Wildlife sightings 19 June 2014

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Claudia

This week we were getting all exited as we’ve seen a pair of puffins in the burrow. Two puffins means a nest and so we hope to see a puffling soon on camera. The rest of the pufffins are doing well and obviously enjoy the sunshine sitting on the ledge just underneath the Craigleith south camera.

The gannets are now having chicks! We could find a lot on the cameras. Our first chick (from 30 May) is already fluffy and so big it does not fit under the parents properly. The chicks on the lower camera near the path are now growing as well but they are still quite vunerable. One gannet parent brought in some red fine netting. We just hope that the chick does not get entangled in it. Another gannet nest has been seen with two eggs in it. It will be interesting to see if the parents will be able to raise both chicks once they’re hatched.

Sightings – Maggie Sheddan

Bass: drama, trauma and grumpy seal. With such a low tide my attention was on the steps checking for any algae that we could slip on. As I spread the sand to make it safe I became aware everyone’s eyes were looking upward, not unusual as gannets can cover the landing site. Then I spotted him, grumpy seal! The head just peering over the top step watching! This is the one that appears to have an eye infection that I think gives it this grumpy look, but it didn’t want to budge! With the passengers safely on the boat, I took the scramble route to come in behind it. Now any normal seal will react and start to move – not grumps, he lifted his head and growled. This is a wild mammal! With the boat close to the step it probably felt trapped so I asked them to stand off and give it a clear escape route. It took a good few attempts, snarls and hissing, before very reluctantly, he slithered down the steps giving the photographers a wonderful photo opportunity.

Herring gulls are the next encounter with many chicks now hatched and, true to form, the occasional over-protective adult dive bombs or poos with precision. Reaching the gannetry, more and more recently hatched gannet chicks are spotted. Within a few weeks it will be a sea of white fluffy covered young. I headed down to check the landing site and spotted 9 female eiders swimming quite tight together as if protecting young but sadly I couldn’t spot any. Suddenly from the Bass a lone female with 2 ducklings! The 9 were some distance away. My heart was in my mouth as I watched her determined paddling, the 2 young keeping pace until somehow they were in the safety of the aunties. The 10 females and well-guarded ducklings headed off toward Tantallon. Horror!! A lone duckling appeared below the Bass. If I could catch it, I could take it to the crèche we are seeing by the Centre. For about 20 minutes I did my best impression of ‘happy, contented eider’ trying to attract it. I’m sure my sanity could be questioned at times for anyone watching…? If only I had a bucket or a net. It responded and at one point was so close but just outwith my reach. Sadly it was swept around the edge of the cliff and out of sight.

On a happier note, orange billed guillemot is back and breeding! We didn’t’ see it last year and it was feared it may have perished in the early wreck of 2013 so that was wonderful to see it with a chick.

Craigleith: landing with the shag researchers I came across a nest with 2 newly hatched shags. I suspect a first time breeder as the adult was very flighty. I had a little wander but with gull chicks, hidden nests and delicate puffin burrows I found a perch and sat enjoying watching puffins whirring overhead with various fish hanging from their bills and just absorbing the ongoing activity of all the birds. No sign of mallow which is wonderful, but long trousers for nettle patches are something to consider for the next visit!

Isle of May: Seabird Open Day was wonderful. With researchers on hand to chat, ringers from the Observatory, storytelling and song in the South Horn all in the blaze of sunshine, it was just a perfect day. I still find excitement in hearing the high pitch call of the guillemot chick and spotting them among the tightly packed ledges. As I write the first razorbill chicks will have taken that leap off the cliffs. Puffins with sandeels, sprats, small cod fry, tern chicks just hatching and over 25 ducklings on the loch. I could listen and watch them for hours.

The peregrine falcon has been spotted again and was seen on the lighthouse railing last Tuesday.

The shag chicks are still growing and now some of them are starting to explore the area just outside the nest. Some late breeders are still sitting on eggs.

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