Farne Islands~July 2018~Part 3~ The Others

Part 1 HERE. Part 2 HERE

As well as Puffins, various other sea birds breed and nest on the Farne Islands. Here are a few of them.

Kittiwakes are one of the most abundant birds around the Farne Islands. They make a nest of mud and straw which often has to be rebuilt as they are easily washed from the rocks by either torrential rain or heavy seas.

Living on the edge


finding a moment of solitude

The Arctic tern is famous for its migration; it flies from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again each year, the shortest distance between these areas being 19,000 km (12,000 mi). The long journey ensures that this bird sees two summers per year and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. One example of this bird’s remarkable long-distance flying abilities involves an Arctic tern ringed as an unfledged chick on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK, in the northern summer of 1982, which reached Melbourne, Australia in October 1982, just three months from fledging — a journey of over 22,000 km (14,000 mi).

They also have very sharp beaks, and dive bomb people arriving on the Islands to keep them from their chicks and eggs, which they stupidly lay right next to the path we all have to walk up!

bogie at 1 o’clock!

The shag bears a close resemblance to the cormorant~ so much so that it often causes it to be mis-identified as the latter. When seen alongside each other, the differences can be more readily seen. The shag is a dark bottle green colour and is approximately three quarters the size of the cormorant. During the early part of the breeding season, the shag has a crest on the top of its head which drops back down when it has mated.

yep, my crest is definitely down!


Guillemots, like the puffins and the very similar looking relation the razorbill are members of the auk family of seabirds. They don’t build a nest, instead they lay a pear-shaped egg on the bare surface of the rock, which, if kicked or bumped will spin in a circle and not be knocked off. A few weeks after the guillemot chick hatches it will jump from the rock, still unable to fly, into the water where it will feed for the first time, being taught by its parents. Many of the guillemot chicks do not survive this transition and in late June of 2004, thousands of chicks died due to poor weather conditions. Approximately 3% of the guillemot population at the Islands are “bridled”, these birds have a white ring around each eye with a white streak leading to the back of their heads, which almost makes them look as if they are wearing spectacles.

Perfect eyesight here thanks.

The razorbill is very similar in shape and size to the Guillemot, the main visible differences being that the razorbill is a much more blackish colour compared to the dark brown of the guillemot. It also has a much squarer shaped bill with a white diagonal streak on the end and a white line leading back to the eyes.

No I’m not a ruddy Guillemot see? White lines!

Lots of different types of gulls too, Lesser Black Backed (try saying that after a sherbert or two!) Great Black-Backed, Herring, Black Headed, but I didn’t catch all of them

yes I’m a Black Backed, not sure if Greater or Lesser though, but I think I’m great!


Black Headed Gull. (I know, I know, it’s got a brown head, whoever named them was a knob with poor eyesight).

And of course, the Island is also populated with photographers at this time of year

Camouflage guy, so the birds can’t see him I guess 🙂


Mrs Orange taking a picture of….




Mr. Serious Ornithologist.

So that’s the end of our day out on the Farne Islands.  Stay tooned for next time when we are going back in time, to several wars!

All pictures embiggenable and full album HERE

Farne Island – July 2018- Part 2- Puffin-fest

Puffins!!  This is the main reason we go to the Farne Islands, to see the huge colony of  puffins that come here to breed and we try to get some in-flight shots, which are SO difficult because the buggers fly at supersonic speed! There are 3 types of Puffins but here in the UK we get the Atlantic Puffins.

Puffins form long-term pair bonds or relationships. The female lays a single egg, and both parents incubate the egg and feed the chick (or “puffling”).

kisses ❤

The Dads dig out the nests, or use rabbit burrows if there are any about. 
Puffins eat both fish and zooplankton but feed their chicks primarily with small marine fish several times a day. The prey species of the Atlantic puffin include sandeel, herring and capelin. They also have the ability to hold several (sometimes over a dozen) small fish at a time, crosswise in their bill, rather than regurgitating swallowed fish. This allows them to forage far wider than your bog-standard one-fish-at-a-time sea bird, as they bring back much more food in one go. And I think it’s much more pleasant than vomitting up into your chicks gob!

