Wildlife sightings 9 November 2012

Sightings  from the Discovery Centre  

Isle of May: 80 to 100 pups on the beach now and nearly impossible to count accurately! A bull has been seen on the bay and young pups in shallow water getting swimming lessons! Lots of pups are moulting and some starting to outgrow the cows.

Craigleith: more than 20 pups now!

Local sightings: eiders are being spotted on all cameras and in large numbers off North Berwick.  The peregrine is being rather elusive this week with no sightings at all.

Sightings from Maggie

Seals! No matter whether it‘s watching the web cams at home, or scanning with the cameras in the Discovery Centre there is always something to capture you. I spotted the ‘elder bush’ pup on Craigleith hiding deep in the base of the branches. You could just make out the profile of its head sniffing and exploring.

A cow, head resting on a raised rock, deep in sleep with that characteristic smiley face. Such contentment. The flip side, the morning scan for the increasing number of pups that haven’t survived the night.

News from the May that Kirk Haven is completely closed for landings. I’m sure Paul remembers his close encounter with a protective cow! Check out the Isle of May blog and you’ll see the reason why. There are some fabulous photos. Now the SMRU will be out monitoring and studying every aspect of seal breeding. Keep an eye out for tagged seals.

Posted on 1 December 2011 by SMRU
We had a nice surprise when we spotted a tagged yearling sheltering from the wind. It turned out to be one of the ones she was studying last year. The survival rate for grey seals in the first year is only about 50% so she was very happy to see him back on the island. Last time she saw him, he weighed 52kg – this time he was only 3kg heavier, but he has lost his pup fat and is now a lean bundle of muscle and an impressive 128cm long. Not bad for a yearling! 

Seal counts and ID: over the next few weeks, the Fife Seal Group will be out counting the pups and taking photos to enable identification of cows on many of the Forth islands. It’s not as easy as it sounds. We try to capture profile and head on shots, without disturbance to the breeding colony. Patience and stealth is required. We pass these on to researchers at SMRU.

The photo-ID work at is currently restricted to females for a number of reasons. Historically, SMRUs photo-ID projects have been based on photographs of heads in the water and the computer-aided matching program uses the sleeker head shape of the females.

As males mature the change in head shape makes it more difficult to use a computer to look for matches between pelage patterns – they also get a lot of scarring on their necks from fighting and this often makes it very difficult to see any markings. So if you see James and myself on the upper slopes of Craigleith, belly crawling, cameras in hand, you’ll know what we’re up to.

Local sightings: Waxwings! These beautiful birds are being spotted from Dunbar, Gullane, Aberlady and Gosford, to Edinburgh. So keep a close eye on berry trees and listen for their call. At Aberlady, fieldfares, redwings and snow bunting on west end of the beach yesterday. For anyone that travels on the train as you head out of North Berwick, on many days you may spot the whooper swans in the fields and on the water on the right hand side. Very often they are also seen feeding in fields near Tyninghame. An unusual one with bright yellow webs has been seen. Look out for it if you’re out on a walk.

With thanks to all at Lothian Bird News.


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