Friday, 27 May 2011

Farne Islands Part II

So, to continue from the last post, we have now approached Inner Farne Island, known for its tern colonies. There are indeed Arctic terns everywhere, but on the tiny sandy beach near the landing point, ringed plovers were nesting and rearing their chicks.



Ringed plover
Charadrius hiaticula Linnaeus, 1758
Charadriidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Farne Islands, Northumberland, May 2011

This plover had three chicks which were following it around, but I couldn't photograph them. So, onto the Arctic terns...



Arctic tern
Sterna paradisaea Pontoppidan, 1763
Sternidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Farne Islands, Northumberland, May 2011

Arctic terns are one of the bird world's greatest wonders; annually they make a round trip of over 70,000 km (>44,000 miles) from the extreme north to the extreme south of the globe and back again, to take advantage of ideal breeding conditions in the northern summer, and ideal feeding conditions in the southern summer. Of course, the Farnes are nowhere near the Arctic, but the isolated and predator free islands provide a haven for not just these terns but other species too.



Arctic tern in flight
Details as above



Eiders (male on left and right, female behind)
Somateria mollissima (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
Farne Islands, Northumberland, May 2011

There were eiders on nests and females with ducklings scattered around the interior of the island, but on one of the coasts there were a few males.



Razorbills
Alca torda Linnaeus, 1758
Alcidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Farne Islands, Northumberland, May 2011

There were again masses of kittiwakes, shags, puffins, and guillemots on this island, as well as a few more razorbills.



Sandwich terns
Sterna sandvicensis (Latham, 1787)
Sternidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Farne Islands, Northumberland, May 2011

Although they are by far the most numerous tern species on Inner Farne, the Arctic tern is not the only one. Interspersed are a few common terns (S. hirundo), which are almost indistinguishable from the Arctic terns, and maybe the odd roseate tern (S. dougallii), which is very rare with only a few breeding pairs in any one year. Slightly more numerous however, are the Sandwich terns, named after the Kentish town I presume and not the snack food. They are noticeably bigger than the Arctic terns and have a shaggy crest and black bill tipped with yellow. The only colony I saw on Inner Farne was close to the centre of the island and fairly distant.



Arctic tern divebombing
Details as above

Because the terns nest so close (foolishly close?) to where people walk, the terns defend their eggs and chicks by divebombing passers-by. We were all advised to wear hats, and as mine didn't blow away despite the winds picking up, it proved quite useful against beak-inflicted scalp bleeding. It's more comical than anything really, although I'm sure the wardens and other staff who are exposed to them every day would say otherwise. Almost like something out of a certain Alfred Hitchcock film, but with a comedy element, and too cute to be sinister.



Atlantic puffin
Fratercula arctica (Linnaeus, 1758)
Alcidae; Charadriiformes; Aves; Chordata
Farne Islands, Northumberland, May 2011

The puffins were the co-star of the island along with the Arctic terns, because, although they were much more civilised and less noisy, they waddled along and flew about in a charismatic yet slightly undignified way. Puffins built their burrows close to the boardwalk in many places, and I was to be rewarded for my sitting in sea bird droppings with this excellent view:



Atlantic puffin
Details as above



Atlantic puffin
Details as above



Arctic tern
Details as above

That's it for my Farne Islands trip, I had an excellent time that can't be described in words. If you haven't seen tens of thousands of seabirds in the same place with your own eyes, not to mention smelled and heard them too, this description can hardly do it justice.

On a final note, as a group, the nine of us on the trip from London to Northumberland and back in two days amounted to exactly 100 bird species seen. I didn't see all of those, but came close. While totting up our list on the way back, we discovered not one of those eighteen eyes or ears had spotted probably the most ubiquitous and widely known bird in the UK, the robin. Grey plovers, an osprey, and a thousand puffins, but no robin. Although, just days previously, one flew into my house for all of five seconds before darting out again. That's irony for you.

1 comment:

read more said...

This is a very kind approach. To tell you the truth I want to start a mission like that. Help and teach children on their fundamental needs such as learning. Teach them how to take care the environment as well as the animals around.