gull resting on the water. It also looked as it was going to roost for the night so I'm going to be there in the morning and hopefully it will pass The Farne Islands as that will be a first.

The only complaint I have is that my auto focus is broken on my camera so my pictures are taken manually and are slightly out sorry.


The Day After

After posting my blog I went to bed last night and got up again at 3am, a quick cuppa and then off to the harbour.

The waves were crashing over the pier but not as much as it was at tea time. I sat in the van getting out every now and then just to check the chocks with my cousin (Lee), Peter and myself stayed until 6am and then we went home.

After dropping my little one of at school I came down the harbour to move the booking office. I was really surprised to see the sea had calmed down as much as it did. Yes the swell was still there and it would probably get big again as the tide came in, but for now it was okay.

We moved the booking office back into the same place as before and Peter went inside to see how much damage was done inside. He was gobsmacked to see that the power was still on, so I told him to get the kettle on. Sorry but I needed my caffeine fix.

After that we checked the boats again and then we noticed one of the boats were full of water, which was hardly surprising with the amount of water coming over her but we got her pumped out and she was okay.

A look around the harbour I noticed that the railings were squashed flat to the ground around the freezer area and a concrete wall was down in the same place. Along the pier signs were missing, lumps of concrete from the harbour wall were scattered along the pier and other bits and pieces around the harbour.

The most noticeable thing was the dunes along the beach towards Bamburgh. There must be a 5 foot drop where the seas have just sliced them away, but sometimes I get a little bit bewildered with people as they have seen the news and all the waves coming over the harbour pier but still insist on walking along the pier. Tonight a couple were walking along the pier when a wave came over and knocked them off their feet. The lady got washed into the harbour and the man clung onto the edge. If it was not for a couple that are staying at my house they could have been gone and know one would have noticed. Lucky she grabbed the pier ladders and climbed back up and both were shook up but okay.

It made me think as I got a few tweets yesterday saying that they were watching me and a few others on the pier when the waves were crashing over and they were getting a little worried, and who can blame them as it must have looked terrifying, but we were very careful as one false move and the boat could have fallen on us and we didn't want that, so that's why we were the only people on the pier. We weren't really bothered about the booking offices are they can be fixed but our boats are our livelihood's and we had to protect them but going for a stroll along the pier to me is just madness.

Never mind they were okay so that's the main thing and to be honest the seas were spectacular and good to see but they were very lucky and we were very lucky compared to the other areas around the east coast, so I don't really have the right to complain.

I will sign out with a thought to all those people who have lost their lives, homes, flooded or badly hurt. Take care everyone.

Another picture of yesterday's weather and a short video

A short video

Friday, 6 December 2013

Seahouses Storm

On Monday we started to take the boats out of the water and put them onto the pier for some  maintance during the winter. We do this every year but this year and we chock them with blocks of wood and this helps support them upright.  We have done this for years.

We heard about the weather changing but because it was so far ahead we thought it would change, but as the days rolled on the were still giving the forecast.

All the jobs were done on the Catamaran but I was getting a little worried about the wind and how high the Catamaran was of the ground. A quick phone call and the cradle was put around the boat for more support.

All I can say was thank god I did it as it was blowing a gale and when the tide came in the seas were very big indeed.

Never mind I think the pictures will tell a better story.

This was the start of the week when we were lifting the boats out.

As you can see how high she is from the ground

We were glad we put the cradle around the boat.

At 1pm this afternoon.




Still holding still

but not for long as a big wave starts to move them

Getting totally battered now.


This is the beach were my kids play in the summer and all the people go to take pictures of the Eider Ducks. Yes the water was on the piers and so were the boats nearly.

In the end the booking offices can be fixed and the boats were ok. My cousin, Peter and myself kept a hammer in our hands as the waves were coming over the pier, hitting the boats and then knocking out the chocks from under the boats. Once the tide went out again it was time for home as we are going back down again at 3.30am at the next high tide.

Fingers crossed everything will be ok and the wind is supposed to drop tomorrow afternoon.

I will be updating on twitter if anyone wants to find out and then I will be blogging again tomorrow night.

For now its bedtime, so until tomorrow good night.