Wildlife sightings 20 July 2012

Discovery Centre sightings – Georgia

Isle of May: Shags with young, puffins, guillemots. Seals have been spotted on the May and surrounding waters.
Craigleith: Lots of puffins, cormorants and nesting eider ducks.
Bass Rock: Gannets with their gugas.
Dunbar Harbour: Kittiwake chicks getting a lot bigger

From Maggie

Fidra and Craigleith: Scan around the fulmar nesting sites as the first fulmar chick was seen on the May about 10 days ago. White, down-covered ‘young fulmars’ are quite capable of defending themselves, spitting their foul-smelling oil at you if you become a threat.

Keep an eye out for the peregrine at its vantage point on Fidra. Are there any guillemot chicks left? I know we are still hearing and seeing the occasional one tucked in behind the adult. On Craigleith, now is the time to study the cormorants and shags and differentiate between both species and the recently fledged. Several seals, both harbour and grey, have been seen hauled out on the rocky slopes.

Bass Rock: With continuing downpours and mud, it’s only been on the rare sunny day that the gleaming preened white down of the young gannets has been obvious. Many are now too large to hunker under the protection of the parents and the odd 8-week-old, and I suspect 9-week-old chick, is out there.

Pan around and observe the changing plumage. It won’t be long before we see the first ‘parliament goose’!

Landing on the Rock this week it was interesting to see that a few of the first time breeders are doing well. I’m pleased that the ‘path gannet’s’ egg has recently hatched. She defended her site with vigour and was known to give the odd nip if you did not give her clearance. I did notice a couple of chicks unattended (again first time breeders), the chicks looked well fed and cared for and it was a relief to see an adult return in both cases.

Finally, the researchers from Leeds University managed to land this week. They have been retrieving loggers from last winter, which will show the wintering foraging and movement of these birds. Summer loggers have now been deployed. The weather has been such a problem for landing this year, but hopefully enough information will be retrieved to complete the 3-year study programme.

As with Fidra, the peregrine has been seen at times on the lighthouse rail and on its viewpoint on the east cliff. We saw 2 on the rail one day, so pan around!

Isle of May: What an amazing week on the May! Puffins in their thousands, no two days are ever the same as proved recently. As we sailed across, the silhouette of the island loomed out of the thick mist. A sorry day for photographers as even the lighthouse was not visible, but thousands of puffins were!

Whirring overhead, hundreds on rocks, chests puffed up, parading outside burrows.

As we tramped through the mud and swirling mist, cameras came out. They were ecstatic and, as the day progressed, the mist cleared and it had to be one of the best puffin days we have had this year. In contrast, on a brilliant sunny day/hour on a general walk, we had seen thousands on the water but not quite so many on land, but more than enough to enjoy. But the prize has to go to the hardy bunch that endured not only a pea soup mist that eventually cleared, which was replaced instantly by horizontal driving rain, cameras were still out taking those shots, thousands of puffins whirring around.

Dripping, we gathered in the wash house to debate whether to continue. It was unanimous! They wanted to stay. It does show that the May has a magic, no matter what the weather throws at you!
There have been daily sightings of minke, from the May this past 10 days and certainly one of our passengers, who had come to do a seawatch, was rewarded with a brief sighting of one. Next month we hope to organize a special seawatch day to watch not only for cetations but also for migrants. Skuas and shearwaters have been seen recently off-shore along with a wood sandpiper, and a juvenille black redstart making an appearance on the island.

Pufflings: Fumbling in the dark for the ringing mobile, it was 01:50!!. Niall was showing on the screen. Niall is one of our Seafari guides. Had the boat sunk? Was there an emergency? NO, he had found a puffling walking up near Trainers Brae on his way home and wanted advice.

How could you not laugh? He said he’d keep it in a box (not on your pillow Niall!) and bring it down for release today after its now mandatory whitebait feast from the Seabird Café!

Niall also rescued the first gannet chick of the season after it fell off the Rock. It was taken into the care of Colin Seddon and his team at the SSPCA rescue centre near Stirling.


Puffling 20 July 2012


Check out this super-cute puffling!

The Scottish Seabird Centre is appealing for North Berwick residents to keep their eyes peeled for pufflings who have made their way ashore.

Every year the pufflings get attracted into the town by the lights, when they leave their burrows. This puts them at risk as they often wander under cars or they can be attacked by pets and other animals.

If you find one, please contact the Centre and we will coordinate a rescue.

From 09:00 to 17:30 anyone who finds a puffling should call 01620 890202 and outwith these hours please call Maggie on 07709 505 133.

Pufflings look very different from their adult counterparts — they are shades of grey rather than distinctive black and white, and their beaks are also grey, rather than the bright colours of the adults.

The puffins and pufflings will remain on the Firth of Forth islands until the start of August, before spending the autumn and winter out at sea. Visitors to the award-winning Discovery Centre can zoom in on the puffin action on the islands of Craigleith, Fidra and Isle of May National Nature Reserve with interactive live cameras which do not disturb the wildlife in any way.

