Bird report 2019 - species list
Species are listed in the order used in the ninth edition of the British List (British Ornithologists Union [BOU], 2018). The status of each species is classified using categories listed below according to Edition 8.1 of the IOC World Bird List. For breeding species 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, bit more than 20 in total Scarce 11-20 occurrences in total Rare 6-10 occurrences in total Extremely rare No more than 5 occurrence in total
March and April
The Rangers arrived on Inner Farne on 21 March, amidst light to moderate westerlies that persisted until the month’s end. Puffins and Fulmars had landed and Shags were already copulating and nest building on the cliffs. On 22 March, two flocks of Whooper Swans and a drake Shoveler nicely supplemented the regular passage and overwintering birds. As April progressed, a persistent easterly flow held northerly and southernly influences. An obliging female Bullfinch was the only real surprise though, and the first Black Redstart met its end in the talons of a Sparrowhawk.
Light northerlies defined early May, with residual swell resulting in the closure of Staple Island for almost a week, after just one day of opening. Despite a few isolated days of rain, the light winds no doubt assisted the nesting birds in the early part of the season. A resumption of light easterlies in mid-May provided a host of spring migrants; the most notable being Cuckoo, Hooded crow and a visible movement of Yellow Wagtails. It was not only birds that benefitted, as such conditions culminated in the fall of over a thousand Diomondback Moths from 18 May to mid-June. On 8 June, a male Bluethroat and a Hoopoe were flamboyant surprises.
June and July
A challenging month, with a cocktail of south-easterly, westerly and northerly wind and swell restricting the number of cliff counts performed. Storms washed Shags nests off from the Inner Farne Tower Cliffs, but it was torrential rain that proved to be particularly problematic for seabirds. 87mm of rain fell on 13 June, more than three times the total rainfall for that month in 2018. The deluge resulted in the flooding of dozens of Puffin burrows on Brownsman. Young Arctic tern chicks were also affected as they are so vulnerable to cold when they get wet. Despite being a wetter month, July was less problematic with light winds and higher temperatures enabling Shags and Kittiwakes to build on the dismal numbers seen in 2018.
August, September,October and November
The warm weather continued into August, with a high average temperature of 18.6 degrees Centigrade for that month. Early easterlies gave way to moderate westerlies, as reflected in the surprise appearances of Red Kite and Treecreeper, along with the arrival of hundreds of Red Admiral butterflies.
September was quiet, save a Balearic Shearwater and Yellow-browed Warbler. Strong south-easterlies, mist and drizzle from 6 October onwards brought decent thrush passage, with a scattering of Short-eared owls, Water Rails and other visitors among them, and later Shore Lark, whilst westerly interludes offered two Ravens and a second Treecreeper.
Olive-backed Pipit and Little Bunting were welcome late arrivals in early November. Much of November was dominated by a strong easterly swell that made a difficult task of visiting islands to count seal pups. This also resulted in many marked seal pups being washed out to sea, with several retrieved by the BDMLR as far afield as Spittal. However, such challenging weather has failed to have an impact on pup production, which continues to grow.
In summary, average temperatures and relatively light winds created favourable conditions for cliff nesting species; namely Kittiwakes and Guillemots. Shags had an improved year, although several low lying and exposed nests were washed out by storms resulting in low productivity. Total rainfall was surprisingly high, with uneven distribution and downpours leading to ‘washouts’ during peak season, which also impacted the Arctic tern chicks.
Brent Goose. Branta bernicla. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
As in previous years, pale-bellied birds (B. bernicla hrota) which winter at nearby Lindisfarne made up the bulk of the records. Autumn passage commenced on 8 September, with a flock of six flying north over the Kettle. Afterwards an individual was spotted on the 17 September flying North through Staple Sound. Steady passage commenced from 18 -23 September, with up to 138 individuals logged during this time. The Peak count was a flock of 40 passing north through Staple Sound on 19 September. A single Black-Bellied Brent Goose (B. benicla nigricans) was recorded rafting in Brownsman’s gut on 27 September.
Canada Goose B.canadensis. An uncommon passage visitor.
In contrast from last year’s successful breeding attempt, there was no evidence of nesting in 2019. However, two pairs were present on both Inner and Outer Groups. The first pair was spotted on West Wideopen on 23 March. Thereafter the birds were present until 15 May. Passage birds included a skein of 18 heading north through Inner Farne on 3 June. The peak count was on 20 September with a skein of 83 heading east from Inner Farne. This represents the highest count since 2006 and sixth highest overall. A pair of Canada geese was spotted wintering around the Inner Group on several dates from 26 October to 17 November.
Barnacle Goose B. Leucopsis A well represented passage and winter visitor.
It was a quiet year for this Arctic-breeding goose, with only small numbers logged in spring and autumn passages. First sighting was on 29 April, with a flock of four birds on West Wide Open, with another skein of 19 flying north over Brownsman. Autumn passaged commenced on 23 September with four spotted on Big Harcar. The last record occurred on 22 November, with a single bird flushed from Inner Farne Central meadow.
Greylag goose Anser Anser. An uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor.
Despite the presence of resident feral flocks on the Northumberland Coast, this species remains scarce on the islands. The only record concerned a flock of 5 flying east on 2 October.
Pink-Footed Goose A brachyrhynchyus. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
After the record-breaking numbers of 2017, it was another quiet year for this species with no spring sightings. The first record on 4 September involved a skein of 28 birds flying high over Inner Farne heading north. An additional 428 birds where recorded on eight subsequent dates during September and October, with further birds heard calling overnight on 12 October. The peak count for this species was recorded on 15 September, with 148 individuals recorded in four different skeins. The largest recorded skein of 130 birds was spotted on 18 November heading South West over the Kettle. Birds were heard flying over Inner Farne on 22 November, before the last skein of four were recorded two days later, flying south-east over the Kettle.
Whooper Swan C.cygnus. An uncommon winter and passage visitor
It was impressive year for this elegant migratory arctic swan, with the second highest day count on record. 76 flew north past Inner Farne on 22 March, in two separate flocks of 70 and six birds. This is the highest count since 2009, when 92 were seen on the exact same date. Two juveniles seen on West Wideopen on 13 October was the only autumn record.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor. An uncommon visitor.
The only record this season consisted of a juvenile, photographed rafting off South Wamses by Andrew Douglas of Serenity. This represented the first spring record since 2014 for this iconic inland species.
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna. A well represented visitor and occasional breeder.
As in previous years, a pair of Shelducks were present throughout much of spring, with 23 sightings from 27 April to 12 June, mainly in the Outer Group. The pair was joined by further individuals on five dates, with a peak count of 11 flushed from Brownsman pond on 2 May. There was no evidence of a breeding attempt. There were only two records during the Autumn passage, of a single among a Brent Goose flock on 18 September, followed by a group of four heading north on 7 October.
Wigeon M. penelope. A common passage and winter visitor
With no spring sightings, it was a late appearance for this dabbling duck with just a few autumn records. 18 were noted on 22 August from Inner Farne, followed by two birds crossing Staple Sound on 19 September. On 20 September, two flocks of five and 40 headed north through Inner Sound, followed by groups of seven and twelve on 22 and 23 September respectively. Two flocks of nine birds were spotted from Brownsman on 31 October marked the only records that month. Wintering birds were present around the islands from November onwards. The highest count for wintering birds was 40 around the Inner Group on 7 November.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. A common passage and winter visitor
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula. Well represented visitor.
It was very quiet season for this diving duck, with a singular record of a female flying west across Inner Sound on 25 October, in the company of Mallards.
Shoveler Spatula clypeata. A well represented passage and winter visitor and extremely rare breeder.
It was a quiet year for this striking species with no breeding attempt. The only record was a male rafting on the Kettle on 22 March.
Teal A.cecca. A common passage and winter visitor.
It was a quiet spring for this small dabbling duck, with pairs spotted on 26 March and 7 April from Inner Farne. Autumn passage with typically busier, with 1-30 birds seen on 22 dates from 26 August to 31 October. 30 birds seen on 15 October represents the peak count for this period, followed by 20 flushed from Brownsman pond on 19 September. Wintering birds were present across both groups from November onwards, with a high count of 50 birds from Longstone from 19 November.
Eider Somateria mollissima. A common breeding resident.
A relatively stable season saw 472 (532) pairs nest across the islands. The species is undergoing a fragile recovery from the historic low of 2017, and although the 1% drop from last season appears meagre, this is only the fourth occurrence since 1969 that numbers have dipped below 500 pairs. Males were displaying as the rangers arrived on Inner Farne on 21 March, with roosting birds spotted along Ladies Path. The largest roost count involved a total of 83 birds recorded on 8 April. The breeding pairs were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 237 (304.2), West Wideopen 18 (16.6), East Wideopen 2 (4.6), Knoxes Reef 3 (1.8), Staple 52 (35.8), Brownsman 140 (146.8), North Wamses 3 (2,75), South Wamses 5 (6.75), Longstone 10 (5.25) and Longstone End 2 (4.25). Numbers on Longstone were the highest in 41 years. Overall productivity was 2.1 (2.48), with a total of 644 chicks fledged from 306 monitored nests across Inner Farne, Staple and Brownsman. Despite higher productivity of 2.38 Staple, this was worst breeding outcome since 2012. The first nest was found on Inner Farne on 10 April, with the first ducklings seen on 10 May across Inner Farne and Browmsman, a full six days earlier than last season. In contrast to 2018, less reported predation led to visibly larger creches in Seahouses harbor, a typical nursery site for the species. Post breeding, Eiders increased around the islands from September onwards.
Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca. A well represented passage and winter visitor
It was a quiet year for this striking scoter with only two autumn records. Four birds flying west through Inner Sound on 22 October comprised the first record, and a male heading east off Brownsman also in October was the second.
Common Scoter M.nigra A common Passage and winter visitor
It was an extremely quiet year for Common Scoter with 341 birds recorded over 11 dates. There were two spring records, with a group of four passing north through Inner Sound on 9 April, followed 30 heading north through Staple Sound on 23 June. The first autumn records comprised 39 birds on 24 July, with no further sightings occurring until 9 September, when groups of 5 and 3 passed through Inner Sound and Staple Sound respectively. The highest day count was on 29 October, with 95 birds across three flocks seen in Inner Sound. A flock of 80 heading north through Inner Sound on 7 December represented the largest singular group, and the final record of the season.
Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
It was another quiet season for this wintering duck, with no spring records for the fourth consecutive season. There were only two sightings in 2019, both in Staple Sound. with a single passing north on 8 September and a female on 3 December.
Goldeneye Bucephala clangula. A common passage and winter visitor
Autumn passage produced records on three dates in October and November. A single female was spotted flying through Inner Sound on 6 October, followed by two females heading south through Inner Sound the next day. On 16 November, four birds passed through Inner Sound, whilst A single female flying south over the Kettle on comprised the last record on 19 November. Contrary to last season, there were no wintering birds.
Goosander Mergus merganser. An uncommon passage visitor.
Normally associated around fresh waterways, this rare sawbill made an appearance on the islands on the 6 November. A single male was spotted by the rangers heading west from Brownsman island. A second individual was seen on the 28 November heading west from St Cuthbert’s gut on the Inner Farne.
Red-breasted Merganser M.serrator A well represented passage and winter visitor and rare breeder
For the fourteenth consecutive year, the islands hosted this rare Northumberland breeder.
Following the first sighting of a female along Ladies Path on Inner Farne on 6 April, both male and female were seen on 20 April. The pair were observed on a further 26 days between 23 April and 21 June, either individually or together, though no nest was not located. On 1 July a female was spotted with eight ducklings on a pool on Inner Farne North Rocks. This was first confirmation of hatching success 2017. Following the sighting of the male fourteen days later, a single flying north east over the Kettle was the only passage bird on 22 October.
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellate. A common winter and passage visitor.
Spring passage was light with singles recorded on six dates from 15 April to 22 May, with all but one coming from Inner Sound. Autumn with typically busier, with 27 birds recorded between 18 September and 29 October on nine dates. The following month produced three records, all coming from Inner Sound. A bird flying south west on 6 November, was followed by three singles passing south on 16 November. A lone bird was seen heading south the following day on 17 November. Two birds seen off Inner Farne on 23 December was the final record of the reason. A peak count of 9 of was observed passing through Inner Sound on 20 September.
Black-throated Diver G.arctica. An uncommon passage and winter visitor.
A scarce diver around the island with only a handful of records produced each year. The only record this season was a single bird heading south through Inner Sound on 16 November.
Great Northern Diver G.Immer. A well represented winter and passage visitor.
It was a disappointing year for this powerful diver with only two late records this season. A single was spotted flying south through Inner Sound on 16 November, followed by two birds observed off Inner Farne on 23 December.
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus pelagicus. An uncommon passage visitor
All records of this diminutive tubenose were obtained from the annual mist-netting sessions on Inner Farne. Five individuals were trapped on 13 July, all of which were new individuals except one retrap. The bird in question was ringed at Sumburgh, Shetland on 3 August 2014, where it was aged at two years at least. Curiously, this made the bird at least seven years old, and questions the consensus that only young birds of up to four years are attracted to sound lures when looking for potential breeding sites. The bird in question had one leg.
Fulmar Fulmaris glacialis A common breeder and abundant passage visitor
Birds were present on both the inner and outer group of islands and occupying nest sites when the rangers returned in March. They started to return to the islands at the end of October. The First birds were spotted flying above Knoxes Reef on the 3 November. A visit to island on the 9th of November revealed that there were 13 birds sitting in their traditional breeding area. Despite the slight increase from last year’s total on the inner group of islands, the Fulmars had a poor year with 186 pairs recorded in total. These were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 25 (26.8), West Wideopen 8 (13.4), East Wideopen 12 (18.8), Knoxes Reef 16 (10), Staple 33 (44.4), Brownsman 30 (55.2), North Wamses 23 (33.25), South Wamses 18 (29), Big Harcar 16 (11.75), Longstone End 5 (6.25).
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus. A common passage visitor
The poor seawatching season resulted in another quiet year for this shearwater, with only 87 individuals recorded on 16 days between 3 May and 21 September. The highest count was logged on 3 July with 58 passing north through Staple Sound. Seven birds spotted on 18 September comprised the only other notable count. The final bird of the season was a single bird rafting in Inner Sound on 23 September.
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus. A well represented to common passage visitor.
It was another very poor year for this pelagic wanderer, with just two records, both from autumn. The first was seen on 17 September, flying north through Staple Sound. Two birds were then seen the following day, again flying through Staple Sound.
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus. Uncommon passage visitor.
While it was a quiet year in general for seawatching, efforts did produce a record for this critically endangered seabird. A lone Balearic Shearwater was seen flying north through Staple Sound on 7 September. Small numbers are recorded most years, though this is the first record since 2017.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. A well represented visitor.
There were twelve days in spring from 23 March until 25 May in which an individual was present across the Inner and Outer Groups of islands. Apart from three birds seen on Knoxes Reef on 16 June, a lone bird was seen on seven dates in the Outer Group from 1 June to 27 July. Following a record of an individual on 8 August, 1-4 birds were observed across 25 dates from 28 August to 27 October, typically at the favored roosting site of Knoxes Reef. A peak count of five was observed from Inner Farne on 5 October. The last records were of 2 birds seen on 15 and 20 November in the Inner Group.
Gannet Morus bassanus. An abundant passage and non-breeding summer visitor.
Europe’s largest seabird was recorded almost daily around the islands on foraging trips from gannetries in Lothian and East Yorkshire. High counts were logged on several days. On 13 April, up to 94 individuals passed through Inner Sound in a 30-minute period, whilst on 8 June, a large feeding flock of 168 was recorded off Staple. A peak count of 1000+ birds subsequently passed through both Inner Staple Sounds on 6 October. A juvenile was observed roosting on Knoxes Reef on 22 September.
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis. A common breeding resident.
Present all year, Shags maintain a significant wintering presence around the Farne Islands. Following on from last years’ storm battered season, it was a relief on 22 March to find Shags copulating and nest building at the regular sites on Inner Farne. On 7 April, it was little surprise that the first egg was found 14 days earlier than last season at the Lighthouse Cliffs. Despite such promising signs, recovery has been slow with a visibly reduced population failing to occupy former nest sites. 484 (677.6) pairs were present; an increase of just 9 pairs and the second worst season since 1979. The were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 215 (257.2), West Wideopen 49 (74.2), East Wideopen 38 (55.3), Megstone 4 (9), Skeyney Scar 5 (28.6), Staple Island 76 (101.8), Browsnman 63 (75.8), North Wamses 4 (18.6), South Wamses 4 (18.6), Roddam and Green 5 (6.8), Big Harcar 10 (25.5) and Longstone End 11 (15.25). Significantly, productivity was low at 0.91 (1.47), with 288 bird fledged from 318 monitored nests. This represents the worst breeding outcome since 2016. The first chicks hatched on 15 May, 8 days earlier than last season. Despite mild temperatures and light winds dominating much of the breeding season, low-lowing nests, such as those around Inner Farne Tower Cliffs, were washed out by Northerly swell, and heavy rainfall applied pressure on developing chicks. The challenges continue for this red listed seabird.
Cormorant P. Carbo. A well represented breeding resident.
Present in small numbers throughout the year, numbers increase prior to spring with the arrival of nesting birds. The situation for Cormorant is increasingly dire around the islands, with just 67 (89) breeding pairs in 2019. This represents the lowest count for at least 59 years, when 32 late nests were logged on 27 July 1960, following the destruction of others by storm earlier that year. This season, 30 (40.2) pairs bred on East Wideopen and 37 (39.2) on Big Harcar, representing a total drop of 16 pairs. For the third year running, no birds nested on North Wamses. Birds were on nests by mid-April, but the policy of non-disturbance means that obtaining dates for first eggs laid and hatching is not possible. Cormorants have proved to be adaptable and versatile breeders over the decades, having abandoned islands including Megstone to colonized others. However, with such low numbers, the future of this shy, overlooked species hangs in the balance,
Red Kite Milvus milvus Extremely rare visitor. One individual 2013.
