Wildlife sightings 16 January 2014

Sightings from Maggie Sheddan

A few weeks ago, chatting with someone who follows our weekly updates, they were laughing saying I copy from previous years and, in many ways, they are correct, but such is the circle of nature and, indeed, this week saw the return of fulmars to their cliff sites. Fran was all excited commenting that they are the last to breed during season and the first to settle at sites. On fine winter days it is quite common to see and hear that familiar chuckle as pairs, threesomes, and non-breeders swoop and socialize around the cliffs. Numbers peaked about April, and by May non-breeders start to depart leaving the breeding adults. Their return at this time is not really settling for breeding, more a social event. If the weather turns, they’ll head out to sea.

We’re seeing shags with their crests, start to watch for signs of courtship displays. If weather and conditions are favourable, on occasion, eggs have been seen by late March. Mark and the CEH team have been on the May this week checking out the shag colony. Many of the birds there have Darvick rings attached and their history is known and logged, they look to see which birds have returned and note those that have not yet appeared.

The May shags are part of the long-term studies carried out on there. Not quite sure if guillemots have been seen on the cliffs yet?

Cormorants, as with the May, Craigleith, and the Lamb (from the Scope Deck) any sign of the white thigh patch appearing? They too will be starting to appear on calmer days and before we know it, head flicking displays and nest building.

Again, another regular sighting at this time of year can be peregrines. One was spotted on the cliffs of Craigleith this week. What catches the eye can be the spectacular aerial display as the male, out to ‘woo’ the female, performs the impressive food pass showing what a wonderful provider he will be.

Craigleith and the May While you’re panning around looking for displaying shags, cormorants and chuckling fulmars, have you spotted any rabbits? Myxomatosis kicked in with a vengeance last summer on the May and was also evident on Inchkeith during the seal counts. Let’s hope its bypassed Craigleith. It’s carried by fleas and parasites, often on birds. If lucky, some rabbits do survive as we saw on the May about 7 years ago, when early season, not only was I clearing dozens of carcasses off the public walkways, I was also logging any live bunnies I saw. They really had a concern as the rabbits do maintain the habitat and are important to the puffin colony there.

Viewing deck Close by, gannets, guillemots, shags, cormorants, heron, eider, long-tailed duck, curlew, turnstone, redshank, oystercatchers, purple sandpiper, pied wagtail and, if you’re lucky, possibly a displaying peregrine, but you have to be out there watching!

Recent sightings, East Lothian Near Gullane Point, Black-necked Grebe and Black-throated Diver, also a Great Crested Grebe – excitement at the Surf scoter being spotted between Joppa and Musselburgh. Thanks to all at Lothian Bird news.

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