Now’s not the time to ask a question.

Puffins are hunted for eggs, feathers and meat. Atlantic puffin populations drastically declined due to habitat destruction and exploitation during the 19th century and early 20th century. They continue to be hunted in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. In fact  the Atlantic puffin forms part of the national diet in Iceland, where the species does not have legal protection. Puffins are hunted by a technique called “sky fishing”, which involves catching the puffins in a big net as they dive into the sea. 
Their meat is commonly featured on hotel menus. The fresh heart of a puffin is eaten raw as a traditional Icelandic delicacy- seriously guys??   On the small Icelandic island of Grimsey as many as 200 puffins can be caught in a single morning

Lads I think we’d best cancel that holiday to Iceland!

Puffin populations are in decline.  Puffin records on the Northumberland coast archipelago date back to 1939 when 3,000 breeding pairs were recorded, and every census until 2008 showed a steady increase in pairs. But in 2008 numbers fell by a third, from 55,674 to 36,835. This is thought largely due to the impacts of climate change.

gonna be lonely on Farne

Erpur Snær Hansen, director of ecological research at the South Iceland Nature Centre, says  if surface sea temperatures remain at current levels or higher, the entire puffin population of south and west Iceland will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years.  Maybe if they didn’t eat so many…

landing gear down

Although the puffins are noisy and shouty at their breeding colonies, they are silent at sea. They fly relatively high above the water, typically 10 m (33 ft) as compared with the 1.6 m (5.2 ft) of other birds.

silent running

Next time we’ll look at some of the other inhabitants on Inner Farne, but here’s a few more puffin pictures until then..

fasten your seatbelts and prepare for lift off
Make sure you’re home by 10, this isn’t a bloody hotel you know!


Farne Islands – July 2018 – part 1

I’ve done a few posts of my trips to the Farne Islands, as regular readers may remember, having visited there in 2015 & 2016.  My original ‘history bit’ was pretty sparse (lazy me!) so I’m expanding on that this time around.

The History Bit

The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, England. There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the state of the tide. They are scattered about 1 1⁄2 to 4 3⁄4 miles from the mainland, divided into two groups, the Inner Group and the Outer Group. The main islands in the Inner Group are Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens (all joined together on very low tides) and (somewhat separated) the Megstone; the main islands in the Outer Group are Staple Island, the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. The two groups are separated by Staple Sound. The highest point, on Inner Farne, is 62 feet (19 m) above mean sea level.

That’s the geography covered, now onto the good bits.

Firstly though y’all will need to know what a Culdee is so let’s get that out of the way. Culdee literally means ‘a companion of god’ and Culdees were members of ascetic Christian monastic and eremitical communities of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in the Middle Ages. They were separated from the mass of the faithful, and their lives were devoted to religion. Your basic hermits and monks really.
There was a shed load of Culdees from all over the place on the Farne Islands, following the old celtic Christian tradition of Island hermitages.
The most ‘famous’ Culdee to reside on the Farne Islands, specifically Inner Farne, was a chap called Saint Cuthbert. Of course he wasn’t a saint to start with, he was a monk, bishop and hermit, associated with the monasteries of Melrose and Lindisfarne in what might loosely be termed the Kingdom of Northumbria in the North East England and the South East of Scotland. After his death he became one of the most important medieval saints of Northern England, with a cult centred on his tomb at Durham Cathedral. Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England, so there’s loads of Saint Cuthbert related roads, cul-de-sacs, squares, courts and schools up here, you can’t move without seeing a reference to him somewhere!

The most interesting bit of his history (at least to me) is what happened to him after he died. He died on 20 March 687 on Inner Farne, and was immediately buried on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. According to Bede’s life of the saint, when Cuthbert’s sarcophagus was opened eleven years after his death, his body was found to have been perfectly preserved! This apparent miracle led to the steady growth of Cuthbert’s posthumous cult, and numerous miracles were attributed to his intercession and to intercessory prayer near his remains.

