Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Fabulous Farne Islands

I've wanted to go visit as soon as I realised you could.  Peter on the other hand, did not have quite my enthusiasm. "You want to go on a boat, to see birds?" was his comment.

Me of course, I love the birds, and studying them.  I love their colours and shapes, their patterns and their noise. I want to learn everything about them, understand them and watch them.  In fact, I could watch them for hours.

Peter just thinks they're birds.

OK, so it takes nearly two hours to drive there from Richmond.  And OK, the trip to Staple Island that I had wanted for us to go on wasn't available.  But, having just completed the trip to Inner Farne, we can't recommend Billy Shiels Farne Island boat trip highly enough.  And I mean we.  Peter really enjoyed it too.  Definitely value for money, and definitely worth the drive and our time.  We enjoyed it so much, we got off the boat at the end and asked each other "Can we go again?"
I've deleted over 100 photo's and I still have 181 left, which of course made it very difficult to select which ones to put on here.

First there was the little boat trip/tour showing us the islands in general. This is Staple Island, the one that I had hoped we could land on.
The Pinnacles just off Staple Island
I picked this one because of the bird flying.  Looks odd doesn't it.  These are Guillemots and Kittiwakes
You can't even begin to work out how many there are.
Moving on from Staple Island, we were taken to see the grey seal colony.
I was dead chuffed with this picture, cos I didn't even know I'd taken it, and it was quite hard to get a photo of the seals in the water. 
Big mama seals.  The bulls are bigger and black.  
So cute.  This must be a very late pup, as there was only one other that looked like a youngster.  Normally, the pups are born in the Autumn.
From what I can make out, there are tours to see the grey seals available in October, check out the NT site for more info National Trust - Farne Islands

After the seals, a look at the lighthouse from where Grace Darling did her thing.
The Longstone lighthouse from where Grace Darling spotted the wrecked ship and then went with her father in a rowing boat to rescue the survivors.
  For those of you who need reminding of the story, there is a whole website dedicated to her: Grace Darling  
So, after our little tour, we were taken to Inner Farne, where we could get off the boat and have a walk round, we were given an hour and 15 mins. 

Inner Farne is tiny.  People have got bigger back gardens!  But I have to say, for us, an hour and a quarter just wasn't enough time.  We absolutely loved it.  Here are the pictures:

Arctic Terns

Aggressive little beggars - they attack as you walk past.  We were advised to put hats on, but they can still hurt with them sharp little beaks.

They are only protecting their nests, which are right alongside the walkway.  You have to be careful where you put your feet lest you stand on eggs, or chicks, or a sitting bird.
When you see this coming towards you, you duck.
 Beautiful birds though, and this one is in a much happier mood.  He was only a few feet away from my camera.

Black-headed Gulls
Black-headed Gulls have chocolate brown heads.  These seem like nesting in the same area as the Puffins.
I think there might have been more Guillemots than any other type of bird.  There are also Shags and Kittiwakes nesting on these cliffs. 
Unlike the other birds on the island, the Guillemots seemed to keep well away from the visitors.  I managed to get pictures of these chicks using Peter's camera.
Some of the Guillemots have a white ring around their eye, with a line to the back of the head, a bit like they've overdone it with the white eyeliner. These are called Bridled Guillemots, although I don't know why, we saw a few, and there doesn't appear to be any racism amongst the birds, they were quite happy mixing n breeding with the non bridled Guillemots.  

I only got one clear picture of a Kittiwake. They tended to stay away from the people too. Very noisy birds, but pretty too. 
Easy to mix up with Guillemots from a distance.  I really like these, especially with those white go faster stripes on the bill

Sandwich Tern
A noisy group of Sandwich Terns nesting away from the visitors walkway.  I like the black crests, a bit like a loose toupee in the wind.
This bird still has unhatched eggs.  But many Shags had nests of two or three large furry chicks.
Not a pretty bird.  When you see them like this, it's easy to imagine their reptilian ancestry.
I saved the cutest till last (or nearly till last).

I must of taken 50 photo's of empty sky and fuzzy things whizzing past, trying to get this picture.  It was like Kings Cross Station - birds coming in with beaks full of sand eels, and birds flying out to get more. 

All in all a wonderful wonderful trip.  Highly recommended, even if you're like Peter and not that interested in birds. 

And finally, just cos it's my blog and I can, a couple of pictures taken at Seahouses. 

Cormorants and Shags do not have the oils that other sea birds have to make their feathers waterproof.  That's why you often see them stood like this - they're drying out!
Ducks on the sea seemed so wrong, especially with chicks.  I quite like the way I seem to have caught three gents in various stages of dress here.  The white one still has his winter plumage, and you can see two others going through the change to their summer plumage.  
All just fantastically fabulous as far as I'm concerned.  Definitely a trip to do again, and definitely worth the money.  £15 for the boat trip, and £6.80 to the National Trust to go onto the island, (unless you're members of course).   


  1. That looks brilliant. Love the bird photo's. Like doing that sort of thing when the chance comes along. Great stuff :-)

    1. Thanks Andy. Me too. I'm looking forward to getting back, but the season is only really May, June and July.

  2. We love the photographs of the birds! :¬)

    1. Thanks Sylvia. I did take so many. The birds were fascinating.

  3. Really enjoyed that Tracey. Lovely pictures and you've made me want to journey back there sometime soon. Love Northumberland in general as well.

    1. Thanks RP. I'd wanted to go back the next day. A fantastic place. And you're right about Northumberland, that's a really good place to visit too. :-)