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!

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