Wildlife sightings 26 Mar 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

Puffins have officially landed! If you haven’t already heard or seen, we saw our first glimpse of puffins on land on Wednesday morning. We spotted several groups of puffins on all three populated islands (Fidra, Craigleith and Isle of May). Several of them have already been sighted entering their burrows on Craigleith and doing a bit of spring cleaning before they breed. The Discovery Centre will be full of excitement now that we have these colourful characters back and already we have had many visitors coming down and specifically asking about seeing the puffins on the cameras.

The rest of the islands are still full of excitement, too.

Bass Rock continues to show gannets returning to the island and many have been seen preparing their nests and bringing back fresh seaweed from the sea as well as other building materials. The peregrine is now making more occasional visits to the lighthouse and is becoming more of a regular sight on the cameras.

Craigleith cameras are showing the best views of the returning puffins and at the moment as well as the cormorant nests with eggs. At the time of writing we have three nests with eggs, one with four eggs and the other two we believe have three. There have been incidents of fighting between the nesting pairs with other cormorants with the latter stealing nest materials. However as the parents have eggs to protect they are unable to leave their nests and fight off the thieves.

Isle of May continues to show the nesting shags with two established pairs in Charlie (Blue ZCA) and Juliette (Red XIJ), as well as Portia (Green UAP) with an unringed partner. The island is also showing large groups of guillemots and razorbills on the ‘Chatterstone’ and main stack, as well as puffins on the wall.

Sightings – Maggie Sheddan 

Isle of May: Silhouetted against the first dawn glimmer, the 5 figures purposely walked toward the cliffs where the advance team had dropped the nets. As ever it is such a privilege to join the CEH team for the first ringing session of the season. A harsh NW wind was blowing. As I leaned over to drop the bags (attached to a rope) to Mark and Rich 30 feet below, the up-draught of the wind was bitter and intense. I understand now how fulmars have that uplift when swooping around the cliff tops. It was like a funnel! The team working the small ledge extracted the birds with care, each being bagged and I would haul them up to pass on to Mike where they were boxed until all the birds had been brought up, the nets taken down and the team safe on the cliff top. Nothing like the 40 from last year but still a successful visit. Metal rings and colour combination rings are attached, feather taken and all this carefully logged.

Eclipse: We had been sitting at 05:00 waiting for that first glint of day. Now it was almost 08:00. Back for a quick breakfast and colanders, yes, colanders, at the ready for the eclipse at 09:35. Would it be really dark. Would the behaviour of the birds change? The colander wasn’t that successful but the binoculars gave excellent images onto the white bin lid propped on the table. There was no significant change in behaviour. Puffins still whirred overhead, kittiwakes’ calls echoing around, and although perhaps it felt a little quieter, I suspect it was more that we were subdued having been up since 04:30 and the morning excitement now passed.

Staying on the subject of light affecting the birds, walking home from dinner/ banquet at the Bird Observatory (yes the May is quite a sociable place at times) it was a beautiful night. The lighthouse beams oscillated across the dark sky. I kept switching off my flashlight and just enjoying the stars. The beam of the lighthouse was quite high and powerful, so I switched the flash light on and mimicked the beam but lower, only to awaken all the gulls above Mill Door their calls filling the air. The following night just watching Jupiter through the binoculars above the crescent moon, so bright amongst all the constellations. It is lovely not having the light pollution we have in towns.

I spotted kittiwakes mating, the occasional butterfly, dozens of seals on Rona, and the rabbits! Looking much healthier this year, but what is interesting is the number of the darker brown bunnies. They certainly appear to have gained in numbers over the winter. On the last day Pharos (the NLB ship) sat offshore. Boats were in and out all day – helicopters, ATV training ongoing, it was like a small village. People everywhere each with a purpose! The May Island is almost ready for the first visitors next week.

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