Wildlife sightings 5 October 2012

Sightings from Maggie

Isle of May: Asleep, obviously fed, the first very contented looking seal pup was seen on Pilgrims’ Haven on the morning of the 1 October. The cow (mother) was nearby. No sign of squabbling gulls vying for the afterbirth.

This pup we think had perhaps been born early evening on 30 September. Immediately after birth the cow sniffs her pup and vice versa. The scent – all very important to be able to identify your pup/mother in a busy colony. That first feed is very important and I’m sure, over the coming weeks, many amusing moments will be witnessed as some pups don’t always get this right and suckle anything from a flipper to a nose! This little pup had obviously had no problem, that newborn wrinkled face already filled out a little. Watch the transformation over the next 3 weeks!

Keep count and notes. Over the next week or so it should be quite easy to count newborns. Note dates and numbers when possible, even stillbirths. Another pup, born this week we think, was too close to the tidal line and perhaps drowned. From a live birth recorded, to last year’s pup trapped in the lobster pot, we know there are many weeks of amusing and nail biting moments ahead!

And the east wind blew! Report too late for last week, but the winds made for a busy week out there. Check out the May blog for 27 September. About 750 song thrushes were spotted, mixed in with a sprinkling of blackbirds, redwings, brambling, willow warblers, yellow-browed warbler, chiffchaffs, redstarts, pied flycatcher whinchat, snow bunting, reed bunting and a tree pipit.

Craigleith: Seal breeding season on the May has begun slightly earlier this year. Will this happen on Craigleith? We’ve certainly seen several heavily pregnant cows from the boat. They can haul out quite some distance so pan around!

A peregrine was spotted flying around the cliffs and later seen at a viewpoint not far from the cliff cam. Curlews, oystercatchers and eiders all being seen on the island.

The Bass: Several young gannets from eight weeks to gugas are still being seen on the Rock. Sadly, another of the very young down covered ones has been washed away with the high tides, but we spotted three chicks, the youngest about seven weeks, on a high pinnacle close to the west cave. Again lines of gannets, seaweed hanging from their bills as nest building is still ongoing.

Guillemot – wreck or not? A wreck is when unusual numbers of seabirds are found dying or dead along the shoreline. Early September a call came to the Centre reporting an unusually high number dead guillemots near Cruden Bay. It’s not unusual at this time of year to find pockets of young guillemots dead, but some of these bird are adults. I reported this to Dan Turner, coordinator for NE beach bird survey.

There has not been a week gone by when I’ve not received a call reporting guillemots weakened or dying along the coast, the most recent from a vet in St Andrews reporting over 200 dead along the shore. This report was after the storm!

The SSPCA received over 90 birds after last week’s storm. One handed into the Centre was exhausted but feisty and, after a rest and a very hearty meal of whitebait (supplied by the café), swam happily away as we released it in the shelter of the Bass.

Another worrying alert as three oil-covered cormorants were reported near the dunes of the West beach. Thankfully, there have been no further reports and the cause is unknown.

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