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The Farne Islands 20th June 201221/06/2012 - 3:15 PM
As a psuedo Geordie, I was born and bred in the North East and spent the first 27 years of my life in central Durham.
In all that time I never made a visit to the Farne Islands although I do recall going round Bamburgh Castle in the distant past. A couple of weeks ago, I took my first trip to the Farnes visiting Staple Island for an hour. Got some reasonable pics but an hour was too short so I deceided a return visit was necessary.
Having checked the weather forecast and having a free day to take at my discretion, i visited them again on Wednesday the 20th June.
I set off from my home town of Wakefield not long after 6:00 a.m. for the 160 mile journey north. I did have a Full English on the way but this resulted in my arriving at the quayside around 9:15.
As a resut I rushed my prep and got a ticket for the 9:30 all day boat (£30) which gives around 2 hours on each of 2 islands, Staple for the puffins and Inner Farne for both puffins and arctic tern. The rushing around meant no water and no mars bars, a big mistake given that temps were already around 16-17 deg. with clear blue skies and a flat calm sea.
A long walk to the pier end left me one of the last to board the Billy Shiels boat "Glad Tidings III", the second boat to leaveon an all day trip.
The boat was full and we made the 25 min journey to the isles on a flat calm sea with the occasional cormorant doing a fly by. As we neared the islands, we began to see lots of puffins crossing the bow on the way to the feeding grounds, there were also numerous guillemots and a few razorbills on the water.
As we had to wait for the first boat to disembark, out captain took us out to see a few grey seals on the rocks, the steam rising off them as the sun started to heat up the day. Most of the seals were female and pregnant, apparently they birth around September/October time.
He slowly moved amongst the puffins and guillemots which were now floodind the surroundind areas of the edge of Staple Island as we waited our turn to land. Soon I was walking up the stairway and onto the wooden pathway. On my previous trip, I had joined the National Trust which own and maintain the Farnes so I did not have to pay any landing fees and was soon up onto the slow incline where on your right, there are loads of cormorants and guillemots on the cliff edges, many with quite large chicks, a substantial change since my previous visit a couple of weeks earlier.
Still lots of puffins about but the boatmen say the size of the sand eels being caught are much smaller than usual. The weather was fine so there lots of opportunities to catch them in flight but they sure move fast. The 2 hrs went pretty quickly and by this time, the sun was well up and I was roasting and extremely thirsty.
There still lots of chances to get a single puffin near the steps to the boat which kept arriving on the rocks with a full beak trying to tempt young puffins to follow him down to the sea but with no success.
Soon we were back on the boat and we went off around the seals and the rock pillars on Staple as we waited until 1:30 p.m. before we could go ashore on Inner Farne to see the arctic terns. The weather was absolutely gorgeous with a guard of honor from terns on every post on the wooden railed pathway up to the buildings. Many terns were nesting with chicks waiting for a parent to arrive with food which was very frequent and soon gobbled down.
Terns are known to be extremely intolerant of visitors and they certainly lived up to their reputation with frequent dive bombing attacks, pecking heads and hats, fortunately I had mine on and was twice the landing spot for a tern. There were just as many puffins on this island flying to and fro with full beaks.
It was all in all a great trip despite the problems I encountered with my arthritic knees and the necessary walking. There are benches on the top of this island so there are places to sit and quite a lot of visitors took the chance to sunbathe in the glorious weather.
Soon the 2 hours here were up and it was time to get back on the boat and head home. The sea was still relatively calm and the odd chance to get a few birds skimming the surface or taking off soon presented.
On arriving back at the harbour, I was pleasantly surprised that due to tide being favorable, we were able to cruise right up to the ticket booth area so no long walk to the car.
All in all, a very good day, good company on the boat and a delicious ice cream before I dumped my gear in the car and set off for home.