Wildlife sightings 13 July 2012

Sightings from the Discovery Centre – Erin

Isle of May: Shags with young, puffins and guillemots. Seals also spotted.

Craigleith: Lots of puffins, cormorants and nesting eider ducks.

Bass Rock: Gannets with their gugas.

Dunbar Harbour: Kittiwake chicks getting a lot bigger.

Look out for fulmar chicks hatching!

If you spot any pufflings wandering around in a daze, like Buddy and Feisty, give us a call either on 01620 890202 during office hours, or Maggie Sheddan out of hours 07709 505 133. See this YouTube clip of one little puffling.

Wildlife sightings 6 July 2012

Sightings from Maggie 

Bass Rock – The high-pitched call of the guillemot chick echoed around the entrance to the west cave. Where was it? This last three days that rippling wave, ‘aaahrrrrr …‘ of the bustling guillemot colony has fallen silent, the pinnacles and sheer cliffs almost empty.

There on a tiny ledge stood a lone guillemot. Where was the chick? The call wasn’t one of distress, just contact. From a little crevice in the rock, this tiny black and white chick appeared beside the adult. They are about a third of the adult size. We all thought it was about to jump, but no. It stood fast on the sloping precarious ledge, the parent blocking its path. Will it be there tomorrow?

What was lovely to see at last, whether on camera or from the boat, the large down-covered five to six week old gannet chicks, white down gleaming in the sun, the black bill and dark beady eyes watching, as we sailed past. The day prior, they were hunkered down yet again as torrential rain and rivers of nitrate-rich water cascaded around them. The odd one that lifted up, their down was spiky and stained brown with mud. They looked quite sorry for themselves. A couple of weeks ago I thought I spotted two gannet chicks in one nest. It was difficult to see and there was another gannet close by. Slightly larger now and more active in the sun, I’m sure this nest has two chicks. Keep you updated on that.

The new nest to watch this year is another chapel gannet. It should be visible from the camera just close to the gable end. It’s a new breeder, not quite due to hatch yet but watch the behaviour and see if you can spot the changes as hatching time approaches.

Puffins everywhere! On camera, groups hanging out on rocks, some with sand eels, large rafts on the sea, even a couple swimming around just off the harbour. Pufflings being seen on camera, one popping its head out of its Fidra burrow, perhaps viewing the big wide world for the first time, thankfully without a predatory gull skulking close by.

On the May, passengers enjoying our walk heard splashing in the undergrowth. Nettles! On closer inspection, at first gently pushing back the vegetation, a puffling was spotted sitting in a waterlogged ditch. For several hours after, the nettle stings stayed with me, a reminder of the feisty fellow we took to the safety of a dark box to be released, later that night, by the May team.

Isle of May – Wall to wall puffins, whirring overhead, the soft growling coming from a burrow under the dense carpet of the white campion that blankets the island, heads popping out or scurrying in, bills full of fish… From the moment we entered the harbour of Kirkhaven, like sentries standing guard, the recently fledged shags, sporting their bright green Darvick rings lined the harbour as we sailed slowly by (the green Darvicks show they were ringed on the May in 2012. Keep a watch later in the year to see if you see juveniles).

The terns are still a very welcome sight. Although there have been losses, we saw speckly downy chicks hiding in the undergrowth as we walked swiflty by, their parents as ever protecting them with vengeance!

Oystercatcher chicks were also spotted exploring the surrounding habitat.

On Wednesday an air of tranquillity descended over our photographic group at Bishops Cove – each absorbed in their own world whether waiting for ‘that’ image or just enjoying watching. We spent much longer than normal at that location. At times, we all rush by and don’t take time out to just watch.

On that note, the recently fledged sparrows are hiding and feeding in the wildlife garden by the office. You do not need to know the plants, just take a few moments to stop and enjoy this exquisite display that has become a mini wildlife haven as the world bustles past. It is beautiful!

Wildlife sightings 29 June 2012

Just a quick update this week from Maggie

Bass Rock – I had a fleeting glimpse of a fairly helpless tiny hatchling, the shell still by the nest edge. It was only hours old and exceedingly wobbly but so wonderful to see. Just behind the line of fringe breeders it is looking pretty good with most nests having a chick.

Keith Hammer and Ewan Wakefield will be returning again this year to continue with their studies of the Bass gannets. Has anyone spotted any winter loggers?

Craigleith – A shag’s nest has been spotted with two eggs. Perhaps it lost earlier ones and has re-laid? Keep a watch on the nest… in previous years there has been a late breeding shag on the Bass.

Isle of May – The news was not good as we heard that perhaps 50% of burrows have been affected by the torrential downpours resulting in loss of chicks. On all the cliffs already there are spaces as guillemot chicks have left or perhaps succumbed to the weather. The terns are still dive bombing, which is great news.