Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Claudia
Heart breaking dramas unfolded this week as we had to watch our little seal pups struggling with high tides and massive waves. Storm Abigail and Barney did challenge the survival of several pups. On Friday we counted 18 live pups but also three dead ones. And we had do watch how a small one-week old pup was nearly getting washed off as it couldn’t make it up the rocks on Craigleith in time. Unfortunately we lost the camera signal just when he was trying to make it up another rock with help from his mum and so we do not know if it has survived. On the Isle of May all the pups were huddled on the top edge of Pilgrims Haven but all the beaches further along were completely covered and awash with massive waves. Some of the waves brought gushes over our cliff camera, which is about 10m up!
On the next day on low tide we found a young seal pup (but already without white fur) laying above the ladders of the north landing on the Bass Rock. It must have got up there on high tide.
As expected after this stormy weekend on Sunday, Maggie found a seal pup near the Centre, which was picked up later. On Wednesday we spotted a mum with pup at the wall up on the Isle of May. These two should be safe from being washed away!
We do spot the peregrines now nearly every morning before opening and just before closing. Wonderful sightings of Father and daughter peregrine on Fidra and our second pair was spotted grooming throughout the day on Sunday on Craigleith.
On Monday we had the unusual sight of a cuckoo ray being washed up on Yellocraig rocks on Milsey Bay (East Bay). Staying fishy, our fish tank is doing well. In the tidal tank we find new baby sea anemones and, in our big tank, our little shark grows rapidly.
Wildlife – Maggie Sheddan
Seal pup – The first call out of the season came after crashing waves swept along the front of Craigleith washing off at least one, possible more of the pups that play on the low rocks.
We had been out a few days earlier to Fidra mallow mashing and passed by the island on the way home. Four were close to the water’s edge, two of them quite young. With big tides due and the remnants of ‘Abigale’ hitting us, it was expected and there would be little hope for any washed off as they would drown or be carried out to sea, a fairly hopeless scenario.
I was down at the Centre early Sunday (it was dark) I could hear the waves crashing on to the east beach. It had changed direction overnight and I think that was the saviour for the feisty fattie pup that was spotted by Nigel early morning on the rocks below the centre. Down I came armed with the basic kit, although we don’t have a seal bag or cage. I’d established it was a white coat (therefore it required care) and I’d called the SSPCA. Most pups I have rescued or checked out have been wee, pathetic, helpless and exhausted, often quite young.
Approaching it from behind (so I would block its path back to the sea) it turned on me growling, snorting, snapping …yes nice sharp teeth and a very grumpy attitude. This was one healthy fat pup that so deserved to live. Nothing wrong with it, other than it was still white therefore, if it went back to sea, it would be certain death or he would appear somewhere else but more weakened. I was not going to let him go back, which resulted in him slithering (with ease), me stumbling and slipping for about half an hour as I tried to block his route. A member of the public did offer help and I managed to grab grump’s hind flippers to pull him onto a tarpaulin.. He was strong! And he started biting and fighting. I deemed it too dangerous and, until a cage or bag arrived, it was better just to contain him. Lewis did give me a black bin which grumps proceeded to attack. Nice sharp teeth!
I managed to stop him in a dip of rocks with the black bin acting now as a shield as he snorted and growled and spat …Establishing it was to be another hour before help arrived, the best I could do was to calm him, so I sang him a seal lullaby, as you do (lots of melodic OOOOOoos ) and he fell asleep until help arrived and we ‘bagged’ him within a couple of minutes. We did get odd looks as this bright yellow seal bag (with pup snorting away) was doing rolly pollies on the pavement as we opened the van to clear space. Now ‘Grumps’ is doing well with Colin Seddon and team up at Fishcross.