Wildlife Sightings 30 September

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More and more grey seals are arriving back to our respective colonies on Isle of May and Craigleith. Still too early for the first pup to be seen on camera (4th October going off the past two years on the May!) though two pups have already been born on the May with the oldest now approaching two weeks old. One or two bulls have been seen around the May cameras but the majority are returning females, some of which look heavily pregnant which is a good sign. At the moment, you are likely to see the seals in the water ‘bottling’/sleeping or resting on the lower shore line of either the May or Craigleith.

There are still several gugas with dense white down so these will likely be our late leavers on the Bass Rock, though there are signs of the rock thinning out and this can even be seen from the centre. We have been seeing some great fledging behaviour of some of the older chicks jumping from the lighthouse courtyard and roof to the delight of patiently waiting visitors, staff and volunteers.

Shags, cormorants and peregrines can still be seen on the lower areas of the islands with the latter making a few appearances on Craigleith in recent weeks. Waders are now becoming more prominent with redshanks, turnstones and oystercatchers foraging around the rockpools at low tide and the unmistakable call of the oystercatcher can be heard overhead.

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Wildlife Sightings 16 September

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The gannets continue to be the main show!  You really get a sense of their huge wingspan seeing the gugas practising for their first flight.  And the air is full of down as they shed their baby fluff and grow the brown speckly juvenile feathers.  There are several stuck by the lighthouse, one half way up the ramp but it hasn’t worked out what to do next!  We’ve a lovely view of a much smaller chick on camera – here’s hoping he fledges before the weather gets too bad.

The shags are still around in numbers – gathered on the shoreline, preening after a hard day’s fishing. Our fulmar chicks are no longer in view so it would seem they’ve headed off to sea. Today we had a group of young eider ducks in Dunbar harbour.

There are quite a lot of grey seals milling around Dunbar and the Isle of May lately. They are not breeding anywhere that our cameras can see however there has been a pup born on the Isle of May this week! It won’t be long until the island is covered in seals as around 3500 come on land to breed in the next few weeks.

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Wildlife Sightings 31 August

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Still a quiet week for us as we await our seals. The good news is that the dolphins have been out in force and have been seen almost every day this week. There is still a dolphin ID campaign running so we urge anyone with good quality photographs to send them to us so that we can work with marine agencies to create a ID chart. Our boat team were also lucky to see a minke whale this week, a very rare visitor.

Our gannets are still doing well with the first few starting to fledge this week. It is still a difficult period for them as they are unable to fly and forage initially and so are at risk of being washed ashore during bad weather. We’ve already had two juveniles rescued and are likely to find more in the coming weeks.

The peregrine falcons on Fidra have been out this week with both females being seen which is encouraging as we had thought one had left us for good. There are both still young so as they age they may compete for the island and one will likely be forced to leave.

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Wildlife Sightings 24 August 2017

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Well our oldest gannet has almost reached fledging age but is still hanging on. We have yet to see any gannets fledge yet despite seeing a huge amount of fledging behaviour such as chicks stretching their wings and flapping on the nest.

Erin from the DC team was lucky enough to spot a pod of porpoise just off Fidra a few days ago. This marks the only time that porpoise have ever been seen on camera. Fidra has also been providing views of our peregrines this week, with the young female being seen with a kill at the weekend.

Craigleith has a huge number of shags which we are watching intently as part of a new campaign to record find ringed shags and record the code and colour of the ring. This is being done to help scientists track the behaviour of shags around the country. We also had a grey seal in amongst the shag colony, sunbathing on the rocks for most of yesterday morning.

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Wildlife Sightings 17 August 2017

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It is hard to believe but we are already at the end of the season. Only our gannets remain, huddled up on the Bass Rock with their large fluffy chicks. In a couple more weeks we will get to seem them fledge and begin life in the sea but this week we had another sighting that took the focus away from the gannets.

Last weekend, on the far side of the Bass Rock,  our boat team saw a minke whale. This whale has been seen in the forth over the last few weeks but is an excpetionally rare animal to spot. The whale was only a few metres from the boat and seemed perfectly content. The Firth of Forth is very shallow and generally unsuitable for whales. It is possible though that a single whale could live here but it is likely it will eventually make it’s way back out to sea.

Elsewhere we are continuing to see more and more of our peregrine falcons who are returning to Fidra more regulalry now that the seabirds are leaving. We have seen 3 different ones on the island, our original two have been joined by another juvenile female who we do not know much about.

The good news is we don’t have long to go until our grey seals arrive and start to breed!

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Wildlife Sightings 10 August 2017

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There is less action now as the season draws to a close. The last of our kittiwakes are lingering on the Isle of May, Fidra and Dunbar with a few juveniles still being seen.

Our fulmars on Fidra and the Isle of May are still doing well, the chicks are getting quite large but still fairly elusive, tending to hide away out of view from our cameras. We have not seen any puffins on the islands over the last few days but a few have been seen from our boat trips.

Our gannets are still flourishing with a vast number being seen diving all along the coastline this morning. It is very unusual to see them so close to the shore and in such huge numbers, stretching from the East beach all the way to Fidra. We have switched our Bass Rock cameras over in the Discovery Centre again and have managed to find some older chicks higher up the island. It is tricky to accurately age a chick but they appear to be around 8-9 weeks old and are beginning to gain their dark adult feathers. Typically it is around 13 weeks before they fledge.

A few lucky passengers managed to spot dolphins at the weekend. The morning boat trips saw them coming up from Tantallon and the later trips followed them from Lamb to Fidra. They were easily visible from the telescope deck on Saturday and Sunday. There is now an effort being made to identify the dolphins so we encourage anyone with photos to send them in so a ID catalogue can be made and we can work out where they go when they are not here.

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Wildlife Sightings 3 August

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Well things are starting to quieten down now after a busy period.

Our puffins have been leaving this week and there are few, if any, left now. The majority will now be out in the Atlantic for the rest of the year before coming back here to breed next year. It won’t be long until researchers publish the details of puffin populations for this year but given some of the poor summer weather we’ve had the results are not expected to be particularly good this year.

The last of the kittiwakes are nearly gone too with just a few large juveniles left. The rock stacks around the Isle of May are now completely deserted of razorbills and guillemots. Even our shags are mostly away with only a few left.

On Craigleith we still have a lot of juvenile cormorants who appear to have formed a large social group. The sunshine is still resulting in a few grey seals hauling out to sunbathe on the shoreline which is always good to see.

Fidra doesn’t have many seabirds left so our peregrines are once again becoming easy to spot now that most of their favourite perches are empty. There are still a few fulmars  around that the peregrines are wary of as they are very territorial and protective of their chicks. Hopefully we will continue to see the peregrines through winter as we did last year.

The gannets of course are still here on the Bass Rock. Our largest chick is now around 8 weeks old and so will be here for around a month before leaving. It won’t be long now until staff head out to the island to put up some ramps around the lighthouse to stop the guga’s, (young gannets) getting stuck in the walled courtyard which they sometimes do. Even once they have fledged they will stay in the area for a week or two so we still have a few months more to watch our gannets.

The good news is that we have had dolphins sighted twice this week and there has even been a minke whale spotted from the Isle of May lately so do keep an eye out if you go on one of our boat trips!

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