Bird report 2016
Every year, thousands of seabirds including puffins, Arctic terns, shags, guillemots and razorbills return to the Farne Islands to breed.
Breeding Birds Overview
With rain the determining factor on breeding success last year, this year it was wind. A relatively dry period made for a better season for the Puffin, a species which suffered in 2015. However, those species that don’t have the luxury of an underground shelter fared significantly worse and in particular the cliff nesting species. After last years’ record total of 27 nesting species, this year a total of 24 nested. Shoveler did not return for a third successive season, no evidence of an attempt from Carrion Crow was noted and despite considerable effort to attract them and the presence of a displaying pair, Roseate Tern did not breed either. A notable highlight was the appearance of Red-breasted Merganser ducklings; a rare sight on the islands.
As Shags were setting up nests in late March and rangers were doing the human equivalent, the weather was warm and there was hope that this would turn into a fine season; but unfortunately the fine weather was not to last. The wind seemed relentless, and a few big storms and an average temperature of just 8.4°C on 1st June seemed to put some birds off. A big storm on 25th April which saw nests washed off the cliffs also seemed to disperse the Sandwich Terns that had gathered, and the roost and the eventual breeding population never really recovered.
There was more positive news however, as Fulmar numbers increased after last year’s crash and Eider numbers rose slightly; for both species this was also coupled with a strong breeding season. Despite the cliff nesting species suffering with low productivity, Razorbill numbers rose by 15 pairs as Guillemot, Kittiwake and Shag numbers fell. As was the case last year, the end of the summer was fine and meant that, although pairs of breeding Swallow, Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipit fell, many pairs managed to get second broods away.
Also included below is table 1, a comparison of the latest population trends from the seabird monitoring programme (SMP) and the Farnes. The SMP is run by the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC) and consists of population counts gathered from across the UK and Ireland. Seabirds face an uncertain future as climate change warms the oceans and changes their ecological make-up, and we may well see a shift northwards of certain if not all our regular breeding species as their prey items seek out colder seas. This coupled with ocean pollution and human impacts means that regular and standardised monitoring of these key indicator species is essential, and the SMP provides an excellent source to find the data.
General trends appear similar, but notable is the significantly greater decline in Great Cormorant and the three Tern species on the islands when compared to national trends, but also how the two Auk species seems to be doing better on the islands. It is worth noting that in 1998, just a single pair of Great Black-backed Gull nested, hence the very large percentage increase.
BIRD MIGRATION OVERVIEW
An excellent year for migrant birds resulted in a total of 183 species being recorded around the islands (173 for the Inner Group and 128 for the Outer Group). Spring was much more productive than last season, with a good scattering of the regular drift migrants such as Red-backed Shrike and Common Rosefinch, whilst autumn pulled some real surprises out of the bag. Selecting a “bird of the year” was a challenge in a season that produced three Farnes firsts in Egyptian Goose, Pacific Golden Plover and Siberian Stonechat (pending acceptance by record committees), as well as some amazing rarities such as the islands’ third Kingfisher, fourth Thrush Nightingale and first King Eider since the 1920s. However, after much discussion we decided the stonechat just edged it: it’s hard to beat a rare Sibe!
A few notable falls and some impressive visible migration produced several record day counts, including the highest ever counts of Pink-footed Goose and Linnet, the second highest counts of Chiffchaff and Bar-tailed Godwit, and the third highest counts of Whooper Swan, Canada Goose and Goldcrest.
In order of status, notable species recorded this season included: Siberian Stonechat (first), Pacific Golden Plover (first), Egyptian Goose (first since naturalisation), Kingfisher (third), Thrush Nightingale (fourth), White-fronted Goose (seventh), Dusky Warbler (tenth), King Eider (twelfth), Nightjar (twelfth), Great Shearwater (sixteenth), Hen Harrier (eighteenth), Cory’s Shearwater (eighteenth), Pallas’ Warbler (nineteenth and twentieth) and Osprey (twentieth).
As is often the case, there were several notable absences this year including Red-necked Grebe (first blank year since 1978), Grey Phalarope (second blank since 1998), Barred Warbler (second blank since 1997) and Wood Sandpiper (third blank since 2000). Whilst the absence of a Siberian Accentor is not in itself notable, it was a frustrating hole in our list given the numbers that occurred on the east coast, including records from nearby Lindisfarne.
The status of each species is classified using the categories listed below. For species breeding on the Farnes, an occurrence is counted as a single nesting pair, and a five-year mean of pairs is used to decide the most suitable category.
Abundant More than 1,000 occurrences per annum
Common 101-1,000 occurrences per annum
Well represented 11-100 occurrences per annum
Uncommon No more than 10 occurrences per annum, but more than 20 in total
Scarce 11-20 occurrences in total
Rare 6-10 occurrences in total
Extremely rare No more than 5 occurrences in total
For the breeding statistics in the species accounts, the 2016 figure is given and a five-year mean is given in brackets next to it.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor. An uncommon visitor.
As with last year, there was just a single record of Britain’s heaviest wild bird, with a lone individual flying north through Inner Sound on 24 August.
Whooper Swan C. cygnus. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Spring passage was more evident than last year, with two herds totalling 63 birds north on 27 March (the third highest ever island count), followed by two birds north on 10 April. Contrastingly, autumn was much poorer, with the only record involving five north through Inner Sound on 2 November.
(Greater) White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons. A rare visitor.
On 19 October an adult flew low southwest over Inner Farne with four pink-footed geese, calling as it passed overhead. This was the first record since 2011, and only the seventh for the islands in total.
Pink-footed Goose A. brachyrhynchus. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
Spring passage produced 25 north on 9 April and 42 north on 17 April, a much better showing than last season. Autumn movements were more impressive, with 26-161 recorded on four dates from 28 September to 28 October. During this period the island day count record was broken, with 2,061 birds heading south in 48 skeins on 29 September, including groups of 100, 120 and 138.
Greylag Goose A. anser. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Movements around the Farnes involve both feral and wild birds, and this season produced three records. One north over Brownsman on 17 May was the sole spring sighting, with autumn records of one north over Inner Farne on 28 October and three north through Inner Sound on 1 November.
Greater Canada Goose Branta canadensis. An uncommon passage visitor.
An early record of two north on 28 March was followed by three south on 9 April and four north on 14 April. As usual, the largest count came in June as birds made their annual moult migration to northern Scotland, with 153 north on 5 June representing the third highest ever day count. Less usually, 65 flew south through Staple Sound on 19 June.
Todd’s Canada Goose B. canadensis interior. An extremely rare visitor.
A lone Canada goose amongst a flock of barnacle geese was identified as this potentially vagrant subspecies as it flew north past Blyth on 19 October; an hour and 37 minutes later the flock passed north through Inner Sound. If accepted this will represent the first record for the islands.
Barnacle Goose B. leucopsis. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
An even quieter season than last year, with no spring records at all. Autumn produced 3-22 on four occasions from 22 September to 2 November, with a higher count of 84 north on 19 October. Interestingly, a lone bird took up residence on Staple Island from 11 November, grazing amongst the seal pups until at least 19 November.
Brent Goose B. bernicla. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
‘Pale-bellied’ birds (subspecies hrota) were seen returning to wintering grounds on Lindisfarne from late August, with 2-25 north on six dates from 28 August to 1 November, and a higher count of 38 north on 5 September. Birds were seen on several islands in the Inner Group late in the season, with one on Knoxes Reef on 18 November and two around the Wideopens on 24 and 28 November. This year a single ‘dark-bellied’ bird (subspecies bernicla) was seen heading north on 28 October.
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna. A well represented visitor and occasional breeder.
Two pairs were spotted displaying on the West Wideopens on 28th March, and were present there until mid-April when one pair moved to Top Meadow on Inner Farne and the other to the Brownsman pond, where they remained well into June. Two juvenile Shelduck were subsequently seen on the Churn Pool on Inner Farne on the 18th, 19th and 21st August, suggesting at least one pair was successful. Passage birds were seen on 19 dates between 27 March and 10 October, including a flock of eight south on 20 July that included two juveniles.
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. An extremely rare visitor.
An incongruous adult on Inner Farne’s South Rocks on 6 April was technically a first for the islands, as all previous records occurred before the British population became self-sustaining and so were classed as escapees. It remained for the rest of the day, much to the annoyance of the local gulls, but had departed by the following morning.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. A common passage and winter visitor and well represented breeder.
This familiar duck is present throughout the year, with birds both breeding and wintering around the islands. It proved to be a bumper year, as 20 (15) pairs nested, up from 12 last year. The first nest was discovered on Inner Farne in the Courtyard under a water butt with 11 eggs on 28th March with the first ducklings sighted on 28th April. Two late broods survived to fledging on Inner Farne, with a total of 9 ducklings surviving. Unbelievably, a brood of 9 ducklings were discovered by the seal team on Brownsman on 8th November, but unfortunately they were not seen subsequently. The 20 pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 6 (6.4), West Wideopens 9 (1.6), East Wideopens 0 (0.4), Knoxes Reef 0 (0.2), Staple 1 (2), Brownsman 3 (2.8), North Wamses 1 (0.8), South Wamses 0 (0.4) and Big Harcar (0.4). Late autumn produced several records of birds on the move through Inner Sound, including a flock of 15 north on 6 November, whilst a large wintering flock formed around the islands that peaked at 66 on 14 November.
Gadwall A. strepera. An uncommon visitor.
An excellent year for this normally scarce dabbling duck produced three records. A pair north through Inner Sound on 24 April was followed by another pair turning up to roost on Inner Farne’s pond late on 9 May. This was also the venue for the final record, with a pair roosting there once more on 20 May.
Pintail A. acuta. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Another reasonable showing, with autumn providing records on five dates. Two flew north with a large flock of teal and wigeon on 16 September, followed by a single north in another wigeon flock on 17 September. A female was on Brownsman Flats on 20 September, with another on Staple on 7 October when a second bird flew south past Inner Farne with two mallards. Finally, a lone drake flew north through Inner Sound on 30 October.
Shoveler A. clypeata. A well represented passage and winter visitor and extremely rare breeder.
There was no evidence of a breeding attempt this year and so all records related to passage birds, with spring producing a pair south on 11 April and two ducks and a drake south on 11 June. Autumn provided records of 1-4 on five dates from 17 August to 21 September, with a final female amidst a large teal flock on Staple on 29 October.
Wigeon A. Penelope. A common passage and winter visitor.
Light spring passage involved only two records, with a drake south through Inner Sound on 25 March and two females and a pair north on 27 April. The first autumn record was of a pair on Knoxes Reef on 25 August, after which counts of 1-85 passage birds were made on 21 dates, mostly moving north through Inner Sound or roosting on Knoxes Reef. Peak passage occurred on 17 September, when 200 moved north (85 through Inner Sound and 115 through Staple Sound). From mid-November a large wintering flock formed around Knoxes Reef, involving up to 94 birds.
Teal A. crecca. A common passage and winter visitor.
Small numbers were seen around the Inner Group throughout spring, with 1-2 recorded on 9 dates between 19 March and 29 April. As usual, birds were more evident in autumn, with regular records of 1-75 on passage or roosting at favourite spots such as Knoxes Reef and Brownsman Flats. Higher counts involved 184 north through Inner Sound on 5 September and 212 on 16 September (35 on Knoxes Reef, 173 north and 4 south through Staple Sound).
Pochard Aythya ferina. An uncommon passage visitor.
A strong showing for this barely annual Aythya involved two records, with a flock of five north through Inner Sound on 24 August and a female north through Staple Sound on 2 November.
Tufted Duck A. fuligula. A well represented visitor.
Records on eleven dates made this one of the most productive seasons in recent years, though all but one sighting involved small numbers. The majority came in spring, with 1-2 (mostly drakes) past Inner Farne on seven dates between 10 April and 2 May. Autumn produced further singles on 5 and 17 September, with the highest count of the season coming on 2 November when seven flew north: a flock of six through Inner Sound and a lone drake through Staple Sound. The final record was of two drakes and a duck flying north through Staple Sound on 12 November.
Scaup A. marila. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Late autumn produced two records, both involving birds moving north through Inner Sound. A drake was seen on 30 October, with a pair on 6 November.
Eider Somateria mollissima. A breeding resident.
Arguably the most handsome breeder on the islands, displaying was in full swing as the rangers moved out on 18th March. Birds were seen moving up onto the island on 25th March, with up to 36 birds prospecting Top Meadow. A roosting flock of up to 195 birds built up on Inner Farne by early April, with the first nest found on 9 April. Thereafter numbers dropped as females took to nests and males dispersed. The first nest was discovered in the Vegetable Garden on Inner Farne on 9th April, with the first duckling appearing on 23rd May. Overall, Eider had a good breeding season, as productivity was high at 2.67 (2.44) with 941 chicks fledging from 353 nests. The population also rose slightly, as 593 (587) pairs bred across the islands as follows: Inner Farne 351 (345.4), West Wideopens 18 (18.4), East Wideopens 3 (4.8), Knoxes Reef 1 (3.6), Staple 44 (31), Brownsman 156 (151), North Wamses 2 (3.8), South Wamses 7 (6.4), Big Harcar 4 (3), Northern Hares 0 (0.6), Longstone 4 (3.8) and Longstone End 3 (4.4). Numbers then began to build again through autumn.
