Changes on the Farnes

Four decades on is­lands doc­u­mented

The Galloway News - - DISTRICT NEWS -

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

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