In 875 as the Danes (Vikings) attacked and took over the monastery at Lindisfarne, the monks quickly hightailed it out of there carrying with them St Cuthbert’s body and travelling around all over the shop. I guess a bit like the movie ‘A weekend at Bernies’ except it lasted a lot longer. Seven years in fact, after which the wandering the monks found a resting-place for Cuthbert at the still existing St Cuthbert’s church in Chester-le-Street until 995, when another Danish invasion led to its removal to Ripon. Somehow Cuthbert didn’t let the fact that he was dead get in the way of letting his porter-monks know that he would really prefer to be buried at Durham, so a new stone church—the so-called “White Church”—was built there, the predecessor of the present grand Durham Cathedral, where his remains still rest.
In 1104 Cuthbert’s tomb was opened again and his relics moved to a new shrine behind the altar of the recently completed Cathedral. When the casket was opened, a small book of the Gospel of John, measuring only 5.4 × 3.6 inches was found. Now known as the St Cuthbert Gospel it is the oldest Western book to keep its original bookbinding, in finely decorated leather.

For anyone interested in books, this one is considered one of the most important in Western history, and details and pictures of it can be found HERE

Also recovered much later were a set of vestments of 909-916, made of Byzantine silk with a “Nature Goddess” pattern, with a stole and decoration in extremely rare Anglo-Saxon embroidery or opus anglicanum, which had been deposited in his tomb by King Æthelstan (r. 927-939) whilst on a pilgrimage to Cuthbert’s shrine when he was at Chester-le-Street. Cuthbert’s shrine was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but, unusually, his relics survived and are still interred at the site, although they were also disinterred in the 19th century, when his wooden coffin and various relics were removed. St Cuthbert’s coffin (actually one of a series of several) remains at the cathedral and is an important rare survival of Anglo-Saxon carving on wood. When the coffin was last inspected on 17 May 1827, a Saxon square cross of gold, embellished with garnets, in the characteristic splayed shape, used later as the heraldic emblem of St Cuthbert in the arms of Durham and Newcastle universities, was found.  It was the coffin that kept on giving!

The islands were used by other hermits intermittently from the seventh century. Saint Bartholomew of Farne was a Benedictine hermit. Born Tostig, to parents of Scandinavian origin, in Whitby, Northumbria, he changed his name to William while still a child. He then travelled through Europe, possibly to escape marriage. A bit drastic but whatever works I suppose. He returned to England to enter the Benedictine monastery at Durham. It was here that he received a vision of St Cuthbert, and then decided to inhabit Cuthbert’s old cell on the island of Farne. There he remained for the remaining 42 years of his life. The last hermit was Thomas De Melsonby, who died on the islands in 1246.

After the Dissolution, the Islands passed through various owners, and ended up being owned by the National Trust.

The other famous person connected to the Farne Islands, was a young lady called Grace Darling. Grace was the daughter of Longstone lighthouse-keeper (one of the islands’ lighthouses), William Darling, and on 7 September 1838, at the age of 22 years, she and her father rescued nine people from the wreck of the ‘Forfarshire’ in a strong gale and thick fog, the vessel having run aground on Harcar Rock. The story of the rescue attracted extraordinary attention throughout Britain and made Grace Darling a heroine who has gone down in British folklore. Following the rescue she was given a large financial reward, William Wordsworth wrote a poem about her and a number of fictionalised depictions propagated the Grace Darling legend. I would give you the poem but it’s far too long, a bit OTT and you can google it anyway. She didn’t really like being a celebrity and sadly she died of tuberculosis 4 years later.

There are no human residents on the Islands now, except for a few National Trust workers for part of the year when the seabirds come to have their chicks, and that’s when Sophie and I get the call of the wild and go off to Seahouses where we get on a boat and go see the puffins.

