Wildlife sightings 22 June 2012

Sightings from the Discovery Centre – Bailee

Bass Rock – The gannets seem to be coping better than the other birds in the wet weather. Chicks are much easier to spot now. Guillemots and razorbills nest on the smaller cliff ledges and there are some chicks around.

Fidra and Craigleith – We should be seeing more puffins carrying sand eels at this time of year and many like to mill about on the cliff edges just below the camera. Herring gull chicks can be seen all over the grassy areas and many young are starting to lose their down now.

Isle of May – The shags suffered badly from the weather over the weekend and many chicks were lost. It’s not easy to watch the families from the beginning of the season and then see them suffer, but that’s nature. The ringers have been out and some of the chicks have shiny new ID tags. It might be helpful to record ring letters in the sightings book so we can watch out for them in future years.

Sightings from Maggie

Midsummer devastation – Quagmire on the Bass, bogs on the May, waterfalls cascading over cliff tops, the breeding seabirds or, more importantly, the chicks have suffered greatly this week. On the Isle of May camera, we have seen the loss of several reasonably sized shag chicks, and sadly that loss is reflected across the island at many of the study sites. It was difficult for the shags to feed in the storming seas and high winds therefore food for the chicks was scarce. The end result, young vulnerable chicks starve and sadly perish. Puffins’ burrows are flooded in some areas resulting in chill and their demise. Cliff nesters, if in sheltered areas, may have fared slightly better, but the loss of kittiwake and guillemot chicks has been witnessed.

The Bass – On warm days the unmistakable white down ‘cushions’ that are visible under the belly of the adults slowly reveal themselves to the warming sun. The black bill and the dark eye obvious as the chick emerges.

An early morning visit this week was interesting. Apart from the putrid mud that clings to everything, digging my way into the office and the return of ‘killer gull’ it was interesting to see the changes. There are several new breeders on the walls of the chapel and at the gable ends the battle continues between the gulls and gannets for that prime site.

Herring gull chicks freeze on command from their parents or scuttle for cover in a corner. Guillemot chicks are not only visible, they are audible. The piercing cry of one was heard from the boat, whether it had fallen off the cliff ledge or jumped, we are not sure. Sadly, its call alerted the predatory gull.

Seals continue to delight passengers with their performance, very often accompanied with the haunting call echoing from the darkened entrance of the cave.

Isle of May – Seabird open day was extremely successful. Passengers enjoyed meeting the researchers and the bird ringers from the observatory.

With bated breath, the terns are still there and, true to tern colonies, are dive bombing anyone who passes close by. I welcome the ‘dive-bombing’ (although my jacket is somewhat whiter than last week!). It shows they have eggs or chicks and now it is looking good!

As with the Bass, here, a lesser blacked backed gull hides behind a large boulder, just waiting to mug passers-by should they stop to admire the views.

Craigleith – Puffins whirring in and out with bills full of silver sand eels, Raucous gulls stand guard over their chicks and territory. Female eiders hang out on the low rocks and seals, unless sleeping, usually pop their heads up to investigate the passing boats.

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