King Eider S. spectabilis. A scarce visitor (extremely rare in the last century).
The appearance of this most regal of ducks was one of the biggest surprises of the season, following an absence of almost a century after the last record in 1923. A sub-adult drake first seen past Whitburn, County Durham, at 08:30 on 23 October was tracked up the coast and eventually passed north through Inner Sound at 10:57, in the company of seven common eider. Amazingly, this is the twelfth record for the islands, though the majority came in the 1800s.
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra. A common passage and winter visitor.
With records on only 67 dates it was a quiet season in comparison to the 96 dates averaged over the last five years. Unlike in recent seasons, only small numbers were found on the sea in Inner Sound, with the raft peaking at just 64 birds on 17 June (2015 peak was 250). Passage produced 1-55 on 63 dates, with higher counts of 125 north on 29 June, 187 north on 5 July, 76 north 19 August and 161 north on 5 September.
Velvet Scoter M. fusca. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
One of the worst seasons on record for this stocky seaduck produced only three birds, all flying north through Inner Sound. An individual with seven common scoter on 11 April was followed by a lone bird on 1 September, with the final bird in the company of two teal on 5 September.
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
With no spring records it was a long wait for the first of the season: a female north through Inner Sound on 13 October. Thereafter 1-2 were recorded on passage on seven dates until 2 December. Small numbers also wintered around the islands, with up to four birds regularly seen on the sea around the Inner Group from 7 November until rangers departed in early December.
Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. A common passage and winter visitor.
As with last season there was no evidence of a wintering flock, with all records involving birds on passage, including a single late spring record of four north on 17 April. A pair north on 30 October were the first autumn birds, with November producing 1-9 on six dates, all flying north except for a lone female in the Kettle on 9 November. A lack of northerly winds meant only two higher counts were made, with 46 north on 2 November and 16 north the following day.
Goosander Mergus merganser. An uncommon passage visitor.
After the exceptional passage of the previous two seasons, in which the top two record day counts were set, this year saw a return to more typical form for this predominantly inland sawbill. Spring produced two females north on 17 April, a single drake south on 19 April and a flock of five birds north on 1 May – the highest count of the season. Autumn records proved equally scarce, with 1-2 birds seen on four dates between 17 September and 2 November.
Red-breasted Merganser M. serrator. A well represented passage and winter visitor and rare breeder.
A successful year for this rare Northumberland breeder, with a single brood fledged from Inner Farne. Birds were resident around the Inner Group from 29 March to 26 July, with two pairs seen displaying on the 20 May. A female was then seen repeatedly on Inner Farne beach throughout July, prompting suspicions of a nearby nest. These suspicions were confirmed when she emerged from the vegetation on 26 July with five ducklings in tow, leading them into the Kettle and out to sea. This was the first confirmed breeding success since 2013. Passage birds were recorded on twelve dates between 27 March and 2 November, all involving 1-2 birds with the exception of four in Inner Sound on 8 April and a flock of seven north on 18 June.
Quail Coturnix coturnix. An uncommon passage visitor.
This miniature game bird surprised several rangers when it scurried onto the Inner Farne boardwalk on 13 June, pausing for a moment before flushing towards the Vegetable Garden. It was seen again later in the day, flying from vegetation near the Quarry and disappearing behind the Lighthouse. This represents the 24th record for the islands, following two in 2014.
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata. A common passage and winter visitor.
A reasonable season for this small diver with records of 1-5 on 58 dates, 7-12 on seven dates (1 in April, 2 in October, 5 in November) and a higher count of 23 north on 6 November
Black-throated Diver G. arctica. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Since 2000 the islands have averaged records on just under six dates a year, putting this season right on target with five sightings. A winter-plumaged bird north through Inner Sound on 19 April was the first spring record since 2013, with a long break before the first autumn bird, a moulting adult, flew north on 20 October. The last weeks of the season then produced a single north through Inner Sound on 21 November, another individual north through the Kettle on 24 November and a final winter-plumaged adult on the sea in Inner Sound on 26 November.
Great Northern Diver G. immer. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
Spring produced individuals north on 10 April, 5 May and 22 May, with the first autumn bird north through Staple Sound on 2 September. Singles were then recorded on four further dates until the first multiple count of two south on 30 October. Thereafter birds became more abundant, with 1-4 recorded on nine dates until 2 December, several of which still bore traces of summer plumage. The only higher count involved 12 north on 6 November.
Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
Despite wintering in good numbers along the nearby coast, this elegant grebe rarely strays into our recording area and this year was no exception. The season’s sole record concerned a lone bird flying south through Inner Sound on 2 November.
Great Crested Grebe P. cristatus. An uncommon visitor.
The best season since 1996 produced records of five bird across three dates, with all reports coming from Inner Sound. Two flew north over a visitor boat on 9 April, with another two north on 1 August. The third and final record involved a single bird south on 5 September.
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis. A common breeder, abundant on passage.
Birds were already attending nest sites when rangers moved out to the islands in late March, with the first mating pair seen on 10 April. An increase in the number of pairs and a good breeding season came as welcome relief after a poor showing last year for this magnificent seabird. The Fulmar is facing a particularly uncertain future as the North Sea whitefish industry declines and offal discarding becomes less frequent, a suggested cause for the huge range expansion that this bird underwent in the 20th Century. As with most seabirds, climate change and a decrease in abundance of its natural prey is believed to contribute to recent declines and may well eventually lead to it becoming a rare bird in British waters. The first chick was discovered on 6th July on Brownsman. 227 (266.4) pairs nested this year as follows: Inner Farne 30 (23), West Wideopens 15 (12.6), East Wideopens 19 (18.8), Knoxes Reef 13 (16.6), Staple 38 (48), Brownsman 53 (65.4), North Wamses 31 (30.6), South Wamses 31 (34.2), Big Harcar 7 (10.4) and Longstone End 7 (5.2). 151 nests were monitored this year from which 91 chicks fledged, resulting in a productivity of 0.56 (0.52*). Most birds and their chicks had departed the islands by the beginning of September, with the last stragglers departing by late September. Birds returned to the islands in November and many were back on nest sites by the end of the month.
*This figure does not include 2015 as no productivity study was carried out that year.
Cory’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea. A scarce visitor.
This large shearwater was first spotted flying north past Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, at 07:53 on 5 September. Five hours later it was found cruising lazily north through Staple Sound. This is the eighteenth record for the islands.
Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis. A scarce visitor.
First seen past Flamborough Head, this transatlantic tubenose arrived at the southern end of Inner Farne late in the afternoon of 17 September, during a sudden northward rush of smaller shearwaters. Travelling with a flock of five Manx and seven sooty shearwaters, it powered north behind Scarcar rock before banking away and passing behind Staple. This represents the sixteenth Farnes record.
Manx Shearwater P. puffinus. A common passage visitor.
A lack of northerly winds in autumn led to a poor seawatching season, which included one of the worst showings of Manx shearwater in years. 1-21 were recorded on 24 dates from 14 May to 2 October, with modest peaks of 32 north on 25 June and 64 (63 north, 1 south) on 17 September. A final late record involved a single bird north on 21 November.
Balearic Shearwater P mauretanicus. An uncommon passage visitor.
This critically endangered seabird is recorded in small numbers most seasons, with two late records finally completing a full set of shearwaters this year. Singles flew north through Staple Sound at 08:21 and 15:17 on 6 November, providing only the second and third November records for the islands.
Sooty Shearwater P. griseus. A well represented to common passage visitor.
An interesting year for this oceanic wanderer managed to combine an extremely low number of records with the highest day count since 2010. Amazingly, August failed to produce a single bird, with the first not appearing until 4 September. This was followed by an impressive 113 on 17 September, with all but one heading north. A lone bird north on 24 September was the only other record that month, whilst October produced sightings on just a single date: 11 north on 2 October. Finally, northerly winds in November produced late records of singles north on 2, 5 and 21 November, and ten north on 6 November.
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus. An uncommon passage visitor.
The first of the year was found feeding off Longstone on 2 June, with nocturnal sound-luring sessions for ringing purposes then producing five birds on 15 July and one on 19 July.
Leach’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa. An uncommon visitor.
One of these sizeable storm petrels was trapped for the third consecutive season, with a sound-luring session on 20 July attracting an adult into the nets. Remarkably, this bird had been ringed on the Farnes in July 2014 and re-trapped a few days later on 1 August.
Gannet Morus bassanus. An abundant passage and non-breeding summer visitor.
Recorded almost daily around the islands as birds moved between feeding grounds and gannetries in East Yorkshire and Lothian. Passage peaked in spring with 1,593 moving north in one hour on 24 April, whilst large feeding flocks formed around the islands in autumn. This year a single adult was found standing on the South Rocks of Inner Farne on 7 June, moving to the Lighthouse Cliffs the following day.
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. A common breeding resident.
Present all year, with numbers increasing through spring and summer with the arrival of breeding birds. As one of the species that has shown dramatic long term declines the population showed a healthy increase this year, as 96 (103.4) pairs nested across the islands. Despite the increase of 15 pairs on last year, numbers are still just 32% of what they were 30 years ago. The shift away from the traditional site of the North Wamses continued, and the 96 pairs nested as follows: East Wideopens 42 (53), North Wamses 2 (19.2) and Big Harcar 52 (31.2). The highest count of passage birds came on 28 July when a flock of 41 flew north over Inner Farne, with lower counts of 22 north on 15 August and 17 north on 16 August.
Shag P. aristotelis. A common breeding resident.
Shag are present all year around the islands, with a significant population maintained throughout the winter. The Shag is another species that is showing recent declines in the breeding population, which has halved in the past 15 years. As well as a drop of 49 pairs on last year, productivity was poor at 1.19 (1.36). Birds were paired up and on nest sites by mid-March, with the first egg discovered on Inner Farne on 27th March. The first chicks were spotted on the 1st May, with fledglings noted from mid- June. This year 672 pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 252 (249.8), West Wideopens 93 (71.2), East Wideopens 47 (71.4), Megstone 8 (14.2), Skeney Scar 40 (46.8), Staple 103 (126), Brownsman 67 (86.4), North Wamses 17 (31.8), South Wamses 12 (34), Roddam & Green 9 (7), Big Harcar 23 (42.2) and Longstone End 17 (16.8).
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. A well represented visitor; bred in 1894.
As usual, spring produced very few records, with singles reported on only four dates between 10 April and 6 July. Following four records in August, birds became resident throughout autumn, with records of 1-3 almost daily from late September. The only higher count involved four west past Inner Farne on 22 September.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus. A scarce passage visitor.
An individual was discovered by boatmen on 3 August as it flew west over East Wideopen, before passing over Inner Farne and eventually entering Budle Bay on the mainland. This represents the twentieth Farnes record of this powerful piscivore.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus. An uncommon passage visitor.
The expanding British population has been represented in Farnes records, with only one blank year since 2008 (following just 14 records from 1954-2005). This season produced a single sighting, with a handsome male circling above Inner Farne on 8 May.
Hen Harrier C. cyaneus. A scarce visitor.
A ‘ringtail’ was flushed from Brownsman’s West Meadow on 28 August, quickly disappearing behind Staple in a cloud of agitated gulls. This is the eighteenth record for the Farnes, following another ‘ringtail’ on the same island in 2014.
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. An uncommon visitor.
The British population of this fierce-eyed hawk is relatively sedentary, but is augmented by migrants from northern Europe. A quiet season for the islands produced only three records, all from Inner Farne in the autumn months. A juvenile was on the North Rocks on 23 August, with another in the Top Meadow on 1 October. The final record involved a large immature female in the Central Meadow on 7 November.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. A well represented passage visitor; may have bred in 1916.
Spring movement was typically light, with a female west past Inner Farne on 19 April and another over North Wamses on 10 May. Autumn passage began with a female on Inner Farne on 3 August, which was followed by three further records in August, three in September and nine in October, when a female appeared to be in residence on Brownsman for a week. All records involved single birds, with the exception of 30 August and 5 September when two birds were seen on each date.
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus. A well represented passage and winter visitor; may have bred around 1925.
At least two birds were present in spring, with seven records between 23 March and 2 May, including a male and female seen together over Inner Farne. The first bird returned to the islands on 2 September, after which sightings became regular as at least two birds took up residence: an adult male and an enormous adult female.
Merlin F. columbarius. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
Britain’s smallest falcon breeds in the uplands of Northumberland and winters in the lowlands, with the Farnes regularly hosting one or two overwintering birds. Spring produced six records between 20 March and 30 April, with the first autumn bird hunting turnstones over Knoxes Reef on 18 August. Records remained scarce until October, when they became regular until the end of the season. Most sightings were of single birds, but two were seen together above Staple on 8 November, fighting over a rock pipit.
