Wildlife sightings 1 March 2013

Sightings by Maggie

The Bass: At last! On the 24 January a gannet landed in sight of the camera. As the week progressed, there were more arrivals. Gathering of nest material has been spotted although it will be a few weeks before they settle.

Fidra: Shags were seen mating although again coming and going at sites and just today more pairs spotted on the May returning to nests.

Isle of May: My annual visit to the May this year was a little earlier and considerably shorter than previous years, affording little time for relaxation. Much of my work revolves around the kitchen sink, with a view over Kirkhaven harbour and the sea beyond.  How could I not stop to enjoy the deep red glowing ball of the rising sun over the horizon, nor the breath-taking deep orange of the full moon mellowing to a brilliant yellow, like a spotlight shimmering across Kirkhaven. However, on one evening I became slightly spooked! Alone on the island, just before dark the power failed. Time enough for me to venture into the old engine room where I checked the generators/invertors etc. Everything was down and unresponsive to my fiddling. With little daylight left, I grabbed the manuals, the essential head torch and resigned myself to a candlelit night in front of the fire. The light from the moon was streaming through the window. As I peered out I froze, torches flashed down by the harbour with another appearing to be heading through the garden. Somewhat faltering, I went outside realising I was now so visible against the whitewashed walls.  Rationalisation kicked in. The tide was so low nothing could enter the harbour etc. and the lights were not going anywhere. It was reflections on rock pools glinting in the moonlight. Thankfully the generator issue was resolved by the following evening. Living on the island you have an alarm system, the gulls! Their gentle mewing fills the air but walk through their territory; they take flight their raucous call alerts everyone.

Although, early in the season, the fulmars were everywhere gliding and swooping over the island at times passing so close I felt I could touch them, beautiful to watch. Every year, early season a pair of shags return to their site on the stack at Pilgrims. It’s an excellent site protected from stormy seas and strong winds. Although shags are around this was the only pair I saw at a nest.

It was lovely to receive a call from Neil about the hundreds of guillemots at Pilgrims. At that moment the mist had cleared and I’d just counted a raft of 84 razorbills off Alterstanes. I passed Pilgrims a couple of hours later and the guillemots were still there. Too early for puffins, but I saw several strings of gannets passing the island.  With such a low tide I thought I would explore a little and picked my way over slippy rocks. Absorbed, I failed to spot 2 seals hauled out behind a large rock. We all got a fright!  Dozens more were hauled out over the rocky outcrops off Rhona.

One thing that was very obvious although the vegetation suffers with winter storms and breeding seals there is no shortage of rabbits on the island this year. They were everywhere!  Another May resident that appears to be flourishing is the May mouse. I prefer not to share the utility room with the four I kept spotting scuttling out of sight every time I entered the room.

The May Bird Observatory Extension: Although work is still on-going the new extension is very impressive. It is extremely sympathetic to the surrounding and will be wonderful when complete. I suspect once the builders depart and the vegetation returns it will look as if it has always been there. A testimony to the design and architects.

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