In the 90 years the Islands have become what the Trust describes as a ‘jewel in its wildlife crown’, with over 23 types of breeding seabirds living on the Islands including 40,000 pairs of puffins. It’s also one of the largest colonies of Atlantic grey seals in the UK.
The 10th August 2015 Europe’s largest conservation charity, the National Trust, celebrates 90 years of caring for the Farne Islands.
In the last 90 years, there have been various landmarks for the Farne Islands in terms of site designations. The islands were one of the first designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest in 1951, and were later declared a National Nature Reserve in 1993.
I know I don’t do any of the hard work that the rangers do behind the scenes but to be part of the bit of history makes me feel proud.
In my time around the Islands I have been lucky enough to see whales, dolphins, basking sharks and some cracking rare birds and the Farnes still holds the British record for passing little auks at 28,800 in November 2007.
Everyday the Farnes does something for everyone, whether it’s seeing a puffin for the first time or diving with the seals it is a very special place and this is why the monitoring work carried out by the National Trust over the years has provided a valuable and significant data set for conservationists. 24,000 pairs of birds were nesting on the Islands in 1970, when serious counts began. This had risen to over 100,000 pairs at its peak in 2005. The Islands’ seabird population is now at around 86,000 pairs due in the main to the puffins. The population grew from around 11,000 pairs in 1970, demonstrating meteoric success and reaching 56,600 pairs in the mid 2000s. However the puffin census of 2008 revealed losses of 19,000 pairs, indicating a possible problem on the wintering grounds the previous year.
Every little sighting is so important for the Farnes as it’s hugely important nature conservation work on the Farne Islands is carried out by teams of dedicated Rangers who live and work on the islands for up to nine months of the year. Life has changed from when the first wardens were first living on the Islands. Until the installation of solar power on Inner Farne in 2007, electricity was supplied by small, portable generators. Water is still transported over to the Islands by boat, and a weekly return to the mainland for a shower is a reality of life for the Ranger team and they are still connected to the outside world via the internet.
It was a lot different in John Walton’s days and he can tell you some great stories, which I never get tired of listening too. John has also got the scares to prove it, as a seal bite his leg while he was doing the seal counts. You see its not all glamour but if you talk to John he would not change a thing. Don’t worry he is ok, as he is retired now but looks back at his life on the Farnes with wonderful memories.
John, said: “The Island team can get cut off. The classic tale was in the late 80s one December morning when the boat was due to take the seal team off the Islands. They indulged in a massive breakfast and a game of cricket with the remaining potatoes. Cue a sudden storm and the team were scouring the island, two days later, for the potatoes they’d used as cricket balls”.
Thank you John for your wonderful stories and enjoy your retirement.
Visitor numbers to the Islands have increased dramatically from when boats first began running trips to the Islands in 1918, and in 1970 the National Trust appointed the first Warden on the Islands, in order to better manage the increasing number of visitors.
David Attenborough is also a fan, having said that in the UK, the Farnes are his favourite place to see nature at its best during the breeding season”.
I hope the National Trust and all the people involved in the Farne Islands all the best for the next 90 years and they keep up the good work.
This post would not be the same without the fabulous puffin picture.
Thank you for reading
OVER AND OUT