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus. An uncommon passage visitor.
The best season since 2005 produced records on seven dates, all coming in autumn as migrants reached the UK. Six of the seven were on Inner Farne, and for the second year running the season’s first bird was caught in the Pele Tower, with an individual found at the top of the stairs on 4 October. The Dock Bank was the location for the majority of Inner Farne’s remaining sightings, with singles glimpsed on 10 and 15 October, and 15 and 29 November. The only exception was a bird that scurried past the Pele Tower window on 9 November. The Outer Group’s only record was of an individual that disappeared down a puffin burrow on Staple on 28 November.
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus. A common passage and winter visitor and well represented breeder.
Common around the islands throughout the season, with numbers peaking in autumn. This year the population of this smart wader dropped again to 27 (38.4) pairs and they nested as follows: Inner Farne 4 (6.6), West Wideopens 1 (3.4), East Wideopens 0 (1.2), Knoxes Reef 3 (2.4), Staple 5 (5.8), Brownsman 8 (9.6), North Wamses 1 (1.2), South Wamses 0 (1.2), Big Harcar 1 (1), Northern Hares 1 (1.2), Longstone 2 (2) and Longstone End 1 (2.4). Normally predation is very high, but this year numerous fledged chicks were noted around the islands including 3 on Staple, 2 on Brownsman and 3 around the Inner Group. As usual, a large roost formed around the Inner Group, which provided all of the peak counts.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula. A common passage visitor, uncommon and declining as a breeding species.
The first birds of the season were seen on 25 March, with two on Inner Farne’s South Rocks. This charming and diminutive wader suffered a drop in breeding pairs to the joint lowest number on record. Just 4 (6) pairs nested this year as follows: Inner Farne 2 (1.8), Staple 0 (1.8), Brownsman 2 (2.2) and Longstone 0 (0.6). The first nest was discovered on 22nd April near the jetty on Inner Farne, with the first chicks appearing on 8th June. Although the number of breeding pairs was low, two chicks on Brownsman fledged as did two from Inner Farne. The parents in Cuthbert’s Cove did a particularly good job seeing off any birds straying too near their chicks, including Tern, Black-headed Gull and Eider! Post-breeding sightings were unusually scarce, with just 1-2 seen around the islands on ten dates from August to mid-November and higher counts of five in the Outer Group on 4 August, six on Knoxes Reef on 17 November and 4 around the Inner Group on 28 and 30 November.
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola. A well represented passage visitor.
It was another quiet season for this bulky plover with just eight records, all from the Inner Group. Three summer-plumaged birds on Knoxes Reef on 11 May represented the first spring sighting since 2011, with no more records until 22 September when an individual flew south over Inner Farne. Autumn produced further sightings on 26 September, 1 and 11 October, and 12, 16 and 30 November, all involving singles with the exception of 11 October when two birds flew west over Inner Farne.
Golden Plover P. apricaria. A common passage visitor.
Spring produced a single record, with a bird flushed from Inner Farne’s Dock Bank on 4 May. As usual, autumn produced the bulk of the sightings with birds recorded on 29 dates from July to October. Most of these related to the large post-breeding flock that gathered in the Outer Group, which peaked at 940 on Longstone on 20 September.
Pacific Golden Plover P. fulva. An extremely rare visitor.
On 13 September an unusual sound drew attention to a lone bird flying low over Inner Farne, heading due north and calling frequently. If accepted this will be the first ever record for the Farnes, and only the fifth for Northumberland.
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus. A well represented passage visitor; sporadic breeder in the past, last attempt in 1962.
This season produced records on eight dates, with an individual on Inner Farne on 14 April followed by records on 3, 6 and 7 May as another lingered around the Outer Group. The first autumn bird roosted on Inner Farne on 13 October and was still present the following day, then on 15 October a single bird was on Brownsman, whilst three flew south over Inner Farne. The final record came on 12 November, with two flocks totalling 28 birds flying west past Inner Farne – the highest count since 2012.
Knot Calidris canutus. A well represented passage visitor.
The arrival of this high-Arctic breeder is a regular feature of a Farne Islands summer, with large flocks gathering on Knoxes Reef and Longstone from May onwards. Following singles on 7 and 28 May, records became more regular with 1-90 on 53 dates between 5 June and 22 September. During this period counts peaked at 123 on Knoxes Reef on 21 July, and 168 on Longstone on 7 July. The final record was of a single bird north through Inner Sound on 2 October.
Sanderling C. alba. An uncommon passage visitor.
This season there were only three records of this beautiful beachcomber, all coming in May. An individual on Knoxes Reef on 19 May was followed by seven north through Inner Sound on 22 May, before the final record of another individual on Northern Hares on 28 May.
Purple Sandpiper C. maritima. A common passage and winter visitor.
The Farne Islands host over 1% of the national wintering population of this hardy northern wader, with birds recorded in every month but June (Table 3). This year the largest gathering came on 9 April, with 165 around the Outer Group.
Table 3. Peak counts of Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone abundance, Farne Islands 2016.
March April May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Purple Sandpiper 30 165 60 0 14 22 24 25 87 37
Turnstone 17 27 48 12 178 411 263 350 149 -
Turnstone Arenaria interpres. A common passage and winter visitor.
This energetic wader is present all year, with large roosts on Knoxes Reef and Longstone (Table 3). Passage peaked in autumn, with 411 across the islands on 4 August. Rangers were not present long enough to make a December peak count.
Dunlin Calidris alpina. A common passage and winter visitor.
Light spring passage produced 1-3 on six dates in May and three in June, with birds more regular in autumn as 1-29 were recorded on 47 dates from 1 July to 24 September. The only higher count in this period involved a flock of 50 on Knoxes Reef on 1 September. The final records this season were of lone birds on Longstone End on 8 October, Inner Farne on 25 November and Brownsman on 28 November.
Little Stint C. minuta. An uncommon passage visitor.
This tiny calidrid put in two autumn appearances this season, following a blank year in 2015. A confiding juvenile on Brownsman Pond on 4 August, feeding with six dunlin, was part of a small influx along the north Northumberland coast, with another record later that month as an individual was flushed from Knoxes Reef on 20 August.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. An uncommon passage visitor.
A terrible season for this distinctive wader produced only a single record, with a typically vocal individual flying west over Inner Farne on 19 August.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos. A well represented passage visitor.
A reasonable year included four spring records, with singles on Inner Farne on 2, 9, 11 and 12 May. The first returning bird was on Brownsman Flats on 23 July, with further singles on 25 and 27 July. Records then became more regular as 1-4 were noted on 23 dates from 1 August to 15 September.
Redshank Tringa totanus. A common passage and winter visitor; bred in nine years 1901-1943.
This noisy wader is typically present throughout the year, although this season failed to produce a single June record. Numbers peaked in autumn, with 44 around the islands on 27 August and 36 on Knoxes Reef on 4 September
Greenshank T. nebularia. A well represented passage visitor.
With records on only four dates it was a very poor season for this distinctive wader. Autumn passage began with a vocal individual flying south over Inner Farne on 31 July, followed by singles on Inner Farne on 14 August and Brownsman on 28 August, with a final record of two south over Inner Farne on 16 September.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. An uncommon passage visitor.
A good season for this long-legged wader began with a single bird on 29 April, flying north through Inner Sound with three whimbrel. 30 June produced a flock of 18 south over West Wideopen, followed by a flock of nine west over Inner Farne on 23 July. A few days later Brownsman hosted the largest flock of the season when 31 landed on the Flats on 27 July, including a colour-ringed male. This bird had been ringed as an adult in the Tagus estuary, Portugal in February 2011, where it was also seen wintering each year from 2012-2015. On leaving Portugal, it typically passed through northern Holland, where it was recorded in March/April from 2013-2016, before reaching breeding grounds in northeast Iceland (present throughout June 2013). This flock also represented the fifth highest day count for the islands. Final records were of an individual south through Inner Sound on 2 August and two south through Staple Sound on 30 August.
Bar-tailed Godwit L. lapponica. A well represented passage visitor.
Recorded on 18 dates this season (three spring, 15 autumn), with most sightings involving 1-25 birds. Large numbers roosted on Knoxes Reef in September, with a count of 64 on 4 September soon eclipsed by an impressive 300+ on 10 September – the second highest day count for the islands. Numbers dropped off afterwards, with 40 on 13 September and 32 on 21 September. There were two late records of birds in the Inner Farne evening wader roost, with a single bird on 17 November and six on 2 December.
Curlew Numenius arquata. A common passage and winter visitor.
This long-billed wader is found around the islands all year, with a large evening roost often forming in the Inner Group. This season’s peak count was 174 on 3 December
Whimbrel N. phaeopus. A well represented passage visitor.
A quiet season for this migratory wader produced just 29 records. Spring passage began with an individual on Inner Farne on 26 April, with one there again on 29 April when three also flew north. May then recorded 1-2 on three dates, with the first returning bird seen on Knoxes Reef on 9 July. Thereafter 1-4 were recorded on 22 dates until 29 August, with modest peaks of six on 21 July and five on 9 August. The final record of the season was of two on Brownsman on 18 September.
Woodcock Scolopax rusticola. A well represented passage visitor.
The first of the season came from the surprising location of the Inner Farne Information Centre, where an individual was caught on 24 March. It was released outside and flew off strongly west. The only other spring bird was flushed from Inner Farne’s North Rocks on 4 April. The first autumn migrant appeared on Brownsman on 4 October, with 1-6 recorded on ten further dates that month, as well as a peak count of 12 on 15 October (five on Inner Farne, seven on Brownsman). Small numbers were seen throughout November, with 1-2 on seven dates including the last of the season on 29 November.
Snipe Gallinago gallinago. A well represented passage visitor.
A typical season produces around fifty sighting of this well-camouflaged wader, but for the second year in a row the islands fell well short of this total. 1-2 were recorded on four spring dates between 24 March and 18 May, and 19 autumn dates from 25 August to 4 December. The only higher counts were three on 8 October and four on 15 October.
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus. A well represented passage visitor.
A reasonable season for this small snipe produced records on nine dates, with the best spring showing since 2007. The first of the year was flushed from the South Rocks of Inner Farne on 1 April, followed by singles on Brownsman Flats on 11 and 15 May. As usual, October provided the bulk of the records, with 1-2 flushed on six dates. The majority of these were from Inner Farne, Brownsman and Staple, although individuals were seen on Longstone on 6 October and West Wideopen on 16 October.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax. A well represented passage visitor.
The best season since 2000 produced records on 15 dates, including a rare spring sighting of two north through Inner Sound on 3 May. Southbound migrants were responsible for records on 14 autumn dates between 6 July and 31 August, involving an estimated 13 individuals. A juvenile male was seen on Staple on 6, 12, 22, 24 and 29 July, followed by a juvenile female on Inner Farne on 4 and 5 August. A new bird was on Inner Farne on 9 August, with Knoxes Reef hosting an adult male on 14 and a juvenile male on 20 August. A different adult male on 21 August was followed by the season’s peak of five west on 25 August: one ruff and four reeves. The final records were of individuals in the Inner Group on 27 and 31 August.
Great skua Stercorarius skua
A common passage visitor.
It was a poor spring passage for this formidable predator, with a single bird passing south through Staple Sound on 21 May. This individual was observed within several feet of the West face of Staple and was photographed killing a gull species. It was a slow start to autumn with a single roosting briefly on Knoxes Reef on 28 July. The bird was presently mobbed by Herring and Lesser blacked-backed gulls and headed south. August records consisted of two birds observed on 18 and 26 August, though numbers steadily increased the following month, with 22 birds recorded on 9 dates between 4 September and 2 October. Most records were of birds passing through Staple Sound, and comprised of small groups of 1-3 birds. A notable exception was a flock of six that were seen on 8 September, passing North via Inner Sound and observed within close proximity of Inner Farne. Aside from a late 19 October record of an individual passing south, singles were sighted into November.
Pomarine skua Stercorarius pomarinus
A well represented passage visitor, common in some years.
2016 proved a quiet year for this hefty high arctic breeder, with 3 birds observed in September and October, all passing through Staple Sound. Despite weak south Easterlies, 2 dark juveniles were observed passing North on 4 September. The subsequent records also consisted of dark juveniles, with moderate Easterlies providing an individual heading North on 14 October. The autumn ended in spectacular fashion with 17 birds seen on 6 November. These included groups of 1-2 birds and a flock of 7 passing via Inner Sound that were led by stunning pale morph adult with visible spoon tail. An intermediate adult was also observed heading North through Staple Sound. All of the other birds observed were juveniles.
Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus. A Common passage visitor.
