Posted by: orcaweb | July 2, 2010

Orca Wildlife Officers visit the Farnes

I travelled to Northumberland to explore the North east coast before returning to the  King of Scandinavia.  Working on board ships that dock in the UK and Scandinavia ports gives you the chance to explore and appreciate these areas of coastline.  Northumberland is an understated quiet area of the North East coastline with many hidden gems.  Taking time to explore this historically and naturally rich County is a fascinating experience.  Camping at Beadnell Bay near Bamburra Castle I met Martin from Northern Experience tours.  After watching a Little, Artic and Sandwich tern colony on a beach nearby we travelled to Seahouses harbour to get on Billy Shiels boat to the Farnes.  I have visited a few seabird colonies recently but none like this one! I can now understand all the enthusiastic whispering about the Farnes that I have heard over the years.

July is a great time to experience seabird colonies.  The chicks are hatched out on the nests and adults are flying in with bills of seafood.  After watching these sea birds for years at sea it’s an opportunity to watch their lives on terra-firma.  The kittiwakes and fulmars had 2 fluffy grey chicks on the  upper cliffs, the shags sometimes up to 4 large brown chicks on a huge dinosaur nest on the flat tops to feed!  On inner Farnes Artic terns protect their small tortoiseshell camouflaged protégée by warning the human intruders with a gentle peck to the head (hats are a advisable accessory, sticks are definitely not!).  Other chicks out on show were guillemots, a few razorbills, herring black headed gulls.  Typically all of the babies looked equally beautiful (Martin did not agree about the gull ones!)  Only the little pufflins remained hidden in their burrows.   And who can blame them with the constant attacks on their parents by black headed gulls as they returned with food causing them to jump into the nearest burrow!

Some of the seabirds welcome the human intrusion as we keep some predators at bay and studies have shown a cost benefit to Artic terns especially.  Of course keeping to the paths and not causing any extra prolonged stress to the birds is vital to their success still.  Back on the boat back to the mainland and Martin spotted harbour porpoises, Lionsmain and moon jellies along the busy auk runway to the breeding ground.   With lots of grey seals peering out of the sea around the island this really was an unmissable wildlife experience.

With all this activity on land and the season progressing I was left wondering how things will have changed at sea. These rocky outcrops and cliffs soon deserted the birds fledge and are out to sea again.  Besides this the sea is warming and calm waters will reveal many new wonders for sure.


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Kathryn Driscoll  Senior Wildlife Officer for ORCA Organisation Cetacea

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