Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Big things a'come!

Well today it finally happened. After a long day yesterday watching the news services going mad, it was with relief and excitement that a Grey Phalarope was found just off the South end of Inner Farne, where it showed very well as it fed in the swell not far offshore. These delightful little birds are always a thrill to see, and the Hove bird last year is and always will be one of my most memorable birds. As I was without my camera today, I'll include a picture of said Hove bird.

Lovely lovely lovely

After that things went pretty quiet, until mid afternoon when a call from Brownsman alerted us to the presence of an Olive-back Pipit. The boat was quickly in the water and we crossed. It didn't take long to find and it showed wonderfully in the afternoon sun. It's always nice to get a lifer, and this was a cracker. This medium sized Pipit breeds in Asia and North-eastern Europe and winters in South-east Asia, and the arrival of this bird marks the the 5th consecutive year one has arrived on the Farnes; quite a record.

Very smart Olive-backed Pipit

Monday, 13 October 2014

Big things a'coming!

It's blowing a gale outside as I write this entry, an EASTERLY GALE!! Excitement is rife on the islands this evening as the next few days look rather special in birding terms. With Norfolk already reaping some rewards (RF Bluetail), hopefully we will be recalling some magical birds come the weekend. There have been a few goings on the past week though, perhaps the most notable of which is the arrival of our first Grey Seal pup. Excuse me for getting a bit mushy, but these little guys really are adorable; cute and extremely fluffy. With one of the largest Grey Seal colonies in the UK, we can expect to see around 1500 pups before the season is out, although by that time Lana and I will be chasing birds somewhere in Argentina! The pup below is only a few days old, and it will take around 3 weeks before he is weaned and ready to fend for himself. During this time it will put on a whopping 2 kg a day.

Grey Seal pup.

While we have been welcoming new life every day, we have also been saving lives as well. A Gannet was reported on a small outcrop off Staple Island, appearing to have fishing line wrapped around it. Rangers were instantly dispatched, and before long the Gannet was caught and the net removed. It was an off-cut of what would have been a much larger net, and for such a tiny amount of rubbish to bin, a Gannet (this one at least 5 years old) would have been lost. Putting rubbish in a bin really is a simple process, and it baffles me why human beings continue to struggle with the concept. Needless to say that if I were in charge, the penalty for such a heinous crime would be very severe.

Simply stunning adult Gannet with net

On a lighter note, Lana and I were out early on Sunday ringing. Birds were numerous and there were a few highlights, including 5 Tree Sparrows, and even better I was lucky enough to ring one. They are gorgeous birds, and in the hand even more so. I would be so bold as to say they easily make it into my top 5 favourite British Passerines. I was extremely happy afterwards, and the lovely coffee and home-made cake afterwards rounded things off nicely.

Absolute cracker of a Tree Sparrow

And finally, today we were treated to an amazing wildlife spectacle on the islands, the sort that makes you appreciate how lucky one is to be working and living in this special place (especially when we have the islands to ourselves). A pre-lunch bird round burst into action when a Merlin shot in front of us, and immediately started chasing a Rock Pipit. For 15 seconds the two birds put on a most impressive acrobatic display. Shearing, diving, banking and all manor of other flight related manoeuvres occurred, before the Merlin finally caught its prey. It then proceeded to find a spot on the boardwalk, no more than 25 metres away from us and devour its quarry. We watched for half an hour as the Rock Pipit was meticulously plucked and eaten, before the Merlin walked off into the Orache to digest its meal. It was quite something to be able to witness.

The Merlin keeping a look out

And firstly plucking its prey....

Before devouring it!