Wildlife sightings 5 April 2013

Sightings by Maggie

Puffins: Spirits lifted as finally on a beautiful sunny morning residents of the May woke to that familiar whirring overhead as thousands of puffins arrived early morning. Soft growling was heard from burrows as some excavated, repairing them for the season ahead. Others perched outside burrows, on rocks, socializing, perhaps watching to see if a neighbour may return. By mid-morning they had gone!

With headlines still flagging up the wreck and daily reports of corpses being found along shores up and down the coast this was heart-warming to see so many return. It is possible now that many of the reports we are receiving are recounts, as corpses may be washing in and out along the straddle line. That said for weakened birds perhaps the calm has come too late.

Gannets: Bass gannets have arrived this week at sites. Landing for maintenance twice in one week even in that few days the difference was evident. Although none are on eggs we are always aware of our actions as we move close to sitting birds. On our first visit they moved and the ripple effect happened, although they returned very quickly. The second visit they sat tight. Breeding season has begun. Now is the time to really study behaviour, follow the weekly changes in the colony, look for the settled birds, they may be the first to lay. We had a welcoming committee when we landed: on the first visit 5 young seals hauled out sleeping, visible from the camera, but on our second visit a young one draped over the low steps completely ignoring us. It was not moving, it just looked at us, were we a threat, no, back to sleep! With a rising tide it had gone by the time we finished.

Isle of May: Daily early morning checks on the stacks for guillemots from the webcams show they are still coming and going, but more activity from the kittiwakes. Puffins were spotted so keep panning around and please start logging the dates for returning shags. Walking around the island on our first Seafari landing the shags that had been settled had gone. They too have suffered in this wreck. The first shag egg last year was on 12 March. Now on 5 April they are not even on site but they will return very soon. Keep watching the nests!

Dunbar: Kittiwakes busy pairing up, mutual preening, neighbourly squabbling, the images from here are superb, so close and clear. Fascinating viewing.

Craigleith: The mashers enjoyed the warmth of the sun as they hunted for an odd stem of mallow. Craigleith has been transformed. The greylag was seen on eggs so with no mallow hopefully we may spot the goslings when they hatch.

Seafari: That familiar aroma, gannets circling overhead, kittiwakes screeching, puffin watching, inquisitive seals breaking the surface, the occasional sea spray, the boat season has begun!

Sailing around the islands although the cliffs are not yet busy the distinctive call of the kittiwake fills the air. Cormorants, the white patch easily spotted, shags with their crests, seals lazing on Craigleith. We know they respond to the RiB but how would they react with Seafari Explorer. At the Bass I spotted a large bull circling at a distance, he raised his head watching us, then relaxed when he saw it was a boat and not a threat to his territory.

Out at the May it was a bitter cold Easter Monday with few birds to be seen but the May is filled with history and always enjoyable. To the delight of our visitors who had never seen a puffin, we spotted several rafts on the sea along with a couple of hundred grey seals hauled out on Rona as we headed toward the Bass and home.

World reports the puffins are not the only ones to succumb to starvation. An “unusual mortality event” has occurred off the shores of California with starving sea lion pups being washed ashore. Scientists are unclear whether this is caused by a food shortage or perhaps some other reason. What it does show are the changes happening world wide across the oceans.

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