Spring failed to produce any records of this parasitic acrobat, with the first dark phase individual heading North through Inner Sound on 18 June. Dark singles were also noted on the two following days from 19-20 June, with no further sightings until a bird passed through Staple Sound on 20 July. August proved more fruitful, with 14 birds noted over 6 dates from 6 August to 31 August, mostly passing through Inner Sound. Kittiwakes bore the brunt of the pirating, with a juvenile observed being chased by a single skua from Knoxes Reef on 12 August, and an adult Kittiwake being harassed by an individual on 16 August. Numbers increased throughout September, with groups of 1-4 birds passing predominantly via Staple Sound on 10 dates between 1 and 22 September. Passage declined in October, with two singles recorded North through Staple Sound on 2 and 14 October, the latter consisting of a juvenile bird. November produced some late records, with birds seen on 2 and 6 November. Sightings for the year overwhelmingly comprised dark phase birds, with no pale phase birds recorded until 4 September.
Long-tailed skua Stercorarius longicaudus. An uncommon passage visitor.
As of last year, there was one record of this slender highly prized skua for the season. Whilst crossing Staple Sound in the Zodiac, the rangers observed a handsomely barred juvenile passing directly above the boat, to a distance of only 4 meters. The unforgettable encounter took place on 1 October before the bird headed North across the Sound.
Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus. A well represented breeding species and common visitor.
The spring roost on Knoxes Reef produced peak counts of 750 on 25 March, with birds observed prospecting in the Inner Farne Central Meadow. Displaying was taking place as early as 20th March, but it took another six weeks before the birds settled and the first egg was found, on 1st May. This year 506 (508.2) pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 504 (506.8) and Brownsman 2 (1.4). The first chick was spotted on 27th May and fledglings were from 28th June onwards. There were also two pairs that nested on Brownsman, both of which we unfortunately predated. It is surely only a matter of time until a good size colony establishes on the outer group. Following the breeding season, birds are present throughout the autumn and winter months. Unusually, there was a distinct absence of winter roosts in November, until 90 birds were observed on Knoxes Reef on 29 November.
Common gull Larus Canus . A common visitor; bred in four years 1910-1914 and possibly in 1916 with attempted breeding in 1974.
The vast majority of sightings occurred in spring, commencing with the first individual recorded on Knoxes Reef on 23 March. The spring roost yielded 9 birds on 6 April, which grew to an impressive 70+ on 14 April. The highest concentration was noted 4 days later with 104 present on 18 April, representing the largest roost for several years on Knoxes Reef. Passage continued as 42 birds were observed heading North on 19 April. Numbers decreased as birds moved on to breeding grounds Scandinavia, with the roost dwindling to 32 birds on 27 April. Typically, there was a string of autumn records which begun with 2 birds passing through Inner Farne on 25 June, and continuing 2 months later with 3 birds sighted over Knoxes Reef on 23 September. Birds were seen almost daily over October and November.
Mediterranean gull Larus melanocephalus. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
There was much excitement in spring when a Polish-ringed bird was found on 23 April, roosting among the Sandwich terms on Ladies Path on Inner Farne. The gull, in typical first-winter plumage, sported a red darvic and was ringed as a nestling on 4 June 2015, in Wojcic, Opolskie. Prior the Farnes sighting, the bird was also reported in the Netherlands in July 2015. A different second-winter individual with a black head was present on the following day on Inner Farne on 24 April.
Herring gull Larus argentatus . A common breeding species, abundant passage and winter visitor.
Present all year round, birds were pairing up as the rangers returned on 18th March, and the first eggs were discovered in late April. This year 660 (863) pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 26 (17), West Wideopens 88 (130.3), Est Wideopens 203 (125.5), Knoxes Reef 37 (102), Skeney Scar 49 (25.8), Staple 17 (52.8), Brownsman 9 (5.8), North Wamses 113 (162.3), South Wamses 42 (59), Roddam & Green 22 (14.6), Big Harcar 43 (111.5), Northern Hares 6 (20.4), Longstone 0 (3.2) and Longstone End 5 (16.4).After the breeding season, large numbers remained to winter around the islands, particularly at the roost on Knoxes Reef and the Wideopens.
Great black-backed gull Larus marinus. An uncommon breeder, common passage and winter visitor.
The islands top resident predator and all round impressive beast had a good year as the number of breeding pairs rose for the 7th year in a row. There are now 22 (14.6) pairs nesting across the islands as follows: West Wideopens 1 (1.6), East Wideopens 6 (3), Knoxes Reef 0 (0.6), Staple 2 (1), Brownsman 1 (1.8), North Wamses 5 (3), South Wamses 3 (2.4), Big Harcar 4 (1.2) and Longstone End 0 (0.2).Post breeding season, numbers were supplemented by wintering birds. High counts reached into the hundreds, with birds present in both Inner and Outer groups of islands.
Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus. A common breeding summer and passage visitor.
This smart migrant gull was first observed pairing up on 17th March, with eggs noted from early May. A total of 572 (710) pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 35 (18.3), West Wideopens 148 (196), East Wideopens 83 (118), Knoxes Reef 56 (13), Skeney Scar 2 (12), Staple 49 (36.8), Brownsman 4 (11.4), North Wamses 40 (92.5), South Wamses 104 (137.8), Big Harcar 46 (75), Northern Hares 3 (0) and Longstone 2 (3.3). Since records began in 2002, the population has averaged 566 pairs. Despite it now remaining in much of Britain over the winter, the population on the islands still departs in late September.
Little gull Hydrocoloeus minutus A well represented passage and winter visitor.
Once again it proved a quiet year for this dainty gull, with spring failing to produce any sightings. Summer provided the first record, with a first-summer bird noted on Inner Farne south rocks on 7 July. The only other sighting concerned three first-winter birds on 24 September, which were observed powering south through Staple Sound in southerly winds.
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. An abundant breeder and passage visitor, well represented in winter.
Kittiwake was another species that seemed to suffer from the poor start to the season, as the population of this charismatic little gull saw a 10% decline. Birds were back on the cliffs as the rangers returned, with the first eggs discover on 17th May. 3,527 (3,958.2) pairs nested this year as follows: Inner Farne 1,152 (1,257.4), West Wideopens 193 (190.6), East Wideopens 207 (224.8), Skeney Scar 113 (139.4), Staple 917 (985.8), Brownsman 869 (1,071.6), North Wamses 28 (26.4), South Wamses 0 (4.8), Roddam & Green 15 (8.8) and Big Harcar 33 (48.6). There was a notable abandonment of nests on 25th April, as many birds were forced off the cliffs during the storm. Even before this it was noted that there were birds present on the cliffs of which many didn’t lay eggs. This contributed to a low productivity of 0.58 (0.82). The first chick was discovered on 9th June, with the first fledglings noted in the air on 15th July. Post breeding, small numbers were observed on passage throughout September and October. Larger numbers were present in November, with a peak of 334 birds heading north over four hours on 6 November.
Figure 4: Kittiwake population and productivity 1996-2016
Glaucous gull Laurus hyperboreus. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
A single specimen of this bulky Northern migrant was recorded on Inner Farne on 22 November. A juvenile bird was discovered on the roost on Knoxes Reef in late afternoon among the large gulls, before it flew to the West Wideopens just before dusk.
Iceland gull Laurus glaucoides. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
This elegant white-wing was recorded four times in April within mixed gull roosts. A faded first-winter bird was seen on Knoxes Reef in the evening of 8 April, and was still present roosting on the following afternoon on 9 April. Another first winter individual was present on the West Wideopens roost on 19 April, with a third fairly advanced bird recorded at 20:15 on 22 April.
Little tern Sernula albifrons. A well represented passage visitor.
The pre-breeding roost at St. Cuthbert’s Cove on Inner Farne attracted good numbers of this gentle tern, with the highest recorded counts since 2012. The first record of 6 individuals occurred on 28 April, with numbers doubling to 13 on 30 April, and rapidly building two days later to an impressive 44 roosting birds on 1 May. Numbers grew in the coming days, culminating in the peak count of 82 on 5 May. Numbers presently began to fall as birds returned to mainland nesting sites, but impressive numbers still joined the roost. Numbers dropped to a maximum of 16 birds between 15 and 19 May, but again rose to a modest 62 on 21 May, illustrating the extreme fluctuations occurring throughout May. By 28 May, roosting numbers had decreased to 32 birds, and aside from individuals passing north through Inner Sound on 18 and 19 June, the final record was a single roosting on 24 June. On 6 May, three blue-ringed birds were observed in a roost of 80, which originated from one of the UK breeding colonies.
Sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis. A breeding summer and passage visitor.
The first bird of the year was observed flying west from the Kettle on 27 March, with 8 birds later present in the roost on Ladies Path, Inner Farne on the same night. A peak count of 523 birds was counted in the roost on 20th April. Birds were first observed displaying and copulating on 14th April and started settling on Central Meadow on 28th April. The first egg was spotted on 16th May and the first chick on 5th June. Fledglings were noted in the colony from 11th July, with a peak count of 40 in the roost on 16th July noted before most swiftly departed. This year 629 (808.6) pairs nested, including a welcome return of a small number to Brownsman late in the season, the first since 2010. The nesting pairs were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 605 (808.6), Brownsman 24 (0). Following the breeding season, small numbers were recorded on passage on 21 dates from 5 August to 25 September, with a peak autumn count of 58 birds recorded over Knoxes Reef on 13 August. The final record was a late bird sighted 1 nautical mile East of Longstone on 14 November.
Common tern Sterna hirundo
A breeding summer and passage visitor.
The first bird of the year was an individual seen on Knoxes Reef on 6 April. 3 birds were observed on the Ladies’ Path roost on 18 April, which subsequently grew during the month to 40+ birds on 1 May. The first birds were seen scrapping and displaying around Central Meadow pond on 1st May, but it seemed a poor year was to follow, as only 1 fledgling was spotted on 22nd July. 87 (93.8) pairs bred this year on Inner Farne, down from 98 in 2015. Numbers inevitably declined following the breeding season, with 1-8 birds observed on 9 days between 31 July and 13 September. Most of these birds were recorded in August, and were observed on passage via Inner Sound and the Kettle.
Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea. An abundant breeding summer and passage visitor.
The first bird of the year arrived on 18 April on Inner Farne, and was observed calling over the Vegetable Garden before roosting on Ladies Path. The roost grew to 9 birds on 25 April, and by 1 May, an impressive c850 were feeding throughout the day. On 4 May, the roost held over 3,300 birds over Knoxes Reef and Ladies path, and on the following day, the sight of birds scraping and mating on the island heralded the start of the nesting season. The first egg discovered on the 14th May at the weather station on Inner Farne. The first egg on Brownsman followed a day later, with chicks present on both islands from 6th June. Productivity was exactly the same as last year, a disappointingly low 0.21 (0.56) as 336 chicks fledged. With many eggs predated in the Lighthouse Compound and Veg Garden on Inner Farne, productivity was low at 0.24 with 270 chicks fledging. As for Brownsman, after last year’s dire season in which just 36 chicks fledged with a productivity of 0.07, this year 68 chicks made it away doubling the productivity to 0.14. The number of breeding pairs dropped to 1,508 (1,903.4), the lowest number since 2002 and they nested as follows: Inner Farne 1,164 (1,248.2), Staple 10 (7) and Brownsman 334 (648.2). Knoxes Reef on 24 June. Numbers fell towards the end of the breeding season, with 1-12 birds typically recorded over 8 dates throughout August. An off-season peak of 29 birds was observed on 23 August, which included 8 feeding in Staple Sound. The final record was of 8 birds in Inner Sound on 5 September
Figure 5: Arctic Tern productivity and population 1996-2016
Roseate tern Sterna dougalli. A well-represented summer and passage visitor, uncommon breeder.
Following the first sighting of 2 birds on 17 May, generally 1-3 birds were present on Inner Farne throughout May, June and into July. There were no confirmed breeding attempts, but 2 birds were seen copulating in the roosts around South Rocks and Ladies Path on 21 and 23 May, and again on 29 May. The pair was observed circling the Lighthouse Compound and later displaying around South Rocks on 10 June, though no further breeding indications were noted. 2 pairs were also present on Brownsman from 22 June to 1 July, where despite sightings of flight displaying, courtship dancing and exploring for presumed nesting sites, no breeding attempts were confirmed. A peak count of 8 was recorded on the Inner Farne South Rocks roost on 21 May, with smaller counts of 4 observed on 23 May and 22 June. The first juvenile bird from Coquet was seen from Inner Farne on 23 July among 3 adults, which was again seen the following day with a single adult on 24 July. The last birds of the season concerned 2 singles observed passing south through Inner Farne on 2 and 9 September.
Black tern Childonias niger. An uncommon summer and passage visitor.
Compared to previous years it was a modest season for this striking marsh tern, with two records from the Inner group of islands. The first record was a summer plumage adult which was present in the evening tern roost on South Rocks on Inner Farne on 11 May. The other record concerned a juvenile, which was observed passing North through Staple Sound on 16 August, just behind Knoxes Reef.
