Wildlife sightings 28 March 2014

Sightings from Maggie

Isle of May: On Monday 24 March puffins returned in their thousands and what a spectacle it was, and, the first Shag egg has been seen.

I’d arrived a couple of days earlier. On the Saturday the cliffs were packed with guillemots, razorbill, and although plenty kittiwakes not so many on site. The Sunday was the reverse with the distinctive cry of the kittiwake filling the air and hundreds of puffins on the sea but not so many guillemots. Dawn on Monday, I pulled back the curtains and saw the familiar whirring shadows passing over Fluke St, enough to take me open the kitchen door to see if any were ‘reclaiming burrows’ on the slope outside. Only one, a while later three, then more arrived and the air became busier. Within an hour the slope was alive with activity. Abandoning work I went for a wander. Blue skies, sunshine and calm, THE, most perfect day. Many have watched in amazement at a ‘murmeration’ of starlings. What unfolded in front of me was as spectacular, if not more so. Thousands wheeled and twisted over the sea with vast bands peeling off and heading on to the island. Numbers just increased with the white bellies shimmering in the sunlight, twisting, turning silver to black, fluttering like confetti over the sea. Stunning!! Even the contractors stopped and watched in awe. I witnessed this several years ago but they all vanished by mid-morning. This time numbers just increased as the day went on with puffins on rocks, cliff edges, popping out of burrows, and of course by nightfall, they had gone.

Tuesday saw Dave arrive with Mike Harris and Mark Newell along with a couple of other researchers Carrie and Clara. Carrie helping with the auks and shags and Clara on a hunt for ticks! So pre-supper we were all examining tubes of ticks that were sitting on the kitchen table ..hmmm? The next morning nets had been set just before dawn and at 05:30 we all headed to the cliffs. Three of them roped up and clambered down the cliff to the ledge where the guillemots had been caught. Carefully freeing the birds they were put into the bags and hauled upward to where the ringing and recording was to take place. Finally with 40 birds transferred to the holding boxes the well-oiled team set about this mammoth task. The birds are study birds each with unique combinations of coloured rings allowing for easy identification during the season. Carrie handed the combination rings to Mike and scribed, I had the lovely job of taking the birds out of the box, handing them to Mike. Coloured rings on he would pass them to Mark to have feather samples taken and to have the metal BTO ring, then to Clara for release. It was quite a production line with an occasional ‘retrap’ called (one of last year’s study birds). By the time we had finished the 40 birds, they had indeed pecked me and drawn blood, but what a privilege to be with the team, and to handle the birds. Often we see them flying ahead of the bow of the RIB. You see the power in their flight, but holding them you feel this remarkable strength and fight that they have. Today the cliffs are quieter and although reasonable numbers of puffins, by mid-morning they had gone.

Exciting news yesterday (26) the first shag egg has was spotted. Unfortunately not in view of the camera but start keeping an eye on any settled birds on the islands.

Gannets, well I’ve seen many off-shore and when possible had a look on the webcam, just to keep up to date with the Bass.

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