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.

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