Thursday, 4 July 2013

Farnes Farce Ends Favourably

3rd July.  Tom, Sam and I had managed to fit in a trip to the Farne Islands this afternoon and having been assured that Glad Tidings 1V was heading straight to Inner Farne for the terns (or in a few of our cases ‘THE TERN’) and having been carefully guided to the boat we sat back with the crowds and eagerly awaited our arrival on Inner Farne.  It wouldn’t take long, or so we thought.  Another guy, keen to add ‘THE TERN’ to his Northumberland list suggested that the boat was heading in the wrong direction.  Casually, Sam suggested the approach to Inner Farne was probably slightly altered by the tides!  This was Sam’s third visit to the Farnes in the past three weeks, so he knows these things.  I only began to wonder when the boat clearly passed the Inner Farnes and when the crew announced we were heading for the Outer Farnes!  I couldn’t believe we had stepped onto the wrong boat!  No one else turned a hair apart from our companion fellow birder.  We tried unsuccessfully to attract the attention of the crew.  By the time we reached the Outer Farnes and were following the other boat which we had been careful not to get onto one of the crew came across to us and offered an explanation.  It seems that another boat firm, which I won’t bother to name, had landed a party at around noon and this had been done without permission so the wardens on the Farnes were not allowing further landings on Inner Farne!  Well by now I was giving up hope of seeing ‘THE TERN.’  My suspicion was that boat crews eager to make money whilst ‘THE TERN’ remained, were dropping of numbers which were topping their  quota and we were paying the price.  Yes, perhaps I should not be so accusing and sceptical, but having been given no explanation otherwise, I was left thinking this.  I know it isn’t the done thing to criticise the boat firms that operate from Seahouses, and it wasn’t Glad Tidings fault that they had been refused permission to land.  I fully understand that boat trips such as this may need to change plans depending on circumstances, but I have to say surely paying passengers are entitled to an explanation as to what is happening and why.  We eventually did arrive off Inner Farne and off Inner Farne we waited for fifteen to twenty minutes until folk were cleared off the island.  We eventually landed and found we had one hour to spend on the island. 

Whilst we had been hovering off the island all the terns had risen.  THE TERN was amongst them apparently, but on landing had disappeared behind a ridge on the rocks and could not be seen from any angle.  We weren’t going to have much time for it to reappear.  Our companion birder on the boat had apparently spent five hours on the island yesterday and managed to miss ‘THE TERN.’  He had left in the evening and it had apparently returned from fishing after twenty minutes of his boat leaving!  Well, to cut a long story short the terns did rise again, with The Bridled Tern showing really well in flight, at one point right over our heads before settling again and giving a good sighting on the rocks.  I was too busy watching to even attempt a photo.  On this occasion the watching was far more important.  Great bird, a lifer (the only one of the year so far) and very appropriate, as I’ve begun to read New Naturalists new Edition, Terns and a very good read it is  proving to be.

I’ll have to admit that today’s excursion will have to be put down as a twitch.  I’m allowed the odd one each year.  It was great to be out on the sea again even if all did not go to plan.  There was plenty more to see and enjoy and many more chicks around than on my earlier visit.  I did have time to have a quick walk on Inner Farne and grab a few images.  So despite the earlier confusion a very good afternoon was had by TSB and this was rounded off by a visit to Neptune’s Fish and Chip restaurant.  So July is off to a flying start and forecast of more decent weather is so good for the birds on the Farnes.


  1. Hmmm..... Sadly I fear you have been given some ‘miss-information’ by the glad tidings crew here.

    While the tern is there, the islands are shut from 12 – 1.30 as stated by NT so no landings are allowed during that period by any company, all the boats are aware of this.

    The other boat in question landed some people due to a simple misunderstanding between NT and the boats skipper, a genuine mistake. This has no bearing on the ability of other boats to land or not land during the allocated times.

    The ‘boatman politics’ around the Farnes is truly unbelievable, the larger company there seems to want to trample on and discredit the other smaller operators at every opportunity and this is another good example.

    1. Thanks for that clarification Stringer. The whole thing seemed a bit odd to me and as I mentioned in the blog there was never any explanation giving to the rest of the passengers, apart from four of us who were determined to ask for it. Cheers.

  2. Getting the Bridled Tern is great, (just a shame about the carry on beforehand).

  3. The tern was a goodun Mark, as are trips to the Farne Islands at any time.

  4. Cheers, yeah I must get along there before too long.