Wildlife sightings 7 May 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

This first week of May has seen the cormorant chicks on Craigleith grow even more significantly, so much that they are now pushing their mothers off them to get more space in the nest. Several of the nests still contain young chicks, with their heads popping out from underneath their mothers, as well as eggs that have not yet hatched. Puffins are also appearing more and more on the island and are becoming more settled. We have also seen adult puffins entering our burrow camera with grass to prepare the nest. We hope we have a repeat of last year and the adults have a successful egg and chick.

Gannet egg numbers are continuing to increase, with many nests now having eggs visible on camera. A delight and surprise to visitors during our gannet talks when an adult readjusts on the nest to reveal an egg underneath. Many gannets are still returning with seaweed from the sea, even travelling to areas just outside the Centre to collect it. The peregrine male is making more appearances on the lighthouse, occasionally being spotted with a fresh kill on the railings.

Fidra cameras are showing more and more puffins alongside fulmars in their protected burrows and sheltered cliffs. Guillemots and razorbills are also still resident on the island and are very settled on the cliff ledges. The peregrine male and juvenile continue to appear on these same cliffs, and even today the juvenile (with a fresh kill!) had two guillemots for company and were completely oblivious to the presence of the juvenile. This same peregrine male has also appeared on Craigleith and the theories regarding the Fidra pair travelling to and from Craigleith has now been positively confirmed, through visual identification and comparisons via a growing ‘Forth Peregrine’ portfolio.

Shag eggs continue to be spotted on the nests at the Isle of May and chicks should soon be sighted. Still no eggs for Charlie and Juliet, so fingers crossed that everything is ok with the pair and that eggs come shortly. Seals continue to be spotted resting on the beach as well as large numbers of eiders amongst the rocky shore at ‘Pilgrim’s Haven’. Puffins continue to rest on the wall along the path and we have spotted many visitors on the island sitting down to rest, allowing puffins to slowly and curiously investigate their presence.

Sightings – Maggie Sheddan

With dramatic temperature changes and some storming days recently this can cause problems for young that require careful brooding. Not only is the temperature an issue but if the seas are so stormy, it makes fishing very difficult. Adults are using energy just trying to find food for the young chicks so prolonged stormy spells can affect some species breeding colonies. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long but it’s a fine balance at this time of year. It was interesting to observe the kittiwake colony at Dunbar on Sunday – only one bird remained on the nest, the rest vanished.

Bass – Having started this season with intentions of trying to record the gannetry and specific areas, with swell preventing landings and boat trips thwarted yet again, sadly information that had hoped to be recorded and passed on is, regrettably, now wanting. Although it’s wonderful watching on camera, the areas we hoped to record are not visible on camera. It is however lovely to see the fresh golden hue of the gannets head at this time of year, vibrant in the sun. Watch how the colour slowly fades as the season progresses.

May – The first kittiwake eggs have been spotted, and Arctic terns are displaying. The terns had such a successful season last year, let’s hope it is repeated this year.

The winds have brought an impressive fall of migrants with “2 Common Sandpiper, the first Swift, 3 Cuckoo, Ring Ouzel, Fieldfare, 10 Redstart , 5 Whinchat, 25 Wheatear , Yellow Wagtail, ‘White’ Wagtail, 50 Tree Pipit, 20 Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warbler, 12 Blackcap , 4 Garden Warbler, 10 Whitethroat, 4 Lesser Whitethroat , Sedge Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 5 Pied flycatcher 5 Brambling and Reed Bunting” (thanks David) and of course with shags hatching, and most species incubating eggs, in particular one of the most beautiful and serene, the female eider, sits tight to her nest, at time so close to the path, yet she does not move.

A Black-browed Albatross was seen in Finland last year. It appeared again in July at Skagen, Denmark. In April this year it (presumed to be the same bird) has been spotted near Heligoland at times resting on the cliffs close to nesting gannets, kittiwakes and herring gulls. They appear unruffled by this very unusual visitor. The question, could this be ‘Albert’ still on his futile quest to find a mate? This giant black-browed albatross first appeared on the Bass Rock in 1967 after being blown off course in the South Atlantic. For the past four decades he has been engaged in a fruitless attempt to woo gannets on several remote islands. If this is Albert, (they have a very long life span) it does appear he is destined for a lonely life, however for those that are lucky enough to see this magnificent seabird gliding over the seas it brings a joy to all. Oh to see him on the Bass again!

Finally with several Cuckoos being seen on the May, the Common Cuckoo has been undergoing a catastrophic decline. ‘Chris‘ (named after Packham) was radio tagged. Since leaving our shores in 2011, Chris has flown over, or visited 28 different countries, crossed the Sahara Desert eight times and reached speeds of up to 60 mph Now five years old now (quite an age for a Cuckoo) he has helped identify many of the pressures that they face once they leave the UK and, more importantly, the routes that they take to get to their winter quarters in the Congo rainforest — a mystery until the first tagged cuckoos went there in 2011. “He deserves a medal for his massive contribution to science”.

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