We visit the Farne Islands most years in the summer to see the puffins, shags, kittiwakes, razorbills, eider ducks, guillemots and seals.
There is wildlife to see all year on the Farne Islands. In early spring the islands are closed for landings, but seals can be seen from the boat trips. In April Inner Farne opens to visitors, and the first of the breeding seabirds (puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, sandwich and common terns) return. The birds are displaying to their partners and in their smartest breeding plumage, so it’s a good time for photography.
In May both Inner Farne and Staple are open, and the whole range of seabirds can be seen, with eider ducks nesting on Staple Island. The arctic terns return in May, so dive-bombing risk reaches its peak by the end of May (wear a hat – hard hats aren’t allowed, but any sturdy hat will help – the birds will make contact with beaks and feet, and they can draw blood if you don’t wear a hat!). Birds are breeding, laying eggs and the eggs are starting to hatch, so there is plenty to photograph.
In June and July, both Inner Farne and Staple island are open, and most birds have young by June, so fishing activity reaches its peak then, making for good action photos as the birds fly in with beaks full of fish. The pufflings start to hatch in the burrows, so the adult puffins are returning to the island with beaks full of sand-eels, and the young kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and guillemots can be seen being fed by the adults. The birds start to leave in July, starting with the eider ducks in late June / early July, the puffins by early August, the terns, guillemots, and razorbills by mid-August, and kittiwakes and fulmars by the end of August. In August Staple Island is closed.
Razorbill, Farnes, June 2011
In September and October Inner Farne is open and grey seals start to pup in late September – October.
To get to the Farne islands, there are four boat-trip companies that sail from Seahouses. We tend to book an all-day boat-trip in May-July that visits both Inner Farne and Staple Island. The company we have had most experience with is Glad Tidings – landing on Inner Farne and on Staple Island