I took what is becoming a regular trip to the Farne Islands again in June, this time towards the end of the month when I hoped most of the chicks will have hatched. Previous trips have been earlier and most of the seabird colony were still sitting on eggs, Shags excepted.
As usual Seahouses was the point of departure and the Billy Shiels ‘All Dayer’ the preferred booking. We sailed out on a relatively calm sea in overcast conditions but with a less than favourable weather forecast to concern us that didn’t really come to fruition, fortunately. The first stop was to see the Atlantic Grey Seals that were basking on the rocks doing what they seem to do best – nothing! After a brief stop we observed the massed seabirds hanging on to every inch of the cliff-faces seemingly defying gravity, this is usually the point when the smell hits you and it certainly did.
Our first island stop was Staple Island where we observed and photographed the many Puffins, Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemots that were covering every rocky outcrop where a nest could be built. Most of the Kittiwakes had a pair of chicks and were busy feeding as were the Shags who hatch earlier the others and they had quite well developed and very greedy chicks to satisfy. Puffin chicks are much harder to spot as they stay protected in their burrows awaiting the fresh fish brought in by their parents who have to dodge the menacing Gulls as they arrive fully loaded with Sand Eels. This is the high octane action that can be seen all day as the Gulls prefer to mob their victims rather than find their own food.
The second island was Inner Farne which has all the other birds plus three species of Terns; Arctic, Common and Sandwich. They seemed to be much more relaxed than usual and there wasn’t quite the same aerial bombardment that I have previously encountered. Most of the Terns were with Chicks, a sight I hadn’t seen on other trips and they were wandering around without a care in the world. The Sandwich Terns were the most difficult to photograph as they stay in a small colony away from the paths and are tightly packed together making photo opportunities difficult to spot.
This was the first time that I had used my 100-400 IS L Mk2 lens in earnest and it has certainly impressed, being quick to focus and it gave me a very high success rate of sharp images. It looks a good lens.