A fast recovering bird of prey in the UK following historical persecution, this species is becoming a more regular sight in North Northumberland. A single bird was photographed flying around Longstone by the crew of Serenity on 5 August. This marks the second record for the Farne Islands, following the first on 30 July 2013. With its fortunes improving, perhaps we can expect further records of this distinctive scavenger.
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. An uncommon visitor
It was a reasonable year for this fierce-eyed woodland predator, with a female bird regularly seen on Inner Farne on seven dates from 22 March to 18 April. An active hunter, it was spotted feasting on a Black redstart in the Picnic Area on 9 April. An individual seen on Brownman on 30 April was the first record for the Outer Group since 2015. A single flying around Inner Farne North Rocks on 2 November was the only autumn record.
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus. An uncommon passage visitor.
There were three records of this shy species, all from Inner Farne. On 5 October, the Rangers were treated to a prolonged view of an individual preening in the sticks near Prior Castell’s Tower, before the distinctive piglet squeal call was heard from the Dock Bank on 16 October. A single bird observed wandering the pond comprised the last record on 19 November.
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus. A common winter and passage visitor and well represented breeder.
A poor year for Oystercatcher resulted in 18 (26.8) breeding pairs across the islands, a decline of 5 pairs from last season and the second worst result since 1975. Roosting birds were present when the rangers arrived from 22 March, with up to 44 birds logged on Inner Farne South Rocks by 9 April. The first egg was discovered on Brownsman on 4 May, with the first nest for the Inner Group comprising 2 eggs on 15 May. The breeding pairs were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 2 (5), West Wideopen 2 (2), Knoxes Reef 1 (2.2), Staple 4 (4.4), Brownsman 7 (7.4), Longstone 1 (1.5) and Longstone End 1 (1.25). The first chick was spotted on 6 June on Brownsman, with two chicks on Inner Farne South Rocks representing the first for the Inner Group on 17 June. Numerous chick sightings followed across Inner Farne, Brownsman and Staple. Numbers increased in autumn, with 70 birds roosting on 4 October representing the peak count
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus A well represented passage visitor
A quieter season for this farmland bird with singles recorded on four dates. With no spring records, so the first bird was spotted on Inner Farne Central Meadow on 23 September. During the strong winds that hit the islands from 3 - 8 October, singles sought refuge form the weather on Inner Farne on 6 and 7 October. A single on Inner Farne Central Meadow on 25 November was the last record.
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria. A well represented passage visitor
It was a late first appearance for this gilded wader, with a group six recorded flying over Blue Caps on 23 July. Passage was further noted over four days from 24-28 July, with 8-50 birds seen over Big Harcar, Browsman and Inner Farne. Hereafter, most records relate to the large post-breeding flock that forms on Longstone, that peaked at 540 birds roosting on 24 August. The final roost count of 400+ was supplemented by a flock of 36 heading west over Inner Farne on 22 September.
Grey Plover P. squatarola. A well represented passage visitor.
Though regular on the coast, this medium sized wader has become a scarcer presence on the islands over the past few seasons. A single observed on Scarcar on 3 September was the only record this season.
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula. A common passage visitor, uncommon as a breeding species.
It was an abysmal year this red-listed shorebird, with only 1 (4.6) nest on Inner Farne. This represents the worst year since 1944 when a single pair bred on Brownsman during the second world war. Following the first sighting of a single on Inner Farne on 16 April, a pair were observed throughout the breeding season around Cuthbert’s Cove and Ladies Path throughout May, June and July. A third bird joined them on 21 May. A nest of 4 eggs was found on 24 June, which resulted in a single chick first seen on 6 July. Despite the presence of 1-2 birds across Brownman and Staple from April to July, there was no nest in the Outer Group. Post breeding, 1-3 birds were recorded on 6 dates from 28 August to 23 September, all from Inner Farne. Notable exceptions of 4 birds on 4 and 19 September were peak counts for season.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus A well represented passage visitor.
It was another quite year with just 19 records this season. Light spring passage produced three records. A single spotted on Inner Farne North Rocks on 4 May was followed by Four birds roosting on Brownsman on the following day. Two birds from West Wideopen on 9 May marked the final spring record. The first returning bird was spotted on 24 June, with a single bird spotted on Inner Farne North Rocks. The bulk of sightings occurred from 8 July- 10 October, with 1-10 birds recorded over 17 days during this period. An individual seen on Knoxes Reef on 9 November was the final record of the season.
Curlew N.arquata. A common winter and passage bird.
This species is present all year round with large numbers roosting around the Inner Group post breeding on the mainland. Peak count for this season was on the 20 October, were up to 400 birds roosted Scarcar Rocks (See table 3). This is the highest count since 2016 and third highest count since 2009.
Table 1 - Curlew monthly peak counts
March April May June July August September October November
Inner 2 47 1 - 152 96 55 400 87
Outer - 1 1 - 1 - 1 8 2
Using the monthly peak counts from the previous seven years, between the months of March till November. This year the autumn Curlew passage peaked in July, last time this was noted was in 2014. This is most probably due to nesting failures. (Figure 1)
Figure 1 - Curlew monthly counts from 2013 to 2019
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica. A well represented passage visitor.
As of last year, it was a quiet year for this wader with five records. The only spring record of a single flying north past Browsman also marked the only Outer Group record. Singles were observed from Inner Farne on 1 and 28 August, whilst a group of eight were spotted roosting on Knoxes Reef on 12 August. A roost of 26 on Inner Farne South Rocks on 26 November represented the peak count and last record for the season.
Turnstone Arenaria interpres. A common passage and wintering bird.
Present all year round, with largest roosts typically occurring on West Wideopen, Knoxes Reef and Longstone. Peak passage occurred in October and November, with 200 birds present across the Inner Group during those months.
Table 2 - Turnstone monthly peak counts
March April May June July August September October November
Inner 35 35 14 13 71 146 20 200 200
Outer - 60 18 18 15 - 4 37 40
Knot Calidris canutus. A well represented passage visitor.
A regular summer visitor to the islands, the first Knots appeared on 7 June with ten birds roosting near Cuthbert’s Cover on Inner Farne. This was followed by a steady stream of sightings over 27 dates from 9 June until 25 August, with numbers fluctuating from singles to the peak count of 39 birds, logged on Ladies Path on 18 August. Other notable high counts included 36 on Inner Farne on 19 August. and 30 on Knoxes Reef from 9 June. The Outer Group was considerably quieter with just singles and pairs seen. The last record was on 8 October, with a flock of 20 seen on West Wideopen.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax. A well represented passage visitor.
Although an improvement from the zero records of 2018, it was a very poor showing for this flamboyant wader. A juvenile bird was discovered skulking around the Inner Farne Central Meadow pond on 28 June. It lingered for two three days until last seen on 30 June.
Sanderling Calidris alba. An uncommon passage visitor
Although a frequent visitor on the mainland, this energetic high-arctic wader is a scarce visitor on the Farnes. Last recorded in 2017, there were three individuals this season. Two birds were spotted on Inner Farne on 15 July, followed by a single roosted on Ladies Path on 8 August.
Dunlin C. alpina. A common passage and winter visitor
Spring passage was typically light with 1-2 birds recorded on 11 dates from 22 May to 27 June. Autumn was busier time, with peak movements occurring towards the end of July. 1-6 birds were recorded from 2-26 July across eighteen dates, with higher counts of nine and twelve on 27 and 28 July. The peak count of 15 birds was made on 30 July. Numbers steadily decreased as Autumn progressed, with 1-3 birds recorded from the Inner Group from 1 August- 7 September across fourteen dates. The last records consisted of singles seen on 15 and 29 September and 5 October.
Purple Sandpiper C.maritina. A common passage and winter visitor.
The islands hold nationally important numbers of this sandpiper, supporting 1% of the UK wintering population. The highest daily count was recorded on 9 May, with 147 birds roosting on Knoxes Reef (See table 7). This represents the highest count since 2016. After two consecutive years of birds being recorded in the month of June, this season has produced no records of this species during said month.
Table 3 - Purple Sandpiper monthly peak counts
March April May June July August September October November
Inner 6 80 147 - 5 15 4 12 16
Outer - 14 8 - 20 - 5 6 26
Woodcock Scalopax rusticola. A well represented passage visitor.
Light spring passage produced records on two dates, with singles flushed from Inner Farne on 6 and 12 April. Autumn was typically busier, with singles flushed across Inner Farne, Staple and Brownsman on 7, 15, 30 and 31 October. Following the peak count of three across the Outer Group on 3 November, singles were logged on a further 8 dates from 5 November until the last record on 23 November.
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus. A well represented passage visitor.
