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.


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