Wildlife sightings 8 February 2013

Sightings from Neil in the Discovery Centre

This week has turned out to be peregrine week! Spotted daily on both Bass and Fidra cams. Pair spotted on Fidra lighthouse for an hour or so on Thursday morning.

Fulmars have been spotted on Fidra and the Isle of May. Not in huge numbers and not settling yet.

Buzzard spotted on the top of the stack on Isle of May (Thursday). Did not stay too long.

On Thursday there were 4 turnstones spotted huddled together trying to get some shelter from the wind on the lower stack on Isle of May.

Started spotting some gannets on the Bass cameras and at the Scope Deck. Not in huge numbers, only sporadically not daily and not landing – yet!

Young seals have been visiting Pilgrims’ Haven throughout the week, having a little snoop about and retreating back to the water. They do not appear to stay for long periods of time.



Wildlife sightings 2 February 2013

Sightings from Maggie

The Bass Rock: The first gannets have been seen near the Bass and off shore from Dunbar (thank you Douglas from the Aspire II fishing boat).

At this time of year it’s not unusual to find several hundred gannets land near the north side of the Rock down by the foghorn, unfortunately out of sight. They are not yet settled. Pan the camera to the NE cliffs and also scan the sea. If they’re not flying around, often they may just be sitting on the water.

Keep an eye out for the peregrine. It has several vantage points; one being on the right of the upper path, the other is the cliff face and the favourite feeding station, the lighthouse.

Fidra: Most days the peregrine is being spotted and on occasion, 2 have been seen. Are they a pair? The male often presents food to the female showing his prowess as a provider for when the chicks are hatched. Still early days but sites will be being looked at.

Isle of May: Look out for young seals hauled out on Pilgrims’ Haven, oblivious to the boulders or debris they rest upon. An amusing tale this week of a young seal pup found in a busy lorry park in Stranraer. In fear that it would be injured the young seal was lifted to the boot of a car to await the arrival of the SSPCA. It would appear it wasn’t too enamoured with the confines of the boot and somehow broke through to the car only to be found draped over the dashboard!

Wonderful shots on the BBC website but look carefully at the pup. Although it has moulted you can see folds of skin on the belly and the face is quite drawn and thin. It needs a bit of feeding and care which it will receive from staff at the fabulous premises of the SSPCA, near Alloa.

A small group of us from the BDMLR (marine medics) had a wonderful ‘learning’ visit there last week: Cup Cake, Doughnut and Muffin were just 3 of the rescued young seals we saw and heard in the excellent des res facilities (it was like being in a room of wailing babies). Smartie, the aforementioned pup, had not been brought in at that time, they have capacity for up to 80 seals.

The Rocky Shore count: This takes place this Sunday. Surveyors will walk the shores from Edinburgh to Berwick upon Tweed counting all waders and seaducks. The survey contributes to WeBs (the Wetland Bird survey for non-breeding waterbirds).

As with RSPB garden birdwatch, this can highlight changes among the wintering populations. Certainly over recent years we have seen quite a dramatic drop in some of the common waders close to the Centre. I usually undertake the section from the harbour to Canty Bay, always enjoying a good half hour sea-watching (for gannets) but this year it clashes with my annual sojourn with the RAF team for our Winter Duck survey, also contributing to the WeBs reports. This is not for the faint hearted. From dawn to dusk we survey in all weather. If stuck in a white out, we wait and continue.

Evenings are spent writing up reports and preparing for the following 06:00 start. We have to be at our first survey point for the dawn roosts – flasks and sandwiches prepared. And folks think I’m off on holiday ….… if only!

Wildlife sightings 24 January 2013

Sightings from Maggie 

The Bass Rock: By this time in previous years gannets had been spotted offshore. No reports of any so far? On lovely calm days like today it’s a pleasure to spend a little time on the Scope Deck.

Off-shore about 25 common scoter seen flying west and 11 greylags flew off the Lamb. Eiders are gathering, shags forming large rafts on the sea. Auks and black headed gulls with the beginnings of their summer plumage showing, and peregrines are being seen on most of the islands.

Fidra: Having been out there today I saw evidence of a peregrine kill. On returning to the Centre it was spotted sitting at one of its view points quite contented! Over 40 fulmars at nest sites, or gliding along the cliff tops. Having a little time we checked around most of the island for any shag corpses.

I mentioned the shag wreck a few weeks ago. Researchers from the CEH (Centre of Ecology and Hydrology) have been interested to hear of any found along the shore. In general it would appear the shags came into roost at night and died at their sites many through starvation, so they’re not always being found along the straddle line. Please tell us about any ringed/darvicks.

Isle of May CEH are out at the moment logging returning shags, checking all the nooks and crannies for dead ones and importantly those that have not yet returned. It’s interesting, the first two weeks of the new year simmers quietly. Suddenly by the third week the reality of the season kicks in, from maintenance to pre-season surveys, timetables to summer events. Emails start flowing. Just a few more weeks!!

RSPB: 26/27 Jan The annual ‘Big Garden Bird Watch’ is this coming weekend. Fill the feeders, scatter some food, pour yourself a cuppa and note all the birds that visit your garden during a one hour spell. How enjoyable is that! From there send it into the RSPB online or by post. If you study some of the graphs from previous years, it shows the changes and fluctuations of species and of numbers. Severe winters affected many of our common garden species a couple of years ago, but it can also bring surprises showing subtle changes in the movement of birds. If you do not have a garden, the local park or woods will benefit from recording too!