Puffin Fraatercula arctica. An abundant breeding summer and passage visitor.
With the next census due in 2018, no population count was made this year. The first Puffin of the year was sighted on the sea on 15th March, with the first on land a week later. Spring cleaning was noted on 23rd March and by 30th March numbers on land were in their thousands. The first egg was spotted with the use of the islands’ new burrow cameras on 30th April and on 1st June, a Puffin being mobbed by a Black-headed Gull for its beak full of fish told us the first chick was hatched. After last-years’ wash out, with productivity at just 0.46, it was significantly improved, at 0.70 (0.81) as 81 Puffling fledged from 115 nests after considerably less rainfall during the breeding season. Sandeels seemed to be in plentiful supply and rangers observed Puffling above ground from 8th July to 3rd August. The autumn months provided a flurry of records, with regular sightings from mid-September into November.
Black guillemot Cepphus grille. A well-represented winter and passage visitor. Bred in 17th and possibly 18th centuries.
It proved a poor season for this secretive crevice dwelling breeder, which continues to winter in small numbers around the Farnes. The first sighting of the year was quite unusual, and comprised a summer plumaged adult observed from a boat on Inner Sound on 7 May. The second and final bird was a typical autumn record of a single seen off Inner Farne Lighthouse Cliffs on 12 November.
Guillemot Uria aalge. An abundant breeding resident and passage visitor.
This was only the 6th year since 1971 that the Guillemot population on the Farnes didn’t increase, as numbers fell from a record high of 53,461 individuals in 2015 to 49,037 (50,489). The cliffs were heaving during a boardwalk repair outing on 12th March and birds were on and off until they settled and the first egg appeared on 23rd April. The first chick was discovered on Inner Farne on 23rd May, the same date as last year and jumplings were noted on the sea from 14th June. The 53,461 individuals nested as follows: Inner Farne 9,011 (7,234.8), West Wideopens 1,630 (2,216.6), East Wideopens 3,491 (2,851.6), Megstone 350 (246), Skeney Scar 1,973 (2,301.6), Staple 21,093 (23,739.8), Brownsman 9,594 (9,272), North Wamses 870 (1,493.4), South Wamses 542 (532.8), Roddam & Green 130 (129.2), Big Harcar 353 (424). Star of the show was a probable-breeder with an orange darvic, originally found on Lighthouse Cliff on Inner Farne on 24th May, and seen on 5 dates after. The bird was originally ringed as a nestling in Gotland in Sweden in on 23rd June 2004, making it 11 years and 335 days old! One to look out for in years to come! Following the end of the breeding season, small groups of wintering birds were seen from mid-August, with larger numbers passing through both Staple and Inner Sounds throughout September. Strong Northerly winds in early November brought hundreds of birds streaming past the islands, whilst singles and small flocks typically rafting off the islands throughout October and November.
Razorbill Alca torda. A common breeding resident and passage visitor.
Birds were present on the cliffs during an early visit to the islands on 12th March, with the first egg spotted on 4th May. A poor breeding season in terms of productivity was had by this handsome auk as it hit a 10 year low; however the population rose by 15 pairs. Productivity was 0.45 (0.7) as 32 chicks fledged from 71 nests. The 491 (458.4) pairs of Razorbill nested as follows: Inner Farne 206 (214.4), West Wideopens 68 (83.8), East Wideopens 35 (25.4), Skeney Scar 23 (16), Staple 95 (54.8), Brownsman 23 (17.6), North Wamses 9 (9.6), South Wamses 18 (16.8), Roddam & Green 2 (0.2), and Big Harcar 12 (18.8). Following the breeding season, small numbers occur in autumn and winter around the islands. Singles were observed into November, though most birds were seen in September, with 1-10 birds recorded on 6 dates between 4 September and 7 October. Single birds were also seen into November.
Little Auk Alle alle. A well represented winter and passage visitor.
It was a very quiet season for this arctic midget, with small numbers recorded on 5 dates in November. Following the first single noted on 5 November, 8 passing north through Staple Sound on 6 November represented the peak count. A memorable encounter off occurred Northern Hares on 8 November, when a single on the water came within 4 meters of the zodiac, only to be disturbed a seal coming up for air. The final record concerned 3 birds passing north through Staple Sound on 21 November.
Feral pigeon Columba livia. A common breeding resident.
As usual, small numbers bred around the islands. Following the seabird breeding season, peak numbers grow in the autumn months to several hundred birds. As usual, many fall victim to predation, most frequently from Peregrine and Great Black-backed Gull.
Wood pigeon C. palumbus. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was a fairly typical year for Wood pigeon with 14 records, predominantly coming from the outer group of islands. On 5 April, the rangers’ first seasonal trip to Brownsman produced 2 adults around the cottage area, whilst the spring passage also provided Brownsman with single birds on 7 and 22 May. Unusually, autumn proved more productive than spring, most likely on account of the strong Easterlies, with birds observed over 6 dates in October. An individual was seen on Staple on 6 October, as well as a separate bird passing over Inner Farne and heading to the mainland on the same date. Additional singles were also recorded on Inner Farne, from North Rocks on 14 October, and on Central Meadow on 16 October. On 15 October, 5 birds present on Brownsman made up the highest count since 2006, and proved to be the joint-third record count for Wood pigeon on the Farnes. The last annual record was a single on Brownsman on 21 October.
Collared dove Streptopedlia decaocto. An uncommon passage visitor.
This common mainland breeder was recorded over 3 dates on Inner Farne, all in spring. 2 birds were present on the lighthouse on 20 April, and an individual was recorded in the Vegetable garden on 7 May. Another bird, possibly the same individual, was present the following day on 8 May in the same location.
Cuckoo Streptopelia decaocto. An uncommon passage visitor.
Following an absence of sightings since 2013, the autumn produced 1 record of this scarce parasitic migrant. On 15 August, a juvenile was flushed from the North Rocks on Inner Farne. It proceeded to fly away from the islands and West towards Bamburgh.
Long-eared owl Asio otus. An uncommon passage visitor.
There were two records of this impressive nocturnal hunter in autumn, as the owls migrated from Scandinavia to warmer climes across the North Sea. The first sighting hailed from Brownsman on 27 August, when an individual was flushed from the East Rocks and flew towards the Wamses. The second record consisted of a long staying individual on Inner Farne which arrived on 11 October. After it was initially discovered roosting in the sticks in the Vegetable Garden, the showy bird relocated to other points around the island, including the Dock Bank and even on the tower itself. After six days of offering excellent views for the Rangers, the owl was last seen on the morning of 17 October.
Short-eared owl Asio flammeus. An uncommon passage visitor.
It proved to be a superb year for this diurnal predator, with 35 individuals recorded over 14 dates. A slow spring provided 3 records, with the first consisting of an individual being mobbed by gulls before heading west over Knoxes Reef on 10 April. A single was also observed on 23 May passing East over Knoxes Reef, whilst another bird was flushed from Brownsman on 26 May. Partly due to the generous Easterlies, autumn commenced impressively with birds recorded on 11 dates between 1 and 17 October. Most sightings occurred on Inner Farne and Brownsman, though notable exceptions included a bird flushed from The Bridges between Knoxes Reef and the West Wide Opens on 5 October, and a bird present on Longstone End on 7 October. 15 October saw the second highest day count for islands, with 9 birds recorded on 15 October (including one on Brownsman). 17 October brought the final sightings of the season, with 3 birds recorded from Inner Farne.
European nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus. A rare passage visitor.
After drawing a blank in 2015, a single male of this scarce and enigmatic species was found on Staple Island on 13 June. Having being flushed from rocks, it offered excellent views as it flew around the south of the island, its white wing panels visible. The rangers watched as it proceeded to be mobbed by the breeding gulls around tower, before landing in the north-west meadow. This bird constitutes the 12 record for the islands.
Common swift Apus apus. A well represented summer and passage visitor.
It was a quiet season for swifts on the Farnes, with small groups and singles comprising 17 birds over 7 dates. Following the first bird recorded from Longstone on 10 May, the only record in June was of 3 birds heading east past Inner Farne on 23 June. The next month proved marginally better with 4 birds passing south via Inner Farne on 27 July. Birds trickled through into August, with singles seen heading west from Inner on 6 and 24 August. On the morning of 21 August, one of the rangers was somewhat surprised to find a stunned juvenile on the ground in front of the Inner Farne toilets. The bird soon recovered and took flight after a minute or so. The final record was a group of 6 passing south over Inner Farne on 30 August, which also represented the highest day count of the year.
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis. Extremely rare visitor.
A key contender for bird of the year, a Kingfisher present on Inner Farne on 9 August was the third ever record for the islands. A ranger heard the unmistakable call, and looked down Ladies Path to see the unmistakable blue flash. The bird perched obligingly for 15 seconds before it flew across the Kettle and beyond he Wideopens, leaving behind several observers who could not quite believe their eyes.
Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopus major. An uncommon passage visitor.
A single juvenile of this mainland boreal breeder was found on Brownsman on 24 October. The rangers were alerted to the iconic call coming from the ground behind the vegetable garden wall, before the bird flew out and looped several times around the cottage. The bird was very active, and proceeded to feed on one of the false trees by the tower. It is highly likely that this bird was the Northern European race D. m. major, on account of the strong October easterlies, along with a whiter face and shorter, blunter bill compared to the nominate race. This exciting find marked the first island record since 2013.
Wryneck Jynx torquilla. Uncommon passage visitor.
There was one record of this of highly sought after drift migrant. The bird was observed on Brownsman on 28 August, where it briefly perched on the South-east cliffs by the jetty. It then flew across to the north beach of Staple, where it was seen once again before returning to Brownsman.
Skylark Alauda arvensis. A passage visitor. May have bred in 1865 and around 1900.
Inner Farne produced all spring records for this declining Farmland breeder, with singles present on 12 and 22 March and from 8 - 15 April. Numbers increased later in the month with 11 seen over 3 days in April, which included a spring peak of 7 birds heading North on 19 April. The autumn passage with typically busier, with 1-6 birds observed on most dates between 30 September and 31 October. Higher counts from Inner Farne included a passage of 13 birds on 6 October and 11 birds on 15 October, along with 8 recorded from Brownsman on the same date. The peak count of the season was 27 birds observed on 14 October, with 21 heading west over Inner Farne and 6 in Central Meadow.
Sand martin Riparia riparia. A well represented summer and passage visitor.
It was a typical year for this local mainland breeder, with small numbers recorded predominantly in spring. The first of the year was observed from a visitor boat passing Big Harcar on 5 April, which represents the only seasonal record from the Outer group. April provided the bulk of the records, with singles seen passing north via Inner Sound on 10, 18 and 21 April. 5 birds passing north over Knoxes Reef on 19 April constituted the highest count, followed by a group of 4 passing north on 20 April, along with a single flying North through Staple Sound. Sightings lingered into May, with a bird passing north through the Kettle on 2 May, and the last spring record of 2 passing north on 3 May. Autumn was very quiet, with the first and final record comprising a bird passing via Inner Farne on 8 September.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. A common summer and passage visitor. Scarce breeder.
The first spring passage bird was seen on Inner Farne Central Meadow on 5 April, and was followed by 1-5 birds recorded on further 9 dates, generally heading north via Inner Sound and the Kettle. A spring peak passage of 31 was observed on 19 April. Arguably the most iconic of our spring arrivals, in only its 8th year of breeding on the islands, the population remained healthy at 6 (5.8) pairs; a drop from last year’s bumper 10 pairs. A good season was had by those that braved the early cold, as a fine end to the summer allowed many pairs to get away second broods. As usual most of the accessible buildings were utilised as the 6 pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 2 (2), Staple 0 (0.2), Brownsman 1 (1) and Longstone 3 (2.6). Following the breeding season, autumn passage birds were noted heading south or west on 14 dates. Records involved typically small groups of 1-22 birds, but higher counts of 49 and 36 were observed on 30 and 31 August respectively. The peak count was 100 on 7 September, which comprised 26 around Inner Farne and 74 heading west over the island. The final spring record was a late bird on 14 October.
House martin Delichon urbica. A well represented summer and passage visitor. Six pairs attempted to breed in 1950 (Watt, 1950)
Spring got off to a promising start with 7 birds passing north through Inner Sound on 19 April, but there were no further sightings until the following month, when 3 birds passed north through the Kettle on 2 May. Singles were also observed passing North via Inner Farne on 4 and 8 May, along with an individual flying west over the Inner Farne lighthouse on 27 May. There were just 2 records from the outer group, with a bird observed around the Brownsman jetty on 26 May. The final spring record comprised an individual off Longstone End on 28 June. The autumn passage commenced with a peak count of 26 birds heading south past Inner Farne on 30 August, and singles were also recorded on 31 August and 1 September. A flock of 19 birds observed heading west over Inner Farne on 7 September were followed by 2 more birds on 11 September. The final late record was a single heading west over Inner Farne on 17 October.
