Changes on the Farnes
Four decades on islands documented
The October talk was Forty Years on the Farne Islands.
Graham Wren had visited the islands, off the Northumberland coast, for more than 40 years. His slides vividly depicted the remarkable changes in landscape and wildlife that had occurred.
The islands were gifted to the National Trust in 1925 to be maintained for “all fauna and flora”. Graham explained the difficulties of realising this goal and the sometimes unintended consequences of man’s interventions.
The islands were most famous for their large bird colonies. Graham, who had also photographed 144 different nests and eggs across the UK, showed images of puffins, eider ducks, ter terns, kittiwakes, shags, rin ringed plovers, razorbills, gu guillemots and fulmars.
Overall numbers of birds ha had increased four-fold over 40 years although herring gu gulls and lesser black ba backed gulls had been most su successful. Roseate terns had all but disappeared an and the number of razorbills h had declined.
Seals, inset, breed on the is islands and numbers had continued to grow.
A key problem had been the erosion of vegetation by seals and the sheer numbers of birds, particularly gulls, which had also led to acidification of the soil. This denuding of vegetation had made it more difficult for puffins to excavate burrows and easier for gulls to predate eggs.
Various management measures had been implemented to try to address these problems.
In the 1970s there were seal culls and attempts to control gull numbers by shooting and poisoning. There had also been successful attempts to revegetate by new planting and protecting young plants with conifer brashings. Sea campion was now widespread.
Graham showed slides of the various states of vegetation erosion and recovery since the 1970s.
Tragically, just a week after his talk, Graham died at home in Ross-on-Wye. He had plans to visit his beloved Farne Islands again next year and also hoped to land for the first time on Ailsa Craig.
This was Graham’s 50th year of talks and Stewartry birdwatchers were privileged to hear his last presentation.
The next meeting is on November 15 in New Galloway school at 7.30pm.
Nest Puffins with Bamburgh Castle in the background