Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Open Season for a Wildlife Spectacular

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Open Season for a Wildlife Spectacular

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment Editor tony.henderson@ncjmedia.co.uk

ONE of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the country opens for business today when thousands of visitors can immerse themselves in a whirling world of birds.

The National Trust's Farne Islands, offNorthumberland, attracted 47,000 visitors last year who come to see 85,000 pairs of seabirds across 23 species, a large grey seal colony and - as a bonus - sightings of dolphins.

The islands are a national nature reserve and one of Europe's most important seabird sanctuaries.

Ed Tooth and Lana Blakely are the islands' two full-time resident rangers, backed up by a team of 10 assistant rangers.

Their tasks include looking after visitors, educational work and monitoring the nesting ups and downs of the seabirds and their population trends.

They also carry out an annual seal pup count and last year the total was 1,876 youngsters.

The visiting season lasts until October 31 and during peak times around 10 boats trips a day leave Seahouses for the islands.

This year, for the first time, visitors will buy their tickets from a National Trust trailer at Seahouses harbour, instead of on arrival at the islands.

Ed said: "It is a privilege to be on the Farne Islands, which are an incredible place on which to live and work.

"When visitors arrive for the first time they tend to be pleasantly overwhelmed by the sound, smell and sight of thousands of sea birds.

"They are right amongst it all, right in the middle of these birds and their world."

Rangers also log sightings of dolphins, whales and harbour porpoises. Only days ago they recorded a pod of 10 bottle-nosed dolphins.

"We would also expect to see the odd minke whale and one or two basking sharks. Visitors, especially in July and August, have a good chance of seeing dolphins," said Ed.

The rangers have prepared a report on the fortunes of the birds on the islands in 2015, when the National Trust celebrated 90 years of looking after the sanctuary.

The major success story is that of the guillemots, which had another record year as numbers totalled 53,461 individuals. …

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