Wildlife sightings 7 December 2017

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Mal & Helen

With the nicer weather at the start of the week, we managed to do a seal count on Craigleith. So our last count was 6 cows, 5 young pups and 6 older pups. With some cows in and around the water line. From the Isle of May cameras today we counted 8 pups, 3 older ones moulting and 7 Mums.  No bulls visible today, but we have seen one relaxing on the beach recently.

All quiet on the Bass Rock now the gannets have gone. The shags and cormorants are still around on Fidra and Isle of May – a few shags already sporting their crests. Our peregrine on Fidra was struggling to eat lunch in the wind – little feathers were flying everywhere!

Our main focus is on the new ‘Poles Apart’ exhibition, dominated by our life-size cardboard polar bear!  We also have a penguin cut-out and plenty of opportunities for Christmas photos with the animals.

To keep up-to-date with the webcam action, click HERE.


Wildlife sightings 30 November 2017

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex and Helen

Grey seals and their pups are still our main focus in the DC, with polar bears and penguins not too far behind (!) with our ‘Poles Apart’ winter exhibition set to start in the coming days. The pups on the Isle of May are doing well spending most of their time scratching away their moulting fur and exploring the beach now that their mothers have headed out to sea. We have been struggling to view the colony on the Craigleith cameras due to lack of winter light and weather. However, when they do come on we can see how the seals and the pups are doing and thankfully they look like a large number of pups have been born this year and are developing well. The colony hasn’t produced the same number of pups as 2016 but last year was a very unusual season for pup numbers on Craigleith.

We’ve said goodbye to the gannets on Bass Rock, with our last guga being seen this past Tuesday. The barren rocks are now home to just a few passing rock pipits and wagtails, with the occasional shag, cormorant and seal putting in an appearance.

Eiders are still visiting Dunbar harbour at lunchtimes and we’ve seen the peregrine having lunch on one of her usual spots!

To keep up-to-date with the webcam action, click HERE.

Wildlife sightings 23 November 2017

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex

We have noticed a slight drop in the number of seals currently on Isle of May though this is likely due to the mothers now weaning their pups and beginning to make their way back out to open water following mating. There are still plenty of pups to see on the beach on the May camera with many having already moulted but there are still a few smaller and leaner pups. Unfortunately these latter pups may have been abandoned so we hope that any mothers that are still currently on the beach will adopt them or provide them with milk to build up their blubber and fat reserves.

We still have a handful of gugas left on the Bass Rock and thankfully they are still getting visits and feeds from dad. They have been flapping their wings so it may only be a few more days until they head off for West Africa. Today Isobel, Jenny and I watched our young female peregrine on Fidra tuck into her breakfast which what appeared to be a blackbird, so quite a light breakfast! Some of our regular morning members were able to watch her feed too before she flew off. We continue to see our peregrines, often both at the same time on some mornings, which provides us with some wildlife to show our visitors.

To keep up-to-date with the webcam action, click HERE.

Wildlife sightings 16 November 2017

211117 la isle of may

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Helen

Seal season is in full swing with masses of pups on Craigleith and Isle of May.  Some of the first pups will have left and headed out to sea to fend for themselves. There are lots of chubby pups – like a haggis with flippers, someone told us!

We still have a few gannets left on Bass Rock. The chicks have almost shed their white fluffy down so it won’t be long before they’re off.  The parents are still coming back a few times a day to feed them, but when left alone the chicks wander about and practise flying by flapping their huge wings.

We’re still seeing gulls, shags and peregrines.  And there are smaller birds, like pipits and wagtails foraging amongst the rocks.

To keep up-to-date with the webcam action, click HERE.

Wildlife sightings 9 November 2017

211117 la isle of may 2

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Erin

Seal pup numbers have continued to grow this past week with over 30 pups now on Craigleith. One of the eldest has already begun to moult, indicating that it is around three weeks old. We have watched some of the older pups on the May taking to the water for the first time. Getting caught on the incoming tide can be fatal for pups who don’t yet carry enough blubber, however as the larger pups are better insulated, they’re able to handle a little swim.

The remaining gugas continue to do well and are still being fed several times a day. As older gugas continue to fledge, we have seen several wandering around looking a little confused as to why all the space has opened up and where everyone else has gone, they’re trying to find their way to the cliff edge.

The peregrines continue to be seen on Fidra, sometimes two at the same time but on different ledges. The individuals we are seeing at the moment look different to our regular peregrines though the young female peregrine still makes appearances on her usual cliff ledges.

Keep up-to-date with the wildlife action on our webcams – click HERE. 

Wildlife sightings 2 November 2017

Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Erin

Seal season continues with over 60 pups having now been born around our cameras on the May. Some of the eldest pups (around 3 weeks) have already began to moult, leaving tufts of their old white fluffy pelt blowing across the beach. Pups are first white in colour as traditionally they would have been born on ice. Although that isn’t the case today, the pups in the Forth have very few predators and therefore camouflage isn’t as necessary. The Craigleith colony continues to do well with 14 pups being spotted on our last camera count. No more live births, however some of the newer pups have continued to be named by visitors such as “Postman Pat” who we welcomed into the world last Friday.

A handful of gugas remain on the Bass and we continue to see juveniles fledging daily. There are still one or two chicks who have a few weeks longer to wait, but if they continue to be fed by their parents they should make it to fledge. Both a male and female peregrine were spotted on Fidra sitting very close to one another, this was a point of interest for visitors as it allowed them to really see the distinctive differences such as size and colour between the two.

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

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).