It was another quiet year for this snipe species, though a marginal improvement on last season with three records. A bird flushed on Browsnman on 1 May represented the first spring record since 2016. The two autumn records both come from Inner Farne, with a single seen on the South Rocks on 7 October, with a second in the Central Meadow on 22 November.
Snipe Gallinago gallinago. A well represented passage visitor.
It was another quiet season for Snipe with records on sixteen dates. Spring passage occurred on two dates, with a single on Inner Farne on 22 March being the first. Three birds spotted across Inner Farne on 7 April was the last spring record and represented the peak count of the season. Autumn passage commenced on Staple with a bird flushed on 7 July, followed by a bird in the Inner Farne Cemetery on 9 August. Individual birds were logged on 10 further dates from 4 October to 16 November. Two singles were spotted on Brownsman and Inner Farne on 19 November, with two more flushed from Inner Farnes Central Meadow on 22 November. A single flushed again the following day was the last record of the season on 23 November.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos A well represented passage visitor
It was decent spring for this freshwater breeder, with singles recorded on eight dates from 25 April to 21 May on both Inner Farne and Brownsman. The first returning bird was heard on 4 July on Brownsman, with singles seen on four additional days that month before two were spotted on 30 July. This was the only multiple record of the season. Furthermore, singles were logged from Inner Farne on a further six dates from 7 August to 1 September. A bird heard calling on 18 September was the last record of the season.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. An uncommon passage visitor.
Up to two individuals were recorded over five dates on Brownsman. The first bird was spotted feeding around Brownsman Pond on 24 July and was relocated flying around the island on 27 July. On the following day it was briefly joined by a second bird and lingered for two more days. The last sighting was on 30 July.
Redshank T.totanus. A common passage and winter visitor.
This vocal wader was present throughout the year with the bulk of records recorded during the autumn passage. The peak count of 29 for the year was recorded on the 4 August (See table 8).
Table 4 - Redshank monthly peak count
March April May June July August September October November
Inner 3 5 - 1 5 29 6 3 12
Outer - 1 6 2 7 22 12 5 8
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola Uncommon passage visitor.
2019 saw a massive influx of Wood Sandpipers across the UK, and thankfully the islands played host to an obliging individual on the Brownsman Flats on 27 July. This is the first record since 2017 and the second since 2014.
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. An abundant breeder and passage visitor.
It was an excellent year for Kittiwake with 4402 (3913.8) nesting pairs. This represented a 39% increase from the 46 year low of last season, and the second highest count since 2007. The breeding pairs were distributed across the islands as follows: Megstone 1 (8), Inner Farne 1603 (1318), West Wideopen 256 (197.6), East Wideopen 261 (224.6), Skeyney Scar 144 (125.8), Staple Island 1016 (935.4), Brownsman 989 (1034.2), North Wamses 41 (27), South Wamses 7 (0.4), Roddam and Green 16 (9) and Big Harcar 68 (50.25). The population growth this season was reflected in a visible expansion of occupied nest sites, particularly on Inner Farne and Staple. Megstone and South Wamses continued to host nests for the second year running, having previously been vacant since 2010 and 2011 respectively. A total of 484 chicks fledged from 656 monitored nests, resulting in productivity of 0.73 (0.71). This was the best season for nesting success since 2015, with productivity was higher on Inner Farne (0.79) when compared to Brownsman (0.66) and Staple (0.73). Birds were noted on nest sites from 3 April, with the first eggs laid on 20 May on Staple and Inner Farne. The first chick hatched on 16 June on Staple. Following the breeding season, small numbers were noted on passage from September to November.
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus. A common breeding species and visitor.
It was an excellent year for Black-headed gulls with 544 (512.2) pairs nesting almost exclusively on Inner Farne. This represents a 13% increase from 2018 and the third highest count since records began. Inner Farne hosted 543 (511) pairs which were spread across Central Meadow and the Vegetable Gardens and Cemetary walls. They were first observed on the Central Meadow on 22 March, with the first egg found on 30 April. The first chicks hatched on 25 May. As per last year, Brownsman hosted 1 (1.2) nest, discovered by the Jetty on 2 June. The attempt was not successful, yet the Outer Group hosted roaming juveniles From Inner Farne in July. As kleptoparasites, Black-headed gulls were observed mobbing sandeels from Puffins on a regular basis. Post breeding, birds were present in autumn with some larger flocks present from November onwards.
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus Well represented passage and winter visitor
There were three records of this minute gull this year, all of them coming from Inner Farne in spring. The first was a stunning first summer bird, with full black hood, discovered in the tern roost on Inner Farne South Rocks on 18 May. This was followed by another individual roosting by St Cuthbert’s Cove on 25 May, before the final bird spotted on North Rocks on 9 June.
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus Uncommon passage and winter visitor.
As in previous years an adult of this striking hooded gull was present among the Black-headed gull roost on Inner Farne on 23 March, and again on 26 March. On 18 April, the bird was joined by a second bird in the Ladies Path roost. There were no signs of a breeding attempt. The final record of the season was a sub-adult bird on Ladies Path on 21 April.
Common Gull Larus canus. A common visitor.
Low numbers were present during spring and autumn. The first spring record was on 2 April and involved seven birds roosting on Knoxes Reef. This was followed by three singles from 8, 17 and 18 April, all of which were seen on Ladies Path on Inner Farne. The autumn passage was also quiet, with individuals recorded on 4 dates from 28 September to 11 November, all on Inner Farne.
Herring Gull L. argentatus. A common breeding species and abundant winter and passage visitor.
An unusually stable year for this resident predator, 743 (724) pairs were present across the islands. Despite an increase of just 5 pairs since last season, this was the highest count since 2016. The nests were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 45 (31), West Wideopen 127 (97.2), East Wideopen 116 (161.8), Knoxes Reef 46 (62), Skeyney Scar 14 (27.4), Staple 61 (15), Brownsman 19 (27.4), North Wamses 65 (116.2), South Wamses 96 (51.8), Roddam and Green 24 (24), Big Harcar 76 (77.4), Northern Hares 23 (15), Longstone 4 (5.25) and Longstone End 32 (13.2). Herring and Lesser-black gulls were lumped together as ‘large gulls’ until 2002. The habitat and ecology of both species overlap in such joint colonies, so considering them together is useful in assessing relationship between gull populations and the other species on the Farnes. This is the fourth highest combined count for large gulls since 1979. The first 2 Herring gull nests were discovered on Inner Farne on 10 May, with the firs egg on Brownsman confirmed a day later. Post breeding, large numbers winter around the islands.
Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus. A common breeding summer and passage visitor.
It was a good year for this migratory breeder, with 681 (604.2) pairs nesting across the islands. This represents an 11% increase from last season, and the fourth highest year since counts for this species began in 2002. The pairs were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 51 (34.6), West Wideopen 128 (134.4), East Wideopen 63 (72.4), Knoxes Reef 103 (35.6), Skeyney Scar 0 (4.8), Staple 95 (84.4), Brownsman 13 (11.2), North Wamses 55 (50.4), South Wamses 58 (93.6), Roddam and Green 3 (2.2), Big Harcar 38 (65.2), Northern Hares 37 (8), Longstone 7 (3.25) and Longstone End 30 (8.25). Typically, there are more Herring gulls than Lesser black-backs on the Farnes, and this season the proportion was 52% to 48% respectively. 2003, 2006 and 2015 were the only years when a greater number of Lesser black-back gulls than Herring gulls was recorded.
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides. Uncommon winter and passage visitor.
After drawing a blank in 2018, there were two records of this sleek white-winged gull this season. A third-winter bird was observed rafting off the Inner Farne Lighthouse Cliffs, before flying north behind West Wideopen on 7 April. A second winter bird was also spotted by the crew of Serenity in Inner Sound, on the rather unseasonable date of 26 June.
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis A common breeding summer and passage visitor
This year there were 417 (658.8) breeding pairs across the sole breeding colony on Inner Farne, as the species continues its gradual downward trend. The first sighting of year was of six birds on 30 March, followed by a pair on Knoxes Reef on 2 April. Following a group of 26 bird on Ladies Path on 4 April, numbers steadily grew in the pre-breeding roosts throughout that month with 264 birds present by 25 April. The first pair visited the breeding area on Inner Farne Central Meadow on the same day. There were 670 birds present on Central Meadow by 10 May, with the first egg appearing a day later 11 May. The first chick hatched on 11 May. Despite a small decline of 7 breeding pairs, this was the worst year in 50 years, since 396 were present across the Outer Group in 1949. Sandwich tern has declined by over 90% since the peak count of 4086 in 1982, and the species has a historical tendency to fluctuate in number as birds abandon islands and establish colonies on others. This may partially explain the recent increases on neighboring Couquet Island. Despite a daily presence of 1-2 birds across Brownsman and Staple from April to July, there was no evidence of a nesting attempt. After the breeding season, small numbers of 1-10 were recorded on seven dates from 29 September to 22 October.
Little Tern Sternula albifrons. A well represented passage visitor.
