Return from the Isle of May and into 2017

Grey seal pup on the Isle of May, just over a week old (taken from a hide during a routine survey of the breeding colony)
A wild short eared owl on the Isle of May, caught for ringing by bird researchers on the island and then re-released.

A slightly belated happy new year to everyone reading this! I’ve returned safe and sound from my research expedition to the Isle of May over the winter, and I’ve more or less re-adjusted to ‘civilisation’  after two months of living on a little island off the Scottish coast with a bunch of seals (read more about our adventures and the research we do here). I had a fantastic time once again, it is my eighth season living and working on a seal colony and it honestly never gets old. I am working on processing all the photos from the trip, but there were plenty of reasons to take a ridiculous number of photos while I was there so it’s taking some time! My next update will hopefully include a detailed account of some of the seals, birds and behaviours I encountered while in the field along with all the best photos from the trip.

Surveying the grey seal colony over the winter on the Isle of May. The old rock walls and ruins on the island come in handy to hide from the seals!

In the meantime:

  • I’ve posted some of my photos from the last few weeks here on the mainland, including frosty mornings with garden birds and seals and seabirds from a day survey back out to the Isle of May in January (link).
  • I’ve finally finished a long overdue review of Edinburgh Zoo, my ‘local’ zoo and a particular favourite of mine (link).
  • I’ve also completed the overhaul of the website’s structure and appearance, so things are running much smoother and hopefully everything is a lot easier to find now. If you do find any broken links, missing images or typos then do let me know.
Robin on a frosty morning

In the coming months I also plan to write about my experiences with the Icelandic whale watching companies I was out with last year to see wild Orcas and I’ll be visiting Twycross Zoo soon, so there will be plenty of reviews and photos coming online along with all the seal related material I’ll be posting. I’ll keep putting notifications of updates to the site on my twitter feed (@KJRScience) so if you want to know when new things are online you can follow me there.

Now, back to those seal photos…

A curious weaned grey seal pup (between 3-5 weeks old) comes over to investigate my boots on the Isle of May. Grey seal mothers abruptly wean their pups at 18 days old and leave them to fend for themselves in the wild, but that doesn’t stop ‘weaners’ from being playful when they feel like it!

Isle of May 2016 begins plus Cotswold Wildlife Park review and new Ed. zoo shots

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Mother – pup pair of grey seals by Kirkhaven pier on the Isle of May, Scotland

October means it’s time for me to head out to the Isle of May, an incredible island off the coast of Fife (Scotland) which is home to thousands of breeding seabirds and seals every year. The puffins may have gone but the seals are just starting to arrive and I’ll be here for the next eight weeks to study them as part of my job at the Sea Mammal Research Unit (for updates on the science happening on the island, check out out science blog here).

The colony is still growing at this time of year, and we have lots of pregnant female grey seals waiting to give birth on the shores of the island. The number of mother – pup pairs is growing daily, and we are out every day looking to identify study individuals from the seals that are on the island who have tags in their flippers to aid in picking them out among the crowds. Soon the seals will be everywhere on the island, especially as the pups wean from their mothers and start to explore the interior of the island, they even come up to check out the old lighthouse keeper’s house we stay in!

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Pregnant female grey seals waiting to give birth on Kirkhaven beach on the Isle of May, Scotland

In other news, the website has been updated with a review for Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire here and I’ve uploaded a load of new pictures from my trip to Edinburgh zoo last weekend in the ‘Latest Photos’ section. Finally, I’ve given into peer pressure and joing twitter (@KJRScience if you would like to find me there), I’m still learning the ropes but everyone keeps telling me how wonderful it is so hopefully I’ll take to it!

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Sumatran Tiger (Jambi) at Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh in the Snow

Meercat, Edinbrugh Zoo 2013

Yesterday I finally made it to Edinburgh Zoo while it was snowing, I’ve been trying to do this for years but since I move to Scotland we’ve either had no snow or so much that the zoo’s been closed. So me and two friends braved the icy temperatures and headed south for the day to try and actually see penguins in the snow without going to the antarctic!

Unfortunatly there was no snow left in the penguin enclosure(s), and where they have them currently is quite sad looking in truth because all the penguins are in various temporary enclosures while their main pool gets a make over. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before they are back where they belong. The meercats also looked very out of place in the snow, poor shivering things! But they seemed to want to be outside in the cold digging around in the snow, they did have access to their indoor house but there was even one up on sentry duty freezing his tail off, silly meercat.

Did get to see the amur leopards playing in the snow which was amazing, Zane especially was very active running, jumping and rolling around in the snow. The Jaguars Mowgli and Rica didn’t seem quite so impressed though! Was also very happy to see Tibor and Baginda (the Sumatran Tigers) in the same enclosure at last, hopefully the pitter patter of tiger cub paws won’t be too far away… And was amazed to see a sign for a Clouded Leopard on the big cat walk! I have never seen one of these cats before so can’t wait to see this new arrival.

All in all it was a good trip, although my camera lens continues to play up and there was next to no light to use to shoot in. It was really cloudy so no high shutter speeds were possible, a shame with all the antics Zane was doing. Never mind, hopefully the snow will stay around until my next trip in February and mabye then the sun will be out!

Next trip: either Ed. zoo again in February or perhaps wild capercaillies if I’m really lucky…?

Amur Leopard, Edinburgh Zoo 2013