Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Minkie Whale

We saw our first Minkie Whale on Monday 17th August and we were a little lucky to be honest. It was spotted by another boat and myself and Andy had just drooped our guests off onto the Inner Farne when we saw it around his boat. We decided to go for it and when we arrived it was feeding in the same area. We had it for over half and hour and we even had time to shout my brother so he could come and see it too.

Unfortunately my guests did not see it but at least Toby's guests did. Fingers crossed we see more now and there has been reports of herring around so that's always a good sign.

So on that note we are going to do a couple of "Finding Fins" trips on the 1st and 2nd September from 9.30am for 3 hours. To book please call the booking office from 9am to 5pm on 01665 721667 and evenings on 01665 720760.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Summer Aurora 16/08/2015

A very unexpected summer aurora happened the other night and I had promised myself an early night but was never going to happen when I was receiving text alerts. Here is a link if you want it 
I first went to the harbour to do some test shots and the second I started I knew that I had forgot something. It took a while for the penny to drop and I realised I  had left the main thing at home, my tripod. What a prat and I was scared to go home to get it just in case it was all over by the time I got back. I decided to balance my camera on the pier wall and take a chance. At first I thought it would be ok but after a while I had to take a chance and go home as it was not really working.

I jumped into my van and drove very very slowly up the main street, ran into the house, grabbed my tripod and ran back to the van. Once I was in the van I decided to head to the beach as the tide was just about to come back in and I thought of the reflections on the wet sand would be nice.
Once again I drove very slowly along the road, not breaking any speed limits as it had not been long since I did my speed awareness course and I did not want to go to one of those again. I'm not saying its a waste of time or anything like that I just did not want to take another day of work to do it.

I parked safely on the road side and sprinted down the beach, arriving safe and sound to see that the aurora was still in full swing.

After a few pictures there I went a little further along the beach to a different area to try something different. I'm not sure it worked but I kinda liked it.
After that it was back into the van and off to Stag Rock Lighthouse remembering everything they taught me in the class room. Once arriving I realised I was not along as two other photographers had the same idea. After a few pictures I decided to have a look around for something different before heading home at 3am.

I was totally goosed by this time and I had to be up in 4 hours time to move the boat. Not a nice thought but it was well worth it.

Enjoy everyone and I'm sorry but I did tweet to say it was happening and if you were in Seahouses area and did not see it then I'm sorry but I did tell you.

 From the harbour towards the Farne Islands

The north beach


I wanted to knock on this campervan to tell them the aurora was happening but I knew that would not go down well at 2am

Through the key hole

Bamburgh golf club

Grace Darlings grave


That's it and I hope you like them.  Lets hope this winter will be a good one and remember always look north on a clear night as you never know what you might see.

Thanks for reading
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Friday, 14 August 2015

A night of Storms

Wednesday 12th 2015 was a fantastic night for storms, but not the storms you are thinking off.

It started with a text message about 7.30pm, saying "would I like to go out to go out to the Inner Farne to see some Storm Petrels" The second I read it I said Yes, and then I thought oh no, my boat is in the corner and it will be high and dry. My heart sunk but then they said they were not going to start until 10pm. Pheww as my boat would starting to float by then but it would be more like 11pm before I got out there. Not a problem at all I was told and before I knew it I was on the boat heading out to the Inner Farne.

Its a little bit weird going out in the pitch black and it does not bother me, but there was loads of lobster pot buoys around and I was scared I would hit one as that would not have been fun at all.
I managed to avoid all of them which is good news and it was not long before I reached my mooring at the Inner Farne. Once I was moored up the rangers came over on their zodiac to pick me up and take me onto the island.
Once I arrived and the zodiac was tied up, I looked up into the sky and it was crystal clear. The stars were shining brightly and the milky way was just beautiful. It felt a little bit strange being there during the night but at the same time peaceful.

The lads told me that they had already caught one and were hoping for more, so my fingers were crossed as I was desperate to see one. After a bit of a chat with everyone I went outside to take some photographs but I was not really sure where to start. Probably the excitement was getting to me.

I had hardly had a chance to set up my camera when I got a shout to say that they had caught one. I ran down to the Pele Tower as quick as I could, where they were just about to ring it and I was gob smacked just how small it was. I knew they are small but it's not until you see them in someone's hand do you realise how small they are. They say good things come in small bundles, well in this case they are true. What a cracking little bird and to think that they live their life on the sea, makes it even more special.

The lads ears must have been bleeding with all the questions I was asking, but if you don't ask you will never learn. After they ringed the bird they took it back down the water to release it.

I was buzzing as it was a lifer for me and so far this was a night I will remember for the rest of my life but that was not the end of it. After taking a few pictures of the meteor storm, which I was not really successful at I got another shout that they had caught another one.
This time it had got itself a little tangled so they were carefully getting it out if the net. While one of the lads slowly getting the net of it's wings another bird hit the net but quick as a flash they got it out before it struggled and got itself all tangled up. Great result.

If you are not sure how they are catching them, then what they do is put a special net up and have a tape recording of the birds call which makes them think they are close to a breeding colony and fly into the net. No harm is done to the bird and its great for studying these special seabirds.

After the guys ringed them and done all the data checks they once again released them down a the jetty. I was once again smiling like a Cheshire cat but as I looked over to the land I noticed the cloud rolling in so I decided to grab another couple of pictures before I headed home.

As I was taking a couple of pictures I looked a the camera and thought the lights of Holy Islands were really bright but then a few minutes later I got a text message saying that their was an aurora to the north. What a plonker and I thought it was the lights of Holy Island and all along it was an aurora.

