Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Farne Islands 2016 Opening Times

Although the Farne islands are closed to visitors over the winter season, there is still plenty of work to keep the rangers busy. Ed Tooth, one of the island rangers, gives us a quick update.
"We are on the mainland and are already busy preparing for a new season. The boats are away for servicing, the report is being edited and we have finally got some warmth into our bones!
We also have some important news if you are planning on visiting us next year; the opening times.
Inner Farne will be open from the 1st of April until the 30th October from 10.30-18.00. Between and including May 1st and July 31st Inner Farne will be open from 13.15-17.45.

Staple Island will be open from 1st of May to 31st of July. The island will be open between 10.00 and 13.30.

This is, as always subject to the weather, and all we can say is that we hope that the summer of 2016 is better than that of 2015.

More information can be found on the national trust website regarding your visit.

We look forward to seeing you all on the islands in 2016!"

© Jane Lancaster

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The 2015 Seal Summary

So the figures are in, it’s been another bumper year for the Grey Seals Halichoerus grypus on the Farne Islands!

The Farne Islands are home to individuals year round and are an ideal breeding ground for the seals, for a number of reasons.  The islands have a plentiful supply of sand eels Ammodytes, which can make up around 70% of the seals diet, although they do take a variety of fish if the opportunity arises.  Secondly, the islands provide shelter in the form of haul out areas and suitable breeding sites.  Disturbance from human activity is also at a minimum and so with all of these factors combined it is easy to see why the population continues to increase.  This is great news for the grey seals as the UK holds 38% of the world’s population.

The place to be if you’re a weaned pup!   ©Ed Tooth
Grey Seals will pup in the autumn months, with varying start dates at different colonies.  Here on the Farnes we will usually see the first pup being born in September, with the main bulk being born from October to late December.  This year was no different with two pups discovered on the South Wamses on the 18th September.  Unfortunately, as with many pups born early in the season, they didn’t survive the first 24 hours.  We can only assume that they were washed away by the spring tides that we were experiencing at the time. 
The season kicked off proper on the 14th October with six pups born on the North Wamses and two on Brownsman.  From then on numbers rose steadily with a peak in mid-November when 187 new pups were found.    Traditionally the Outer Group of islands holds the majority of ‘rookeries’ and the seals there will typically pup much earlier than those on the Inner Group.  It really was a case of the rangers moving out and the seals moving in, as just a week after we moved off Inner Farne 21 new pups were found!
Weaned and ready (?) to go. ©Ed Tooth
After our last visit on the 14th December we had a grand total of 1876 pups born around the Farne Islands.  This is the highest number since the early 70’s and sees a 7.8% increase on last year. 
As we reach unprecedented numbers it will be interesting to see how the population fares.  We have already seen how dynamic the population between islands is, with a transfer of the main colonies from the North and South Wamses at the turn of the century to Brownsman and Staple in the current day. The former two islands had 1032 pups born whilst none were born on Staple island and only 10 on Brownsman.  Contrast that with 2015 and there is a dramatic difference with 655 on Brownsman, 566 on Staple, and only 489 on the North and South Wamses combined!  It is thought that the reason for this is that Staple and Brownsman afford more protection to the pups and so survival rates are higher on these islands.  This can also be seen in the mortality rate which was 27.5%.  Although this may seem high it is relatively low considering the bad weather we have had.  In the past we have seen mortality averaging at 40% when the main rookeries were based on the exposed islands of the Wamses.  

The obligatory but completely justified photo of a day old Grey seal pup.  ©Lana Blakely
Despite the wet and windy weather attempting to thwart our efforts to count the seal pups, the rangers were able to get out on a regular enough basis to carry out all of the necessary counts.  Many thanks to all of the seal team of 2015 for all of their hard work and enthusiasm.
We are now on the mainland and already preparing for the 2016 season. We hope to see you all out there soon!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Fancy a holiday?

We hope you all had a wonderful festive season and are settling into the New Year. As the deluge of rain batters against the window, the mind has a tendency to partake in a bit of holiday day-dreaming.

To give you a bit of inspiration, every year the ranger team on the Northumberland Coast host two working holidays and 2016 will be no different! It is always a brilliant week and in the past it has even been sunny (not to tempt fate).

Restoring paths in the dunes

Help to keep our coastline special by spending a week working in dunes and coastal habitat. Get stuck into a variety of conservation tasks from scrub clearing, to meadow management and path restoration.
A well deserved break while cutting back bramble

Although our holidays aren’t advertised in the brochure, we will be hosting two working holidays next year one from the 16th to the 23rd of July and another from the 15th to the 22nd of October. Accommodation is in the wonderful bunkhouse at Cragside estate and we promise a fun-filled and possibly muddy week.
Each week is £155 and you can book your place by ringing the National Trust Working Holiday office on: 0344 800 3099 using the codes below.
Saturday the16th to Saturday the 23rd of July: 16GTP286
Saturday the 15th to Saturday the 22nd of October: 16GTP287

Coastal grass management at St. Aidans dunes