Inner Farne provides an important evening roost for this amber listed species, prior to local breeding on the mainland. Seven birds spotted on 29 April was the first record of the season, with up to twelve birds in the traditional roost site on Cuthbert’s Cove on the following day. Number steadily grew as May progressed, with a peak count of 115 birds on 10 May. Numbers quickly dropped off beyond this date, with counts of 79 and 13 on 13 and 16 May respectively. Four birds present in the roost on 20 May marked the last record of the season. A successful colour ringing session on 14 May resulted in three birds being ringed.
Roseate Tern Sterna dougalli. A well represented summer and passage visitor
The first two birds were spotted on Ladies Path on Inner Farne on 19 May. Hereafter they were a regular presence, with 1-2 birds recorded on 17 further dates until the last record of a single on 13 August on Ladies Path. In addition, higher counts of three birds were made on 26 June and 12 August. On the Outer Group, a pair was observed 26 June and 4 July, with singles seen on 5 and 23 July.
Common tern S. hirundo. A Common breeding summer and passage visitor.
The first three birds were present on Ladies Path on 19 April, with numbers increasing to 36 in the Ladies Path roost on 27 April. By early May, pairs had settled into the usual nesting site on Inner Farne Central Meadow. There were 65 (83) breeding pairs this year, a decline of two pairs from last year. However, this represents the lowest numbers since 1975, when 40 pairs nested across Inner and Brownsman. On 18 May the first adult was observed sitting on eggs, whilst the first visible chicks were a small feathered bird on 19 June. Fledglings were noted by the Central Meadow pond in early-mid July. Post breeding, there were no confirmed autumn sightings. There was no breeding on Brownsman, though a single was seen on 22 and 24 April.
Arctic Tern S.paradisaea. An abundant breeding summer and passage visitor
It proved to be a challenging season for Arctic tern, with heavy rainfall partially resulting in the third consecutive year of decline. The 1416 (1805.2) nesting pairs represented the worst year since 2002. On 25 April, a single bird on Ladies Path marked the first returning bird, with four birds present two days later. The pre-breeding roost had grown to 276 birds by 30 April, with birds touching down in the Inner Farne breeding area on 5 May, and a day later on Brownsman. On Inner Farne, numbers had grown to 2186 by 9 May, before the first egg was found on 14 May, and on the 16 May on Brownsman. The nesting pairs were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 1070 (1268), Brownsman 344 (532) and Staple 2 (7). The first chick hatched on Inner Farne on 6 June, followed 2 days later by the first chick on Brownsman. In total 434 chicks fledged from a total of 1225 monitored nests, resulting in 0.35 (0.4) productivity. Although below average, this is equal to last year and an improvement on 2015 and 2016. Productivity on Brownsman with particularly low (0.18), with predation and heavy rainfall having a more profound impact than on Inner Farne, which had better nesting success (0.45). Following the breeding season there were no records of passage birds.
Black Tern Childonias niger. An uncommon passage visitor.
There was one record of this dainty tern this season. A single adult was observed on the Inner Farne South Rocks tern roost on 9 May.
Great Skua Stercorarius skua. A common passage visitor.
The first spring record of this aggressive pirate was on 24 April, with a single indulging over a Herring Gull carcass in Inner Sound. This was the first April record since 2015. There were five records of 1-2 birds from 4-28 May, with the most notable being a bird mobbed by Arctic terns over Browsnman cottage on 11 May. Autumn passage commenced on 4 August with a bird heading through Inner Sound. 1-2 birds were hereafter recorded on 21 dates between 10 August and 14 September. A bird from Longstone seen on 22 September was the last sighting of the season.
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus A well represented passage visitor
It was poor season for this powerful skua with three records comprising five individuals. The first bird was spotted on 8 August flying north through Staple Sound. The second record involved prolonged views of three birds, including a full spoon-tailed pale adult on 18 September. They lingered off Crumstone and were observed mobbing Kittiwakes. The final bird was a dark morph, flying south through Inner Sound on 20 September.
Arctic Skua S.parasiticus. A common passage visitor.
It was a very quiet year for this parasitic skua, with thirteen individuals recorded over 10 days. With no birds recorded during spring passage, the first record involved a pale phase bird heading south through Staple Sound on 15 July. Three birds passing south over West Wideopens on 27 July was the joint peak count this season, with three also seen on 10 September. Single birds were noted on six further from 27 September to the final record on 23 September.
Puffin Fratercula arctica. An abundant breeding summer and passage visitor.
It was a stable year for Puffins with 43,752 breeding pairs across the islands, representing a minor decrease of 203 pairs from 2018. The first birds were on land on 22 March, with over a thousand present by 27 March. The first egg was discovered on Inner Farne on 22 April, with an adult spotted with sandeels on 7 May representing the first evidence of Pufflings in the Outer Group. This was the second consecutive year of the annual census, and as there is no five-year mean; the numbers in brackets reflect the 2018 census results. The number of apparent occupied burrows were distributed across the islands as follows: Inner Farne 15,854 (16,541) West Wideopen 8281 (6685), East Wideopen 541 (637), Staple Island 11,828 (12,379), Brownsman 6414 (6,868), North Wamses 350 (464), South Wamses 460 (357) and Big Harcar 23 (24). Despite an overall drop, the interisland trends were generally consistent with those of last season. The Outer Group has declined by 1016 pairs (5%), with Brownsman fairing worst with a 6.6% decrease. By contrast, the Inner Group increased by 813 pairs (3%), with West Wideopen seeing the most dramatic increase of 19.27% pairs. Inner Farne and Staple, two major islands that saw increase between 2013-2018, both decreased by 4.45% and 4.1% respectively. Heavy rainfall flooded out many burrows in June, with Brownsman acutely affected because of compaction and erosion of the soil cap by seals. Productivity was therefore low on Brownsman (0.25), though Inner Farne fared better (0.6), resulting in overall nesting success of 0.44 (0.67). This was therefore the worst breeding year since 2015, when heavy rain also resulted in the deaths of many Pufflings. Birds returned in the autumn and regular sightings of 1-3 birds were made from 16 September. It was an exceptional year for wintering puffins, with both adults and juveniles noted throughout across the islands in November and December.
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille. A well represented winter and passage visitor.
It was a decent year for this non-breeding auk, with a strong wintering presence in the Outer Group. Spring failed to produce any records, and it was not until 28 October when two singles flying through Inner Sound marked the first record. Two birds were then seen in Staple Sound on 13 November. From 14 November onwards, 1-2 birds were present in the regular wintering grounds off Gun Rocks and the Wamses on ten additional dates, including the final record on 31 December of a single off North Wamses.
Razorbill Alca torda. A common breeding resident and passage visitor.
First seen back on the cliffs on 27 March, copulation was observed soon after with a pair on Inner Farne Cliff on 29 March. The first egg was found on Inner Farne on 30 April and the first egg for the Outer Group was seen on 6 May on Brownsman. The first chick was observed on Staple on 3 June.
After the breeding season, wintering birds were well represented in the waters around the islands with 21 records between 19 September and 17 December, most notably on 3 October when 100 birds were seen from Brownsman.
Little Auk Alle alle. A well represented to abundant winter and passage visitor.
The smallest of the Atlantic auks was recorded on nine autumn dates. Most observations were of rafting birds, made by rangers from the zodiac whilst carrying out seal pup counts. The first came on 30 October, when a lone bird, and then later a group of three, were seen rafting in Staple Sound. On 3 and 4 November, two birds were seen in Staple Sound, followed by a single on 6 November. Another single was seen in the waters behind Knoxes Reef on 10 November, with further records of pairs on 16 and 17 November. Four birds were recorded on 19 November and involved pairs in Staple Sound and off Big Harcar. An individual seen off Inner Farne on 20 December was the final record.
Guillemot Uria aalge. An abundant breeding resident and passage visitor.
This season resulted in the best year on record for Guillemots, with 64,042 (50,517) individuals recorded across the islands, an increase of 14,072 pairs. Despite some heavy rainfall during peak season, relatively light winds enabled the colonies to expand to previously vacant patches, particularly on Inner Farne and Staple. Guillemots were present on the Inner Farne cliffs when the Rangers arrived on 21 March. The first eggs for each island group were discovered on 23 April, first on Inner Farne, followed by Staple. On Inner Farne the first chick was visible on 24 May, whilst on the Outer Group the first chicks were first heard on 1 June but not seen until the following day. Jumplings were recorded from the 18 of June, the first having made the leap from Inner Farne. The individuals were distributed across the islands as follows: Inner Farne 14,372 (9385.2), West Wideopen 3179 (2361), East Wideopen 4889 (3549), Megstone 261 (199.25), Skeyney Scar 4587 (2264), Staple Island 24,475 (21,096.8), Brownsman 10,039 (9888.4), North Wamses 820 (891), South Wamses 523 (443.2), Roddam and Green 217 (146) and Big Harcar 680 (323). Regular sightings were made of passage and wintering birds after the breeding season, with small numbers logged on most days from 3 September up until December. Peak passage occurred in October, with high counts of 500+ made on 6 and 15 October.
