The birds of the Farne Islands

Photographs and introduction by Adam Seward

Just a few miles off the coast of north Northumberland lie the Farne Islands: a group of small islands hosting thousands of breeding seabirds in the summer, along with hundreds of grey seals. June and July are the busiest times, both for the birds feeding their growing chicks and for the boat operators bringing ferrying crowds of people to see them.

Busy, noisy and smelly are all apt words to describe the heaving colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins, terns and shags (with the odd razorbill thrown in for good measure). Wherever you look, there is something interesting going on. Puffins arriving with whirring wings and beaks full of fish, trying to dive down their burrows before gulls steal their catch. Kittiwake nests crammed together onto the slightest ledges on the cliff faces, their owners creating a cacophony. Arctic terns dive-bombing and pecking visitors as they walk up the pathway by which the terns have chosen to nest (it seems that the disturbance caused to the terns is outweighed by the protection gained from predatory gulls).

The islands are a fantastic place to photograph these animals and just soak up the atmosphere of one of the UK’s greatest wildlife spectacles.

Adam Seward is a photographer and conservation biologist, currently coordinating the research and monitoring programme of Red Squirrels Northern England. He spent many months on Fair Isle in Shetland, Greenland and Senegal studying wheatears for his PhD research. More of his work can be found at