Sightings from the boat – week ended 23 August 2013 – Maggie Sheddan


Sometimes we should sit back and look through the eye of a visitor. 

Several times in a week I am asked,  “What are the  birds covering the Bass rock, what species?” Before the Centre opened I didn’t know they were gannets, why should a first time visitor know what this amazing bird is?

From the boat, although the gannet chicks are obvious (to us) not everyone sees them at first. That said, now they are hard to miss! With an unexpected day off, I jumped on the RiB and thoroughly enjoyed having time to really look. I spotted fulmar chicks tucked in some of the niches on high cliffs on both the Bass and Craigleith mallow patches, of which there are few on Craigleith. I sea-watched on the way to the Bass, no cetaceans but a fleeting glimpse of porpoise on Wednesday from the RiB.

On reaching the Bass, I was able to enjoy it as a visitor. Scanning cliffs, I spotted several young in ‘parliament goose‘ phase. Although later than normal, I think we may see the first gugas on the water in the next couple of weeks. I also spotted some quite young chicks 3-4 weeks old. Two  peregrines have been spotted on camera and from the boat the seals, as ever, delight as their heads pop up as they hear the boat approach.

The puffin hunt this week is for a dark bird, 400 wing beats a minute, orange webs flaying behind, small, always in flight, generally in the distance, flying away from the boat! With so many eyes, we are spotting an occasional adult carrying in fish! Not many, but still sheer excitement from passengers because they have spotted a puffin. Just today (Thursday) two healthy pufflings were spotted on the sea close to Craigleith.

On the May 

Fulmars have had an excellent season – recording 148 successful breeding attempts. Some 120 pulli were caught and ringed. Unfortunately, we missed the Art day due to sea conditions. By all accounts, it was an excellent day with artist Derek Robertson giving hints and tips to budding artists at Lady’s Bed, Song and harp music in the foghorn, Photography of the island life and wonderful knitting from Fife knitters. Always a beautiful island to visit even without these special event days. It is thought there could be a couple of hundred puffins still feeding and all that is required is a seat and a little patience to see one.

However, the really exciting news!! A manx shearwater chick has been ringed on the May. I love Dave’s description on the May blog, ‘Manx shearwater looking like a fluffy haggis with a beak’.



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