Wildlife sightings 10 January 2014

Sightings from Maggie Sheddan

Storms and ferocious seas this week show just how vulnerable our coastal zones are. We’ve seen the destruction and dramatic changes along shorelines further south. This time last year North Berwick was reeling from yet another devastating storm. We adapted and carried on avoiding the no-go zones while repairs continued. For most, recovery or replacement. But what impact did this have to the seabed, the ecosystem, the wildlife? As the season unfolded we began to see the changes, some quite dramatic.

Late Dec/early January 2013, a shag wreck was unfolding in the North East of Scotland. Large numbers had moved into harbours for shelter, but many still succumbed to the atrocious conditions. Hundreds were found dead. No New Year celebrations for the researchers from the CEH. They were gathering and logging hundreds of dead birds found along the shores, some identifiable by their unique Darvick rings that establish where these birds were from. How was this going to impact on the breeding season? It was a waiting game, and then the puffin wreck. Even on the Bass there was evidence of changes in the colony. Many kittiwakes didn’t attempt to breed although they were around. Fulmars had a very good year. Birds that did breed fared well. Dr Mark Newell gave an excellent summary of the May breeding season in the, autumn members magazine. A copy of this article will be displayed on the viewing deck notice board.

How will 2014 pan out? It’s a difficult time of year. I keep hearing there is little to see but on calm days, and we have had a few; take some time out on the viewing deck. Yes! Gannets and kittiwakes have been spotted this last couple of weeks! You have to watch for them but, if too cold, pan around with the cameras particularly to the NW of Fidra and the air space around the Bass.

Over 200 kittiwakes were seen out from Fidra and several reports of gannets flying around (adults, immatures and the odd fledgling from last season). It will be a while before we see them land on the Bass. Last year late Jan the research camera was moved higher up the Rock. Although a static camera, not panning down to the foghorn (where we know the first birds appear) it did give us great shots of the returning birds higher up the Rock. Hopefully that may be considered again?

On Boxing day, a lone pup was sleeping contentedly at the far end of Pilgrims Haven, but with high tides, storming westerlies sadly by New Year there was no sign. Weaners and adult seals have been seen by both the May and Craigleith cameras. I was surprised we hadn’t had any call out to exhausted underweight young seals hauled out on local beaches. Sure enough, within 24hrs I received a call. A weaner hauled out on the slip by the harbour. The SSPCA had been called. I went down to check. Now dark, from what I could see it looked underweight, a bit lethargic, no obvious injuries, but I didn’t want to spook it as its only escape was the drop from the slip onto the beach (the tide was now out). Before daylight broke I called the SSPCA to see if they had picked it up, they hadn’t but would now send someone. Another text from Nigel confirmed it had moved and was now in the harbour. Grabbing my kit I headed down. The ambulance driver arrived and we lifted it without any growling or fighting. Hopefully now it will be responding to the excellent care from the team at Fishcross SSPCA.

Today (Thursday) The BTO has a garden bird watch (only in gardens) but they will allow sightings up until Sunday. It is quite a specific watch as you have to be watching your bird feeder before dawn comes up. One of the requirements is asking about light pollution as I’m sure many have heard a robin or black bird signing in the glow of a street light. If you’re interested all the details can be found on the BTO website.

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