Farne Isle 2008

Inner Farne Isle

Moby Dick Will Be Along Shortly

June 18th - 21st 2008

Longstone Lighthouse - The Farne Islands
The Farne Islands are situated between 2 to 5 miles
off The Northumberland Coast. There are 28 islands in total, 15 of which can be seen at high tide, with the largest island being Inner Farne.
Historically the Farne Islands are associated with St Aidan
and St Cuthbert, both of whom used the islands as a place to mediate in utter solitude.
The Northumberland heroine, Grace Darling spent most of her short life on the lighthouses here, first on Brownsman's Island and then on Longstone Island.
A 30 minute boat trip, departing from Seahouses brings in excess of 45,000 visitors to the islands throughout the year.
The most rewarding months being May, June and July when tens of thousands of birds are roosting.
Puffin - The Farne IslandsThe islands are the summer home of four of the five species of British tern, as well as twelve other species of seabird, including puffins (also known as the 'Sea Parrot' and locally known as the 'Tommy Noddy'), guillemots and kittiwakes.
Another notable resident of the Farne Islands is the grey seal (also known as the Atlantic grey seal), and the colonies here are one of the most important in Europe.
This species of seal is the largest surviving carnivore in the British Isles.
The islands being in the care of the National Trust are a very popular destination for lovers of wildlife, for nowhere in the British Isles are such a variety of seabirds to be seen in such a small area.
Longstone Lighthouse, or Outer Farne as it was first called, is situated on Longstone Rock, one of the Outer Staple Islands. Visitors can sail out to this isolated Lighthouse, which is open to the public during the months of April to October.
Visitors can view Grace Darling's tiny bedroom from where she spotted nine survivors desperately clinging to the rocks. Despite a raging storm, the Darlings launched the lighthouse boat and rescued the survivors, caring for them in the lighthouse for two days until the storm subsided.
Grey Seals - The Farne Islands
In the late autumn of 2007, two basking sharks measuring in the region of 20 feet in length were spotted offshore around The Farne Islands. This is the first time these gentle giants have been seen in this area, and only the 17th time they have been seen off the north east coast. The two sharks fed on plankton for six days before swimming off, perhaps migrating to warmer waters.
A few days later, a ten feet long basking shark was washed up on Fisherrow Beach (Musselburgh) in East Lothian, despite considerable effort, the young shark was unable to be saved.
Puffin Census 2008...
For nine-months during 2008, the five-year census of the puffin breeding colony takes place. This survey is carried-out by The National Trust, whose nine wardens live in the 16th century pele tower on Inner Farne for the duration of this count.
Up to 60,000 breeding pairs are counted by the wardens during this period, with both male and female Puffins looking identical and bonding for life. The breeding season starts in May and by August the Puffins are ready to return to their pelagic life once again.
Accommodation on the Farne Islands...
For the general public no accommodation is available.
National Trust resident wardens are the only persons able to stay on the islands,
five or so of whom live on Inner Farne for about nine months a year.
The nearest accommodation can be found on the mainland, in and around Seahouses.
The trip was really about visiting the Farne Isles off the coast of Northumberland, and having the opportunity to get up close to breeding Puffins, Arctic Terns, Razorbill, Kittiwakes and Shag to name but a few. The trip not only gave us great views of birds but also quite good photo opportunities as the close proximity to birds that are normally only seen at great distance was very nice.

A boat trip was organised in advance with Billy Shiel boat trips. Billy is well known for these but there are plenty of others that are willing to take your hard earned. We chose to book in advance as I know that at this time of year the trips would become quite popular. Several different trips are available taking in different islands whether that be just single island trips with quick visits or longer multiple island stops. We thought the two island trip to Inner Farne and Staple would be best suited to us as it would give us longer on each island with at least 2 hours being given on each. If you would like more info on the trips please click on the photo below and this will take you to the Billy Shiels' page.

Accommodation was also pre-booked and it was wise to do so as a lot of B&B seemed full in Seahouses or the close by village of Beadnell. Having searched quite a bit for reasonable accommodation at fair prices I eventually came across what looked like an ideal B&B just a two minute drive away from the harbour on a quiet residential area in Seahouses called " Ne Oublie House " Here a double garage had been converted into a self contained "Granny Flat". The price was very good for the three night stay so we booked and would highly recommend this B&B if you are visiting the area. Again please click on the photo below to go to the B&B page.

