Wildlife sightings 24 September 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Lee

Life on and around the islands is still very apparent as this week has been very exciting. A large pod of bottlenose dolphins (around 20 to 25) was spotted travelling towards Bass Rock on Friday afternoon and were visible for a good hour or so. Once again many gugas have been sighted using the ramps provided around the island but, unfortunately, some have been unsuccessful and a few carcasses have been spotted below the battlements.

Moving onto some good news, plenty of grey seals have been sighted in the water just off of the Isle of May with one of them being a cow. A few peregrines have been continuously sighted throughout the week between both Bass Rock and Isle of May as well as plenty of turnstones, oystercatchers and redshanks appearing during low tide.

The lone common prawn in the tidal tank is now no longer alone, with countless more common prawns added. I would add a specific number onto how many we now have but every time I recount them, more seem to appear. With many more anemone still popping up throughout the tidal tank everybody seems intrigued and excited over the new tank and its inhabitants.

Wildlife sightings 18 September 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Liz

After a slightly wild weekend we now have beautiful weather and the birds are certainly appreciating it with lots of shags drying off in the sunshine around Fidra and many a guga taking their first leap from the Bass Rock. The youngsters have been making good use of the ramps that were put up for them beside the lighthouse and we’ve spotted several jumping from the cliffs on camera this week. This should continue for a few more weeks to come as there are still quite a few fluffy chicks in nests across the Rock.

The tidal tank has some new residents this week with the addition of barnacles, two hermit crabs and a common prawn. The prawn in particular has settled in well and is very active, exploring and feeding. We hope to find some company for it before too long.

The peregrines have been posing on Fidra and Craigleith most mornings and left behind two pellets on Fidra cliff yesterday. Our other regulars this week have been the two grey seals off Isle of May beach. They were joined by a third on Tuesday. The anticipation is building for pupping season!

Sightings from Maggie

Isle of May – The first seal up has been born 3 days earlier than last year!! https://isleofmaynnr.wordpress.com/ The east winds have also brought some exciting migrants in, not least a juvenile red-footed falcon, only the third record for the island. As one season ends another brings excitement!

Bass Rock – The final day for the researchers from Glasgow University was a great success with over 90 birds ringed (half adults, half fledglings). Bob Furness noted that by ringing fledglings now, there was less disturbance than earlier in the season, and they are very keen for this to continue next year. This really is exciting as it’s the first year fledglings have been ringed for many years on the Bass. With this, and the tagging of immatures by Jana (which has brought very interesting results along with the loggers of breeding adults by Keith Hamer’s team /Jude and James), it has been an excellent year for research and we look forward to reading the updates when they’ve had time to download and process all the results. Jana has added a link into Jude’s blog https://gannetresearch.wordpress.com/
With similar studies happening around other gannetries, we are learning so much.

The Lamb – The puffin count has given surprising results with a count of 619 AOB (apparently occupied burrows).
Thanks to Gordon, Fisher Lassie, for reporting an unidentified whale a little off the Leithies last week. With reports of a humpback at the May, it’s worth spending time on the viewing deck.

Geese are on the move! That familiar call will soon fill the air. The seasons are changing

Wildlife sightings 11 September 2015

From the Discovery Centre team – Liz

It certainly feels like autumn has hit all of a sudden with the cooler days. Hundreds of swallows are gathering on the lines around the kirk, preparing to make their way to Africa, and more and more turnstones are feeding on the shore beside the Centre each day. Our scopes provide a perfect view of the waders foraging amongst the rockpools. While many of the birds are leaving the islands, grey seals are showing increasing interest in the beach on the Isle of May as they approach their breeding season, with several spending long periods of time just offshore.

Our late shag chicks on the isle of Fidra are no longer spending time around the nest and have headed out to explore the wider world. They are likely to be among the dozens of shags we see drying out on the rocks around Fidra at low tide. Fidra cliff continues to be one of the best cameras on which to view peregrines although we have also been seeing them regularly on Craigleith.

Wildlife – Maggie Sheddan 

Bass Rock, 3 September
The wind was picking up. Slowly, as the pressure changed, the sea of dark wing flapping intensified, a cloud of white hovered above the ridge as the adults hung in the air above our heads, every second the calls increasing in volume into this mass crescendo that immersed and encased us in this stunning spectacle, and, of course, I was so engrossed I hadn’t pressed record on the camera. A most wondrous sight not often witnessed and far better to absorb than record! I was on the rock with the researchers (from Glasgow University) deploying tags and ringing the immature birds (not gugas). Unfortunately weather defeats us this week. It will be a while before all the data is downloaded and studied but it appears it is bringing some very interesting and surprising results.

Although gugas have been ‘jumping’ this last 3 weeks, it was obvious it is fast approaching peak times. With the weather turning and the tags deployed it was a short visit and no time to build the ramps. I spotted a young chick that had fallen from the nest. Decisions can be difficult as it is impossible to rescue every chick. It looked poorly, however, Jana found a sprat on the path and fed this wee soul. Fast forward 2 days. With the Discovery Centre team on a maintenance trip, I joined them. Time was limited to construct the ramps and chop some of the vegetation that restricts them. (It has just flourished this last few weeks and they get stuck behind it!). Not ideal but ramps constructed and the roof ramps in place thanks to Andy and Alex, a quick check to see how many white fluffy ones can be spotted, and there on the path was the one from a couple of days before! The sprat had obviously sustained it but, unless lifted, certain death. I’m pleased that, despite being pecked and pretty weak, it is surviving and doing well at Fishcross. As it went to Colin (SSPCA) in the evening, he too thought it may not survive, but fed it and kept it at home to find it perky, head sticking out the box and quite vocal by the morning.

With the onshore swell building yesterday, and many gugas now on the seas it is inevitable that we will receive calls this week. I called the team at Fishcross last night to warn of the expected influx and chat things through. Thankfully, with many pens empty awaiting seal pupping time, they have plenty space to accommodate rescued birds. A note was sent to all departments last week to help advise on any rescue /advice etc. What was lovely, chatting with Colin as I’ve sent a few fluffy ones this last month, is that all have survived with the first due to be released whenever the weather calms.

East winds, great for migrants although a little stormy for sea watching. However, with over 30 turnstones, redshank, curlew, eider, heron, black headed and common gull, mute swans, pied wag all spotted this last month or so, there is always something to spot.