Wildlife sightings 18 January 2013

Sightings from Maggie

Bass Rock: Thankful for the sand, we scattered over the slippery landing site, now safe we stood for a few moments, scanning, listening, and absorbing the almost desolate rock.

No gannets to be seen. Only the chuckling of the fulmars filled the air, many sitting at sites absorbed with each other. Others fly close to their neighbours as if inspecting the nest site. Often you will find three birds socialising at a site. The noise can be quite dominant but more comical when the third bird leaves as an intense exchange can happen between the remaining pair. (If only we knew what they were saying?!).

As we made our way toward the cameras we encountered evidence of the winter storms. A mass of withered mallow stems filled the entrance to the prison, the inevitable landslides exposing long lost items carried onto the Rock by not only humans but also birds. I found a little plastic heart on the pathway quite clean and yes, I photographed it! It is hard to imagine before long the Rock will come alive with thousands of gannets returning to these empty craters that cover the Rock (their flattened muddy nests).

It is the North of the island close to the foghorn where the first gannets return. We approached slowly and peeked over the brow, but none. That said, it is this week when the first gannets are usually seen. Pan with the cameras, to the north and spend some time on the viewing deck. The gannets will be returning soon! Keep a watch for the peregrine and rock pipits. We saw about a dozen darting around the north side of the island.

Craigleith: A maintenance visit was also required and it was lovely to spend a little time on the island. Apart from the west side of the island, which unfortunately did not get its pre-winter cut, Craigleith has never looked so good. I thought back to 2004 when I stood in the dense forest of mallow, the reality and reason for the puffin crash dawning, and to the summer of 2006, when despite a fair bit of arguing and much negativity, the film that helped kick start the campaign of restoration. Now with such an amazing team led by John Hunt the island is looking incredible.

Hardly a mallow seedling to be seen over the main area of the island and this icy weather certainly helps kill of any tiny seedling that may have sprouted. Leeches pond had water with goose droppings all around. Although no sign of them earlier in the week four Greylag were seen on the sea just off the island. Shags are making appearances, keep any eye out for loggers and Darvick rings. There have been regular sightings of a buzzard over the island easily seen from the Scope Deck. Let’s hope it’s not after the bunnies. They are part of the mallow team! Curlews were spotted on the east of the island as we cruised past on Seafari Explorer and of course chuckling fulmars on the cliffs.

Close to shore, long-tailed duck, displaying eiders, shags with crests, cormorants with white thigh patches, an occasional guillemot and regular sightings of purple sandpipers on the rocks close to the Centre.

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Wildlife sightings 11 January 2013

Sightings from Maggie

On the balmy evening of Hogmanay, the resounding song of the robin from the treetop was uplifting. The sunrise on New Year’s morning, a sign of the lengthening days bringing anticipation of the season ahead.

Fulmars are gliding along the cliffs, guillemots seen on the stacks early morning, the evocative call of the eider, some displaying in the large rafts offshore. Shags with crests and cormorants with their white thigh patch already showing. But when will the first gannet be spotted? Look on camera toward the North of the island or spend time on the viewing deck. It won’t be long!

Mortality: A recent report from CEH and Aberdeen University about shag mortality along the east coast most likely caused by the recent heavy storms. A photograph of many dead shags with coloured Darvick rings was a very sad sight. Many of the birds are Isle of May birds.

We can help. If you find any dead shags with coloured Darvick rings or even metal rings this identifies where the bird is from. Please do let us/me know. I know it is difficult if we are busy but even a phone number and I will call them back. It is so important to have the location. Last week a young boy took the time to report a colour ringed bird. He had given the Darvick number which has been passed on, but the location was ‘the beach’ I was unable to find it, but just as important I was unable to let him know the significance of his find.