Farne Islands, England - 4th - 6th June 2011

Published by Ray Kite (raymond.kite AT care4free.net)

Participants: Marcus Conway my professional guide


Guide - Marcus Conway ,
email - info@ebirder.net,
Mobile - (44) 7957 123274

The objective was to photograph Puffins particularly with sand eels in their beaks, this is the best time to achieve this. As before the eggs hatch the puffins are in their burrows and once fledged they fly straight from the burrow to sea. The latter is normally around early mid July.

Marcus had organised for us to go on a day ticket on one of the Billy Shields boats from Seahouses. This involves going first to the Outer Farnes, and the boat getting close to the cliffs of Staple Island to enable you to see a myriad of seabirds congregating/flying around. The shear density is amazing particularly the Guillemots. We went for two days and the first day in what they call the barge was best being smaller and with a lower draft we were able to get in very close, just a few feet.

On the rocks cliffs we saw Guillemots, 'bridled' Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Shags, Kittiwakes, Black-headed Gulls. On the lower lying islands there were Atlantic Seals who use the Farnes as their nursery.

We then landed on Staple Island where you can get very close to the Puffins, they seem to hold no fear of humans. It is possible to get some very good photos of all the residents that you saw from the boat. You spend approximately 2 hours on the island and then re-board the boat to go to the Inner Farnes where again you land, during this trip and the one out the captain of the boat gives a good running commentary of the birds to be seen and the history of the islands and the ship wrecks and rescues that have taken place.

On the Inner Farne island you need to be prepared to be attacked by the Arctic Terns as they nest very close to the board walk, so a hat is essential. Here you will see the Puffins being attacked by Black-headed Gulls who want to steal the sand eels that they have flown out to the Dogger Bank (20 miles each way) to collect. It is interesting to see the tactics used by the Puffins to avoid losing their catch.

The nesting birds including Fulmars & Kittiwakes are all very close and easy to photograph and sometimes there is so much going on that it is difficult to know where to point the camera.

Before we went out to the Farne islands we photographed the Eider ducks and their broods in Seahouses harbour.

If you like bird photography a visit to the Farnes is a must especially if you have good weather which we did. I would also thoroughly recommend Marcus as a guide, his knowledge of the birds makes it all the more interesting and he has local knowledge for other species particularly in Scotland.

Species Lists

Guillemots – common & spectacled (bridled)
Gulls – black headed –
Gannets (in flight)
Terns – Arctic – Common – Sandwich
Pipits –Meadow –Rock