Seven of us headed off for the Farne Islands, (around a four hour drive from Macc), in mid-June which is the peak period for seabird activity, particularly nesting and feeding young. We booked on the all-day photographers trip allowing around 2.5 hours on each of Staple Island and Inner Farne with a boat tour around all the islands.
Staying at the Bamburgh Castle Inn right next to the Harbour for one night we awoke to low tides and a touch of grey skies and light rain. We were told that we may not be able to land at Staple Island and were delayed by an hour to help the tide rise. However, we did eventually land on Staple for a couple of hours. The boat journey, which can sometimes be a bit troublesome, was quite calm.
We were greeted by literally thousands of seabirds, Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags, Gulls and of course lots of Puffins. As nature photographers we are always told to get good images of ‘stuff happening’ rather than birds just posing for the camera. Well, here we had it in abundance, Shag chicks with their heads buried well down their parents neck for regurgitated food, Gulls pinching young Guillemot chicks for lunch, lots of fighting, mating and of course Puffins landing with beak fulls of sand eels. If this was just Staple Island, well how good would Inner Farne be ?
Inner Farne had some different birds….the Terns….both Arctic and Sandwich Terns. The Arctic Terns were nesting just everywhere, birds sitting on eggs next to the path, chicks only a few days old were hanging around the nests on the ground and on the walls waiting for food to be delivered by an overworked parent. I think all of us got attacked by a Tern at some stage because it was impossible not to get too close to the chicks or the nest, they were just everywhere.
A bit further around the island the sandwich terns were mainly in one colony with around 500 birds coming and going feeding chicks. I hadn’t seen many of these before so they were a special delight. moving along the wooden boardwalk it was incredible to watch the Puffins coming in to land with their sand eels. They had to run the gauntlet of the Gulls who pounced to rob them of their catch if they did not get down their burrow fast enough. Your reactions had to be very quick to get any decent photos of this activity because you simply didn’t know which direction they were going to come from.
After a lot of feeding activity it was time to try some birds in-flight photography – this is were your capture card quickly gets full as rapid bursts of the shutter whilst panning lead to hundreds of images being taken in a short space of time usually with a high failure rate.
The weather improved as the day went on, the light just got better and better and we all had a great time exploring these two islands and the high level of bird activity that they presented to us. My only regret was not staying for another day – it was that good. So, watch out for lots of Farne Islands images appearing in next years competitions….lots of ‘pairing’ and bucket loads of ‘emotions’.
Conor Molloy with Val Leer, Chris Aggersbury, Alison Lomax, Kevin Lomax, Kevin Blake and David Tolliday.