Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Scott & Helen
This week seen a bit of a decline in the number of seal pups being born as the birthing season draws to a close. We still have a few young seals but many of our pups have grown hugely and are now beginning to moult their fluffy white coat (called “lanugo”), revealing their smooth grey coat beneath. Several bulls have also been seen on the beach and in the shallows.
On Fidra we are still catching glimpses of our peregrine pair, and sometimes we’ve spotted a few guillemots on the Isle of May early in the morning. A party of eider ducks visits Dunbar harbour most days. Waders abound, particularly on the beach outside the centre, including oystercatchers, redshanks and turnstones.
Control the cameras in the Discovery Centre or zoom in from home/ on the move by clicking HERE.
The weekly wildlife sightings from the Discovery Centre team
Isle of May seals
The Isle of May is now full of grey seals and pups! We think at least 63 have been born at Pilgrim’s Haven, though there will probably have been more that we just can’t see or unfortunately haven’t made it. A lot of the pups have begun to moult and we are noticing a drop in the number of females that are on the beach. Some of these have probably weaned their pups off milk and have either mated already with their bull or are waiting for their bull to arrive on the beach. Some of the seals have also started their small adventure up the slope towards the pipe and wall. This occurs every year (both pups and adults) and can be seen on the cameras.
Craigleith has been a bit more difficult to record and monitor the seal pup count due to power difficulties. A landing survey was carried out on Sunday and Sarah from the Discovery Centre team was part of the counting team. They counted 45 pups, and some have begun the process of moulting. This shows that although we see many via our cameras, it is difficult to get the full number without landing on the island itself.
We have been seeing a female grey seal quite close to the shore over the past couple of days and on Monday she was spotted right next to the Centre and even swimming in and out of the boating pond. Thankfully, she headed back out as the tide went out and didn’t get stuck!
Fidra has seen a few greylag geese return as well as lots of eiders on the water. The peregrines continue to make an appearance on the cliff ledges and on Sunday they were seen from the boat chasing the ducks and winter waders. On this occasion both a female and male were spotted, though difficult to tell if the female was an adult or the young juvenile.
Check out the cameras on the Seabird Centre website – click HERE.
Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Scott
We’ve seen one or two late fledging gugas on the Bass Rock this week but other than them, the island is almost entirely empty. Fidra is equally quiet but we are still seeing our peregrines and can focus on them more often now that most of the seabirds have left the island.
Around the Centre we have lots of winter waders, mainly oystercatchers and turnstones, who can be seen paddling in the rockpools and searching through seaweed on the beach. There should be a few more species arriving in the coming weeks.
Craigleith and the Isle of May are both still heavily populated with seals. We are finding it difficult to count the pups now that they have become a bit more active (they’re faster than they look!) but we think there are about 25 pups on Craigleith and about 65 on the Isle of May. We’ve seen a few males around as well and so we expect the breeding season to begin shortly, with the males fiercely battling for the right to mate. There have been a few seals visible from our telescope deck around Craigleith and it has been nice to see them in real life as well as on the cameras. As the season progresses we are likely to see more and more in the seas around the centre so there will be plenty to look at for the weeks to come.
Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex
We are approaching that time of year when the islands begin to quieten, but there is still lots of interesting activity until then. The grey seals on the Isle of May and Craigleith are doing very well despite the turbulent weather of the past month. There have now been over 65 pups born on the May and ten on Craigleith. Many of the older pups on the May are now beginning to moult and separate from their mothers. Still too early for that on Craigleith but we will soon see many of the pups moult and explore their surroundings. Still no sign of mating behaviour between the females and their corresponding bulls though.
There are still a few gannets left on Bass Rock and even two gugas left, still flapping their wings in preparation for their first flight. Fingers crossed these last remaining juveniles take flight soon. The peregrines continue to be seen on Fidra and even more so now on Craigleith too. On Sunday Scott spotted a sparrowhawk on Fidra cliff, on a ledge usually used by the peregrines. We don’t often see other terrestrial based birds of prey on the islands so this was an unusual sighting indeed.
Linnets were also spotted over the weekend on Craigleith with approximately ten individuals counted. Winter waders will soon be increasing in number both on the shore around the centre as well as on the islands themselves. Oystercatchers, redshanks and turnstones have been on the rocky shores and the East beach for a few months now but their numbers will begin to increase over the coming weeks. Waders like curlews have also been spotted on Fidra and Craigleith.
Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Sarah
The last of the Bass Rock gannets are stubbornly sitting on their nest sites – we have less than ten visible on our camera near the chapel. Seal season continues, with the Isle of May beach total reaching 39 pups. Craigleith’s first pup, on the 15 October, was actually the earliest birth in seven years! The pup is now nearly two weeks old and getting along very well. We named this first Craigleith seal pup ‘Ron’, which means ‘seal’ in Gaelic. Our first live birth on Craigleith was spotted yesterday by a visitor who named it Iggy (as in ‘Iggy Pup’). We now have 5 pups on Craigleith. We’re still looking out for our first live birth on the Isle of May…
One of the peregrine falcons has been making regular appearances both on Fidra and on Craigleith this week, taking full advantage of the gull’s winter migration to the Isle of May. The gulls will hang around on the May hoping to snack on the protein-rich afterbirth from the seals, so the peregrine falcon is able to expand its territory to Craigleith over the winter. As Craigleith is only 1km away from the centre, we have been able to spot the falcon from the telescope deck which has been fantastic!
Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Scott
It’s become very busy with seals this week. We currently have around 40 adult seals on the Isle of May along with 17 pups. Luckily the highest tide of the year coincided with light winds and so our seals pups made it through that ordeal quite safely. We are starting to lose track of our named pups but Pippa remains distinctive due to her dark face and is doing well and becoming quite big.
On Craigleith we have fewer seals but do have at least two pups, both of whom are very well hidden and safely tucked away in the tree mallow. Despite at least 19 births no one has yet seen a birth on our cameras so the prize remains unclaimed. There are still a great many seals on both islands to give birth so we still have a long way to go!
There are much fewer seabirds everywhere at the moment, with even the gannets thinning out significantly on the Bass Rock. Luckily our peregrines are still making regular appearances across the Bass Rock, Craigleith and Fidra so we still have lots to look at on camera.
Andrew’s wildlife club have also contributed to our fish tank and so we have a few new additions, the highlight being a particularly large (and slightly fierce) blenny.
Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex
Isle of May is the main focal point in the Discovery Centre at present with there being three seal pups currently on the beach. Mavis is doing very well and is getting bigger by the day, as is Pippa, our second seal pup. The third is yet to be named but once the beach starts to get busier and busier with pups it will be harder to keep track of the first pups anyway, at least until they begin to moult. At that time it may be that their names will have to be amended, as Pippa already is very dark suggesting that it will end up as Pippin instead.
Craigleith is becoming pretty busy with adult seals but still no pups yet. Cormorants and shags continue to preen and go on large hunting trips together in the shallows around the island before drying out on the beach. The seals don’t seem to mind their presence at the moment but this may change once the pups arrive.
Bass Rock is beginning to thin with many gugas now heading south to the African coast and many of the adults are also beginning to leave. It still remains white but we have noticed some darker patches appearing when viewing the Bass from the scope deck. There is still one rather white fluffy chick that is only beginning to moult now. This chick is likely to be one that the DC team keep an eye on to see how it develops and hope that it doesn’t leave it too late before heading off.
Fidra is rather quiet now with the exception of the peregrines and the odd curlew foraging amongst the rocks. The young female peregrine is probably appearing more than the adult male but with many of the cliff ledges being vacant we are likely to spot both of them more and more over the winter months.