THE FARNE ISLANDS, ENGLAND
Lying off the north-east coast of England, the Farne Islands form a National Nature Reserve owned by the National Trust, famous for breeding seabirds and terns in particular. There are ten larger islands and numerous smaller reefs and rocks. Vegetation is sparse on some islands, others have thick grass with Silverweed, Brambles and Thrift. Breeding species usually number a little over twenty but a much wider range occurs on passage with more than 150 species recorded annually.
Common, Arctic, Sandwich and the now very local Roseate Tern all breed as well as Common Eider, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. Common Shelduck is rather an irregular breeder. On the cliffs there are Northern Fulmar, Great Cormorant and Shag, Atlantic Puffin, Common Guillemot and Razorbill and there are breeding Kittiwake, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls. Great Black-backed and Common Gulls can also be seen in summer and both have bred on the Farnes. Common Wren is a permanent resident on the islands as is Rock Pipit, Barn Swallow is a summer visitor.
Offshore during spring and autumn divers, shearwaters, skuas and scoter are regularly seen. On the islands Whimbrel, Turnstone, Red Knot and Purple Sandpiper pass through, sometimes harried by a transient Peregrine. Passerine migrants include chats, flycatchers and warblers, finches and thrushes. Bluethroat is a fairly regular migrant. Common Teal and Mallard often visit the pool on Brownsman.
The most famous rarity to be seen on the Farnes was "Elsie", a Lesser Crested Tern which first appeared in 1984 and subsequently returned for the next 15 summers, sometimes pairing with a Sandwich Tern. Sooty Tern has also been recorded as well as the only Western Palearctic record of the North Pacific Aleutian Tern. Other rarities recorded on the Farnes include Semipalmated Sandpiper, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Subalpine and Icterine Warblers, and Ortolan and Rustic Buntings.
Birds aside, the Farnes are an important breeding station for Grey Seals.
The islands are reached by boat from the village of Seahouses on the B1340 coast road north of Alnwick and there is a landing charge (free for NT members). The Brownsman, one of the thirty or so islands that make up the Farnes, is closed during the breeding season , Inner Farne is probably the best island for birds and the optimum time to visit is early summer. Visitors are advised to wear headgear during the breeding season when terns will vigorously defend their nests and can draw blood from an unprotected head. As most demand is during the breeding season, trips during passage periods are fewer but they are available in September, weather permitting.
Red-throated Diver (PM,W), Great Northern Diver (PM,W), Northern Fulmar (Su), Manx Shearwater (PM), Great Cormorant, Shag, Northern Gannet (PM), Common Shelduck (scarce Su), Common Teal (PM), Mallard (PM), Common Eider, Common Scoter (PM), Oystercatcher (Su), Ringed Plover (Su), Red Knot (PM), Purple Sandpiper (PM), Whimbrel (PM), Turnstone (PM), Arctic Skua (PM), Great Skua (PM), Black-headed Gull, Common Gull (Su), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Su), Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake (Su), Sandwich Tern (Su), Roseate Tern (Su), Common Tern (Su), Arctic Tern (Su), Common Guillemot (Su), Razorbill (Su), Atlantic Puffin (Su), Little Auk (scarce PM,W), Eurasian Skylark (PM), Barn Swallow (Su), Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Bluethroat (rare PM), Stonechat (PM), Fieldfare (A), Redwing (A), Blackcap (PM), Common Chiffchaff (PM), Goldcrest (PM), Spotted Flycatcher (PM), Pied Flycatcher (PM), Red-backed Shrike (rare A), Linnet (PM), Common Rosefinch (rare Sp).