Wildlife sightings 29 March 2013

Sightings by Maggie

Puffin wreck: “Wrecks of seabirds, when birds die apparently of starvation after periods of very rough weather, are not that uncommon. However, in the North Sea the species involved are often species such as guillemots and razorbills that winter fairly close to land. Wrecks of puffins are extremely rare, probably because they winter well away from land so that when they die their bodies rarely get washed ashore. There is currently a major wreck underway which is the largest in the North Sea for at least 60 years”. Quote from Professor Mike Harris, a research fellow at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

Alerted last Sunday morning to this situation, reports from members of the public trickled in. From Aberdeen to Northumberland the emaciated corpses of puffins were being washed ashore. By Monday it was realised that this was perhaps the largest puffin wreck in over 60 years. Just last week, I had flagged up we should be seeing them ashore. Puffins raft in their thousands off the May and the FarneIslands and sadly it looks as if they may have been caught up in the relentless easterly winds we have experienced.

In a week with unprecedented snowfalls for this time of year, severe winds dropping temperatures when we should be seeing daffodils and lambs. It does appear changes in the weather are bringing these extreme conditions.

For the puffins and other species affected by this the next few weeks will allow researchers to monitor the impact it may have on the forthcoming breeding season.

A brief but very serious update: At the Centre we have been inundated with members of the public reporting corpses along the beach. Their help/ your help is invaluable as all this information is being collated. Just this morning, I received a report from Bobby Anderson. On a small stretch of coast he counted 66 dead puffins, 42 guillemots, 8 razorbills and 1 kittiwake in one day!

Important things to note Is there a ring or logger on the bird? Note the specific number or hand it in. If it has a logger, this is really important, if possible, please retrieve it. This contains information as to wintering locations. If it is a kittiwake or fulmar in or around North Berwick and the body is complete, please do let me know.

Very briefly, on a lighter note: Although gannet numbers on the Bass have been thinner this week, a pair were spotted mating on camera the other day…we’ll be egg spotting before long! With calmer weather, pan around for puffins and guillemots. I think we could see some this weekend and certainly from our new boat Seafari Explorer, who knows what we may spot this weekend. From the RiB on launch day we spotted a lone puffin and just the day before a report of 3 dolphins in close to Gullane.

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