Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sun, Sea and Cetaceans

Hi all, James here. It's been quite sometime since we  updated the blog (we've all been incredibly busy) so I thought I'd take some time to discuss how I'm getting on in my role as "assistant ranger" and more importantly how our seabirds and other species are faring so far this summer.

I'm currently in my third month on the reserve and quite frankly I'm having the time of my life! St Abb's Head truly is an amazing place and no two days are ever the same. I've been made extremely welcome during my time on the reserve and am extremely grateful to the National Trust for Scotland and the St Abb's Head team for the opportunity presented to me. Like I said before no two days are the same at St Abb's Head and thus far I've been presented with some of my greatest wildlife encounters to date, both in and out of work hours with some of the highlights being minke whales, bottlenose dolphins, badgers and a stunning red kite (only the second record for the reserve). The recurring nature of my current role means this position will hopefully be available for many years into the future so to anyone looking to volunteer I'd offer nothing but encouragement! It really is worth it!

As many of you may know a large part of my work at St. Abb's Head was centred around assessing the productivity of breeding razorbills and guillemots on the cliffs here, the latter of which had never been done before! Well the data is collected, the reports have begun and the auks have left the cliffs on mass with their chicks in tow! Though I'm sad to see them go after spending so much time studying them over the past months initial evidence from my surveys points towards a successful year for both species with razorbills faring much better than at the time of the last survey in 2008. As for the guillies, we have little to compare the results to but with around fifty percent of chicks fledging it appears the species as a whole has fared well.

Our auks may have left but there is still lots to see here at St Abb's Head with many of our other breeding seabird species still in the process of rearing chicks. A visit during July/August may produce views of kittiwakes, fulmars and shags, all of which still are still feeding chicks. True to the nature of the season it is the passage seabirds that are the real avian highlight of the summer though to date no rarities have been sighted from the reserve. The common species are present however with a glance out to sea potentially turning up manx shearwater, common scoter, sandwich tern and both great and pomarine skua, all of which have been noted of late. Of course there is more to see than just birds and the summer season is perhaps the best time of year to spot some of cetacean species with minke whale, bottlenose dolphin and harbour porpoise all sighted from St Abb's Head recently alongside a few grey seals. If you're extra lucky you may even turn up the years first risso's or white-beaked dolphin, or perhaps even an orca! Just remember to keep us rangers up to date if you do ;-)

Fulmar enjoying the sun on the Black Gable

Yellowhammer looking extra radiant in the sun!

Plenty of Small Copper about at the moment, can you spot one?

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