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Blog

The Farne Islands 29 June and 1st July

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Bamburgh Castle in evening light.
The 29th started cool and showery but cleared to become a wonderful sunny afternoon as Richard and I travelled north. After settling in to the Old Ship Inn in Seahouses we headed for Bamburgh to try for some shots of the castle. We drove just beyond the village and settled down on the rocks with the sun behind us to wait for the light. We had wonderful views of the castle and the Farnes floating on a flat calm sea. There were eider ducks just offshore already moulting into eclipse plumgae and sandwich terns were plunge diving for fish. After waiting for about an hour we were rewarded with a short period of wonderful light on the castle and shutters were pressed. Having secured the shots we wanted we repaired to the pub for a pint or three and went down to try some shots of the harbour. We were delighted when we realised that there was going to be an excellent sunset behind Bamborough Castle. A great bonus which augered well for the next day.
The following day we woke early to a beautiful morning and a flat calm sea - things were looking good! After the full Northumberland in the dining room we wandered down to Billy Shiel's booking cabin, paid for our tickets and then relaxed with a cup of tea overlooking the harbour until it was time for boarding.
We were a large band of birders and photographers but the boat was quickly loaded and we were off just before 10.00. It wasn't long before we reached the islands where the boatman gave us an enjoyable tour of the archipelago including Grace Darling's Longstone Light before landing us on Staple Island at 10.30. By now the weather had cleared and we enjoyed a day of glorious sun - too bright and contrasty really but we photographers are never happy!! On our trip round the islands there were birds everywhere - on the sea, on the cliffs and wheeling in the air. On Staple it was a hive of activity, mainly thousands of puffins busily coming and going with beaks full of sand eels to feed to their chicks diving immediately into their burrows in order to avoid the marauding lesser black-backed gulls which were lying in ambush! Those who were not occupied with this mission stood around chattering to each other like little old men. On the bare rock were kittiwakes on their nests, constantly calling their name. Shags were also in evidence some with chicks, others still on eggs but all panting in the hot sun to cool themselves down. The shags are stunning birds with deep bottle-green colouring, green eyes and bright yellow round the bill. On the cliffs were thousands of guillemots and smaller numbers of razorbills - difficult to photograph in the contrasty light.
All too soon it was time to reboard the boat and head for The Inner Farne. As things had been so frantic on Staple I had not had time to eat my lunch so grasped the opportunity on the short trip between islands. The big difference on the Inner farne was the large numbers of arctic and sandwich terns. The arctics, particularly nest right by the path and are extremely aggressive in their defence of nests and chicks, divebombing and even sitting on one's head. A hat is essential. I was taken with the delicacy of these tiny birds at such close quarters, especially their tiny weet which looked like they were made of sealing wax with tiny claws. Their chicks are minute egg-sized balls of fluff - amazing. Bold they might be but both terns are very difficult to obtain photographs of particularly getting a light in the eye of the arctics which is set against their black head. Whilst on Inner Farne I had loads of fun photographing puffins in flight.
Again all too soon it was time to leave but we were well ready for a couple of pints and a sit down back in Seahouses.
A magical day in grat company.