Tuesday, 29 November 2016

After another hard day's work clearing gorse above the lighthouse road we were treated to these beautiful winter skies. Lizy

Monday, 28 November 2016

After finding a few more fresh Otter spraints on the spillway of the Mire dam we decided to see if we could catch a glimpse of this elusive but regular night visitor.  Leaving the trail camera out overnight rewarded us with this fantastic video!  Lizy

Friday, 25 November 2016

Today I have been out on our land at Lumsdaine filming a piece on the grey seal breeding colony for Border TV. We were incredibly lucky with the weather; its been a beautiful, sharp, frosty day, with lots of sun and not a breath of wind - perfect for filming! And the seals didn't disappoint, it was all going on - pups suckling, pups playing, females flirting with males, mating, fighting between females and fighting between males. Fantastic! Both Emma, the presenter, and Paul, the cameraman, were suitably impressed, and I think they will have got some stunning shots. The piece was for Border Life, which will be aired sometime in January - watch this space for a date nearer the time. Here's some shots to give you a flavour of the day. Liza.

Paul gets a wide angle shot of St Abb's Head from an unusual angle

Suckling and snoozing galore...

The dark animal in the centre of the picture is a male, he will hope to mate with as many female that he can on his stretch of beach, and defend his patch if threatened by other males.

This fairly new born pup (you can tell because its still pretty skinny) spent quite a lot of time following its neighbour (who is older an fatter) round in circles and biting its back flippers. A seal version of an ankle-biter perhaps?!

All life is here! Top right, a pup that has just about moulted all is white fluffy coat. Just below it is the body of a dead, fairly newly born seal - it may have been crushed by a bull by accident, or separated from its mother in last week's storms and starved to death. At the bottom of the picture there are two healthy looking white coated pups and a snoozing female. Centre stage are a pair mating - they couple up, and lie in this embrace for up to 45 minutes.

They just about got all the shots they wanted before they lost the light - this was Emma doing the last piece to camera.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

We had a phone call from a local today, who had come across a seal pup in the grass right near the coast path at Burnmouth Harbour, at the bottom of the Wuddy slope this morning. After the weather we have had the last few day, he was, understandably, concerned about its welfare. Myself and Ed went out to check on it - it was very alert to our presence, it looked quite fat, and had no signs of injury or disease. So we have left it be, and will keep a bit of an eye on it to ...see how thing pan out over the next few days. If it doesn't move on and starts to lose weight, then we will intervene.

Seal pups have cute faces, big, puppy-dog eyes and when they cry they sound like a human baby, so the temptation is to want to rescue them. However, lying about on beaches is what seal pups do. In the first three weeks of their life, when they are being fed by their mother, they do little else by lie about a feed. And then after that, when their mother leaves them to their own devices they then moult their white, fluffy coat (as the one is the pitcure is doing) and learn how to catch food. All quite exhausting, and somewaht bamboozling no doubt, and so no surprise that it involves quite a lot of lying about on beaches too! So, if you come across a seal pup - give it a wide berth so as not to stress it out (or ending up with you getting bitten), have a good look to see if it is looking skinny, if it has any injuries (they can get knocked about a bit in stormy seas), or any substance oozing out of its eyes or nose (which might indicate disease). If any of the above, call the SSPCA on 03000 999 999. If none of the above, then the best thing is to leave it be and enjoy watching from it afar.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

Yesterday we went out to carry out a grey seal pup count on our beaches up at Lumsdaine. The vast majority of them are on Lumsdaine Shore, pictured, and in order to count them, we take a series of photos and then count them back in the office. Smaller beaches we count out on site. I have not quite finished the count for Lumsdaine Shore yet...but I've got to over 450 pups in about 2/3 of the beach! Numbers have been steadily increasing over the last decade which is good news - the number of top predators is a great indication of the health of the wider environment. Lots of top predators means that there must be plenty for them to feed on.

We are right in the middle of the pupping season which means that there are pups at the two ends of the size spectrum on the shore. In the second photo, the one just below and to the left of the centre of the photo is about 3 weeks old. You can tell the age because it is beginning to moult its white coat. You can also see that its very rotund, their mother's milk has a huge fat content so a pup triples its weight in the 3 weeks that it feeds on its mother's milk. After this 3 week period, the mother deserts the pup and goes off to mate. The pup gets no more parental care, and has to learn to fend for itself, hence it need the large reserves of body fat to survive through this learning period. That's why you get so many pups aparently abandoned on beaches at this time of year.

The pup below the portly individual is at the other end of the spectrum - only a few days old, with plenty of growing yet to do.

If you fancy a walk, why not head out to the cliffs above Lumsdaine Shore with a pair of binoculars...its an amazing sight to behold, and noisy too! But please don't attempt to go down to the beach - its pretty inaccessible, and you will disturb the seals. If you want a closer look, here's a link to some footage taken down there by Trust staff last season.


Monday, 14 November 2016

We were setting up the siphon from the Mire Loch AGAIN this morning when we noticed this interesting lump of poo on the wall of the dam spillway. The location next to water, on top of a prominent feature, as well as the tiny fish bones and scales you can see inside the dropping tell us that this is an Otter spraint. If you're into advanced poo identification then you can also try smelling it! Otter spraint has a characteristically sweet scent, slightly like a hay meadow, while the similar Mink scat has a foul and very unpleasant odour. This is the third one we've found in recent weeks, which suggests that an otter is visiting us regularly at the moment. They are mostly nocturnal in this part of the world, so pretty difficult to spot, but keep your eyes peeled and you never know your luck! Lizy

Otter spraint

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

We had an exceptionally hard day's work with our volunteers today. Together me, Bill and Ed managed to shift over a ton of stone onto the path above Starney Bay, where it was starting to get a bit muddy. Thank you Bill and Ed for a morning of back-breaking (hopefully not literally!) work.  Lizy

Improvements to path above Starney Bay

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Another big thanks to our volunteers Bill, Ed, and Ernie who came out today to help with some more gorse bashing. Because it was too windy to have a fire we have put all of the gorse we've cut into white helicopter bags temporarily, until we are ready to burn it. Pictured are Ed, myself and Ernie with the results of a hard morning's labour. Lizy

Ed, Lizy and Ernie with bags of cut gorse