Wildlife sightings 30 August 2012

Sightings from Maggie

Isle of May: There is a feeling of solitude and calm as the boat sails slowly into Kirkhaven, an occasional seal lifts its head, eyes following us without concern. Shags no longer in dense nurseries, but still an everyday sight. An occasional flock of waders mainly turnstone still in summer plumage catch the eye. The vegetation now dense and tall blankets many areas of the island, the well-walked paths easily defined. No longer the sound of whirring wings overhead, the rasping call of the terns, nor the distant sound of the kittiwake echoing around the cliffs.

Ma-er Island, from the Norse word for gull, the last few visits have brought the reality of why it is perhaps so named. The constant gentle mewing of the gull, or an occasional raucous moment reminds you this was always an island of gulls, long before it was the ‘puffin island’ we now know.

You start to feel the history as you walk Holyman’s Road or Pilgrims’ Haven. This was an island of retreat and pilgrimage, ship wrecks and smugglers, lighthouses and village life ….and now the important migration season and the excitement that brings

Petty officer ‘Chalky Whyte’ greeted us in a sombre manner as we landed on HMS May Island, reminding us that the ‘we are at war with Hitler’, he recounted stories of the battle of the May and more of the life experienced as a Naval signal station on the edge of the Forth.

The formidable figure of Brother Baldwin clad in his rough robes, welcomed us. Are we pilgrims seeking spiritual guidance? Had we come for health reasons, or perhaps for the women, a cure for the infertile could be found? From bird ringers, the foghorn storyteller to a lighthouse family, the Day of History was as ever informative and enjoyable for all who visited.

This coming weekend all three lighthouses along with the engine room will be open to the public peeling back yet more history of this fascinating island

Bass Rock: The thunderous shower eased as we approached the Rock, sea conditions prevented us sitting close in at our normal site so a wider route off the back of the island was taken.

An incredible sight, on the summit, a mass of dark flapping wings as far as the eye could see. Stimulated by the rain it appeared as if every nest had a chick. I’m sure on camera this would also have been apparent. White down covered young are easily spotted now, so pan around. Gugas are beginning their journey. We hope to try to replace the ramp that is such a lifeline to those trapped in front of the lighthouse. On the sea many are now being seen and we spotted one flying the other day. That one will survive!

On the sea: Eiders are being spotted, guillemots with young, a few still being fed as we hear that plaintiff contact call. A lone puffin in full breeding plumage was spotted. The ‘possible’ sighting of a sea eagle may be one of the six recently released in Fife. Over a six year period of reintroduction, 85 have been released (not 75 over 5 years that was first projected). Although they are magnificent birds our immense seabird colonies of the May and the Bass bring in thousands of visitors just to spot a puffin and gasp in awe as they sail or enjoy the spectacle of the largest single rock colony for gannets in the world.

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