Thursday, 27 June 2013

Home From Northumberland


Well, after 8 wonderful days in my home county of Northumbria I'm now home - in Rugby.  Rugby is about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK and how I'm going to miss the sounds and smells of the coastal area.  Oh, and the fresh fish that goes so well with the chip-shop chips ;-).

I've taken so many photos that there's no way I can put them in my blog - so I guess some will just end up on Flickr (kelticsteve-back in harness)

The countryside - wonderful.  The people - great.  The Farnes - as always spectacular!  I really need to say that my time has been made about as good as it could ever get by the hospitality of the guys at Serenity Boats, Seahouses.

My heartfelt thanks has to go to Andrew - skipper of Serenity II,  Toby - skipper of Serenity and the solid guys who crew the boats.  Of course the 'girls' - the people on point in the kiosk at Seahouses harbour - need a special mention.  Thanks for the warmth of your reception of all Serenity's guests.

Andrew Douglas - Skipper - Concentrating in the Swell 

The Unexpected Highlight - Jumpling Exodus

I have been thrilled with the photographic opportunities that the stable platform that Serenity II affords.  The quick eyes of Andrew and his crew rarely miss any potentially good shots which present themselves on any of the sailings I have been on.

All of the wildlife and its behaviour is fascinating at this time of year - the Breeding Season.  

The Puffins were braving the thuggish Black-Headed Gulls which were trying to steal the Puffin's hard-won Sand Eel catch (see previous blog pages).
The Terns attack visitors to the islands, protecting their young chicks from these "bipedal predators" - even if we are only armed with our cameras. Kittiwakes were showing off their chicks and even Razorbills were sitting on eggs or brooding their young.
Shags were brooding the most Pterodactyl-looking chicks I've ever seen.
Black-backed and Herring Gulls were predating whatever they could opportunistically take.  If you're not squeamish you can see a shot of a Black-Backed Gull taking a Guillemot Jumpling on my Flickr photostream.

The thing that will stick in my mind's eye will be the Guillemot Jumpling exodus as they were leaving for the Farne Deeps or the Dogger Bank.

Cut and paste the following link into your browser to hear a sound file of the commotion which I recorded under the Staple Island cliffs as the little darlings were jumping:

For those of you who know the story of the Guillemot Jumplings the following will be no revelation but for any reader who doesn't know the story of these brave little chicks .... read on.

By way of an introduction you need to know that when most birds leave their nest for the first time, they normally fly.  This is known as 'fledging' so the chicks are called 'fledglings'.  The Guillemot chicks have been born and brooded on ledges or in crevices on the cliff face and their wings do not form fully before they leave the 'nest'.  They either jump from their cliff-based 'home' or they are pushed by 'mum' which causes them to 'bounce' all the way down to the water below, where 'dad' is waiting for the chick so he can shepherd it to feeding grounds in the Dogger Bank or the Farne Deeps.  Since the chicks don't 'fledge' but rather jump they are aptly named 'Jumplings'.

After the chick hits the water it immediately starts to make the 'cheeping' sound you can hear on the sound file above.  You can hear the calling of the parent birds as they seek to link up.  The pair then paddle away - some 20-40 miles to the place where 'dad' can teach the youngster to catch its food and eventually fly.

On Tuesday morning there were one or two Jumplings in the water - on Tuesday night the sea was heaving with them!  The following series of photographs may give a feeling for what we saw from our ringside seat on the boat on Tuesday night (25th June).  I'll never forget that night, it was really special.

OK son, are you ready to jump?

Yep, I think I'm ready.

Good lad, I knew you could do it

Right, I'm in - but where are you dad?

Here I am son

Don't you leave me dad, I'm scared

It's OK son, we'll make this together ....

OK dad, I'm ready to paddle

Are we there yet dad?  It's cold and wet and I'm tired already ....

And so they paddle off into the sunset - only a few tens of miles to go.

And the sun sets over Bamburgh Castle
Now I'm home and my trip is just a set of photos and memories - but what memories.  Big skies, big tides, thousands upon thousands of birds - and of course great company with the Serenity team.  

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful piccies - especially the sunset!

    However, the folks in the boat look as though they're really enjoying themselves.....(not) - perhaps a bit of a 'bouncy' ride? ;-p