Feral Pigeon Columba livia. A common breeding resident.
Pigeons were present on the islands throughout the year. Breeding pairs were very evident, and utilized rabbit burrows, tern shelters and dense vegetation for nest cover. As is usual, numbers peaked in the autumn, serving as fodder for Peregrine and Great Black-backed Gulls.
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus. An uncommon passage visitor.
While numbers rarely reach double figures, it was a particularly poor year for this species, with only one individual recorded. It was spotted flying over the Top Meadow on Inner Farne on 7 October.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto. An uncommon passage visitor.
Spring produced the only record of the year. A single bird was observed flying over the Brownsman tower on 28 April.
Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. An uncommon passage visitor.
There were two individuals recorded this year, both on the Outer Group of islands. Last recorded in 2016, the bird was a welcome sight to the rangers who spotted it on Staple Island on the morning of 18 May. A second individual, a rufous female, was spotted outside Brownsman Cottage on 29 July and again on 30 July. The Arctic terns did not appreciate the visitation, and the brood parasite was mobbed by the persistent seabirds.
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus. An uncommon passage visitor.
Another quiet year with just six sightings. The first was seen on October 6 when a lone bird sought refuge on Inner Farne against the tail end of Hurricane Lorenzo. Another made an appearance over Staple on 16 October. A record from Brownsman on 24 October and another from Inner Farne, where it was seen flying from the Top Meadow over to West Wideopen on 25 October, could potentially be the same individual. Another bird was spotted around Inner Farne on 30 October. The final record of the year came from 30 October when two birds were seen by rangers, after an early morning seal pup spraying session. The first was seen flying from Brownsman to Staple, the second was resting on a post just outside the Fishe House upon returning to Inner Farne.
Swift Apus apus. A well represented summer and passage visitor.
It was a better year for this aerial acrobat, with birds recorded on eleven separate dates. The first record was from 8 July when five were seen flying over Staple. Passage remained light throughout July and August with birds in groups of 1-5 comprising a further eight sightings. The peak count occurred 29 August when fourteen were recorded flying over Cuthbert’s Cove on Inner Farne. A single bird was seen on 31 August by Inner Farne Cliff. Nine were recorded over the island on 2 September, ten were seen a couple of days later on 4 September and two on 14 September. The final record was of one individual flying over the Picnic Area on 15 September, more than a month later than in 2018.
Upupa epops. A rare visitor. Eleven individuals. Last recorded 2013.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. A well represented passage visitor. May have bred 1916.
The first was seen on 23 September flying over Inner Farne. A female was seen on 3 October, crossing from Brownsman to the Wideopens. Subsequently, seven sightings were made from 12 - 18 October and can be presumed to be the same bird, again a female. It was first seen on Staple, moving over to Brownsman until 16 October. It was seen later that day over the Inner Farne Jetty and remained on the island for several days, last seen flying over the Dock Bank on 18 October. Finally, a lone bird, presumed to be the same individual, was seen flying over the Inner Farne Vegetable Garden on 30 October, and again on 2 November on Brownsman.
Merlin Falco columbarious. A well represented passage and winter visitor.
With no spring records, it was a late arrival for the usually well represented Merlin. Single birds were seen on nine dates throughout October and November. The first was seen flying over the Inner Farne South Rocks on 3 October. A further twelve sightings were made from Inner Farne up until 20 November, after the bird took up residency on the island. In the Outer Group, a lone female was seen on 15 October, followed by a single on Brownsman on 31 October.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus. A well represented passage and winter visitor. May have bred ca 1925.
All records were of individual birds. In spring sightings were made on three dates, all on Inner Farne: The first was seen on 26 May, then again on 1 April, and one was seen flying over the Central Meadow on 9 April. Subsequent sightings were all made in autumn and birds were seen on seventeen dates from 14 August until the last on 16 October. This included a juvenile observed flying over Staple and Brownsman on 3 October; and another, thought to be the same individual, seen from the Quarry on Inner Farne on 6 October.
Jackdaw Corvus monedula. A well represented visitor. Former breeder, last in 1966.
There was just one record this year for this steely eyed curioso. Following the rangers’ move to the island, two birds were seen flying west through Inner Sound on 23 March. This is in keeping with the islands’ trend, with Jackdaws usually sighted on passage in early spring.
Rook Corvus frugilegus. A well represented visitor.
A poor year with a total of four seen over two dates. Recorded in both spring and autumn, the first sighting saw three Rooks flying east over North Rocks on Inner Farne on 17 April. A lone bird was then seen at the Beach on Brownsman on 30 October.
Corvus corone. A well represented visitor and rare breeding species.
Small numbers were recorded throughout the year, with 1-6 birds recorded on 97 dates across the Inner and Outer Groups. Additionally, peak counts of 9 were recorded on 12 April, 23 April and 5 October from Inner Farne. An individual eating a fish on Inner Farne North Rocks proved a notable observation! As of last season, a breeding attempt was made on 27 April on Brownsman Tower. This is the fifth season that this species has nested since 2013.
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix. An uncommon visitor.
A single bird caused great excitement on 11 May, when it was seen by a ranger on Brownsman. It was spotted in Staple Sound, flying east with a flock of four Carrion Crow. It flew low over Brownsman Tower and continued towards Longstone. This marks the first record of the distinctive corvid since 2013.
Raven Corvus corax. A rare visitor.
Two of these mighty corvids were seen on West Wideopen on the morning of 25 October. The pair were mobbed by large gulls and Carrion crows, before circling the island and flying north west over the Inner Farne South Rocks. They past the Lighthouse Compound and headed west towards the mainland. Following on from last year’s pair, this marks the second record since 2008.
Skylark Alauda arvensis. A common passage visitor. May have bred 1865 and ca 1900.
As with last year, spring passage was light for this farmland passerine. Just three sightings were recorded of single birds on Inner Farne on 6, 7 and 8 April. Autumn produced an additional eighteen records, typically 1-3 birds were seen between 27 September and 30 November, however a peak count of seven were observed flying over Inner Farne’s Central Meadow on 28 September.
Eremophila alpestris. An uncommon passage and winter visitor. Last recorded 2013
Last recorded in 2013, a lone bird dropped in on autumn passage. It was discovered by the beach on Brownsman in the afternoon of 25 October. It continued to hang around the beach, offering excellent views, and was sighted a further seven times. It was last seen on 8 November.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia. A well represented summer and passage visitor.
There were no spring records this year, but individuals were recorded on three dates during late August and early September. The first sighting was on 17 August at the Lighthouse Cliffs and the last sighting was on 4 September at St Cuthbert’s Cove.
Swallow Hirundo rustica. A common summer and passage visitor.
The first bird was seen on Inner Farne on 17 April, after which there was a daily presence until the final fledglings left. It was a reasonable breeding season with 6 (6.6) pairs across the islands, with some nests producing second broods. Nests were built in St Cuthbert’s Chapel, the Information Centre, and the Acetylene Store on Inner Farne. Longstone held 2 (2) nesting pairs this season. Despite eight consecutive years of nesting, there was no attempt on Brownsman this year, despite the presence of a pair throughout the season. Post breeding, 20 birds were seen heading South from Inner Farne on 16 September. The last sighting was on 4 October at the Lighthouse Cliffs.
House Martin Delichon urbicum. A well represented summer and passage visitor. Six pairs attempted to breed in 1950.
The first sighting was on 8 May when two birds were recorded on the Outer Group, there were records from the Outer Group on 4 more dates with the last sighting being on 8 June. All were of individuals except for three birds seen on 18 May. There were no spring sightings recorded on the Inner Group. Autumn produced 6 records, all from on Inner Farne, between 25 August and 14 September. All were of one or two individuals except for 2 September when 22 birds were seen travelling South West.
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus. A common passage visitor.
The first sighting was on Inner Farne on 21 April, with further sightings on 22 April and 27 April, all of single birds. There were no other spring records for Inner Farne but there were 14 records on the Outer Group between 28 April and 26 May, with daily records between 8 May and 13 May. Birds were recorded on the Outer Group on a further 5 dates between 5 June to 13 September. On Inner Farne there were 51 records between 8 August and 15 October with an almost daily presence between 8 August and 15 September.
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita. A common passage visitor.
It was another early start for this dainty warbler, with the first sighting on 22 March in the Inner Farne Vegetable Garden. There was an almost daily presence on Inner Farne throughout April, with 26 records. Numbers peaked on 17, 18, 19 and 20 April with counts of 15, 18, 20 and 10 respectively. Individual birds were recorded on several dates throughout May, with only 6 records in June and no records in July across all the islands. Sightings began increasing again in August with records on 70 dates between 12 August and 25 October across both groups.
Siberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita tristis. Scarce visitor, last recorded 2016.
There was a single sighting on 15 October, of an individual by Brownsman Jetty.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus. An uncommon passage visitor
This Siberian leaf warbler was recorded on Inner Farne on 5 dates, between 23 September and 18 October. All records were for individual birds, likely representing 3 individuals.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. A well represented passage visitor.