Rock pipit Anthus petrosus. A common resident well represented as a breeding species.
Birds were present and display song was observed on the 12th March as males began setting up territory. A bird was observed with nest material on Inner Farne on 13th April, with the first fledged chicks trapped and ringed on 19th May. This year 21 (23.8) pairs nested as the population recovered after a 23 year-low 17 pairs in 2015, and they nested as follows: Inner Farne 5 (5.8), West Wideopens 1 (1.8), East Wideopens 0 (0.8), Staple 3 (3.6), Brownsman 7 (8), North Wamses 2 (1), South Wamses 1 (1.2), Longstone 1 (0.8) and Longstone End 1 (0.8). The resident breeding population is supplemented by migrant birds, which were represented by a peak count of 16 from Inner Farne on 30 August.
Meadow pipit A. pratensis. A common passage visitor. Bred ca 1901 and in eleven years 1946-1973.
It was a quiet spring with small numbers recorded; with the first bird discovered on the Inner Farne dock bank on 23 March. 1-7 birds were seen on 19 more spring dates, with all but one record coming from the Inner group. There was a spring peak of 21 birds on 3 April, which was closely followed by 18 the following day. 9 were also seen heading North on 19 April, before the last spring bird was seen on Brownsman on 28 May. The species is one of the most numerous passage migrants on the Farnes, and the autumn did not disappoint. After the first 2 singles were present in the Inner Farne Lighthouse Compound on 23 August, birds were recorded on a further 51 dates until 25 October. Peak passage occurred in the first half of September, with a seasonal high count of 285 birds heading south-west over Inner Farne on 11 September. This represents the fourth highest day count for the islands. Modest counts of 66 and 33 birds were also noted on 7 and 9 September, and a mini-influx on 15 October brought 67 birds across Inner Farne and Brownsman, courtesy of the strong easterlies. A single bird on the Inner Farne north rocks on 12 November was the last bird of the season.
Tree pipit A. trivialis. A common passage visitor.
It was a quiet spring passage, with a single bird recorded on Brownsman on 11 May. The first autumn bird was seen passing west over Inner Farne on 18 August, followed by individual records over the next four days from 19-22 August. A count of 3 birds on 25 August represented the peak count for the season, and comprised 2 heading south over Inner Farne and a single showing well in the Vegetable garden. Singles were also present on Inner Farne on 26 and 28 August, and a bird seen Brownsman on 29 August was the last sighting for the Outer group. Passage slowed in September, with individuals over Inner Farne on 4, 7 and 11 September, whilst 2 birds were observed passing West over the island on 9 September. On 5 October, A late single on Inner Farne was the final record for the season.
Pied wagtail Motacilla alba yarrelli. A well-represented summer and passage visitor and uncommon breeding species.
Following the first seasonal record of a single on Inner Farne South Rocks on 18 March, small numbers were observed on spring passage pre-breeding. Birds were fighting for territory from 21st March, with the first male heard in full song on 30th March. Nest building was observed in the Courtyard and Lighthouse compound on 24th April. This year 6 (7) pairs nested as follows: Inner Farne 3 (3.1), West Wideopens 0 (0.4), Staple 1 (1), Brownsman 2 (1.8) and Longstone 0 (0.8). Fledged chicks were fist noted on 4th June, and as with Swallow, some pairs managed second broods after some fine weather in late summer. There was a post-breeding increase during late August, with a peak count of 12 birds recorded on 12 August. The species was noticeably scarcer autumn, with a single seen on 14 October on Inner Farne. The final record was a late bird observed circling Inner Farne on 25 November.
White wagtail M. alba alba
It was a good year for this continental subspecies, with singles recorded on 8 spring dates. The first bird was recorded on Inner Farne Central Meadow on 27 March, with all subsequent birds also seen on Inner Farne with the exception of a single on Brownsman on 15 June. There were two autumn birds which were seen on 26 August and 6 October.
Yellow wagtail M. flava. An uncommon passage visitor.
It proved another lean year for this dazzling yet declining migrant, with no spring records at all. An autumn individual seen on 7 September comprised the first and only record of the season. The bird was observed passing west over Inner Farne as it headed to the mainland.
Grey wagtail M. cinerea. An uncommon passage visitor. May have bred in the 1890s.
Typically, there were no spring records with autumn providing 5 records of this partial migrant, all hailing from Inner Farne. The first seasonal record comprised a bird passing West over the Lighthouse Compound on 23 September. 3 singles were seen over 3 consecutive dates the following month, starting with a bird observed heading south over the lighthouse on 15 October, and one recorded on the South Rocks on 16 October. The final record was an individual seen on 28 October.
Waxwing Bombycillia garrulous. An uncommon winter and passage visitor.
Despite an invasion occurring on the mainland, it was a lean year for this dashing irruptive visitor. Birds trickled through on two autumn dates, with 3 birds passing west over Inner Farne on 3 November. On 8 November, a single observed heading south over the Brownsman cottage was the only record from the Outer Group.
Dunnock Prunella modularis. A common passage visitor. May have bred in the 1890s (Pybus, 1903).
Despite a generally sedentary British population, small numbers of the nominate race P. m. modularis trickle through the islands, passing between breeding grounds in Fennoscandia and wintering grounds in Southern Iberia. The first spring record was a bird seen in the Inner Farne vegetable garden on 27 March. There were subsequent records of singles on 12 dates between 1 April and 3 May, with birds seen around the Lighthouse Compound and tower on Inner Farne. The Outer group had 3 spring birds on Brownsman, with 2 birds recorded on 5 April along with a single present from 28-30 April. The autumn passage was busier with generally 1-3 birds present across the island on 23 dates in October. 5 birds were present on Inner Farne on 18 October, whilst a count of 6 on 13 October comprised 4 birds on Brownsman and 2 on Inner Farne. A seasonal peak of 11 birds was noted on 15 October; with 8 birds on Brownsman and 3 on Inner Farne. A handful of singles were present throughout November and into December.
Robin Erithacus rubecula. A common passage visitor. Bred in 1951.
A well represented overwintering migrant, there were 1-4 birds present on 33 spring dates following the first record on 12 March on Inner Farne. There were no major influxes, and the last record was a late bird that had become trapped in the Inner Farne Information centre on 4 June. After the first autumn record of a single in the Inner Farne vegetable garden on 14 August, birds were a daily occurrence across the Inner and Outer group throughout September and into December. As usual, numbers were supplemented by migrants, with peak passage occurring from 4-18 October, when numbers hit double figures. The highest count was noted on 15 October, when 135 birds comprised 85 observed from Inner Farne and 50 on Brownsman.
Thrush nightingale Luscinia luscinia. An extremely rare visitor.
For the second year running, Brownsman hosted this eastern vagrant to the astonishment of the rangers. Unlike the 2015 bird, this was one arrived in spring and was present in the sticks around the vegetable patch. It was particularly obliging and offered close views of only 5-10 meters, allowing the rangers to photograph and locate the eighth visible primary feather to confirm this tricky species. The bird was present from 10-12 May and marks the fourth record for the Farne islands.
Bluethroat (red spotted) Luscinia svecica. An uncommon passage visitor, well represented in some years.
The Farnes is perhaps the best site in the North-East to see this continental jewel, and the 2015 season did not disappoint. The rangers visited Longstone on 10 May and briefly glimpsed a distant male on Longstone End. A zodiac trip to the small isle and subsequent search among the rocks produced excellent views of the stunning bird. Two females appeared on 12 May, the first one present in the vegetable garden for two days on Brownsman. The second was a showy first winter bird on Inner Farne, seen well by rangers and public alike in the vegetable garden. It was subsequently seen on 13 May where it had relocated to the dock bank, and again on 15 May.
Common redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus. A common passage visitor.
It was a modest year for this striking copse-dwelling breeder. The first bird was an impressive male on Brownsman on 3 May, followed by a female in the vegetable garden on 5 May. 2 separate females were present on Brownsman and Inner Farne on 10 May, the latter lingering for 7 days in the vegetable garden. A minimum of 2 females and a male were also seen on Brownsman from 11-16 May, resulting in a peak count of 4 birds across the islands on 11 May. 2 late spring records from the outer group comprised a female on Staple on 24 May and another from Longstone on 28 May. The first autumn record came from Inner Farne on 28 August, followed by a single bird seen on Longstone on 29 August. There were three September records, with a handsome male skulking in the Inner Farne vegetable garden on 3 September. A subsequent individual was noted on Brownsman on 13 September, followed by a female seen in the Lighthouse compound On Inner Farne on 15 September. A female was present on Inner Farne from 6-9 October, followed by a male and female on 15 October. The final record was a lone female, possibly the same bird, which lingered on Inner Farne from 16-18 October.
Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. A well-represented passage visitor.
With no autumn records at all, it was a strange season for this dusky chat. It was a strong spring showing however, beginning with 2 males recorded on Inner Farne from the Lighthouse Compound from 4-5 April. 2 males were also on Brownsman on 5 April, followed by a single male on the South Rocks at Inner Farne on 6 April. 2 males were present on 11 April, including a second calendar year bird which lingered for four days around Lighthouse Compound until it was last seen on 14 April. A male and female were recorded on Brownsman on 11 May, and a single male was also present on 14 May. The last two spring records were of a female from 27 to 28 May around the Inner Farne tower, and a male in the Lighthouse Compound from 13-14 June.
Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. A common passage visitor. Bred in six years 1931-1959.
It was a steady spring passage for this upland favourite, with records from 44 dates between 24 March and 21 June. Single males comprised many of the early sightings, including one observed singing in the picnic area of Inner Farne on 29 March. Most counts stayed in single figures, but a peak of twelves birds on 1 May broke the mould, followed by modest totals of eight on 5 May and five on 4 April across the islands. A first summer male was also trapped and ringed on Inner Farne on 4 May. The first returning bird was a female seen on Inner Farne on 9 August, followed by a first winter bird on 18 August. Birds were subsequently recorded every day from 19 August until 15 September, and logged on a further 24 dates between 17 September and 15 October. Peak passage took place on 29 August, when 48 birds were recorded across the islands, including 16 on Inner Farne, 14 on Brownsman and 18 on Longstone. All other autumn record consisted of 1-10 birds. A possible Greenland race bird was seen on Brownsman on 27 August.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra. A common passage visitor.
Spring passage was typical, with a male present from 7-8 May in the picnic area on Inner Farne. A female present on Brownman, also on 8 May, made up the second and last spring record. Autumn commenced with a juvenile recorded on Inner Farne top meadow on 22 July, and continued with 1-2 birds present on seven dates from 17 to 28 August on Inner Farne and Brownsman. 1-2 birds were seen on an additional 8 dates on Inner Farne from 5 to 17 September, whilst a single on Brownsman on 13 September was the last record for the Outer group. The final records consisted of singles on Inner Farne seen on 6 and 8 October. Maximum counts of 3 birds were observed from Inner Farne on 21 August and 15 September.
Stonechat S. torquatus. An uncommon passage visitor. Bred in 1946.
It proved another elusive year for this common mainland breeder, following a notable decrease in sightings since winter 2010. The finding of a female on the South End of Brownsman was therefore a welcome surprise. The bird was present on 15 October and was the only record of the season.
Siberian stonechat S. maurus. An extremely rare visitor.
The islands shared in the stunning Siberian influx that hit the country in autumn, which culminated in the debut arrival of this rare chat on Inner Farne. A first winter male was found on Central Meadow in the late afternoon on 20 October, where it offered obliging views until it vanished just before dusk. The well saturated plumage suggested the possibility that the bird could be the Stejnegeri subspecies. Unfortunately it did not stay long enough for the rangers to collect DNA samples, which could have proved useful in confirming the taxonomical status of this tricky species. Regardless of race this was undeniably passerine of the year, as it represented the first ever record for the islands.
Song thrush Turdus philomelos. A common passage visitor.
It was a poor season for thrushes, as reflected in the meagre presence of this declining garden favourite across the islands. Spring passage was light with typically 1-3 birds recorded on 15 dates between 26 March and 30 April. On 13 April, an influx of 11 birds represented the highest spring count, followed by 5 present on the next day on 14 April. Following a sprinkling of 1-2 birds seen on 4 dates from 1-18 September, the species maintained a constant presence throughout autumn from 20 September onwards. Peak passage occurred in early October, with a high count of 92 birds on 5 October, comprised of 29 on Inner Farne, 3 on West Wideopens and 60 on Brownsman. Following a smaller influx of 10-33 birds recorded from 10-17 October, 1-7 birds were present on the islands into December.
Redwing T. iliacus. An abundant passage visitor.
