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
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).