Wildlife sightings 18 December 2015

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

This week saw the return of the fulmars on Fidra north camera. George, one of our volunteers, spotted them in their little shelters and many of them were billing as part of their courtship. He also spotted greylag geese on Fidra around the lighthouse and discovered that among them were white-fronted geese. This particular species does not breed in the UK and falls under red status with the RSPB. There are two races of white-fronted geese, Siberian with pink bills and Greenland with orange bills. The geese we saw on Fidra were the latter and continue to be spotted on our Fidra cameras.

The peregrine falcons have also been appearing frequently over the past two weeks on Fidra and last week, Wednesday 9 December, they were displaying some unusual but interesting behaviour that has not been seen live on our cameras before. This particular behaviour is known as food-caching, a behaviour and process that many hibernating animals use in order to hoard and store food for winter. Many birds of prey also exhibit this behaviour but this is the first time it has been seen on our cameras.

The male peregrine had caught a guillemot and proceeded to hide the carcass under a small tree mallow stand. It was scared away later by gulls which allowed a great black backed gull to steal the carcass. However around midday the female juvenile peregrine, daughter of the male, was spotted taking the guillemot carcass away and hiding it under another area of tree mallow just under the camera. An hour later the male returned to its original hiding spot to discover that the carcass had gone. After a few moments of searching he found it under the new hiding place and proceeded to feed, all the while the daughter watched from the step ledges opposite. Perhaps a nice festive gesture from daughter to father!

There are still a few pups left on the Isle of May and Craigleith respectively. Many of the seal pups on the May have headed out to sea now but there are still a few sheltering up the slope near the wall and pipe.

Today’s count (16 December) by Sarah, one of our volunteers, recorded four pups who still have their white creamy fur and seven moulted pups. Due to the poor light we are unable to give an accurate count of the seals that are left on Craigleith but we can still see a few via the Scope Deck. Pilgrim’s Haven has seen some extremely poor weather recently and this has resulted in a lot of debris and litter being pushed onto the beach. There is of course the usual football that the pups play with, however there is a large amount of plastic, too. As far as we can tell, none of the pups have got themselves into difficulty with the debris and have only been struggling with the elements.

The tidal tank got a small upgrade at the weekend with the installation of a wave generator. Although it does not create an emphatic wave it does allow strong movement in the tank that is beneficial to all the creatures as it aids aeration. It is also beneficial to the anemones allowing their tentacles to move with the current just as they would in the rockpools outside. Time will tell if and what animals move closer to the generator and which gradually move away from the current.

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