Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Claudia
With all our cameras working we spotted a variety of wildlife this week. On Fidra our lovely fulmars are still looking gorgeous and the peregrine falcon makes a regular appearance.
But most of the wildlife comes out in the evening. In the late afternoons we spot shags and cormorants on Craigleith, eiders in Dunbar, greylag geese on Fidra and even some seals were hauling out yesterday on Craigleith! Of course we’re still looking out for gannets. Who will spot them first on the Bass Rock?
In the fish tank we added half a bucket of periwinkles to keep our glass clean and to provide food for the starfish, which are in a feeding frenzy! Now all we have to do is unpluck them from behind the tank, as they are crawling all over the place…
Gannets: Maggie Sheddan
In previous years we have usually seen them around from around the week of 23 January and indeed several were spotted off Belhaven during that week. They were also seen further south near Bempton and the Farnes. They are out there! When will they land? Keep an eye on the North side of the island. If you see them flying around it’s probable they will come in to reclaim their territory although they don’t stay for long. The first areas are down by the foghorn and it’s worth spending a little time on the scope deck to check the east cliffs.
Landing on the Bass a couple of weeks ago, you can’t help but smile as the chuckling sound of over 70 fulmars filled the air as they socialized and swooped overhead, several sitting on new sites. It will be interesting to see if some eventually settle at these sites. However, unlocking the gate and walking up the garbage-strewn steps, the rock had that desolate, abandoned feel. As is still the norm, the lower paths had significant landslides. Where normally the railing is waist high, it was now knee high. The pathway toward the lighthouse was putrid as you sank ankle deep into the mud intermingled with carcasses of gannets washed down by the heavy rain and winds of recent months. I dismantled the ramps but left one as it does aid the adults that at times find themselves trapped down by the lighthouse. Venturing up beyond the chapel looking down on the ‘moonscape’ of rows of evenly spaced craters, that in itself is an impressive vision. For anyone that doesn’t know the rock, it’s hard to imagine that within three months a sea of white will cover the muddied ground. Every ‘crater’ will hold a pair of gannets, displaying, territorial disputes, egg laying and as much a part of the activity is the unmistakable ‘eau de gannet’ that will fill the air and the season will be well and truly underway.
Rock pipits darted around but something caught my eye by the chapel. Determined to be seen a calling wren flitted from the wall of the chapel to the elder bush, back and forward. It was unusual to see it in such an exposed location, but it was a calm day. Heading down to do some path clearing I spotted a black bird and a robin which was lovely as I haven’t seen them on the rock for some time now. A pied wagtail busy feeding in front of the light house and a house sparrow. A House Sparrow! I must confess it was unusual.
At the SOC discussion group last night we had a round-the-table where sightings of the month are flagged up. With such a dreadful weather recently, much of the talk was around last weekend’s RSPB’s “Big Garden Bird Watch” where tree creepers were seen by several, siskin, greenfinch, nuthatch, along with all the regular garden birds you would expect. I seldom have much to contribute but thought I’d mention the Bass sightings. Ears pricked up when I mentioned the house sparrow. The last recorded sighting of one on the Bass was 1992! I can only imagine with the serious gales we had been experiencing prior to that day that perhaps it has been blown in. So, the ‘house sparrow’ was the sighting of the night!
Rocky Shore Count (WeBs) the annual shore count for waders and sea ducks took place in January. The results were being discussed last night. Over 2,000 velvet scoter were seen off Gullane point. Red throated divers were also seen but it was perfect conditions that day for spotting them on the sea. My section from the harbour to Canty Bay was very busy with people as it was a beautiful morning, so wader spotting was a challenge. I did find some of the turnstone and purple sandpipers and I was pleased to spot the 14 or so ringed plover usually seen at the far end of the east beach or in the next bay near Daisy Island. I also saw a grey wagtail and a stone chat along that way. What did come out of this was the drop in waders. Not one knot nor sanderling was seen and it was noted that oystercatchers’ numbers are also down quite significantly. These trends are noted so a watch is kept. Sometime there are seasonal reason for drops in numbers but if it continues it is an alert that something more significant is happening.
Little Auk sightings have now passed but on occasion kittiwakes are being seen. The Scope Deck is the place to be!