Friday, 4 April 2014

Cream-coloured Courser

I've been to the Cape Verde Islands for my holidays this winter and it was just what the doctor ordered.

We stayed on the island of Sal and I know its not the best island for birds but for a barren island its better than you think. It has golden sands, beautiful sunshine and a nice culture. Most of the Island is barren with hard ground from the lack of rain but there is something about it I love.

I never really went birding as it was about chilling and being with the kids, but one day we hired a car to go and had a look around the island, but we ended up stopping all over the place looking at birds.

The kids got sick but my wife started spotting things before me, which was really surprising as she is not into birds at all.

At first I was driving but then she took over so I could jump out the car quickly if we spotted something.

We spotted a lot of Cattle Egrets at first, which was great as it was the only second time I have seen them but this time I was a lot closer.

We also spotted a raptor and I did not know what it was, but a friend thought it might be a juvenile Montagu's Harrier but he couldn't rule out a Pallid Harrier, so if anyone could help that would be great. Sorry its a very distant shot.

The Islands gets lots of wind to and you can tell by the way the trees and brushes are bent over.

A lone bull in the middle of know where.

We saw lots of Iago Sparrows and a cracking Hoopee Lark.

We worked our way back to the apartment we saw a few Black-Winged Stilts, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones, Lesser Yellowlegs all on a small salt plain just a we approached Santa Maria itself.

By the time we had done all the Island the kids were sick so I did not want to push my luck anymore. I will have to take a trip over on my own and then I will not have to think about the kids.

Anyway the Cream-Coloured Courser stole the show for me as I was just impressed by the plain but natural colours, the long legs and the way it could blend into the background so easy. I also liked the black and white strip above and behind its eye with the slate grey on the top of its head to finish it off.

Over all I was pleased with what I had seen and this has just wetted my appetite for the next time I go over and hopefully I will be able to visit other Islands to. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Mighty Catamaran

After being out of the water for a week or two, Serenity II is now back in the water ready for action.
We done a good few jobs to her this year as she really needed it. She's been buffed on the hull and wheelhouse, a couple of patches been fixed where she had been knocked. Engines oils, filters and few other jobs done. Some new valves replaced and her hull anti-fouled.

We have the MCA coming tomorrow to inspect her in the water and all being well, we will be fully coded from the 1st April.

We are still sailing of course but we are limited to numbers through the winter period which means people get a big boat all to themselves.

Fingers crossed everything goes OK tomorrow but for now here is a few pictures of the before and after, then back into the water.

The sunlight was making her go green underneath but it came off really easy. I was a little worried about the height she was off the ground but thankfully we never had to much wind to worry about.

The green all removed.

You can see the difference as we buffed her.

Peter washing down all the mess I had made but what a difference.

Hull painted. Props looking good and I don't twang them on the bottom.

A bit of a tight squeeze past Serenity and the other boats.

Loads of room. (Not)

Going passed the Bamburgh Castle Inn and all the people inside watching.

Slowly down the slipway

And finally back into the water. Job well done.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Danio... A Year Today

Its hard to believe its a year on Sunday past when the Danio hit the rocks at the end of the Blue Caps. Where does a year go to and this time last year the weather was dreadful.

I remember all the sheep being stuck in the snow in the middle of the lambing season and the seas were unreal.

I still to this day can't believe how lucky the Danio was, as if the winds had been in a northerly direction she would have been ripped to shreds and be lying on the bottom today, but because they were in the east the Longstone Lighthouse and the island came to her rescue.

At least no harm was done and only the pride of the Captain, Captain's Mate and the owner of the ship was dented. Plus the ship.

This story will be talked about in the village for years to come.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Out and About

I have been around the Islands over the last few days and it has been a total pleasure. Calm seas and beautiful sunshine topped of with thousands of seabirds.

Over the last few days the number of seabirds have increased greatly and it great to see. It feels a bit early for them to be here but they seem to be settled and if this weather keeps up I can't see them leaving. I just hope they know the weather better than I do and they will be okay.

As I was looking around today you could see the Shags building their nests and they looked beautiful in the sunlight. The Fulmars are all pairing off and I love watching them fly around the blue skies with little effort.

The Eider Ducks are in full summer plumage and are in the mood for some courtship as they patrol the harbour looking for love. I must admit I do love them and if you have been to Seahouses you will know how tame they are and love a bit of bread. They are very intelligent to as they know the noise and colour of one particular fishing that come into the harbour as they follow it everyday looking for some scraps of food.

The cliff faces were covered in Guillemots and it looked very settled until I revved my engine and then they all flew off in a big circle and then landed again.

The Razorbill were rafting and the water around the Farnes and those little Tommy Noddies (Puffins) were back again. They are cracking birds and no wonder they are the nations favourite with their colourful bills and bright orange feet. They do put a smile on my face.

We still have loads of seals around and they are really enjoying basking in the sun. Its not very often you see as many on the Inner group of Farnes but today we saw loads on the West Wideopens.

We were also treated to 6 Harbour Porpoise going around the boat and it looked as though they were feeding which is a good sign that the water visibility is improving.

All in all and great few days around the Farnes and hopefully this is just the start of it.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Painting Time

As the season is nearly here Peter and myself have been working on the boats to get them ready for the new season.

This is all the stuff we do behind the scenes before the season starts. The MCA have also been to inspect the hulls to make sure they have no holes and as not damaged before they get the tick to say  they are ok for the year. They will be back again in a few weeks time to inspect them in the water, then if everything is ok we will get the go ahead with our full licences for the season.

Serenity II was on chocks this year for the first time as we decided to give her a buff and the MCA wanted to check the boats shafts to see if they are worn. They passed which is always a relief as the last thing we want to do is to go away and buy new shafts.

