Wildlife sightings 30 July 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

It is all change on the cameras at the moment with auk numbers, specifically guillemots and razorbills, continuing to dwindle as the stacks on Isle of May and Craigleith begin to empty. The puffins remain on Fidra, Craigleith and Isle of May, however numbers on camera are fluctuating per day, as they did in spring. We have had a few sightings of the adult puffins in our burrow camera but there has been no sighting of the puffling. Fingers crossed it has already headed off to the open sea to join other pufflings and adults.

Our fulmar chick on Fidra continues to grow well and remains the only chick visible on camera. Adult fulmars continue to shelter in the little alcoves so, hopefully, we will see more chicks as the weeks progress. As the puffin numbers are beginning to decrease, the cliff will open up in terms of space and should encourage more fulmar chicks to appear.

Gugas continue to moult their white fluffy down to gain their speckled juvenile plumage, but many are still bright white in appearance. Still too early to see juveniles in the courtyard but a young guga was spotted alone in the courtyard, hopefully with its parents close by to rescue it.

The peregrine male has also been appearing more and more this week in the mornings on the lighthouse and, on a few occasions, has spent all day perched on the railings.

The shag and cormorant juveniles are continuing to explore on their own but many can still be found adjacent to their nest sites as well as the water’s edge. Eider numbers are decreasing but adults can still be seen on the water. Kittiwake chicks are also still found on the cliffs at Fidra and Isle of May though many nests have begun to empty over recent days.

Wildlife – Maggie Sheddan

Pufflings – Having lived in the darkened burrow for six weeks or so, with only an occasional sighting at the burrow entrance surveying the great wide world, these little guys are now beginning to depart. Under the cover of darkness they leave their burrow. As they take that first flight many are drawn to the lights of North Berwick. The light is the ‘big wide world’ or, for some, party night! (Who can forget a few years back the one that walked up the front steps of the Marine Hotel looking for a room and a feed, both of which it received (from Sam, Helen’s son) before being taken out to sea and released?).

They can appear anywhere as Ronnie found out the other night when his lovely labrador alerted them to an intruder on their patio. Opening the doors they spotted the little puffling somewhat disorientated. Fortunately for little ‘Polly’, Ronnie was also versed in the action to take. A quick look over to check for no injury, a nice dark box was all that was required to make this little guy feel secure. A very feisty Polly was taken to the Centre the next morning where it was released from the boat, away from gulls.

Pufflings live in the dark so come daylight, if on land, they head for a dark place. This is normal behaviour and of course, as humans try to pick them up, they scuttle off. Generally they can be retrieved – even the one that shot down an enclosed drainage channel a few years ago eventually emerged. It seldom requires the SSPCA to be called as, if they are not injured, it takes the ambulance driver away from another animal that requires help.

Action: box them, keep them outside where it is cooler, book them a one way ticket on the boat. If no boats, I am happy to come down in the evening and release them off the pier /rocks when dark.

Gannets – The SSPCA will be having their fair share of gannet chicks soon, having already sent them three which had fallen from their nest and consequently been attacked and pushed off the cliffs. I found them on the paths looking very sorrowful, the down missing from their heads where they had been pecked but lively enough as bills clamped themselves to my fingers, jacket, etc (at that age the bills are quite soft). Only because they were on the paths and were feisty were they rescued.

Harbour seal pup – A report of a pup off the pier caused a bit of a stir. How could it be rescued? Suspecting it was a recently born harbour pup (very small and dark in colour), it was possibly looking for somewhere to haul out, but it didn’t require rescuing. This may be the same cow that gave birth last year at this time on the west beach. That pup had to be lifted. It was born at night on a very high tide and, as the tide dropped, the pup was left not only a considerable distance from the sea, but was right in the middle of a dog walking zone. It was by then a busy sunny morning. As it was unlikely that the cow would come in and the pup was distressed and dehydrated, the team at Fishcross agreed that it should be taken to the SSPCA luxury seal sanctuary. Unlike the grey seal, harbour seals swim from birth and it is quite likely that the cow would have been around.

There is a small population of harbour seals in this area and, as with the grey, if they show no sign of injury, leave them. Unlike the grey seal pups (white coats) that are washed off the nearby islands, the mother of the harbour seal could be close by. Again I’m happy to be called if required.

Action: if on the beach, is it small and dark? Any sign of injury? Is it in a location where likely to be disturbed by dog walkers, children etc.? Do not approach. They are a frightened wild animal, and can bite. I’m happy to advise. If in the sea and watching, that’s what curious seals do and again, unless any visible injury, it’s playing.