Small numbers of this winter migrant moved through the islands in spring, with heavy passage occurring in autumn on account of strong easterlies. The first record was an individual on the Inner Farne top meadow on 24 March, which proceeded to fly west to the mainland. 1-5 birds were seen on 10 additional dates in spring, with a high count of 17 from Inner Farne on 4 April, including 16 heading north, and 8 on 27 March. A single on Brownsman on 29 April marked the last spring bird. Following the first 2 autumn bird from Brownsman on 2 October, 3-101 birds were recorded daily throughout October. Though numbers were smaller than the dizzying highs of last season, a peak count of 506 was recorded on 15 October. Other large counts comprised of 144, 129 and 118 birds on 13, 5 and 6 October respectively. Birds trickled through into November with a peak of 18 on 12 November on Inner Farne, but generally concerned singles as December closed in.
Mistle thrush T. viscivorus. An uncommon passage visitor.
This is a scarce species for the islands and following last season’s no-show, it was a relief when a single bird was recorded passing west via Inner Farne. It was seen on 13 October at the peak of the autumn thrush migration.
Fieldfare T. pilaris. A common passage visitor.
Small numbers were recorded in spring from Inner Farne, with the first single discovered behind the Pele tower on 6 April. 1-2 birds were recorded on 10 subsequent spring dates, with a high count of 18 on 4 April which included 10 birds heading north. A final bird present on North Rocks from 26-27 May represented a late spring record. The first autumn bird was found on Inner Farne on 15 September, and the following passage was very quiet when compared to 2015. Numbers typically remained in single figures throughout October and November, but the Easterlies provided a mini-influx from 14-16 October, resulting in higher counts of 14, 37 and 19 across these dates. Following a count of 35 passing west over Inner Farne on 30 October, 20 were also seen heading west on 12 November. 1-2 were present on Inner Farne through to late November.
Blackbird T. merlula. An abundant passage visitor. Rare historic breeder.
Following the first sighting of a single recorded on 12 March on Inner Farne, It was a quiet spring passage with 1-3 birds recorded on 22 dates. The last spring record was a male on Brownsman on 24 May. The first autumn returnee was a female on Brownsman on 11 September, and following the record of a male on Inner Farne on 3 October, birds were seen daily until the end of the year. Peak passage occurred in mid-October, with a considerably low high count of 54 birds on 15 October, which comprised 38 on Inner Farne and 18 on Brownsman. Passage generally slowed into November, save a mini-flux of 31 recorded from Inner Farne on 3 November.
Ring ouzel T. torquatus. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was another quiet year for this mountain blackbird, though five individuals put on a good show. The first migrant was a male on Inner Farne, which offered obliging views to rangers and visitors alike from 5-6 June on the top meadow. The second and last spring record was a male present in the Inner Farne vegetable garden from 12-13 June. Autumn commenced with a single bird recorded on Brownsman on 4 October and a first winter male on Inner Farne the same date. The final seasonal record was a bird on Brownsman on 13 October.
Garden warbler Sylvia borin. A common passage visitor.
It was a poor season for this robust Sylvia, with three individuals seen in spring and a further six birds recorded in autumn. A bird was present in the dock bank on Inner Farne from 5-6 May, and was followed by another bird seen in Vegetable garden from 9-11 May which later relocated to the dock bank. The third spring bird was present on Brownsman on 28 May. The first autumn birds arrived on 28 August, with one bird on Inner Farne and two on Brownsman, one of which was still present the following day on 29 August. The final two records came from Inner Farne and consisted of two singles on 14 September and 5 October.
Blackcap S. atricapilla. A common passage visitor
It was generally a good showing for this summer visitor with records on 16 dates during spring. The first bird was a male seen in the Inner Farne Vegetable garden on 4 April. Most sightings consisted of 1-3 birds, but a spring peak of 5 birds were recorded on 5 May from Inner Farne. 5 birds were also present on 8 May, which included a first summer male and 2 females from Inner Farne and 2 females on Brownman. The last spring records were of a male and female on Brownsman and Inner Farne respectively on 15 May. The first autumn bird was a female seen on 28 September in the Inner Farne vegetable garden. October proved impressive on account of the stunning easteries, with reports on 22 further dates. Peak passage occurred on 15 October, when high counts of 42 birds were recorded across Inner Farne and Brownsman. This represented the third highest day count for the Farnes (following 250 in 1981 and 129 in 2001) and included 20 males and 22 females. The final records were of a male and female on Inner Farne on 27 October.
Whitethroat S. communis. A common passage visitor.
Following the arrival of 2 females on Inner Farne on 1 May, birds were recorded on a further 19 spring dates across the islands. Generally 1-2 birds were present during this time, though peak counts of 3 were recorded on 3 dates, most notably on Inner Farne on 5 May when a second-year male was trapped and ringed. Birds favoured the outer group in spring, with birds noted on 16 dates across Brownsman, Staple and Longstone as opposed to 8 records from the Inner group. The last spring record was a female on Brownsman on 18 June. The first autumn bird was recorded on Inner Farne on 13 August, followed by sightings on 17 further dates. 15 of 20 autumn records came from Inner Farne, and consisted entirely of single birds. There were multiple occurrences on 23, 27 and 28 August where singles were present on both Inner Farne and Brownsman. The final sighting was a female on Inner Farne on 6 October.
Lesser whitethroat S. curruca. A common passage visitor.
After the poor tally last season, it was a better showing for this subdued Sylvia in 2016. The outer group provided all spring records, with birds recorded over 12 dates in spring from 4-28 May. Most birds were singles on Brownsman, with the exception of 2 together on 11 May. A single was also recorded on Longstone on 9 May. The autumn passage was unusually productive with 14 records between 28 August and 30 October. Most of these sightings involved single birds, with the exception of 2 birds present on Brownsman on 8 October. There was also a multiple record for the Inner group with singles on Inner Farne and the West Wideopens on 15 September, the latter being a first winter bird. Most autumn records came from the Inner group, with only 3 sightings coming from Brownsman.
Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. A well-represented passage visitor.
It proved another slim year for this distinctive Acrocephalus, with the first of the year discovered on the Inner Farne dock bank on 3 May. Curiously, the first bird of 2015 was also found on this date by the same individual. The subsequent sightings hail from Brownsman, with a single present on 5 May, and another seen around the pond on 10 May. Autumn proved even quieter, with the final sightings consisting of two birds on Brownsman on 13 September.
Grasshopper warbler Locustella naevia. A well represented passage visitor.
It has been a poor showing for this elusive reeler in recent years, with only two records in 2014 and one in 2015. The 2016 season fared no better, with a single record from Brownsman. A bird was discovered by the Vegetable garden wall on 2 May, and was still present the following day.
Reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus. A well represented passage visitor.
It was a very quiet year with only two records. In previous years this warbler has proved elusive and often drawn a blank in spring, but this season Brownsman provided a single bird around the vegetable garden on 1 May. The only autumn record concerned a bird present on the Central meadow of Inner Farne on 15 October.
Icterine warbler Hippolais icterina. An uncommon passage visitor.
The Farnes is a highly reliable site for this robust drift coast migrant, having being recorded on 10 of the past 11 years, with only 2014 drawing a blank. This season continued with the tradition, with a single bird present on Staple on 28 May, where it was photographed by a visitor.
Willow warbler Phylloscupus tochilus. A common passage visitor.
Two birds present in the Lighthouse Compound on Inner Farne marked the first arrivals on 10 April. Birds were recorded on 25 spring dates until 16 May, with generally 1-4 present on both Inner Farne and Brownsman respectively. The first half of May brought a mini-influx, with 7 birds noted on Inner Farne on 2 and 4 May, and 13 on 5 May. A spring peak of 16 was recorded on 11 May, which comprised 10 on Brownsman and 2 each on Longstone, Staple and Inner Farne. Following the first autumn single on Brownsman on 29 July, there was an almost constant presence through to October, with records on 52 further dates. Peak passage occurred in mid-August, with a high count of 31 birds on 22 August, with 11 on Inner Farne and 20 on Brownsman. A bird of the Northern race acredula was discovered on 25 August, showing well in the Inner Farne vegetable garden. The last bird was briefly singing single on Inner Farne on 18 October.
Wood warbler P. sibilatrix. An uncommon passage visitor.
This gleaming woodland breeder remains scarce on the islands, so it was a welcome surprise when an individual graced Inner Farne on 28 August. The confiding bird offered excellent views in the vegetable garden for rangers and visitors alike, and lingered for two days until it was last seen on 30 August. This marks the first record since 2013.
Chiffchaff P. collybita. A common passage visitor.
It was an excellent season for this subdued warbler, with the first bird noted from Inner Farne on 24 March. 1-6 birds were recorded almost daily in spring and were present on 62 dates, with peak passage occurring in April. A relatively large fall of 12 birds was observed on 11 April on the Inner Farne dock bank, followed by modest counts of 8 and 9 on the following 2 days. Singing individuals were heard on 20-21 April and also on 2 and 15 May on Inner Farne. 1-2 birds lingered through into June, with the last spring bird present in the Inner Farne vegetable garden on 21 June. It was an exceptional autumn which started early with singles present on Brownsman on 6 and 11 July. These were followed by records on 35 dates between 18 August and 26 October. Peak passage occurred in early October, with a high count of 66 on 6 October across Inner Farne, Brownsman, Staple and Longstone. This represents the second biggest day count for the islands, behind the top record of 147 from 2010. A total of 52 birds noted on 5 October was the fourth highest count for the Farnes. The final sightings for the year were 2 birds present on Inner Farne from 24-26 October. A suspected Siberian Chiffchaff (subspecies tristis) was seen on Inner Farne on 14 October, pending approval.
Dusky warbler P. fuscatus. A rare visitor.
The islands hosted this dark eastern speciality for the third year running. A skulking single was seen and heard on the West Wideopens on 16 October, before flying to Inner Farne where it was not seen again. This represents the ninth record for the islands.
Yellow-browed warbler P. inornatus. An uncommon passage visitor.
Despite the sizable influx across the country, it was not an exceptional year for this Siberian gem. Nevertheless, the generous Easterlies provided a sprinkling of records. The first of the year was a bird on Brownsman on 18 September, which was followed by a second bird around the picnic area of Inner Farne on 22 September. A third bird was found on Inner Farne Central meadow on 1 October, which relocated to the vegetable garden on the following day, where it showed nicely for visitors. Birds were recorded on 9 further dates, with birds on Inner Farne generally associating with goldcrests in the central meadow. A high count of 3 was noted on 4 October, though most records consisted of 2 birds per day. The final sighting of the year was a single on Longstone End in late October.
Pallas’ Warbler P. proregulus. A rare visitor.
This dazzling Siberian migrant was recorded on Inner Farne for the first time in 3 years. An individual was discovered among the goldcrests and Yellow-browed warbler on 5 October, where it offered close but scant views in the Central Meadow. A second bird was present on 14 October among 2 Yellow-browed warblers, and lingered through into the next day. These birds marked the nineteenth and twentieth records for the islands.
Goldcrest Regulus regulus. A common passage visitor.
It was a strong year for this irruptive kinglet, and following the first single on Inner Farne on 23 March, 1-8 birds were recorded on 16 spring dates. A peak of 11 birds was observed on 4 April, and the last spring record concerned 3 birds on Inner Farne on 4 April. The first autumn bird appeared on 27 August in the Inner Farne Vegetable garden, with 1-3 bird recorded on 11 subsequent dates until 3 October. Visible migration increased from 4-19 October with 13-231 birds recorded, including a seasonal high count of 246 birds on 15 October. This represents joint third highest day count for the islands, with 231 birds on 8 October being the fourth highest. Passage died down towards the end of the month, with 1-6 birds noted daily until the final record of 3 birds on 29 October.
Firecrest R. regulus. An uncommon passage visitor.
Despite the sizable influx of Goldcrests in mid-October, there was just one sighting of this striking and highly sought-after kinglet. An individual was discovered among 10 Goldcrests on the West Wideopens on 16 October, which marked the first sightings since 2013.
Wren Troglodytes trolglodytes. A passage migrant and winter visitor. A rare breeder.
Spring records mainly involved overstaying wintering birds, with generally 1-7 present on Inner Farne from 12 March. Larger influxes of 8 and 9 were recorded across 3 dates in late March, with a peak of 10+ seen on 24 March on Inner Farne. The last bird of spring was a single on Inner Farne on 3 May. Following the first autumn bird on Brownsman on 16 September, there was a daily presence across both groups of islands until the end of the season. The highest count was 21 present on 15 October, which comprised 12 birds on Inner Farne and 9 on Brownsman.
Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata. A well-represented passage visitor.
There were 8 individuals recorded across 12 dates in 2016, with peak passage occurring in spring. The first bird of spring was recorded on Longstone from 9-10 May, followed by a separate individual present on Brownman, also on 10 May. Singles were also present on Staple on 11 May and around the Inner Farne picnic area on 19 May. A bird was also seen on the South East of Brownsman from 26-28 May. There were 3 autumn birds, with the first appearing on Brownsman on 28 August, followed by an individual present on the Inner Farne dock bank on 7 September, which was also seen on two further days on 8 and 11 September. The final bird of the year was noted two days later on Longstone on 13 September.
