Wildlife sightings 24 January 2014

Notes from the Discovery Centre – Fran & Claudia

It’s all change again on camera this week! The numerous pairs of fulmars that had been sitting on the cliffs have disappeared (though some are still flying around). It’s not really time for them to settle yet. To my great delight there were about fifty guillemots on the Isle of May stacks when I switched on one morning (first on camera this year) but I was told they would be gone in an hour or two, and that is exactly what happened! I haven’t seen them again all week. A pair of shags was seen showing the beginnings of a courtship display: they brought their beaks together, tipped their heads back then did a lot of preening.

We have seen quite a few grey seals this week on camera. On the Isle of May there have been seven of various different sizes for a few days now: two pups from the autumn, one large bull, two other biggish adults and two intermediate sized animals – perhaps a year old? Apart from the recent pups, the others seem to be starting their annual moult, and their pelts have gone very blonde and patchy, with clumps missing, particularly obvious as the fur dried. The large bull had unusual curly whiskers on his muzzle, similar to those of the bearded seal of the Arctic. He also had thick, foaming mucus hanging from his nostrils!
A seal pup hauled out on the west beach right next to the lifeboat slipway last Friday. It was checked over by the SSPCA and was absolutely fine, taking itself back to sea at (very) high tide. It would be interesting to know if it was the same one from the previous week.

This week we have had everything from nearly bare camera pictures up to a huge number of seabirds as mentioned above. Last Friday on the Isle of May, we spotted an immature cormorant sitting in a colony of shags showing off his very pale breast. On Craigleith we are now spotting shags on a regular basis and some of them seem to be getting interested in each other.
In the little crab tank we discovered a little empty shell. So we are now certain that the baby crabs are doing fine and outgrowing their shells. So next time you come down, have a look and see if you can spot it!

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