Farne Islands welcome BBC Springwatch

A puffin on the Farne Islands in Northumberland
Published : 27 May 2016 Last update : 26 Sep 2017

The Farne Islands are featured on the ever-popular BBC Springwatch this year. Expect to see updates from this incredible haven for wildlife including our resident breeding puffins, Atlantic grey seals and arctic terns.

Springwatch will be broadcast daily from 30 May to 17 June. Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games will present the very best wildlife action this spring has to offer. Alongside them, reporter Iolo Williams has made the Farne Islands his home for the three weeks. He’ll be bringing viewers the best spectacles of the season, including the breeding puffin population and the Atlantic grey seal colony.

The Farne Islands 

Guillemot numbers on the Farnes have doubled in the last decade
Guillemots on the Farne Islands with Longstone in the distance

Home to over 85,000 breeding pairs of seabirds and one of the largest colonies of Atlantic grey seals (4,000), the Farne Islands are looked after by our hardy team of rangers who spend up to 10 months of the year living on the islands.

Northumberland Coast Countryside Manager, Gwen Potter, shares some of what viewers can look out for:

“At this time of year, the Farne Islands are unlike anywhere else in the UK. Sir David Attenborough himself described them as ‘the UK’s greatest wildlife experience’.  Not only are the islands an incredible place for humans, but they are of course a safe haven for the birds where they can breed in relative safety.

Hopefully viewers will get a flavour of what it’s like to live and work on the islands and if we’re lucky, see up close how puffins nest in burrows to bring up their chicks – the fantastically named ‘pufflings’.” 

Looking after a seabird paradise

The resident rangers spend their time carefully balancing the conservation needs of the islands with enabling access for visitors. The Farnes are internationally important for breeding seabirds and have to be managed accordingly, as ranger Ed Tooth explains:

“Vegetation management takes up most of our time, as we look to maintain current suitable habitat and also create new areas. We also monitor the population of every species that breeds, which involves counting around 85,000 pairs of birds! Most we count on the nest, and some, like the puffin census, we only carry out every five years as it is such a mammoth task. We also count all the grey seal pups that are born in October-December.

But the islands also provide a visitor experience unlike any other. Immersing yourself in a world of seabirds is amazing, and we help people make the most of their visit by keeping them safe and educating them about what they are seeing, whilst managing that access to protect the breeding birds.”

Visitors watching a puffin on the Farne Islands, Northumberland
Visitors watching a puffin on the Farne Islands, Northumberland

The Islands will be open as normal for visitors whilst the BBC is filming for Springwatch.  Boats sail daily (weather permitting) from Seahouses to the islands.