Wildlife sightings 1 October 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Lee

We are getting very excited in the Discovery Centre in anticipation of our first seal pups which are almost upon us. A couple of pregnant seals have been sighted over the past few days with one being seen just yesterday on Isle of May beach with larger groups of seals appearing daily. Most have been bottling just off shore with small groups resting along the beach.

Most of the gugas have now left the Bass Rock with only a handful of sightings each day. The gugas themselves are extremely keen on using the ramps which were set up just beside the lighthouse in order to assist with their departure, although small groups of gugas are deciding to rest on the ramps and they can be seen constantly repositioning themselves as they slide down the ramps. The adults are also beginning to leave the Bass Rock which is encouraging the juveniles to explore around the empty nests and even communicate with the remaining adults.

Something fishy is going on in the Discovery Centre’s rock pool tank as a new arrival is now visible inside of the mermaid’s purse, which now contains a young lesser-spotted dogfish. The remaining sandeels in the tank are becoming a common sight as they come out to feed more often. They would stay out longer if it wasn’t for our scorpion fish, so, if you do manage to spot them at any point, then you are incredibly lucky.

Observations – Maggie Sheddan
Isle of May – The silence was deafening. The raucous call of the gulls that alert one to intruders… silent. There were few gulls. Never have I heard the May so still, such tranquillity, such calm. Even the sea, no crashing of waves, no howling gale, just silence. At times rock pipits and pied wagtails were heard. Gone the whirring wings of puffins only the whirring of the resident flocks of feral pigeons flying around. Even the seals were silent. An intermittent haunting wail resonating across the island along with the occasional melancholic call of the curlew that gather on ‘whaups rock‘ Everyone commented on the serenity.

With idyllic weather for seal weekend, visitors filled the boats. SMRU were there to update on research, the South horn a magical place for song and folklore of the selkies. Unfortunately, this year the only visible pup was from the boat, but on an early morning walk to Rona we saw the wee fattie born in such a safe inland site. It’s hard to imagine that, in just 3 weeks, both landing sites and pathways to the visitor centre, along to the tennis court will be covered with pregnant cows, new-born pups crying, snorting bulls off shore waiting for their moment, and the first pup will have already left the island.

A basking shark was spotted by some of the low-lighters sea watching and on the last trip of the season, heading back to Anster, a pod of dolphins teased passengers as first they came in very close to the boat and then, as if saying goodbye, with a couple of leaps and flips they headed out to deeper water.

The Lamb – A short visit with the mallow team to try to knock back the extending growth, we were all somewhat taken aback and amused at a cormorant nest that stood just under 2ft in height, its diameter not far off that, but it was the construction!! It was solid. This would not blow away easily! Inspiration on design and structure could be taken from this.

Craigleith – Another perfect day as presently I’m sitting in the sun, surrounded by mallow writing this…… knowing how lucky I am.
Over 1500 pinkfoot have passed overhead so far this morning. There is a sizable (120+) flock of finches flitting around, a pair of blackbirds and a robin perched on a high rock signing away. I have been scrubbing the landing site of the algae which makes leaping off boats a little treacherous. The rocks can be like black ice. Thankfully, as the tide dropped, I was able to safely fill my bucket to rinse off the weed. Becoming quite adept with my technique, in a moment of exuberance I let go of the string, my little blue bucket filled and floated off out to sea.

The scrubbing attracted a young seal which, of course, I wailed to. Every time I looked toward it, it dived… and reappeared silently… watching. Unfortunately, it didn’t rescue the bucket which I suspect may be near the Bass by now.

Bass Rock – The news this week highlighted the importance of the ongoing research. It has been well reported. Landing with the BBC the mortality of many gugas is now evident but, on another stunning day, the Rock was still a hub of activity and hopefully will be for another few weeks. It is wonderful to see so many gugas in flight now. A call from the Midlands about one found wandering in a field does highlight how easy it is for them to set the wrong course! A good feed and hopefully it will be transported to the coast to continue its journey.

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