Sunday, 19 April 2015

An Update from the Farne Islands

The 2015 Farne Islands season is underway and it has been all go since the Rangers gathered on the 16th of March so here is a brief summary of what has happened so far. Firstly, some introductions.

This year you will see some familiar faces with three of last year’s Farnes Rangers; David Roche, Ed Tooth and Lana Blakely all returning. The National Trust also cares for a Tern conservation site at Long Nanny and last year’s Little Tern Rangers Wynona Legg and Nathan Wilkie have migrated north from Beadnell Bay. Izzy Morgan, another previous Little Tern Ranger, is excited to have returned to Northumberland while Dan Wynn has moved from one National Trust coast to another.
We have been busy preparing the islands for visitors for the last few weeks, including restoration work on sections of tired old boardwalk, strimming the areas the Terns use for nesting, scrubbing the jetties and generally giving the place a good old clean.
While the Rangers have been busy applying the finishing touches before they moved out to the islands, the birds have also been busy. Having spent the winter at sea, they are now returning to the islands for the summer. Puffins are spring cleaning their burrows, Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes are vying for the best ledges and Shags are building nests, with the early birds now on eggs. We have found the first of what will be many Mallard nests on the islands this year, and a pair of Eider were seen prospecting the central meadow for a good nest site. We have at least 215 Sandwich Terns around the islands now, including two that were sporting Darviks rings. It turns out both of these birds were ringed at the Ythan Estuary in Aberdeenshire, in 2010 and 2011. There has also been an Arctic tern and more remarkably a Little Tern; this is the earliest a Little Tern has been recorded by 8 days. Also attracting interest are a pair of Mediterranean Gulls that have been displaying in the Blacked-headed Gull Colony. We will keep you up-to-date with what would represent a first breeding record for the Farnes.

As far as migrating birds are concerned, it’s been a somewhat slow start. Our first trip to the islands produced a Stonechat, the first on the islands since October 2013 having become rare since a winter population crash in 2010. This was followed by a showy Red-necked Grebe swimming in the sheltered waters around Inner Farne. There was then a bit of a wait until the Farnes finally received its first Wheatear and a few days later a Chiffchaff. We have now recorded our first Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin which have come with the sunshine this week.  This slow start was mirrored along the rest of the East coast as Westerly winds put a temporary halt to spring migration. As far as rare and scarce birds go, a first winter Glaucous Gull just off North Rocks on 15 April provided excitement for the team.
For breaking news follow us on twitter @NTFarneIslands - we hope to welcome you to the Farne Islands soon.

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