Wildlife sightings 15 May 2014

Sightings by Maggie

The Bass Rock: As Fisher Lassie sailed toward the Bass, eyes were on the rolling swell. Were we going to be able to land? Suddenly the steps were alive with eiders alert to the approaching boat. They dispersed up toward the helipad. It was good to see them as we do see a few nesting out there. It was a lazy swell and, choosing our moment, we landed safely. Concentrating on spreading sand on the algae covered steps, I was suddenly aware I was being watched. A rather grumpy faced harbour seal peered down at me from the top step. It didn’t move! It didn’t even raise its head, just peered! So, as you do, I chatted to it letting it know we will divert and take the scramble route, but he would have to move eventually! As it was just two of us we made it to the top only for the seal to look at us with disdain, and slither off down the steps! One of its eyes looked very milky in colour, the other perhaps not that healthy, and I think this created the grumpy look. Recently I had seen what I thought was a ‘sick’ seal hauled out at the Bass. I suspect this is the same one. Certainly seals are open to all manner of bacterial and viral conditions, which is why one should never approach them unless equipped and trained.

This was my first visit since the gannets really settled. I have been watching the developments on camera and from the boat, but now had time to absorb. Interestingly, the ‘club birds’ on the low east promontory did not fly off. Looking at their plumage, many have full adult plumage or certainly very close to that. I don’t think any will attempt to breed this year, but keep alert to this area as it is visible on camera. The next impact was the nesting gulls, many on eggs, their raucous calls filling the air as we passed them by. Approaching the prison gate, flourishing mallow was a joy to see! Yes, a joy! Below the battlements, where once covered in dense mallow growth, now the fast extending sea of gannets are overtaking, pushing out the all but five nesting shags tucked under the remaining mallow stems. It is important to retain some of the Bass mallow so it was reassuring to see that a little pruning work is required to keep the pathways clear. With trepidation, I headed up toward the gannetry. My fear, that we may have breeders on the path. The rule, if they have an egg, they own that space! With relief there were no settled birds, however the colony is looking good. Such a difference to last year where there were gaps in breeding sites and single birds that had been paired, stood alone. Although many of the fringe birds are without eggs, I spotted several fresh eggs, so it will be interesting to see the difference next week. What was wonderful, and this is visible on camera, I had seen several birds on the nearest chapel wall. There has been only one breeder there this last couple of years. Just wonderful, three completely new breeders have eggs. For the photographer, a loss of bag laying space, but eyelevel with hopefully several chicks when they hatch. As I headed back down, I fear killer gull has returned to a new nesting area. It reacted as if the chicks had hatched. Ducking as it swooped and dive-bombed with the precision and ferociousness of ‘killer gull’ I saw the nest had eggs not chicks! Hard hats I fear will be required this year.

Great Auk: The discovery of the bone close to the Centre is one of several found in the Forth area during excavations. On the May, bones from four different birds were discovered from possibly early Middle Ages to perhaps the sixteenth centenary. Remains have also been found in Iron Age middens near Dunbar. It is thought maybe these were wintering or moulting birds as opposed to breeders.

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