Trip reports

RSPB Coach Trip

RSPB Coach Trip
Rosie Fillipiak

Sunday, 19 May 2013

hick mist stretched down the coast, but we were hoping that, as predicted, it would lift, enabling us to get out to the islands.
At Seahouses, the hedges around the car park had dunnock, great and blue tits, and green- and goldfinches.
The weather curtailed our plan to scan the rocks around the harbour; however, we saw mallard, black-headed gull, barn swallow, grey heron, blackbird, carrion crow, house sparrow, and a pair of redpoll. Most exciting were the four swifts that were flying at head-height, presumably forced to hunt for insects well below the mist. Comments like, "I didn't realise they are so big", showed that most of us were closer to swifts than we ever had been.
Gathering at the harbour we were relieved to find that we would be embarking shortly. Meantime we saw a solitary barnacle goose, herring and lesser black-backed gulls on the rocks, and groups of eider, and Trisha reported a black redstart. Sailing out for our 1 hour tour around the islands of the inner group the mist was lifting, heralding a warm day.
From the boat we saw flocks of guillemot, razorbill and gannet at close range. The boat manoeuvred within feet of the islands, and we had superb views of nesting fulmar, kittiwake, cormorant and shag, and a large colony of grey seals, with watchful oystercatchers and great black-backed gulls. We also saw a single turnstone, almost in summer plumage.
Landing on Inner Farne we met up with Will, one of the NT Rangers who live on the island for 9 months of the year caring for the habitat and birds. David Steel, the Head Ranger had been on national news just before our visit talking about the puffin census that takes 2 months. He had agreed to organise one of his team to tell us about the puffins and the Rangers' work in general. So Will spent the first hour or so with us and gave a wealth of fascinating information about Inner Farne past, present and future. He took us to various breeding colonies to both see and listen to the birds; all sorts of sounds were emanating from old rabbit burrows beside the walkway, now puffin homes.
Colonies of nesting arctic terns were beside the jetty, along with a shy ring plover, and further up the boardwalk were common and sandwich terns. Female eider ducks were sitting quietly on eggs within inches of our feet, and lapwing, dunlin, rock pipit, pied wagtail, wheatear and starling were foraging among the grass.
However, the photographic stars were puffin, shag, terns and kittiwake, and some stunning shots were taken as our proximity to the birds showed details of plumage and colour, such as the shag's emerald eye and the kittiwake's bright orange gape.
Before returning to the boat we had time to wander back to favourite parts of the island, and call in at the Visitor Centre to watch "Burrow Cam" footage.
Leaving Seahouses we added mute swan, greylag goose, tufted duck and moorhen to our sightings, then settled down for a relaxed journey home.
Val Donaldson