A few more picture and then it was time to head home. Once I was close to Seahouses I looked at the clock and it was nearly 3am. Where does time go when your having fun, but at that moment in time I did not care at all as I saw things most people would never see in one night and I was a happy lad.

So there you have it, 3 storms in one night. The pictures are not very good sorry, as I was having loads of blonde moments with my camera.


 I hope you like the pictures and once again thank you for reading this blog.


Sunday, 9 August 2015

90 years and still going strong

The 10th August 2015 Europe’s largest conservation charity, the National Trust, celebrates 90 years of caring for the Farne Islands.
In the 90 years the Islands have become what the Trust describes as a ‘jewel in its wildlife crown’, with over 23 types of breeding seabirds living on the Islands including 40,000 pairs of puffins. It’s also one of the largest colonies of Atlantic grey seals in the UK.
In the last 90 years, there have been various landmarks for the Farne Islands in terms of site designations. The islands were one of the first designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest in 1951, and were later declared a National Nature Reserve in 1993.
I know I don't do any of the hard work that the rangers do behind the scenes but to be part of the bit of history makes me feel proud.
In my time around the Islands I have been lucky enough to see whales, dolphins, basking sharks and some cracking rare birds and the Farnes still holds the British record for passing little auks at 28,800 in November 2007.
Little Auk

Minkie Whale

Bottlenose Dolphins

Balearic Shearwater
Everyday the Farnes does something for everyone, whether it's seeing a puffin for the first time or diving with the seals it is a very special place and this is why the monitoring work carried out by the National Trust over the years has provided a valuable and significant data set for conservationists. 24,000 pairs of birds were nesting on the Islands in 1970, when serious counts began. This had risen to over 100,000 pairs at its peak in 2005. The Islands’ seabird population is now at around 86,000 pairs due in the main to the puffins. The population grew from around 11,000 pairs in 1970, demonstrating meteoric success and reaching 56,600 pairs in the mid 2000s. However the puffin census of 2008 revealed losses of 19,000 pairs, indicating a possible problem on the wintering grounds the previous year.
Every little sighting is so important for the Farnes as it's hugely important nature conservation work on the Farne Islands is carried out by teams of dedicated Rangers who live and work on the islands for up to nine months of the year. Life has changed from when the first wardens were first living on the Islands. Until the installation of solar power on Inner Farne in 2007, electricity was supplied by small, portable generators. Water is still transported over to the Islands by boat, and a weekly return to the mainland for a shower is a reality of life for the Ranger team and they are still connected to the outside world via the internet.
It was a lot different in John Walton's days and he can tell you some great stories, which I never get tired of  listening too. John has also got the scares to prove it, as a seal bite his leg while he was doing the seal counts. You see its not all glamour but if you talk to John he would not change a thing. Don't worry he is ok, as he is retired now but looks back at his life on the Farnes with wonderful memories.
John, said: “The Island team can get cut off. The classic tale was in the late 80s one December morning when the boat was due to take the seal team off the Islands. They indulged in a massive breakfast and a game of cricket with the remaining potatoes. Cue a sudden storm and the team were scouring the island, two days later, for the potatoes they'd used as cricket balls”.
Thank you John for your wonderful stories and enjoy your retirement.
Visitor numbers to the Islands have increased dramatically from when boats first began running trips to the Islands in 1918, and in 1970 the National Trust appointed the first Warden on the Islands, in order to better manage the increasing number of visitors.
 David Attenborough is also a fan, having said that in the UK, the Farnes are his favourite place to see nature at its best during the breeding season".
I hope the National Trust and all the people involved in the Farne Islands all the best for the next 90 years and they keep up the good work.
This post would not be the same without the fabulous puffin picture.

Thank you for reading

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Nearly the end

It's arrived at that time of the year again when all our breeding seabirds leave the Farne Islands. In a way I don't really like it and if it was up to me they would stay here all year long, but I know that's never going to happen. I suppose that's what makes the Farnes such a special place visit.

I know I get to see it day after day but you can never get bored of it and it always produces something different every year.

Don't worry there is still time to see some Puffins, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Shags but our Guillemots are nearly all gone now but for a handful left. We still have those inquisitive grey seals and of course we have our wintering birds starting to arrive now so it's not all doom and gloom.

I like this time of the year as you never know what you might see. Whether it's a Great Skua passing through or the Minkie Whales starting to arrive, the Farnes always keeps you on your toes and there's never a dull moment.

The Rangers have done all their counts for the year but we will have to wait until everything is totalled up before I can let you know how the breeding season has faired. Fingers crossed the seabirds did okay.

It's also that time of the year when some of the Rangers who are on short term contracts leave for pastures new and hopefully we will see them again next year. That's if they decide to come back and I know some of them would love to so fingers crossed they do.

Its been a big change around the Farnes this year and the guys have done a great job so they should be proud of themselves but this does not mean the season is over by any means. We still have the seals pups to arrive and fingers crossed we get some rare birds dropping in.

Here is a few pictures of how the islands look now and hopefully the Puffins hang around for a few more weeks so people can enjoy them.

The cliff tops are getting bare now.

Young Kittiwakes are taking their first flights

The Lonstone Island covered in seals.

Our guests enjoying the Sunset Cruises

Beautiful Sunset beside Bamburgh Castle

Angel of the North.
Arctic Terns getting ready for their long journey

Young Arctic Terns going up really quick now
This Puffin still had some nesting material
Fulmars enjoy the little bit of sun we have had this year. They will still be here for a little while yet.
Lots of Lions Mane jellyfish around.

It will not be long before these little fella's will be arriving.
I will keep you all updated as to when all the seabirds are gone.