Northumberland Remembered - 1 - The Farne Islands.

Now that the Summer is winding-down to Autumn (did we HAVE a Summer?) I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at a week spent on the Northumberland Coast at Seahouses. This meant that The Farnes, Holy Island and Craggside (National Trust) would be easily accessible. On this little odyssey we were joined by our son who definitely has the knack for spotting the special bird! (Look at his excellent blog (after reading this) at 

It seems only natural to start by reviewing the Farnes` visit as this wonderful reserve is often the key reason for us birders to visit this area. The seabirds are incredibly close (perhaps too close for one`s comfort if the protective hat has been forgotten) and the Grey Seals viewed during the boat ride just add to the experience! (If you are not a good sailor then some form of anti-throwing up medicine is recommended as the swell can be much higher around the islands than one might expect). The pups are born in the Autumn so it was just adults that were visible in June when we visited. 

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Grey Seal.

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Grey Seal.

And who is this chap????

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During our week at Seahouses a combination of very low Spring Tides and a high swell meant that we could only land on Inner Farne (the `main` island) but this was fine as all of the species of bird can be observed here. Furthermore, as Springwatch was filming on the islands that week we were treated to a close encounter (!) of the `hero` kind! It was particularly notable that Iolo was only too pleased to have his photograph taken with many visitors as he waited to board his own boat with the rest of the BBC crew in spite of the fact that he had probably been up and about since well before dawn. It was amusing to watch husbands with lenses suited for bird photography trying to stand back far enough without falling off the pier...

Still, it was the birds that were the main attraction (really!): several species can be seen and photographed before landing on the island with a little luck and a fast auto-focus. The guillemots can be seen resting on the water surface as one approaches the islands.

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Eider Ducks are also plentiful here; presenting a tricky photo-opportunity as the boat wallows in the swell!
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Off course it is the Puffin which everyone wants to see...
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Once off the boat and on the footpath heading up to the small visitor center, the noise of all those thousands of birds really hits home. One is immediately `greeted` by the Arctic Terns nesting right next (or sometimes ON) the path. A hat is advisable...

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The chance to watch and photograph these amazing travelers so easily (special camera equipment really is not necessary) is one of those unique privileges enjoyed by those of us lucky to live in this great country...

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The Sandwich Terns should not be missed near the middle of the island; more distant but easily studied through binoculars. These birds are often seen in harbours and on the shoreline of the mainland as well.

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Sandwich Tern returning to the colony.
A glance at the Flikr feed will demonstrate how easily other seabirds may be photographed at close quarters including Shags, Ringed Plovers, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gulls. It is however the PUFFINS that steal the show!
I had wanted to photograph these iconic birds with sand-eals in their beaks and flying as well for years. This year it was possible to achieve both - thanks in no small part to the improved autofocus of the Mark II 100-400mm Canon L Lens.

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We shall have to return...

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Arctic Tern.

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