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  • A Far North Naturalist

Eagle ahoy!

I made two visits to the seabird cliff this week, on consecutive days. On the first, on 24th April, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Shags were present as usual, but auks completely absent. Now, they visit in cycles, every 3-5 days, and numbers of these birds probably increase as the evening approaches. I was there in the early afternoon. Once egg-laying commences, they'll remain ashore -- at least the incubating bird will!

On the 25th, there were hundreds of Razorbills and a handful of Puffins and Guillemots. Some Razorbills were ashore, but most were in rafts on the water. The sea was quite rough and they were bobbing up and down constantly! I’d say that today, the 26th, would’ve seen them return in large numbers, but I couldn’t be there.

So, yesterday, the highlights were as follows:

It seems that the seabird population is being preyed upon by at least one White-tailed Sea Eagle. I was alerted to the presence of a predator by the alarm calls of the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls at their sea-stack nest site. Suddenly thousands of Kittiwakes took to the air in a panic and I immediately saw the reason for their concern: an adult eagle was hurtling towards the largest cliff, where it attempted to grab one of the fleeing Kittiwakes! It failed and was quickly caught up by the GBBGs that proceeded to harass it and drive it offshore. However, it returned a few minutes later and made a second pass, unfortunately out of my view. I then heard a Raven cronking and watched it chase the eagle away. That was quite something! I have no doubt that it'll be a regular visitor in search of a seabird meal!

Shags were busy collecting nest material, which entailed, for at least one bird, landing on near-vertical vegetated cliff-slopes and grabbing a beak full of grass! Fulmars were busy on their nest-ledges, with lots of noisy chatter. Mnay were, as usual, enjoying soaring the length of the coast and back again!

There are more and more Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) plants in flower. The little pink and white tubular bells are most beautiful. As the weeks go by, the predominantly brown colour will be transformed to greens as cotton-grasses and deer-grass sprout fully.

Finally, it was fun watching showers roll in from a distance. They consisted of tiny balls of hail when they hit. It made for quite a spectacle. Do have a look at the video on my Facebook page!

Join me sometime for some spectacular viewing and allow me to interpret the behaviours that you’re seeing at the seabird city. Sitting on the clifftop and watc te excitement unfold is very rewarding!

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