Wildlife sightings 23 July 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

Numbers of auks are beginning to thin out with guillemots and razorbill numbers decreasing most, especially on the stacks at Isle of May as well as the cliffs on Fidra and Craigleith. Puffin numbers are still reasonably high on Fidra and Craigleith, however, which is very helpful as we continue to deliver puffin talks. The adult puffins continue to be spotted in our burrow camera but very few sightings of the puffling. The burrow will be watched closely in the coming weeks to spot the puffling before it heads off on its first flight.

The gugas on the Bass Rock continue to develop well and a few have been spotted moulting and beginning to show their speckled juvenile plumage. It will still be several weeks until we see a fully moulted guga and the first begin to fledge from their nest and make their way down to the water. It will be interesting to see how many of these fledglings will end up stuck in the lighthouse courtyard this year, and need to be rescued via our makeshift ‘runways’.

The peregrine continues to be sighted on the lighthouse as well as on adjacent cliffs with both the male and female making regular appearances.

The peregrine juvenile has been less frequent but when it has been sighted it is clear to see that she will only be a juvenile for another few weeks. Her plumage has darkened and the underparts are now completely horizontal.

The shag and cormorant juveniles are now doing their own thing and many can be found at the water’s edge on Craigleith as well as on Fidra. Several cormorant juveniles are still around the nest area on Craigleith but have separated themselves from the adults

Wildlife sightings 16 July

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

Pufflings continue to be spotted on Fidra cliffs this week and we have also had sightings of our own little puffling on our burrow camera. Saying that, it doesn’t look that little given its appearance so it may have just been hidden away at the back of the burrow or next to the other entrance that the parents created at the start of the season. Something we may have to look at for next year, given that the adults have used the burrow again for a successive year and likely to use in continuing years. The adults have been spotted bringing food to the chick, which is great to see.

The gugas continue to develop well and many are now at the six-week stage, although all continue to retain their white fluffy down. In the coming weeks we will see them moult this down and develop their dark speckled juvenile plumage. Many of the gugas are also moving freely, though not too far from the nest with their parents not too far behind to call them back.

Guillemot and razorbill numbers are dwindling with many having headed out to sea with their offspring already, and soon the puffins will also be gone. Fulmars continue to rest on ledges and cliffs and we await the first sighting of chicks.

Cormorants and shag chicks have now developed into adolescents, with the former showing bright white plumage on their chests and around their neck.

The peregrine continues to be spotted on the Bass Rock, primarily the male, on ledges opposite the lighthouse. The juvenile female is scarce on Fidra at present, though when she has appeared it is clear to see her transition from juvenile to adult, with many of the lighter feathers now moulting to reveal darker plumage. She continues to present white markings on the back of her head, just as her father does, and hopefully this remains to allow easy identification when she becomes a full adult.

Wildlife sightings 9 July 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Lee

Fidra has been the spotlight this week with pufflings being seen as they become a bit adventurous, sometimes a bit too curious as predation on the fluffy chicks is already becoming apparent.

The razorbill chick on Fidra cliff has now disappeared along with the parent who has now returned to her cliff edge nest, alone.

The gannet chicks or ‘gugas’ are now around 6 six weeks old and a few of them are already stretching their wings in the cool breeze.
The young female peregrine has been scarce this week and was spotted for only a brief while this morning, which is saddening seeing as our peregrine whisperer Alex is away and so, cannot call her back!

Our rockpool tank has a new addition; a mermaid’s purse containing a spotted dogfish egg which we are assuming is relatively new seeing as it was discovered in a commonly used fishing crate. Our wrasse has become bolder as it is now leaving its hidey hole during the fish feed talk – which is great for us and the visitors!

Wildlife sightings 2 July 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex
The number of chicks on the islands continues to increase with more and more sightings of guillemot and razorbill chicks, as well as more puffins returning to land carrying sandeels in their bills. There has yet to be a sighting of an actual puffling on camera and there is limited activity on our burrow camera. Again we hope that activity picks up and that we soon see adults coming back and forth with sandeels for the chicks.

The first fulmar chick is yet to be recorded and the Dunbar harbour camera continues to be offline. Plenty of activity on the Bass Rock and Fidra cameras however. Gannet chicks are developing well and many nests below the cameras present fluffy white chicks. Many nests still contain very young chicks and there are still some sightings of eggs that have yet to hatch. Lots of great peregrine sightings.

The cormorant and shag chicks are now fully fledged although many continue to remain around their nests. The former have moulted their brown down and now present a white chest. The colony on Craigleith presents this sight well and many guillemots and razorbills remain nestled amongst them.