The Farne Islands get a starring role in Springwatch this month. Gwen Potter, National Trust’s Countryside Manager for the Northumberland Coast, shares her top three birds to look out for on your TV screens.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing the Farne Islands with BBC’s Springwatch.
Presenter Iolo Williams will present a daily update for the popular wildlife show from the Farne Islands. Viewers of the popular wildlife show will get to see the very best wildlife the islands have to offer.
Home to around 85,000 pairs of seabirds and a small team of rangers, the Farnes are a haven for wildlife.The islands lie roughly two miles off the Northumberland coast, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Here are three of my favourite Farne Island seabirds you should look out for on Springwatch tonight.
The Farnes’ most famous resident. Often pictured with its multi-coloured beak, carrying lovely shining fish to their burrows. They can often be seen peeking out timidly from their burrows. We rarely walk on the areas off the boardwalks – there are so many burrows underground that the ceiling can frequently collapse!
DID YOU KNOW – Puffins’ distinctive red and grey beak becomes duller once the breeding season comes to an end. Their winter plumage is rarely seen, as these birds head out to sea for the winter – only returning to land to breed the following spring.
- Arctic tern
From mid-May until fledging these angel-like birds will dive-bomb us and peck us in the head as well as poo-ing on us – all in a bid to protect their chicks. There is a finely judged ‘hat on’ date when all rangers avoid venturing out to prevent undue disturbance and don a hat to move through the colony.
The terns nest everywhere – on paths, boardwalks and anywhere else they can get in.
They may look delicate, but these birds fly thousands of miles each year. An Arctic Tern ringed on the Farne Islands in 1982 was spotted in Melbourne, Australia three months later – a distance of over 10,000 miles.
- Eider duck
A dumpy, chunky bird – and my current favourite on the Farnes. The males look handsome in a classical way, with black green and white feathers like a sports kit. Their soft moaning call shatters the illusion of ‘sleekness’ they initially appear to project. Being a true sea duck, they mainly eat molluscs and crustaceans, with a specially adapted gut to crush and excrete the shells.
The beautiful pale blue eggs are incubated by the female at all times. These ladies nest wherever they fancy – in doorways, under benches or generators – and just stare at you, confused, if they’re disturbed. We count the eider’s eggs by gently lifting these genteel birds from their nest. Their docile nature is probably why eider down was so easy to harvest!
One of the island’s female ducks has taken against our ranger Tom, aggressively nipping his ankles whenever he passes on the boardwalk!
TOP TIP: Watching Springwatch? See if you can spot the Shag’s long necks vibrating. These petrol green seabirds use it as a way to regulate their body heat – similar to a dog panting.
Watch Springwatch on BBC2 at 8pm, 30 May to 17 June.
A version of this blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post.