It was another poor year for this migrant with just 4 records across the islands. There were three sightings of individuals in spring, all on Brownsman, between 2 May and 27 May. There was one autumn record, of a single bird seen by Inner Farne pond on 17 September.
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus. A well represented passage visitor.
There was just one spring record for this species, on the Brownsman flats on 27 April. There were a further three sightings in autumn, all of singles on Inner Farne, with the final record being on 8 October.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla. A common passage visitor.
The first record of the year for this distinctive warbler was a female in the Vegetable Garden on Inner Farne on 7 April. From then on the birds had a regular presence on Inner Farne throughout April, with records on 16 dates. There were 12 autumn records on Inner Farne between 23 September and 21 October. On the Outer Group there were sightings on three dates in May and 4 dates in October. All sightings were of one or two individuals, except for 15 October when 24 individuals were seen across Brownsman and Staple.
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin. A common passage visitor.
Another extremely poor year on the islands for this warbler with no spring sightings. There were two autumn records, both of a single bird on Inner Farne, on 22 September and 5 October. There were no records on the Outer Group.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca. A common passage visitor
The first spring sightings were on Inner Farne, with a single bird seen on both 22 and 23 April, and two birds seen on 24 and 25 April. On Brownsman a single bird was seen daily between 27 and 30 April. There 5 more sightings across the islands in May, all of individual birds. In autumn there was a single bird seen in Inner Farne Vegetable Garden on 11 and 14 October, with the final record of the year coming from Brownsman on 15 October.
Whitethroat Sylvia communis. A common passage visitor
A single was seen near Inner Farne Lighthouse on 25 April, giving the first record for the season and the only record for the Inner Group this year. There were two more records in late April, both on Brownsman. There were further records for Brownsman made on 8 dates between 3 and 21 May, all were of single birds except 10 and 19 May when two individuals were seen. There was also a single bird spotted on Longstone on 15 May. There was one autumn record, of a single on Brownsman on 26 August.
Goldcrest Regulus regulus. A common passage visitor.
Spring passage was light. Although three were seen on 7 April, and two the next day, spring records were primarily of individual birds and all occurred on the Inner Group. The first was seen on 29 March, in the Courtyard on Inner Farne, and a further 9 were recorded until 26 April. The first of the autumn visitors arrived at Inner Farne on 13 September and, between then and 4 October, one to three were seen on nine additional dates. The strong south easterlies over the weekend of 5, 6 and 7 October blew in high numbers, comparative to last year, with 20, 25 and 15 birds seen respectively. A single bird was seen in the Cemetery on 8 October, increasing to 10 on both 9 and 10 October. Low numbers were then seen over 8 dates until the last record on 16 November. It was a better year for the Outer Group with 8 records from 14 October till 7 November, and a peak count of 6 seen on 16 October.
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. A common visitor; a rare breeder.
There were 4 birds present on Inner Farne on 22 March, the day after the rangers first arrived. Following this there was an almost daily presence up until 16 May, usually with one or two birds seen, but occasionally three. On Brownsman there was just one spring record, on 27 April. The birds returned on 2 September and there were regular sightings until the rangers left on 4 December. On the Outer Group one to three birds were seen regularly between 14 October and 19 November, with 4 seen on 24 October and 6 seen on 4 November. On Inner Farne the maximum counts came on 18, 21 October and 9 November, when 10, 8 and 8 birds were seen respectively.
Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. An uncommon passage visitor. Twenty-three individuals.
It was a good year for this elusive forager with two sightings on Inner Farne, the 23rd and 24th records for the islands. The first sighting was on the wall of the Fishe House by the Dock Bank on the morning of 30 August, but the bird disappeared shortly after. The second sighting was on 17 October on the wall of Prior Castell’s Tower, and this time the bird was seen regularly throughout the day around the Tower and Courtyard, delighting both visitors and rangers. Prior to last years sighting on Inner Farne this bird was last seen on the islands in 2008.
Starling Sturnus vulgaris. A common visitor, formerly uncommon breeder, last in 2000.
Starlings had an almost daily presence on the islands during Spring, with 5 birds sighted on 22 March and 10 birds seen on 23 March. Following this 1-8 individuals were seen on 30 dates until 17 June when birds began to be seen in larger flocks. 10-20 birds were seen regularly during June and July, with peak counts of 47 on 7 July and 45 on 14 and 15 July. Large numbers continued to be recorded on both the Inner and Outer Groups until the end of the season, with the largest being a flock of 50 seen on 9 November and 39 seen on 12 November.
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus. An uncommon passage visitor.
There were no spring sightings of this mountain blackbird, but there were records on 5 dates in October, all of individuals. A single male was seen around the island on 5, 6 and 7 October, and on 15 October a male surprised rangers and visitors by flying into the Information Centre. The final sighting was a few days later on 18 October.
Blackbird Turdus merula. An abundant passage visitor. Rare historic breeder.
The first sighting was on 22 March when two females were spotted in the cemetery. However it was a quiet spring with 10 sightings on Inner Farne between 22 March and 19 April, with all but the first sighting being of single birds. Two and one birds were seen on Brownsman on 1 and 21 May respectively. The first autumn sighting was on 23 September, with passage starting in earnest on 4 October when 200 birds were sighted, the peak count for this season. The birds had an almost daily presence from then on until 27 November, with records from Inner Farne on 45 dates, and Brownsman on 18 dates. Flocks of 50 birds were seen on 6 and 7 October, after which numbers did not surpass 10 on Inner Farne. In Brownsman slightly larger flocks were recorded on a few dates, with the peak count being 15 on 3 November.
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris. A common passage visitor.
Birds were only recorded on 5 spring dates across the islands, between 19 and 27 April. Records were mostly for single birds, although 3 were seen on Brownsman on 27 April and 13 were recorded on Inner Farne on 24 April. Autumn passage was better with 22 records between 5 October and 26 November. The peak count was on 2 November when 39 birds were seen flying East from Brownsman. Other high counts were on 3 and 4 November, with 14 birds seen on Inner Farne each day, and a flock of 15 also seen on Brownsman on 4 November.
Redwing Turdus iliacus. An abundant passage visitor.
A flock of 7 individuals were seen on 22 March, the rangers first full day on the islands, after that singles were seen on 6 dates between 7 April and 1 May. Autumn passage began with 20 birds sighted on 4 October, after which birds were seen on most days until mid-November. The highest daily count was on 15 October when at least 600 were recorded on Brownsman. Other peak counts were on 5, 6 and 7 October when flocks of 300, 100 and 400 were seen on Inner Farne. Passage in November was much lighter with 1-10 birds recorded on 15 dates, the final sighting was of three birds on 26 November.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos. A common passage visitor.
There were 14 seen on 22 March, heading West over Inner Farne, after which there were 12 further spring sightings, all of one to two birds except 18 April when three were seen on Inner Farne South Rocks and 27 April when 4 were seen on Brownsman. The last spring bird was on 1 May when an individual was recorded on Brownsman. It was a better autumn for this garden songbird, which returned to the islands on 21 September with a single seen on Inner Farne Central Meadow. Following this birds were recorded on 25 dates until 26 November, with an almost daily presence during the first two weeks of October. Numbers were generally between 1-10, although groups of 20-50 were seen on a few dates. Peak counts were 500, 100 and 80 on 7, 6 and 15 October respectively. The record on 7 October is the joint-sixth highest count for the islands along with the 500 seen on 23 October 1996.
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. A well represented passage visitor.
A very poor year for this small passerine, with only 5 sightings, and no autumn passage. There were 4 sightings in May, all of singles on the Outer Group. There was only one sighting from the Inner Group, an individual near the Information Centre on Inner Farne on 8 June. This is the first year since at least 1971 in which there were no autumn records.
Robin Erithacus rubecula. A common passage visitor. Bred in 1951.
There were records on 32 dates in spring for Inner Farne, mostly of singles but 16 records were of 2-10 birds. The highest spring count was of 10 birds on 9 April. Between 6 and 28 April this garden favourite had a daily presence on Inner Farne. On Brownsman there were 10 spring records, all of singles except for 2 birds recorded on 9 May. The birds had an almost continuous presence on the islands, with July being the only month without sightings. There were 68 records between 28 August and 26 November, with almost daily sightings from 1 October until the rangers departed. A peak count of 20 birds were seen on 15 and 16 October.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica. An uncommon passage visitor. Well represented in some years.
The Farnes islands is a premier location for this striking chat on the east coast, and this season was no exception. The Inner Farne rangers were delighted to spot a conspicuous male on 8 June by the Picnic Area and again on 9 June in the Lighthouse Compound. This was the first male for the islands since 2016.
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was a better year for this striking flycatcher with 9 records over 6 days from across the islands. The first sightings were on 18 May when a male and female pair were seen on Brownsman, and a female was also spotted on Inner Farne by the Tower Sticks. A male was seen again on Brownsman the following day, with the female spotted on Inner Farne again. There were further sightings in August, of an individual on Inner Farne on 24, 26, 27 and 28 August. On Brownsman a pair was recorded on 26 August.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. A well represented passage visitor.
The first sighting of this small passerine was of a lone bird by the Inner Farne Lighthouse on 6 April. An individual, likely the same bird, was seen again daily until 9 April when rangers witnessed it being eaten by a visiting Sparrowhawk. On 8 June a female was recorded on Brownsman, on the same day a bird was also seen by the Inner Farne Information Centre. All the autumn records this year were from the Outer Group, all of singles, recorded on 18 October, 5, 8 and 9 November.
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus. A common passage visitor.
The first spring sighting was of a male in the Inner Farne Vegetable Garden on 18 April, with another sighting in the Vegetable Garden on 24 April. On Brownsman a male was seen on 27 April, and a female the following day. On 29 and 30 April a male was spotted again. A female on 9 May was the final sighting for the Outer Group. On Inner Farne there were further records on 30 August, 5, 6 and 7 October. All were of individuals except 5 October when an adult male and first winter female were seen on the Tower Sticks.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra. A common passage visitor.
It was a better year for this small perching bird. After no spring sightings last year, rangers were happy to see a single bird on Inner Farne’s Top Meadow on 24 April. This was followed by two birds recorded on Brownsman on 19 May, and singles recorded on Inner Farne on 14 and 15 June. Autumn passage started in earnest on 26 August when two individuals were seen on the Outer Group, followed by three individuals on Inner Farne on 28 and 29 August. Between 31 August and 23 September one or two birds were seen on 17 dates. The final sighting was of an individual on 14 October, again by the Top Meadow.
Stonechat Saxicola rubicola. An uncommon passage visitor. Bred in 1946.
It was another good year, relatively, for this common mainland breeder which has undergone a notable decrease in sightings since 2010. There were records on 4 dates, beginning with the only spring sighting, of a single male on 30 March. In autumn singles were seen on Inner Farne on 13 September and 14 October, with a male and female seen on Brownsman on 15 October.
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. A common passage visitor.
The first sightings were on 30 March with a male and female recorded on Inner Farne. From then on the birds had a regular presence on the islands, with records on 33 dates between 7 April and 23 May. The majority of the records were of individuals but three were present on 19 April, 9 and 11 May and at least 4 were present on 20 April. Autumn passage began on 9 August with an individual spotted on the Central Meadow. There were regular sightings on Inner Farne throughout August and September, with records on 46 dates until the final sighting on 7 October. On Brownsman there were just three autumn sightings, on 26 August, 13 and 19 September. The majority of records were of one to three birds, but 4 were seen on 28 August, 3 and 6 September.
Dunnock Prunella modularis. A common passage visitor.
It was a poor spring for these shy birds, compared with the previous year. Two birds were present on Inner Farne on 22 March, with singles seen on another three dates in March. Autumn was busier, with sightings on 15 dates between 4 October and 9 November. 4 records were of two birds, all the rest were of singles. All records were from Inner Farne, except for one spotted on Brownsman on 14 October.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. An uncommon passage visitor.
It was a better year for this brightly coloured wagtail, following last year when there were no recorded sightings. For the first time in 5 years there were spring records for the islands, with an individual seen by the Inner Farne Lighthouse on 7 May and two seen on Staple Island on 12 May. The final sighting was of an individual on 8 September on Inner Farne Central Meadow.
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba. A well represented summer and passage visitor and uncommon breeder.
Another quiet year for this breeding passerine with 5 (6.4) breeding pairs present across the islands. These were distributed as follows: Inner Farne 2 (3.4), Staple 1 (0.8) and Brownsman 2 (1.8). Birds were a daily presence across the islands form early April, with the first fledgling observed on 7 June on Brownsman. As per usual, there was a small post-breeding influx of birds during the autumn. Unusually, there were no records of White wagtail this season.
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis. A common passage visitor.
There were records on 25 dates between 4 April and 15 June. The majority of sightings were of individuals, but 5 were seen on 6 April and again the following day. The final sighting from the Outer Group was of a single on 22 July. Autumn passage was light and limited to Inner Farne, where sightings were recorded on 23 dates between 22 August and 11 October. There were peak counts of 15 on 14 September, and 7 on 16 September. The final record was of three heading West on 11 October.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis. A common passage visitor.
It was an extremely poor year for this pipit, with just two records. The first was of an individual by the Inner Farne Picnic Area on 14 April. The second was of an individual in the Lighthouse Compound on 25 August.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Rare visitor. Nine individuals (two together in 2012 was notable).
Rangers on Brownsman were thrilled to spot this rare visitor for the first time since 2014 on 8 November. An individual was seen on the island again the following day. This is the first record since the 5 consecutive years of sightings between 2010 and 2014. It is the tenth individual to be recorded on the islands, the first sighting being in 2001. It is also the latest sighting recorded, with all others being in October or late September.
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus. A common resident well represented as a breeding species.
It was an improved year for Rock pipit, with 11 (17.2) breeding pairs noted across the islands. Most records relate to the breeding population, with birds were on the islands throughout the year. From the rangers’ arrival in mid-March, the presence of Rock Pipits was recorded. Evidence of nest building in the Cemetery was noted on 2 April, with an adult carrying nest material seen on 6 April. In the Outer Group the first sign of nest building was observed on 29 April on Brownsman, with the first fledgling observed on 25 May on the same island. The first fledgling on Inner Farne was seen on 7 June. The pairs were distributed across the islands as follows: Inner Farne 2 (4.8), Staple 2 (2.8), Brownsman 4 (6), South Wamses 1 (1), North Wamses 1 (1) and Longstone 1 (0.5). In autumn, resident birds are supplemented by passage birds.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. A common passage visitor.
Inner Farne produced all the records this year. A lone bird was seen on four consecutive days between 6 April - 9 April, each time in Inner Farne Courtyard and this comprised all the spring records. In Autumn, 1-3 birds were seen consecutively from 25-27 September and 1-4 were recorded on six dates from 4 - 10 October. The final record was of a lone bird in the Cemetery on 19 October.
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla. A common passage visitor.
Spring passage was light with just seven records between 24 April and 18 May. Autumn proved to be better, with the first heard on 27 September. A further sixteen records were produced across the islands between then and 24 November. These sightings were typically of 1-3 birds, however a group of four were seen on Inner Farne on 17 October, and five were seen in the Vegetable Garden, again on Inner Farne, on 2 November.
Greenfinch Chloris chloris. A well represented passage visitor.
On 13 October, four birds were first heard, and then seen, by a ranger flying over the Inner Farne Top Meadow. It was a welcome sight as this nationally declining garden favorite was last recorded in 2016.
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis. A well represented passage visitor.
It was a quiet year for this distinctive finch with Inner Farne producing both records. Two birds were seen flying north on Ladies Path on 13 April. Two were then spotted in the Lighthouse Compound flying towards the mainland on 15 April. Autumn failed to produce any records.
Siskin Spinus spinus. A common passage visitor.
2019 produced only 2 records, representing another poor year for this striking garden bird. A lone individual was discovered in the Lighthouse Compound on 20 April and a female was seen on the Brownsman jetty on 14 October.
Linnet Linaria cannabina. A common passage and winter visitor.
Spring saw 24 records, usually comprising two individuals with a maximum count of six on 23 March. The final spring record was a male on Brownsman on 8 May. Hereafter, the first autumn bird was recorded on 20 September, with the appearance of a single bird in the vegetation above Ladies Path on Inner Farne. They remained a near constant presence around the islands for the remainder of the season, peaking on 8 October when a flock of 60 was observed on Inner Farne.
Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea. An uncommon passage visitor.
A single bird was discovered on Brownsman island on 20 October and was seen each day thereafter until 23 October. This individual was the only one recorded this season.
Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula. An uncommon passage visitor.
A female was seen in the Inner Farne Lighthouse Compound on 10 April. It was spotted again several times the next day, around the Lighthouse and the Courtyard. This is the first record since a male was seen in autumn 2011. This marks the twelfth year that bullfinches have been recorded on the islands. Prior to this year 31 individuals had been recorded on the islands, 15 of which were in 2004’s unprecedented influx.
Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis. A well represented passage visitor.
A poor year for this winter visitor provided only three records, all coming from autumn. Two birds on 28 October and a single bird on 8 November were the only 2 Brownsman records. The third and final record of the season came on 15th November, when rangers spotted an individual during a trip to Knoxes Reef.
Emberiza pusilla. An uncommon passage visitor.
On 9th November, an individual was discovered outside the Brownsman cottage. It showed well throughout the day but could not be relocated the following morning. This was the only record of this attractive northern vagrant.
Emberiza schoeniclus. A well represented passage visitor.
An unusually quiet year yielded just 3 records. A single bird sighted on Inner Farne's tower sticks on 19th May made for the only spring record. An individual was recorded on consecutive dates in October on Brownsman island. These were the only two autumn records, presumably of the same bird.