Wildlife sightings 26 October 2017

301017 la isle of may

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

Seal season is well and truly here with 38 pups born since the 2 October. Some of the older pups have now begun moulting and are likely being weaned off their mother’s milk over the next few days before parting ways. A few adult males have made their presence known on the beach but it is too early for mating just yet. The grey seals on Craigleith have also started their pup season and there are now 4 pups on the island.

We had a very busy Pirate Weekend and on both days some visitors were very lucky to witness a live birth on cameras, a first of course for many of them as well as our Discovery Centre team. The live birth on Saturday could prove to be a twin, although we are awaiting information from the Isle of May staff and seal researchers that are out there now.

There are still a few gugas left on the Bass Rock with their white fluff still present but otherwise the Bass is now nearly empty. The peregrines continue to be seen on Fidra along with shags and the odd cormorant too. We have started seeing an influx of waders over the past few days with curlews now appearing on the islands along with redshank and turnstone numbers increasing here along our shores at low tide.

Keep up-to-date with the wildlife action with our webcams.

Updates – Maggie Sheddan

Bass Rock
When the stormy weather kicks in true to form, the gannets leave.  With only a few late breeders it can be interesting to observe the adult attendance and the feeding regime. Do the adults stay with them throughout the day or are they only returning to feed. The famous ‘home alone Maximus’ although the parents were not in attendance they were fairly consistent in their twice daily feeding times. That can engage visitors to alert the Discovery Centre team if they see adults returning to feed. Do they wander far from their site, or have the parents abandoned them as eventually happened with ‘Maximus’. They  were dedicated until the real winter blizzard came and the rest is history. Big news then. I often wonder if he joined a southern colony, given he was flown to the south coast in HMS Gannet.

Recoveries on 2 young, ringed and released on the Bass on the 9 September: one found in the north east of Scotland (2 weeks later) the other, on a beach on Northern France (survived 3-4 weeks.)  All the birds released that day were a good weight but the storms that month may have proved too much. However, to have these recoveries is so interesting and underlines the value of the ringing programme now undertaken on the Bass.

The SOC conference & Bryan Nelson Memorial Lecture ‘Avian migration has been a topic of interest since the days of Aristotle’ (from the SOC conference introduction)

Last weekend brought fascinating insights and with that, thought provoking issues into the world of migration, ringing and tracking.  From the flight of Bewick swans to the Arctic tern. Osprey tracking  with Roy Dennis. Cuckoo, swift, wheatear migration to wintering sanderling. With just a slight bias toward seabirds, the talk on seabird tracking and marine conservation was absorbing, highlighting the differences between colonies. Some breeding birds are having to travel some distance to find food. For others food is readily available close by resulting in higher productivity.

We have tracking happening on our doorstep at the Bass with Leeds and Glasgow Universities.

A first this year with the deployment, (pre-breeding,) of a few loggers on study birds, and deployment again, once the chick is hatched highlighting the differences that breeding imposes  with their foraging patterns. Glasgow deployed loggers on immatures (2/3 year old) and the information is fascinating not only from the foraging aspect but seeing which gannetries they visit.

This demonstrates just how much technology has helped with our knowledge, but importantly when you start to join up all these localised studies you build a picture of the richer foraging areas and as important, if not more so, areas that for whatever reason are becoming barren. From these findings, as those that attended last night’s fascinating talk from Professor John Croxall heard, it is wonderful that we have MPA but, as he suggested, perhaps a wider view is required in finding a way of working and managing the seas together, with industries, fishing, and conservation that will benefit all. The oceans really don’t have boundaries.

Tracking, ringing, technology has opened up the world where once it was filled with mystery and myths surrounding migration “In medieval times swallows spent the winter asleep in the mud at the bottom of ponds. Cuckoos became Sparrow hawks and Storks hibernated” (from the SOC conference introduction).  


Wildlife sightings 22 October


Seal season is in full swing! We spotted seals on Craigleith on Tuesday, so we could be seeing pups there soon.  On the Isle of May there are at least 23 pups, and loads of mums-to-be.  We’ve got live sound as well as pictures, so we can hear them singing over the swooshing of the waves – very evocative!

On the Bass Rock, we’ve noticed the fine weather last weekend (remember that?) encouraged many of the adult gannets to head off so it’s noticeably quieter this week.  The last few gannet chicks continue to grow though, some left alone now as Mum and Dad both need to fish.  We’ve been watching one guga busily preening out his white fluffy down to reveal his brown flight feathers, but he’s still at the ‘parliament goose’ stage – perhaps he can’t reach his head!

There are shags by the hundred on Craigleith and Fidra, and our peregrines are making regular appearances on Fidra.

Keep up-to-date with the wildlife action with our webcams.

Wildlife Sightings 12 October


Seal season progresses on the Isle of May.  We now have 8 pups on the beach, sadly, we lost a ninth yesterday.  There are still loads more cows resting on the beach and wallowing in the shallows so it’s going to get busy!  Alex has fixed the Craigleith camera, but no sign of pups there yet – it’s always a few weeks behind the Isle of May.

Adult gannets are still much in evidence on Bass Rock.  It’s getting harder to find a guga though as they are setting off to sea.  Our youngest chick is getting more brown feathers.  It’s doing well and has spent the morning begging for food!

We’ve had several sightings of the peregrines, and the guillemots have reappeared early mornings on the Isle of May.

Keep up-to-date with the wildlife action with our webcams.

Wildlife Sightings 7 October


Seal season has begun!  We have four grey seal pups on the Isle of May cameras.  The first two were born on Monday 2 October (two days earlier than last year) and followed by another two on Tuesday.  They are already growing fast and finding their way around the beach.  Many mums-to-be are gathered on the beach today waiting their turn, and even more just in the shallows.

The gannets are thinning out on Bass Rock, but there are still several ‘parliament geese’ with the strip of downy feathers along their necks.  We’ve been watching one young chick for the last few weeks – its white down is just giving way to a few brown tips on wings and tail.  Still a while before it will be ready to go.

The peregrine has been spotted having lunch on Fidra – a gory, feathery affair that delighted the visitors!  Dolphins are still putting in appearances now and then, and the ever-present shags are gathering in the late afternoons for a post-fishing preen!

Keep up-to-date with the wildlife action with our webcams.