Normally Sophie and I go on Billy Sheils boats to the Farne Islands, but this time Sophie booked us a catamaran which was much more stable for photographing, and also had less people on it. Phil and Sophies bloke Mentat (I know, but he’s Spanish) also came with us this time. You only get an hour on the Island as they manage the number of visitors each day.  But first we had our sandwhiches whilst sitting on the side at the harbour, waiting for our ship to come in. The starlings there are quite nebby

Feed me now Seymour!

and you can’t help giving them a few crumbs.  This one had a few bites and then had a lie down in front of me!

I love the colours in their feathers.

Onto the boat and these are some of our travelling companions

a dog??
got caught, she didn’t look too pleased 😦 also she reminds me of my Mum 😳
there’s always one…

The rocks sticking up in the water are always full of nesting birds

And the Islands have their own seal colony

Cecil hadn’t had much luck in convincing his homey’s that yoga was the way forward.
Cecil you make me tired just watching you!

There were lots of proud Mum’s with new chicks squished on tiny ledges in the rocks

and some Mums giving swimming lessons to recalcitrent chicks

Mum I don’t wanna go in the water! WAAAAAH!!

Stay tooned for our next Puffinfestical episode!

Farne Islands July 2016 ~ part 3

Part 1  Part 2

Apart from Puffins, Arctic Terns breed during the summer on Inner Farne, they attack you if you get too near their chicks by dive bombing your head, so it’s best to wear a hat. They are pretty though,

baby sitting (you can just see the chick underneath mum)

I got a herd of shots the year before of gulls and cormorants, so didn’t do too many this time, (concentrating on the in-flight puffin shots!)


I see no ships

Duck pond

The weather was lovely so some nice blue skies and sea

and then time to go, you only get an hour on the Island, but on the way back we were escorted by a herd of Dolphins, so many people on the boat with huge long lenses crowding to photograph them (mostly big blokes people) that I couldn’t see past them, so went into the inside bit of the boat and shot through the window, so these are not the best, but these are the only dolphins I’ve ever seen so here they are

And that’s the end of my visit to Farne Islands, can’t wait to go back!





Farne Islands July 2016~part 2

Part 1 HERE

So once we got to Inner Farne, we first came to the Arctic Terns, and their bambino’s

Feed me now Seymour!

but then we moved on to puffins!
Some in-flight shots were attempted..

was quite pleased with these as they really zip along and I have to admit a fair few frames had just the tail end at the edge of the shot! Not an easy job!


in the naughty corner

If I don’t turn around maybe she won’t see I’ve got a gob load of fish

Playing Hide and seek

maybe they’ve forgotten about me

that’s lunch taken care of

I’m on the edge I tell ya

The Chubb twins

There’s always one!

got some for me?

Part 3 tomorrow 🙂

Fraggle Report~ Farne Islands July 2016 ~part 1

Sophie and I finally got our trip to the Farne Islands a couple of weeks after the Bamburgh expedition. We’d wanted to go back as when we went in 2015 Sophie had forgotten her telephoto lens, and neither of us was any good at getting flying birds in focus, so a re-visit was in order.

Awaiting the boat our lunch was shared with a baby Starling, Mum on guard

Lovely blue skies as we sailed out of the harbour

but 15 mins out to sea and looking back to the shoreline, the clouds were gathering over Bamburgh Castle

but never mind the weather, we saw seals! lots of them!

Good Afternoon!



We three

Bird-poo rocks

It wasn’t me, honest!

All by myself

The sentinels

On to the puffins next time 🙂

Day 196~366 (and puffins :) )

Have been processing my photo’s from the Farne Islands today so am going to post just a couple, well 4 really 🙂

Firstly a baby Arctic turn shouting for lunch


next up 3 puffins on a wall.


I am not sure why lots of the puffins were just sitting around or walking about with a gob full of fish, not eating them, just keeping them.

At last a half decent flying puffin shot! (I only deleted about 100!)


and finally, ta dah… my first ever dolphin sighting.


I’m afraid my telephoto lens is a cheap and nasty knock-off-nigel, but I can’t afford a proper one, so the overall quality isn’t all that great, sigh, but it’s enough for me to remember what I saw through my eye lens 🙂 Plus with the dolphins I was in the inside of the boat and couldn’t get to the outside bit and had to shoot through the glass window!

