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.

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