Other than a few jobs to finish off and the sign writing to do, all the boats are ready to get back out on the water.

You might be thinking that if all the boats are on the pier then how do I go out. Well I have been using the dive boat as the wheelhouse is a bit bigger and if anyone gets really cold they can come inside to warm up. Also it has a kettle onboard which is a big bonus on those cold winter days.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Grey Phalarope

On Sunday the rain had stopped and the sun was shining so after a call from a friend I decided to go across to Stag Rock at Bamburgh to see the Little Gulls and the Grey Phalarope.

As I go there this little beauty turned up and put one really good show. It was a pity the light was not the best and it was getting late in the day.

Sorry but the pictures are not the best as I have just had my lense fixed but I think its still not right so I'll have to send it back again. I took nearly 700 pictures and only a few came out ok.

Stag Rock

Little Gull

A Long-tailed Duck just the other side of the Lighthouse

A pair of Merganser's

The mighty Inner Farne

and last but not least Gary Woodburn sent me this picture of myself in action. Cheers Gary

Sunday, 29 December 2013

What a season 2013 was..

When I started to think about this blog more and more things came into my head and I have to say this has been the best year for me personally, but a cracking year all round.

We started the year of with dreadful weather and we struggled to get the boats ready for the new season and then gales hit us which made it worse.

It started on the morning of March 16th at 7am when I got a call about a boat on the rocks. At first I thought the lad was pulling my leg but then I realized he wasn't.

I went out the harbour for a look for myself and was blown away by the size big ship sitting on the rocks. I could not believe it to be honest, especially with todays technology.

After a few dreadful weeks of bad weather the salvage team managed to get it of without any hiccups and off she went.

The weather did not really pick up or a good while and I was praying that we were not going to have a season like we did the year before.

The only good thing was that it brought some beautiful Long-Tailed Ducks into the harbour, but on a sad note we had lots of dead birds along the beaches and as the season was approaching this was the last thing the Farnes needed.

The weather really never started to get settled until mid April and then it was still freezing, but the time May arrived the weather was much better. The Islands were starting to get that buzz again.

We even managed to raise four Mallards successfully and we released them onto Monks House Pond and to this day Joan (my wife) keeps asking me to go along and check to see they are okay, and yes before I do go along but sometimes it takes me a long time to check them.

June was a nice month and we started to see some Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise and the odd Minkie Whale.

The Sunset Cruises were in full swing and we had some cracking trips this year. I must admit I do love these trips even though it makes it long days.

We first encountered some Bottlenose Dolphins on our way home from the Sunset Cruise and as you can tell we were a wee bit late that night. (Nothing to do with me really).

They disappeared for a couple of days and then they returned but it was at low water early in the morning and I was outside the harbour just waiting for my guests when I saw then again and they were in the mood to play.


Things were picking up and the breeding season was in full swing. We had lots of film crews on the Islands this year and most of you have probably seen the programs and I must admit I am really enjoying Robson Green in Tales of the North. It just shows you what a wonderful place we live in and it was funny looking at him after his nights sleep on the Inner Farne. He looked like s**t.

We also had Tony Robinson (Baldrick) out on the boat for a program he's filming for Channel 4 called Walking Through History at 8pm, 30th March, so keep your eye out for it.

Then July came with an almighty bang. Oh yes the bird of the year. A Bridled Tern showed up on the Inner Farne and caused havoc in the birding world.
I must admit it was a cracking bird which I had the privilege of seeing quiet a lot but still enjoyed every moment.


We also saw lots and lots of Minkie Whales in July and they were seen on a daily basis by everyone. I was very lucky to have them around the boat a few times and Peter even managed to get some video footage.

Infact this has been the best year for ever for seeing Minkie Whales as we were still seeing them in August, Sept and even some fisherman seen them in October.

We also had lots of Harbour Porpoise and of course was those beautiful White Beaked Dolphins playing with the boat.

By the end of August we had seen loads and I have never even mentioned the weather. Amazing to be honest.

In August we had thousands of Manx Shearwaters rafting around the Islands and one day while my guests were on the Island I went to have a look at them and found a Baleric Shearwater in the middle of them. I was gobsmacked as there was not just 1 but 3 in total. I also heard that this was a Farnes record which was great news.

In September we started to get birds passing through the Islands and we had lots of Skuas stopping to attack the terns for their food.

We were also at the end of our Sunset Cruises and the light was just fantastic for photography.

In October I was alerted about a Greenland Shark on the beach at Embelton which is really rare. We were also getting closer to the seal season and it would not be long before loads of seal pups were around.

In November the weather was still holding up and we had 2 Common Dolphins swimming around the boat which was amazing and again a first for the Farne Islands.
They even followed a boat back to the harbour.

When December arrived we were still having nice weather and for this time of the year was really good until the 6th and then it all changed. Yes we got hit by a storm and the weather has not really settled since then, but after the storm the winds had dropped and we were given a treat on Seahouses Golf Course by an Ivory Gull.

What a beautiful bird and a mega for Northumberland. We were even more lucky as we got 2 later on in the day by Beadnell on the beach. 

For me personally this has been the best year for birds, cetacean's and weather. I hope next year is just as good and not just for me but for everyone.

I would like to thank everyone that has joined me this year, to Steely and the Rangers, to Gary Woodburn for helping me become a better birder, to the girls in the booking office who are the ones that make my job easy, to all my followers on Twitter and Facebook and last but not least to my right hand man Andy who puts up with me 7 day's a week and of course Peter who has to put up with Toby. LOL.

Cheers guys and I hope you had a great Christmas and an even better New Year form everyone at Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours.