From documents through to the 1500s there was quite a trade in seals and seal products. What can I say 2 fab dives with amazing seals. They spend 80% of their time underwater, diving for around eight minutes … Credit: PA Images An annual seal census in Northumberland has had to be carried out from the air because of the coronavirus pandemic. The seals are around all year; however, on Holy Island they are easier to spot during the spring and summer months. Once we have fitted you with equipment and you have changed into a wetsuit, a picturesque boat journey takes us to the Farne Islands. A common method used to tell them apart is that Harbour seals are more ‘dog-faced’ due to the dip between their forehead and nose creating a snout, while Grey seals are more cat-like with a rounded profile. The Farne Islands are popular with bird watchers, and as scuba diving locations, with a variety of sites suitable for all levels of divers, for the seals and wrecks. Scuba Diving with Seals This was the first clue that seals moved across the North Sea and such large distances. Birds: Puffins can be seen on the islands. The Farne Islands are most famous for the puffins and seals, plus many other species. Just search for Farne Island cruises. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or find out how to manage cookies. If they feel threatened by your presence, they can become defensive, so please do not approach them, especially with dogs. However the grey seals are present in plenty, and gannets fly. The boats leave year round from Seahouses harbour (about 40 minutes drive from Holy Island). The Trust took over counting in 1970 and continues to this day. They spend 80% of their time underwater, diving for around eight minutes (although the longest recorded dive was 30 minutes) and hunting at depths of up to 30 metres. Staple Island trip. Another popular seal-spotting place is from the top of the Heugh, and of course you might see them on any of the other beaches as you walk around the island, but that is less predictable. If you’re lucky you might even spot a whale or some dolphins. Farne Islands can be almost dived all year-long but if you want to increase your chances of an underwater encounter with grey seals, Septemberis the right period to go. As part of this work we carefully monitored the response of the seals to the drones. In 1378-79 a seal calf could fetch about 22p which works out at about £140 in today’s money. 2,737 pups were born in 2018 – this equates to a colony size of 9,580 based on multiplying the number of pups born by 3.5. Keeping the waters clean from debris and pollution is beneficial for all the animals that share this environment. I couldn’t wait. The Farne Islands are home to thousands of grey seals (also known as Atlantic seals), and each autumn hundreds of pups are born here. They spend 80% of time below water, 20% on the surface breathing. What type of seals do we see? Their fur is often mottled, with darker grey blotches, which is where they get their name from. Pups are weaned in 18 days, in which time they will have quadrupled in weight. The primary way of telling which seal you’re looking at is by their face – Harbour seals have a shorter muzzle, with v-shaped nostrils that meet at the bottom while Grey seals have flatter, longer head profiles with parallel nostrils that do not meet. This is due to the lack of predators and a plentiful supply of sand eels. As the tide rises and forces the seals off the sand, they’ll swim around. Visit Farne Islands to see thousands of seabirds and a huge Grey seal colony. They are curious and often look in on divers in the water and are impressive to watch underwater. Seals and pups on the Farne Islands in the North Sea off the coast of Northumberland (Owen Humphreys/PA) National Trust ranger Harriet Reid said: “Due to … Since they can’t hunt for food, the parents fast during this time, gaining energy from the blubber they have stored up. In comparison, Harbour seals are much smaller, weighting up to 170kg and reaching 1.5 metres in length. The Farne Islands lie two to three miles off the Northumberland coast midway between the fishing village of Seahouses and the magnificent Castle of Bamburgh. If you’d like to help, why not participate in a beach clean and safely dispose of anything that might harm the wildlife. After 18 days of drinking their mother’s milk, the pups have quadrupled in weight and are weaned. In the Farne Islands wildlife comes in abundance, and in particular it’s home to a colony of over 8,000 grey seals, 37,000 breeding pairs of Puffins and an abundance of other bird life. They seem to move around from year to year, so if you’re staying with us, we may be able to tell you the most recent and best viewing places at the time. Female fasts can be over 20 days, while male fasts can be over 50 days. The Farnes is one of the third largest colonies on the east coast of England. The Outer Farnes is considered the less populated of the islands and home to between 3,000 and 4,000 grey seals. Abandoned by their mother, they spend another 20 days or so on the colony before heading out to sea for an independent life. Sailing around all of the Farne Islands viewing the birds and seals and landing on Staple Island, a National Trust Bird Sanctuary for 1 hour. The Farnes boast one of the third largest colonies of Grey seals on the East Coast of England, providing a home to around 5,000 seals and contributing 2.5% of the annual British pup production. Because of this, they are protected in Britain under the Conservation of Seals Act of 1970. They are 28 islands, some very small and some only visible during low tide. The first tracking experiment in the 1950’s found one alive at Jaeren, 20 miles from the south western tip of Norway, having travelled 400 miles in 14 days. July 9, 2019 July 11, 2019 by Andrew Douglas. Seal and pup on the Farne Islands An annual seal census at one of Britain’s most important colonies has had to be carried out from the air due to … A much-loved addition to the fauna of the islands, the seals are not subjected to high human threat. Seals and pups on the Farne Islands in the North Sea off the coast of Northumberland (Owen Humphreys/PA) National Trust ranger Harriet Reid said: “Due to … This is when you’re most likely to see them, either bobbing on the water or hauled out on the shore. attempted to pat a seal on the head and was bitten, Crossing Holy Island’s Causeway: Tips, tides and safety, Getting to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) by public transport, How to: Walk the Pilgrim’s Way to Holy Island (minding tide times), Spending high tide on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in Northumberland, What to do on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) – A short guide, Where to eat: food options on Holy Island (Lindisfarne). Photo: Mick Knapton, CC BY-SA 3.0. It's also home to a one of the top grey seal pupping sites in England, with more than 2,000 pups born every autumn. In 2017 Farne Islands rangers experimented with drones to capture seal pup numbers from the air. The Farne Islands are home to the grey seal (also known as the Atlantic Grey Seal), with between 3000 and 4000 of this rare species on and around the islands. This is the second-largest seal colony in the UK. The Farnes seal colony is very lucky in that they don’t face many threats, and as such are doing incredibly well, with numbers increasing 57% over the last 5 years. This was the first sign that they travel huge distances across the North Sea. Where are the Farne Islands The Farnes Islands are a group of islands just off the coast of Northumberland. These trips will typically take you to see the seal colony up close first, and also either take you around the islands, or land you on one of them. Sandwich tern July* Islands: Both Staple and Inner Farne are open. Using a rotation of three or four colours we can work out how many pups are born, how many die, and how many ‘disappear’ before they would be able to survive. If you take our recommended walk along the foreshore, you’ll often see large groups of seals on the sandbanks in the distance and hear them singing as well. They then spend another 20 days in the colony before heading to sea to become independent once their water-resistant fur has developed. While the pups are young, the males and females stay on land to protect and feed their offspring with extremely high-fat milk. Look out for the island’s colony of grey or Atlantic seals hauled up on the rocks or bobbing inquisitively in the sea. If you’re lucky, you may hear the siren’s calls or even see a common seal lolling around Lindisfarne! The Farne Islands are open for visitors between the 28th March to the end of October. The Farne Islands are famous among scuba divers which is largely down to the population of around 4,500 Atlantic Grey Seals that call these rocky outcrops ‘home’. The Holy Island colony haul-out among the Grey seals on the exposed sandbars at Fenham Flats. Pictured on the right is the late Billy Shiel MBE whose grandfather founded Farne Island Boat Trips in 1918 shortly after the 1st World War. Sand eels make up about 70% of their diet, along with fish, squid and octopus. Grey seals feed on wide variety of fish, squid, and octopus. During this time, the seals gather in their thousands on the shores of the Farne islands, with the end of October being the peak time for the pups, and the best time of year to be out looking for them. There is also a very small number of Common seals, also known as Harbour seals, found on Holy island. They were valued because of the oil that could be extracted from their carcasses and also as a luxury food. Since 2017, the rangers have also been experimenting with drones to follow and track the pups, as this is much less intrusive for the seals and much safer for our rangers. The seals of the Farnes are the stars of their very own scientific discovery. Up to 4,000 Grey seals haul out onto the sand flats at Lindisfarne national nature reserve. T hey are one of the world’s rarest seal species, officially endangered by a combination of water pollution, fishing nets and seaside tourism. With over a thousand Seal pups born each Autumn our colony is growing strong. The longer a male can stay and defend his territory, the more successful his pups will be – they can fast for over 50 days! Visit from the sea. It was a beautiful June day and the sea looked calm. Spoiler: these are ‘seal song’, from the grey seal colonies on the sandbanks and nature reserve beaches. Say hello to the new seal pups on the Farne Islands, This seal has a yellow paint on its fur, showing it has been counted, Drones are a new way of counting seals that can be more accurate than traditional methods, Seals are born all across the Farne Islands. However, seals on some of the higher islands such as Staple and Brownsman are less prone to wave-wash. Grey seals are ‘capital breeders’, which means that during their stay at the colony in the autumn both females and males fast, obtaining all their energetic requirements from their blubber. Nevertheless, it is as important as ever that we look after these animals and retain the beauty of these natural areas. Dr Burville, a researcher from Newcastle University, was diving off the coast of the Farne Islands when he witnessed a male Grey seal ‘clap’ underwater during breeding season – which he then spent 17 years trying to capture on camera! Between April and October, you can land on the islands themselves (May-July only for Staple Island, just in time for peak puffin season). They may look friendly, but seals are still wild animals that should not be disturbed, particularly during breeding and pupping season. Covid 19: information on staying with us while staying safe. Every Autumn around 1,000 seal pups are born in the Farnes and can be seen sunbathing on the rocks. 30% of pups die within a month and 50% within their first year. The seals not only attract divers to the Farne Islands but many tourists love to see them too but we think being in the water playing with … Seal Diving at the Farne Islands The Grey Seal colony is one of the largest in the UK but is the best in the UK for diving with them in the wild. This is also reflected in the Grey seal’s Latin name Halichoerus grypus, which means ‘hooked-nose sea pig’. As well as being the most famous Sea Bird Sanctuary in the British Isles they also have a large colony of Atlantic / Grey Seals. These islands offer better protection from storms and high seas, preventing wave-wash which can be devastating to pups on low-lying islands which haven’t yet grown waterproof fur. Others look at us nervously and ask: what are those strange moaning sounds we heard last night? A good pair of binoculars will serve you well here. A cautionary tale is that of the man rushed to hospital in Devon, after he attempted to pat a seal on the head and was bitten. It's tough being a seal pup. As creatures of the sea, seals counted as ‘fish’ and so could be eaten on a Friday. Counting the pups. For three months every autumn they are visited every four days to monitor breeding success, and new pups are marked with harmless dye to keep an eye on them. There’s a reason that Sir David Attenborough called the Farne Islands his “favourite place in the UK to see magnificent nature” – the islands and the surrounding seas are an internationally important wildlife reserve. The Farne Islands are located between Bamburgh and Seahouses on the Northumberland coast and are home to one of the largest seal colonies in the UK with around 1,000 seal pups born each year. This is often because they are washed out to sea by the rough waves and can’t survive as they are not yet waterproof. We hope you enjoy your visit to Holy Island and have the opportunity to experience these fantastic animals. Duration: 150 Minutes (approx.) There are frequent calls for culls by those who claim seals reduce fish stocks, although there is no scientific evidence for this. 30% die within a month, and 50% within the first year. Fewer National Trust rangers were able to stay on the Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, to monitor them. Sadly, we don’t know too much about where they go when they leave the colony. A party of Grey seals can be a noisy bunch – if the wind is in the right direction, you can hear them calling to each other. The work was started by the Natural History Society of Northumbria in 1952 (counts had been undertaken long before this but were only on certain islands). Since 1952 the Farne seal colony has been monitored and counted, so we have an excellent record of how the populations are doing. The water around the islands is among the clearest in the country and offers superb diving from wrecks to scenic and not forgetting those inquisitive grey seals who will appear from nowhere to play with you. Seals spend the other 20% their time on the surface; breathing,  lolling around and digesting their food. Although they may look small from afar, Grey seals can weigh up to 300kg and reach 2.6 metres in length. 2.5% of the annual British pup production is from the Farnes, compared to 20% from the Monach Islands in the Outer Hebrides – the largest British colony. In the Autumn months, female Grey seals come ashore the islands to pup. Our skippers and crewman are there to help you with any question you like so pleased do not hesitate to ask. The longer a male can stay in the colony and defend his territory, the more successful they will be. We’ve used Billy Shiel and Serenity, and both were excellent. Their numbers swell during this time as over 1,500 pups are born across the islands – the highest ever count was 2,295 in 2016. The pup travelled 400 miles in a maximum of 14 days. The primary species seen on Holy Island are Grey seals, also known as Atlantic seals. Our boats have toilets on board and our catamaran has disabled access when the tides are right. Organised by Katie with Billy Shiell's diving boat "Glad Tidings". We use cookies to provide you with a better service. Have a look at our wildlife calendar to find out what you'll see when. Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours offers a wide range of boat trip to the Farne islands in Northumberland. We currently have 11 boats, 8 Glad Tidings, 2 St Cuthberts and our high speed Rhib Ocean Explorer. Longstone Lighthouse is an active 19th century lighthouse located on Longstone Rock in the outer group of the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast, England. During this time, the seals gather in their thousands on the shores of the Farne islands, with the end of October being the peak time for the pups, and the best time of year to be out looking for them. Staple Island Boat trip. At just under a month old, they develop their adult coat so they can enter the sea by themselves. Given the right weather conditions, the seals are visited every … The rangers have also noticed a change in the behaviour, with more seals breeding on Brownsman and Staple islands. As you look east and out to sea from Holy Island, you’ll see the Farne Islands. One was found alive at Jaeren, 20 miles away from Stavanger, Norway on 30 December. This year we are repeating this experiment as it's much less intrusive for the seals and much less dangerous for the rangers. A study on German colonies found they move between the Danish, Dutch and UK coastlines, so it is likely the UK colonies also wander around that south-eastern corner of the sea. The Farnes has the longest history of counting the seals of any colony. Seals can reach depths of 30 metres. Male seals have a lifespan of 20-25 years and female seals have a lifespan of 30-35 years. There will likely also be some seals in the water between the sandbanks and the island. Keep your eyes peeled for that grey shape bobbing in the sea. Across the world, the risks to seals are largely caused by humans. Visitors to Holy Island often ask us about the best places to see seals on the island. Click here to listen (credit: BBC). Pufflings are still hatching, and some of the older ones will be heading towards the sea. Storms can be devastating for seals, particularly those from the north which can strip pups from some of the low-lying islands causing mass deaths. The plan was to paddle out to the Farne Islands for a leisurely day of Seal and bird spotting. After the gunshot-like crack, the rival males dispersed quickly, leading Dr Burville to believe that male seals (also known as bulls) use this as a sign of strength to scare off competitors and attract mates. Seals on the Farne Islands. If you’d like a closer encounter with seals (as well as amazing birdlife and puffins in season), plan to take one of the cruises to or around these islands. The Farne Islands are possibly the most exciting seabird colony in England with unrivalled views of 23 species, including around 43,000 pairs of puffin. This means we know exactly how many are born and how many die every season. The visibility here is usually around 10 metres and you can experience some … There are an estimated 3 to 4 thousand Grey Seals at the Farne Islands and large numbers can be counted basking on the rocks, especially at low water when more of the Islands are exposed. The colonies here are one of the most important in Europe, and this species of seal is the largest surviving carnivore in the British Isles. Land on Inner Farne, Staple Island, and Longstone when the islands … In September on the Farnes, the first seal pups start arriving: small, fuzzy white balls that look like cotton wool. Total trip duration is 2.5 hours. The Farne Islands. Seals: Grey seals can be seen by boat. From the 12th century onwards, the seals were harvested by the Islands' monks. Very small numbers of common seals (also known as harbour seals) can be found on Holy Island, with small numbers around Teesside, then larger colonies around the Wash. Every year, we see an abundance of fantastic British wildlife, including puffins and over 100,000 seabirds. That said, there are a few good bets. The Farne Islands are located just below the Scottish border on the east side of England and are known as one of the best locations in the UK to dive with seals. Here are ten facts about seals on the Farnes from one of the head rangers. The Farne Islands, which lie off the coast of nor Seabirds sit on a cliff edge on the Inner Farne, which is part of the Farne Islands, off the Northumberland coast, northern England, July 19, 2013. Seals and Seal Pups. The Farne Islands are located just below the Scottish border on the east side of England for this Seal Diving Trip and are known as one of the best locations in the UK to dive with seals. All ages are welcome as well as dogs. The easiest place to access the Farne Islands in Northumberland is to take a boat trip from the nearby harbour village of Seahouses. The islands have the largest breeding colony in England with some 1,000 pups born here each autumn. It seems in the summer, the grey seals prefer sunbathing in the sun than playing with divers. Not so Common. The first experiment in tracking seals was on 16 December 1951 when ten pups were fitted with metal cattle tags. SCOTSAC Glasgow South trip to Farne Islands. Of these, three are accessible: Staple Island, Inner Farne and Longstone (home to the ‘Grace Darling’ Lighthouse). The nearest of the islands sits approximately a mile and a half from the beach. Seal usually stay underwater for between 4 and 8 minutes at a time, although the maximum time recorded was 30 minutes. Given the right weather conditions, the seals are visited every four days and new pups marked on the rump with a harmless vegetable dye. The Farne Islands consist of between fifteen to twenty small islands. Seals, like all marine wildlife, are also regularly caught in fishing gear and marine debris. The seals are used to divers and love to interact with them, and are often referred to as the ‘puppies of … Copyright 2020 All Right Reserved for original content. This gives us the number born annually and allows us to calculate the mortality rate. During the season, there will … They sing a haunting tune, thought to be the siren songs that used to lure sailors to their death! Why not have a look at the rest of the site and please do not hesitate in … Pups are born with fuzzy, white fur, which is not water-resistant. As with all marine mammals, they are covered in thick layer of blubber that they use to keep their body temperature stable in cold water, and a layer of dense, water-resistant fur. Once home to saints, soldiers and legendary lighthouse keepers, the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast are now a sanctuary for seabirds and seals. Seal and pup on the Farne Islands in the North Sea off the coast of Northumberland (Owen Humphreys/PA) An annual seal census at one of … The primary species seen on Holy Island are Grey seals, also known as Atlantic seals. If you are unsure if a pup is safe, or if an animal appears injured, please ring the British Divers Marine Life Rescue hotline on 01825 765546 or 07787 433412. 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