Today the sun shone for a little while late this afternoon, so I found some more shadows.


The Farne Islands revisited.

previously on Farne Islands.. part1  part 2

We got lucky with the weather yesterday for Sophie and I’s return to the Farne Islands. Blue skies all day until home time, when it bucketed down, but we were in the car by then and didn’t care. As we’d only been a few weekends before, we just concentrated on getting shots of the puffins and the seals, as we hadn’t needed the zoom lenses for the shags and terns last time out, but missed them for the puffins and seals. All these are done with the fuji and a 55-230 zoom.






As we got closer to the islands we could see that there were nowhere near as many birds nesting as last time we came, guess all the babies have grown up.

empty nest syndrome :)
empty nest syndrome 🙂

Not as much poo either, so it wasn’t as smelly this time. 🙂

We got straight into seeing the puffins. This is their story 😀

a herd of puffins
Puffin Town

you lookin'at me??
you lookin’at me??

break it up fella's
break it up fella’s

near,far,wherever you are...
near,far,wherever you are…

I know my heart will go on..
I believe that the heart does go on..

I'm over here you idiot!!
I’m over here you idiot!! & stop singing!

your turn
whatcha looking for?

i'll see if I've got it
i’ll see if I’ve got it

you get a better view up here don't you think?
you get a better view up here don’t you think?

Mornin' all
Good morning all.

Morning? It's past lunchtime, we've been up hours!
Morning? It’s past lunchtime, we’ve been up hours!

I can do it I can do it!!!
I can do it I can do it!!!

So that’s the puffins, with apologies to Mlle Dion.

There were a couple of other bits of wildlife we came across,

The Hat Family
The Hat Family






Arctic Tern feeding it's teenager
Arctic Tern feeding

All too soon it was time to get back to the boat, you only get an hour on the Island, to keep numbers manageable.

The view to the landing place was beautiful, our boats waiting in a natural harbour.

Blues and Boats
Blues and Boats

I took a couple of shots on the way back, but mostly just enjoyed the ride.

Farewell Inner Farne
Farewell Inner Farne

balancing act

I am sailing..
I am sailing..



And my favourite shot of the day is….

A happy tog.
A happy tog.

Puffins just make anyone smile.

And that was our day out. Love the fuji colours, I didn’t have to process these overmuch, just added the Fuji Astia preset in LR and that was it. Will still have to go back at some stage as I cocked up with ‘burst’ shooting mode to get some of the puffins flying. Complete fail, but a good excuse for another visit. 🙂

Back to work tomorrow, hey ho.

laters gaters










Farne Islands ~ part 2

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Landing on Inner Farne is not fun, lots of vicious arctic terns think you’re here to steal their babies and dive bomb everyone as they get off the boat and peck their heads- advice was to wear a hat, which I did ( and walked fast!) Sophie kindly stood still so I could get a shot of one pecking her head, but boy they are so FAST!

Sophie The Brave
Sophie The Brave

There were lots of twitchers on the island with very long camera lenses, they do make me laugh.

The Big Long Lens Society
The Big Long Lens Society

They were also some Italian people and they were very happy.

The Italian Long Lens Society
The Italian Long Lens Society

This chap reminded me of Timothy Spall OBE  the actor 🙂

auf wiedersehen pet
auf wiedersehen pet


Our boat coming back for us
Our boat coming back for us



the sea
the sea

When we got back to the harbour, which only took 15 mins on the way back, we had a wander around as blue skies had arrived. Also I’d mostly used the Nikon for the bird shots and wanted the fuji to have some fun too.

guarding the harbour
guarding the harbour

rusty bollard
rusty bollard



The Duck Family
The Duck Family

Mum and ducklette
Mum and ducklette

As you might have noticed, I strung all the birds shots into a slide show, the little Nikon did a good job, though it made me laugh standing next to a Big Lens person, but will be going back with my new zoom lens at some point.  Sophie forgot her zoom lens on the day too so we both struggled, but it was a fab day out and we had a good time 🙂

laters gaters