2016 07 - Farne Islands

28th July 2016
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
27th June 2016
Images by Neil & Jane Brownly, Jayne Mair and Joy Allison.

Farne Islands Photography

Twelve members have been following in the footsteps of Springwatch with a visit to the Farne Islands. After an enjoyable trip in 2015 when, in addition to seeing the birds, we got to know each other better, there was an immediate take up of the offer to return this year.
Organiser Jane Brownley and husband Neil dive in the area and used their contacts to secure us excellent accommodation. The boat captain advised the date to get the best tide for the crossing to enable us to land on first Staple Island then Inner Farne.

The presence of the BBC film crew on the islands during the period before we travelled shone the spotlight on the terrible weather the islands had experienced and the drastic effect it had on the birds and their chicks. When we arrived it was by no means certain that we would be able to land on the islands, which had been closed for three days in advance of our booked date. The final decision was made by the National Trust, owners of the islands, only half an hour before we were to board.

Everyone was delighted that we were given the go ahead with just a half hour delay. We boarded eagerly and soon completed the short crossing to Staple Island in the remains of the mist and low cloud. There was a swell which made the disembarkation interesting, but the experienced boatmen helped everyone ashore quickly and safely.
Despite plans to climb the steps quickly and head for the far side of the island the fascination of so many birds in such a small space; the interactions of the individual birds in the crowd and the ever-delightful puffins had us captivated from the first and cameras were soon out and clicking.

The dull conditions were more of a challenge photographically, especially when trying to capture the birds in flight, but the bonus was that after the poor fishing in the bad weather, they were all working hard to make up for the shortfall and flying constantly.

There were plenty of guillemots, shags and puffins as well as different species of gull to draw our attention. The puffins with their beaks full of sand eels were having to run the gauntlet of the black headed gulls and herring gulls which were intent on stealing their catch. Springwatch tells us this behaviour is called 'kleptoparsitism' and it makes life hard for the puffins.

During the two hours we had on the island we were fortunate to see a small group of eider duck chicks being led by two females to the sea and the crossing to the mainland where we had seen others gathered in the harbour.

The boat returned to transfer us to Inner Farne, pausing during the trip to give us a view of the common seals both swimming and hauled out on the rocks just to the north of this island.
Arriving at Inner Farne we donned our hats to protect our heads before had to climb the path under attack from Arctic terns. Some choose to nest close to the path as they are less afraid of humans than the gulls which predate on their chicks, so the visitors afford them some protection, but they still attack the heads of most who pass.

Arriving by the lighthouse at the top of the island the sun had come out and we found ourselves removing most of the layers we had worn against the expected cold, wind and rain. A glorious afternoon followed when we were able to photograph the terns and more puffins. By the time we returned to the mainland the sea was calm and the fog was starting to roll in behind us, so we had definitely had the best of the day.

Thanks to Jane and Neil for organising everything, including getting us on the islands two years running against the odds. It was a great chance for members to spend time socialising as well as photographing and bodes well for the display of bird photos we shall be mounting at the Festival of Bird Art in the Agricultural Hall, Bakewell over the weekend of 10th and 11th September.