Red-breasted flycatcher Ficedula parva. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was another good year for this eastern specialty, with two birds recorded in autumn. The first sighting was a first-winter bird on 7 October, which showed beautifully in the afternoon around the Brownsman cottage. The second was another first-winter bird, which was present at St Cuthbert’s Cove on Inner Farne on 15 October.
Pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca. An Uncommon passage visitor.
It was a quiet season for this woodland favourite with 7 birds noted across the island. The only spring record was a showy male on Browsnman, which stayed from 7-8 June and offered close views on the upper vegetable garden sticks. Autumn began impressively with a peak count of 3 birds present on Inner Farne, which stayed for 2 days from 20-21 August. A single bird recorded on the Brownsman Flats on 22 August, and two separate individuals recorded from Inner Farne and Brownsman on 28 August comprised the final records for the year.
Great tit Parus major. Uncommon visitor.
On the day that the rangers arrived on Inner Farne to begin the 2016 season, they were stunned to find this scarce mainland resident in the Lighthouse Compound. Having been alerted to its call, a single female was found on 19 March and was present for 2 days. This is only the fifteenth year in which this species has been recorded on the Farnes, and the second record in 11 years.
Great grey shrike Lanius excubitor. A scarce passage visitor.
Autumn marked the brief return of this impressive shrike with the first record since 2012. On 4 October, a single bird was observed on the sticks in the vegetable garden on Inner Farne. It proceeded to fly to the pond area, where it was mobbed by pipits and chased away from the island. This marked the twenty-sixth record for the Farne islands.
Red-backed shrike Lanius collurio. An uncommon passage visitor.
There were two records of this prolific migrant butcher, both coming from Brownsman. On the morning of 28 May, a female was discovered in the lower vegetable garden on 28 May. This prompted an afternoon twitch by the Inner Farne Rangers, who scoured the island but failed to find a shrike. Whilst heading back to the jetty, they rejoiced as the bird appeared at the last minute and took flight, just as a second bird appeared over the wall! Both birds lingered late into the afternoon.
Jackdaw Corvus monedula. A well represented visitor. Former breeder, last in 1966.
It was a typically quiet year for this mainland breeder, which predominantly visits the Farnes during spring. This season continued the trend with the first bird observed on the Inner Farne Pele tower on 22 March. The tower continued to prove popular on 8 April and hosted 3 birds, 2 of which were seen inspecting the chimney early in the morning. An individual was recorded flying over Inner Farne Central Meadow on 28 April, whilst the final record concerned 2 birds passing North over Inner Farne on 3 May. Unusually, there were no birds recorded in autumn.
Rook Corvus frugilegus. A well represented visitor.
Small numbers of this common churchyard Corvid visit the islands each year, and this season was no exception with 4 birds visiting the Inner group. Passage was light, and began with 3 birds observed passing east over Inner Farne on 10 April. 2 birds were later seen returning west on the same day; the whereabouts of the third bird proving a mystery. Autumn proved even quieter, with a single bird heading east over Inner Farne on 9 October.
Carrion crow Corvus corone. A well represented visitor and rare breeding species.
Peak counts were reported at the beginning of the season with birds observed flying out from the mainland, before returning west following an exploration of the islands. Small groups of 1-5 were seen on most days during April and May, though high counts of 18 on 28 April, 17 on 20 April and 16 on 4 May were also recorded. 1-2 birds lingered on Inner Farne during the seabird breeding season, and were seen on 9 dates in June and July. There was potential breeding on the Outer group, as a group of 5 birds including 1 juvenile was seen on Brownsman from 15-19 July. It remains unclear whether these birds flew in from the mainland, or indeed originated from the smaller islands. Following a single August sighting, 1-4 birds were seen almost daily from 1 September and into November. The notable exceptions were 15 birds heading east over Inner Farne on 9 October, and 6 birds present on 11 September.
Starling Sturnus vulgaris. A common visitor; extremely rare breeder.
Small numbers were present from early spring, with 1-3 birds seen on 7 dates during March and April on Inner Farne. Numbers increased in mid-summer, with family parties from the mainland provided frequent counts of 10-30 birds, observed from 5 June through to July. Smaller groups were present throughout autumn, with peak passage occurring from mid to late August. A seasonal high count of 65 was noted from Inner Farne on 30 August, with smaller counts of 52 and 42 recorded on 23 and 17 August respectively. Following a singular spike of 44 birds observed on 7 September, the last major influx occurred during the peak thrush migration on 14 and 15 October, when 42 and 46 birds were recorded on these dates. 1-7 birds were subsequently reported daily into December.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. A common passage visitor.
It was a quiet spring passage with one individual heard calling over Inner Farne on 22 March. Autumn commenced with a female present on Inner Farne from 15-17 September. 3 birds were also recorded from the Outer group from 16-18 September, which included a male on Brownsman and a female on Longstone. Passage picked up in October, with 1-5 birds recorded on 17 dates across both groups of islands. A peak count of 10 birds was noted on 15 October, which included 8 on Brownsman and 2 on Inner Farne. A count of 9 was also recorded on 13 October. The last record concerned a male and female from Inner Farne on 22 October.
Brambling Fr. montifingilla. A common passage visitor.
There were 4 spring birds from Inner Farne, with a male on the North rocks being the first seasonal sighting on 4 April. 2 males and a female were recorded on 14 April, with the 2 males still present the following day. The first autumn arrivals were groups of 4 and 7 on Inner Farne and Brownsman respectively on 4 October, with birds recorded on 16 subsequent dates that month. As with many migrants that autumn, the peak passage occurred from 10-16 October, when impressive numbers were noted. The highest count was 126 birds on 15 October, which including 52 on Inner Farne and 76 on Brownsman. Smaller tallies of 8-20 birds were generally recorded during this time. The last bird of the year was a female on Inner Farne on 29 October.
Linnet Carduelis carduelis. A common passage and winter visitor. Bred in the 1890s.
It was good showing this season, with the typical mix of passage and mainland birds visiting the islands. There was a daily presence of generally 1-9 birds in spring, following the first sighting of 6 birds on 12 March. All spring sightings came from Inner Farne, with birds recorded on a further 22 dates until 3 May, when 2 birds were seen heading West. A modest group of 28 birds were observed passing North via Inner Sound on 18 May, and 22 birds were also present on Inner Farne on 10 May. After the first autumn showing of 26 birds from Inner Farne on 6 October, a semi-resident flock was present throughout October and November and was seen daily, occasionally roaming to the Outer group. A peak count of 133 birds was recorded on the Inner Farne Central Meadow on 25 November. This represents the highest day-count for Linnets on the islands, smashing the previous record of 120 birds from 1999.
Twite C. flavirostris. A well represented passage visitor.
There were 4 late season records for this upland finch, which typically associates with Linnets in small numbers. The first record was a single heard among a flock of 16 Linnet on Ladies Path, Inner Farne on 20 October. Singles were also present on Inner Farne on 25 and 18 October, whilst the final record was a single showing well in the Lighthouse Compound on Inner Farne, with a single Linnet on 19 November.
Lesser redpoll C. cabaret. An uncommon passage visitor.
This species proved considerably scarcer than its continental cousin in 2016, with fewer birds recorded over 9 dates in autumn. The first sighting of a single heading West over Inner Farne on 23 September was the only sighting for that month, whilst 3 birds present on 7 October from Inner Farne marked the peak count. Hereafter, singles were recorded on 12-15 and 17 October on Inner Farne, before 2 birds spotted on 24 October marked the final record for the year.
Common redpoll C. flammea. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was an excellent year for this continental wanderer. Following the first 3 birds recorded over Inner Farne on 9 October, the species was seen on a further 10 dates in autumn. Peak passage occurred on 12 October, when 18 birds were seen coming to roost on Inner Farne in the late afternoon. This high count fell to 15 birds present from 13-14 October, with numbers further dropping from mid-October to early November. The final records were singles present on Longstone and Staple on 8 November.
Redpoll spp. Carduelis spp.
Brief flyover Redpolls were recorded on four dates and could not be assigned a species. Following a single spring bird in the Inner Farne Vegetable garden, groups of 4 and 13 birds were observed heading west on 23 September and 12 October respectively. A single was also noted from Inner Farne 23 October.
Goldfinch C. carduelis. A well represented passage visitor.
It proved a typical year for this colourful seedeater, with peak passage occurring in spring. The first bird was a single recorded on the Inner Farne Central Meadow on 3 April, followed by a bird flying north-east past the Lighthouse Compound on 7 April. The peak count of 12 was recorded on 19 April, represented by 11 birds passing North through Inner Sound and a single in the Inner Farne vegetable garden. 1-3 were recorded on 3 additional spring dates, followed by the final spring record of 8 birds from Inner Farne on 29 April. The first autumn migrant was a single flying west over Inner Farne on 28 September, with 1-3 birds seen on 7 more dates between 29 September and 31 October. The notable exception was 6 birds that were seen on Inner Farne on 1 October, which included 5 juveniles and 1 adult.
Greenfinch Chloris chloris. A well represented passage visitor.
The decline of this much loved garden bird is sadly reflected in the scarcity of recent records from the islands. As a ranger left the Lighthouse cottage on the morning of 7 October, it was a welcome surprise to find a male and female perched on the Compound wall before they flew west. 2 different birds were also seen heading west later on the same day.
Siskin Carduelis carduelis. A common passage visitor.
It was a quiet season with passage observed on 11 dates, which began with an irregular mid-summer arrival of a single male on Brownsman on 16-17 June. Autumn was more typical, with 1-2 birds observed from Inner Farne on 4 dates between 16 September and 13 October. Numbers steadily grew with 11 birds observed on Inner Farne from 14-15 October. 7 additional birds from Brownsman on 15 October then contributed a seasonal peak of 18. Numbers subsequently dropped with 7 birds recorded on Inner Farne on 16 October, with 6 birds lingering from 17-18 October representing the last seasonal records.
Common Rosefinch Carpoddacus erythrinus. An uncommon passage migrant.
It was a standard year for this plucky continental drifter, with 3 birds making welcome appearances in spring and autumn. A first summer male was discovered singing on Brownsman in the Lower vegetable garden on 25 May. It showed well for the rangers and was again seen on the following day. Whilst relocating a Red-backed Shrike on Brownsman, the Inner Farne rangers were delighted to stumble across a Rosefinch on 28 May, presumably the same individual. The first autumn record was a low-flying single over Inner Farne, calling as it headed west to the mainland. The final sighting was a first winter bird by the Brownsman cottage on 15 October.
Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus. A well represented passage visitor.
It was a typically light passage with 3 birds recorded in spring, and autumn providing birds on 9 dates in October. The first bird was a male present in the Inner Farne vegetable garden on 9 April. This was followed by two Outer group records, with a female from Brownsman on 9 May and a male on Staple being the last spring record on 26 May. The first autumn birds arrived on 4 October, with 2 on Inner Farne and a single on Brownsman, followed by 1-3 birds seen over the 6 dates. Higher counts of 10 and 14 birds were recorded on 13 and 15 October across the islands respectively, with the final sighting coming from Inner Farne on 16 October.
Little bunting Emberiza pusilla. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was a fantastic year for this chubby Siberian Vagrant, with obliging Easterlies providing 5 individuals across 3 islands. This represents the joint highest count for the Farnes and matches the peak record set in 2000. The first bird was flushed from the Inner Farne Central Meadow on 4 October, before proving elusive and offering scant views throughout the day. A more obliging bird was discovered on Brownsman in the lower vegetable garden on the same day, and was generally present around the north and east rocks for 5 days, offering close views. On 9 October, a stunned ranger got within 3-feet of a third bird on Longstone End, whilst two more individuals recorded from Inner Farne on 11 and 15 October.
Snow bunting Plectrophenax nivalis. A well represented passage visitor.
It was a quiet season with one spring record of a male on the Inner Farne Central Meadow on 18 March. Autumn was typically busier, with singles recorded on a further 6 dates. 2 October dates involved birds seen on Inner Farne on 20 and 28 October, whilst 3 more November dates concerned birds passing over Inner Farne on 1, 16 and 26 November. The only sighting from the Outer group was a male on South Wamses on 18 November.
Lapland bunting Calcarius lapponicus. An uncommon passage visitor.
It proved to be a better season for this scarce high arctic breeder, with 2 autumn records, both coming from Brownsman. The first bird was seen on 8 October, when it was flushed from the lower vegetable garden before flying to the Wamses, whilst the second bird was observed by the South Jetty on 15 October. This was a slight improvement on the past two seasons, with only singles recorded on each year.
Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella. An uncommon passage visitor.
After a blank showing in 2015 there were two records of this iconic farmland bird. The first was observed on Brownsman on 15 October in the cottage sticks, whilst the second was recorded on Inner Farne on 16 October. It was seen circling the Lighthouse Compound before landing in the dock bank, where it was seen again later in the day.