This week’s Sightings – Maggie Sheddan – w/e 1 August 2013
The muddied waters at the Bass reflected the nitrate rich mud cascading off the Rock. The pristine white down of the chicks with mud caked bellies looked bedraggled. The torrential rain can so easily wash a chick off the precarious cliff nesting sites. The following day with the sun shining nest building was rife. Certainly the well designed nest is a saviour for many a young chick as it became an island during these cloud bursts. I spotted a down covered chick at the back of the lighthouse, I feared the worst. As I was trying to alert trapped birds to the escape route by clapping my hands and making lots of noise, the motionless chick lifted its head and I realised this one was saveable. Behind the lighthouse is not the most pleasant of places. It looked quite solid ground but knowledge is useful. With the heavy rain this week I suspected the hard surface was deceiving. Prodding the surface with a pole it sank in almost half a meter. Waders, not wellies, were required. Clambering on the wall, scrabbling along the inner rocks, perching on a tiny rock the chick was still out of reach. I was in danger of not only filling the wellies but a complete dunk in this putrid mass. A eureka moment, the researchers pole for gannet catching has been left. Finally, safely rescued, the SSPCA met us on our return and the young chick is doing well. Several newly hatched young have been spotted this week therefore, all being well, we can expect to see perhaps more gugas than normal in October.
How quickly things change! Last week passengers were still being met by the occasional protective tern parent, tending its almost fledged chick. The chicks on the paths not yet strong in flight by mid week as we sailed into Kirkhaven the rasping call of dozens of terns met us on the outer rocks, and by Wednesday, not a sound, the majority gone. Tern shelters are being collected and stored for another year, the canes used to deter gull predation now lying by the pathside and the island is taking on the more relaxed feel of August. Of course highlight of the week for many a twitcher (easily spotted carrying large scope and lenses) was the bridled tern thought to be the same bird seen at the Farnes. It was only seen for one day so keep an eye out from the scope deck. You never know. Whether in a swirling mist or stair-rod rain the puffins have been out in numbers this past week. Pufflings are being found all over the island but it is expected we may still see puffins around for at least another week before only the late breeders are left. Although a few guillemot chicks have still to fledge along with kittiwakes, fulmars and the occasional shag still tending young, there is a very definite feel of the changing season. Turnstone, green, purple and common sandpiper, dunlin redshank to name but a few of the waders recently seen. Moths and butterflies are now appearing, but it was the appearance of the odd bull seal just hanging out off shore an indication that before we know it seal season is not that far off. On our return trip a few days ago we saw 8/9 porpoise not to mention plunge diving gannets!
Pufflings have been very much in the news this week. Pinky and Pablo have been successfully released having been found in the usual strange and dark locations around North Berwick. The most important thing to see is that they dive immediately when released on the sea (escape from predatory gulls). For Seafari passengers it is a real joy for them to witness that.
Recently black headed gulls and little gulls are being spotted. Waders are returning and shearwaters spotted by those undertaking seawatches. We hope we may be able to organise a “Seawatch” trip with Seafari Explorer perhaps late August early September. I will keep you updated on that.