The owners Sandra & Mac made us very welcome and were good company when we ventured into the conservatory for breakfast. The breakfast is legendary and I can recommend it very much. The fact that the accommodation is detached from the house is great as you can come and go as you please without imposing on anybody. The room is very clean and tidy and all you will require is given to you from crockery, heaters, fans, biscuits, tv and even bottle openers, kettles and hair drier. We would like to thank Sandra in particular for a superb stay and a very welcoming attitude it was a pleasure.
We had booked the trip for Thursday the 19th and off we went to the harbour where a car park can be parked on all day for £4. At this point I would strongly urge that before you park and pay at the car park you check that the boats are running as weather can be hard to judge when onland as the weather around the islands can be quite different. This was the case so having paid £4 for car parking we were initially told that the trip was off! We were down to go at about 10:00 with a two island trip and return journey lasting about 6 hours. We were in the end given the option of going at about 12:30 that day but we would only be taken to Inner Farne but we would be given at least 3 hours on the island rather that the normal 2 -21/2 hours. The price for the two island trip was £25 per person and we were offered this new trip for £20 each. I felt that was a little unfair as a single  trip they run to the inner Farne where 11/2 hours on the island is given is only £12 but I know others say that 1 1/2 hours is not long enough. We had to accept this as the reason for the break was about this trip to Farne and there was no guarantee that a trip tomorrow would be available.

Having got over this we were on the harbour for 12:20 and soon on our way onboard Glad Tidings lll. The boat was ram jam full with many birders and a lot of big lens brigade. The trip over gave a little sea spray but nothing to bad as the wind soon dried you out. I would strongly advise wearing waterproof clothing inc trousers as on the return trip it was a very different crossing which resulted in very soggy trousers for many who like me had only taken a waterproof jacket. Another word of warning........ it is best not to sit on the outer edges of the boat as this is where others rued there choice of seat as they acted as the first human sea wall!. It was actually quite funny for most of us as you just could not stop giggling as another wave breached the wall and landed on your lap. I was just so glad that it was not raining on the journey to and from the island. On the return journey I am quite sure the captain also laughed as over the tannoy he addressed us all to say " now the winds have freshened a little so we are expecting a little sea spray but I am hoping you will not get wet although I cannot guarantee it" At this point I turned to Mandy and said that I could swear I heard a chorus of laughter from inside the dry confines of the cabin!!! How right I was as I am sure that we were all a good subject of fun as the waves soaked into peoples fleeces and slowly emptied through the bottom of your trousers!
Anyway we were given good views of Grey Seals around the islands and all were given a chance to take photos as the boat was moved around so that all were given a good sighting. On landing on Inner Farne our fees of £11 for the two of us to the National Trust was handed over and instruction was given to all on the boat that to be very vigilant as chicks  and eggs were very susceptible to stepping on due to the closeness to nesting birds to the walkways and vegetation. We were told the blue rope was not to be crossed at all be either foot or tripod legs as nest are hidden in the vegetation.
Straight away on the way up the intruction to wear a hat was well founded as the Arctic Terns took to the air and attacked your head with quite some impact.
Here Arctic Terns check for any grey hair!

The weather was very changeable and at first as the winds got up it was very cold. After the wind and rain had stopped it remained dry throughout and the sun soon shone and began warming us up. Obviously the wind was a constant problem with photography but Mandy had chosen to take her 100-300 F4 lens without the teleconverter so whilst not as much reach would be attained the lens would be a lot faster and more use for any flight shots.

It is quite an experience to be able to get quite close to these birds and as you can see the pictures show that even with a 300mm lens you can get acceptable results yet sadly even though warning was given to photographers not to put their tripod legs beyond the blue ropes at least 4 people with 500 and 600mm lenses thought this did not mean them. Their tripod legs at some points were 2 foot beyond the blue ripe into deep vegetation where they would never know if they had just wrecked a nest or worse crushed young. Why do some photographers feel this is OK? It is not and you are pretty much as low as you can get as even when I mentioned there actions the shrug of the shoulders was all I got. Next time I shall be testing the strength of carbon fibre! Utter, and excuse, arseholes.

It's funny but the time was flying by as you sought out a perfect shot. The Puffins stayed at some distance on the whole which was a shame but others waddled around or even built a nest quite close so the best of the situation was made.

If a trip to Northumberland is fancied then a trip to Farne is a must even if for any reason this is not possible due to weather or availability then many other birding and wildlife opportunities are in abundance from the National Trust wildflower meadows at St Mary's church around an old RAF workings, to the nesting Little and Common Terns on the beach at long nanny. Walking can be done with great enjoyment unless you are the person we came across that was shouting in vain for his dog that had decided it's chance of freedom was best done whilst off the lead and at the seaside! All we could hear for miles was the owners constant name calling of the dog, the same dog we renamed Steve McQueen!!

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