Posts Tagged ‘Farne Islands


East Coast Birding Tour

Just back from this years East Coast Birding Tour. Some fantastic birds again, visiting sites along the east coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. If you are a photographer and haven’t been on this tour yet … book a place on next year’s trip. You will not regret it. All food, accommodation, boat trip, guiding and transport included. Details are up on the website now and itinerary is available here

All photos taken on this years tour.



On the East Coast Seabirds Tour in June this year we came across this Arctic Tern protecting her young from danger. Cute or what? More photos from this and other tours this year can be seen on our Wildcatch site, in the latest section here


I never cease to be amazed

I was trying to photograph Orchids at Upton Fen the other day and a Marsh Warbler started to sing almost beside me. I saw it briefly before heavy rain set in but having a macro lens fitted for the orchids I never had the remotest chance of getting a photo. The thing is you never know what you’re going to come across.

I’ve been visiting the Farne Islands off Northumberland for many years, perhaps more than I care to remember. On our tour there the week before last I was talking to one of the wardens on Staple Island about rare terns I’ve seen on the islands in the past; Sooty Tern a few years ago and in the nineties a Lesser Crested Tern frequented the islands for several years each breeding season. I saw on it on a couple of occasions. She was christened Elsie – LC for Lesser Crested – get it? But perhaps the best tern I’ve seen there is the Aleutian Tern I jammed in on during my very first visit in 1979 – a random visit not a twitch – I hadn’t a clue what it was and I don’t think the warden who pointed it out to me as it flew low over our heads was at all sure either; but Aleutian Tern was mentioned in conversation.

The Farnes are spectacular. As we sailed there the other week I looked out over the sea. It was full of Auks (Alcids if you’re reading this the other side of the Atlantic). The feathered biomass sat on the flat calm surface was just something else. Every time I go there it never ceases to amaze me. Rare birds or no rare birds it is a place I love to visit.

We decided amongst our group that the Puffins were without doubt the highlight. As usual as they returned to their burrows they were running the gauntlet of piratical Black Headed Gulls; so intent on stealing the Puffins Sand Eel booty.

I caught one individual from below as it flew over. It reminded me of Davy Jones the fictional character in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, portrayed by Bill Nighy. If you’ve seen the films you’ll know what I mean.

Next years tour is on the website and I’m already taking bookings – ping me a mail if you’re interested. If you are a photographer or a bird watcher this is the place for you. If you are both … you’ll be in heaven.


The wonderful east coast

Just a few photos taken on this years East Coast Seabird Tour. Bookings now being taken for next years tour. See the website here for itinerary and prices.

Arctic Tern Common Tern Eider Gannet Guillemots Herring Gull Puffin Sandwich Tern


Completely Un-Bridled


I am in the process of gathering material for a promotional job so I needed to pay a visit to the Farne Islands this summer. A couple of days on the islands was going to be enough to gather all I needed. The fact a Bridled Tern was visiting the area around the quay on Inner Fane was just an additional lure … but initially it wasn’t as easy to see as I expected.

Having driven from Norfolk I joined a boat hauled up off Inner Farne quay for the afternoon; apart from a couple of stunning Lion’s Mane Jellyfish and some nearby bathing terns … nothing. The Bridled failed to turn up. It was a little galling that the wardens had apparently seen it while doing a tern count at 8pm that evening after we had left.

I decided to visit Staple Island the following morning and Inner Farne in the afternoon. This was a good move as the Bridled wasn’t seen during the morning on Inner Farne.

Staple Island was as good as it could be; Auks and Shags everywhere.

Approaching Inner Farne I could see the Bridled Tern roosting in the beach. So lucky. I hastily took a few photos at distance before it flew further back among the rocks and then shortly after flew off north. I was pleased.

I continued to take the video and photo material I needed as I walked up the island and decided to take my packed lunch in the shade of the lighthouse. I was not more than a single bite into my bagel when a dark tern nearly took my head off. It was back! Moreover it swung around the Sandwich Tern Colony and went down a few metres from the boardwalk. I hastily gathered up my belongings and ran. It was still there. I took a few shots and it flew. Excellent. I was  very happy. When a few minutes later it came back and landed not 15 feet from me I was like a dog with two tails!

It did appear to be loosely associating with the Sandwich Terns. Given there are small colonies of Bridled Terns in West Africa from where our Sandwich Terns herald, I guess that’s where it’s from. This seems to be backed up by the contrasting mantle and upperwing, pale grey/white collar and extensive white in the tail all pointing towards the Atlantic form melanoptera.


Bridled Tern


All fluffed up for the camera

When you are the smallest thing on the beach despite having a big mum you have to keep your eyes on the sky for danger. This very young Eider was one of a small flock we saw on the recent East Coast Seabird Tour in Northumberland.

2013 06 22 Eider Seahouses Northumberland_Z5A7973


In flight meal

We went on the East Coast Seabird Tour at the weekend. The freshening wind and the forecast of heavy rain created an anxiety. Ideal condition for photography seemed unlikely. We needn’t have worried the weather was more than suitable; the light throughout the weekend was excellent and we managed to dodge all but the odd shower.
We all had our own objectives; what we wanted to see or photograph. My own personal target on the Farne Islands was to get a shot of a Puffin in flight carrying Sand Eels.
Early indications are that the Puffins are having a good year and the Sand Eels are in good supply; although as the birds returned to their burrows with a catch they had to run the gauntlet of marauding Black headed Gulls intent upon stealing from them. Sometimes to evade theft the Puffins would fly almost directly headlong into the ground – maybe that’s a photographic target for next year’s tour. Register your interest in coming along by sending me a mail


As usual click on the picture to enlarge


Maori Invaders in Northumberland

Some alien species have become embraced into our countryside; the Little Owl and the Horse Chestnut for instance. They are now almost quintessentially British. Others are a constant threat to our own wildlife. I seem to receive e-mail after e-mail from the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership telling me Himalayan Balsam in the broads is rampant. Indeed as I was waiting yesterday for guests that were staying in a river fronted property, I noticed the whole of the garden was overrun with it!

At the weekend, on the Farne Islands Tour we called at Holy Island on the coast of Northumberland; a marvelous place of ruins, racing tides and rolling dune slacks. The place is steeped in history and intrigue; invaders of various nationalities have played their part in shaping that history over the centuries.

The latest invaders are from New Zealand. As we walked through the dunes they attacked us in numbers. Brought to the UK within sheep’s wool the prolific nature of The Pirri Pirri Bur soon became apparent. For what seemed like an age we were picking the seeds from our boots, socks and trousers to which they clung with vigour. Although I have already seen this invader in Norfolk on Kelling Heath we didn’t want to add to its distribution.


I was asked “were they close?”

All wildlife photographers soon come to the conclusion that their best photographs are taken when their subjects are close. Sure, they need to capture a point of action, an angle or a behaviour that will set a photograph above all others … but principally you need to be near what you’re shooting. Detail in the eye, feather or fur structure is what sets a photograph apart. Getting close enough to capture that sort of detail is paramount.

We returned from this year’s East Coast Seabirds Tour on Sunday and I was quizzed by a photographer interested in next year’s tour. She had obviously worked out that her best photos emanate from subjects not too distant from the front of her camera and asked “… do you get close to the birds?”

What do you think I should tell her?

If you are interested in next years tour let me know and I’ll send you details when they are available.




Arctic Tern


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Jun 2023


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