Wildlife sightings 22 Jan 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Claudia

The guillemots are making a regular appearance on the Isle of May in the morning. What a spectacular sight! There are dozens of these beautiful birds sitting on the stacks. We spotted some fulmars on the cliffs, too, but by far the most interesting thing happening are our shags. We have an established pair on the middle nest. Both birds are ringed and we have some information about them from the CEH. Charlie, the male bird (Blue ZCA), was ringed in 2009 and is a regular breeder on the Isle of May. Last year he paired up on the same nest with an unringed bird but this year he is back to his ‘old love’, a bird he paired up with two years ago. It is Red XIJ and we named her Juliette. Ringed in 2011 and a successful breeder, too. So we have high hopes for a good number of eggs this year! But the days are not without adventures. Another shag (Green UAP) decided that she likes the nest too, and whenever the pair leaves the nest, she flies in to re-arrange sticks as if it was her nest. Of course, that means that every time the pair comes back they have to un-do the handy work from Green UAP!

Sightings from Maggie Sheddan

The wind is battering against my seafront window in my little hideaway. If it were spring tides, I suspect I may have had the odd eider swimming on the patio, or perhaps even sitting on my sofa! Sea watching walks haven’t quite happened this week, but breakfast ritual is checking the May webcam. Somewhat surprisingly guillemots have been seen most mornings which given the weather is unusual. A short article this week from the BTO ‘Did you Know?’ mentioned that normally with the onset of stormy weather, guillemots head out to sea leaving the colonies empty. CEH team is thrilled at early morning images from the May and they, too, have found it is interesting that the auks have been in attendance during this stormy spell. I’ve seen several juvenile cormorants (still with distinctive pale bellies) close into shore. Unfortunately, the satellite dish was blown away and I lost communication, no updates last week !

Bass Rock – At this time of year we wait, we watch. When will the first gannets be seen on the Rock? Pan around the air space to the north. A planned visit this week was thwarted by the weather but I suspect we wouldn’t have seen any down by the fog horn. However, as we wait, researchers are already planning their studies for the season.

History – From Jan 2010 Bulletin. Studies undertaken by Keith Hamer (Leeds University) in 2009 had shown that foraging trips (during breeding season) had been much shorter than expected. Some of their observations had been undertaken via a dedicated webcam. Subsequent studies in later years where loggers were attached recorded their summer foraging revealing the various locations they preferred and was quite enlightening showing some foraged much closer to the Bass than realized, and particular birds favoured specific areas. Study birds have been monitored this last couple of years, for attendance, and breeding. It is hoped that this coming season loggers will again be deployed, regurgitation samples taken to see if diet is showing anything specific or unusual, as in garfish a few years back.

A study by Bob Furness, Glasgow University, undertaken in 2002/2003 where Geo locators attached to Bass gannets confirmed that they wintered further south and returning to the Rock later in the spring .

This was replicated by Keith’s team in 2008, and recovered in 2009 showing even more gannets were wintering off the coast of West Africa. Again this shows just how important ongoing research is to keep us updated on the changes we have witnessed this last few year. Papers are trickling out from last year. Who know what exciting information may be revealed!

Spend time on the Scope Deck, look out for gannets to the NW of the Bass, cormorants, possibly with white thigh patches, fulmars swooping along the cliff edges, and more.

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