The cliffs around the Mull of Galloway continue to resonate with the calls of kittiwake. Kittiwake get their name from their call which sounds like 'kittiwaaik, kittiwaaik; The majority of the young kittiwake hatched this year have fledged and are now exploring their temporary home. Young kittiwake can easily be identified from the adults by their distinctive plumage, consisting in part of a black leading edge to their wings, black line at the base of their tail and black collar encircling most of their neck. It will take around 18 months on average for a kittiwake to develop its adult plumage.

Juvenile kittiwake - Photo credit: Andre Rothlisberger

The cliffs are also still home to shag that remain around our coastline all year. The juvenile birds can be identified by their much paler plumage, appearing more greyish, especially underneath the throat and around the chest and turning browner in the winter. The adults have a greenish, black plumage all over. Shag very closely resemble their near relative the cormorant but with a few distinctive differences. The beak is much more slender and joins the skull with a very noticeable forehead on the shag whereas the cormorant has a much thicker looking beak that the joins the skull almost level with the top, as well as having a distinct white patch at the throat.

 

Juvenile shag - Photo credit: Laura Shearer

Shag are largely benthic feeders, meaning they feed on the bottom of the sea. They feed mainly on crustaceans by using their extremely large and powerful webbed feet to propel their slender bodies down to depths of 20 metres or more.

 

Adult shag - Photo credit: Rob Conn

Other seabirds that can still be seen around the Mull of Galloway include fulmar, black guillemot, herring gull and greater black-backed gull.

Kestrel have been frequenting the reserve a lot lately. We were fortunate enough to have a family breed nearby and they can be seen daily hunting around the cliffs and heathland.

Flocks of goldfinch and linnet continue to feed upon thistles, docks and sorrel that grow throughout the reserve and willow warbler are commonly seen in the willow patch. House martin are most often seen around Foxes Rattle where they can be viewed collecting water that trickles down the cliff face. Swallow are more frequently seen flying low over the rough grassland that lies to the east of the visitor centre.

Goldfinch feeding on thistles - Photo credit: Rob Conn

Other birds that have been present lately include meadow pipit, rock pipit, raven, whitethroat, stonechat and pied wagtail.

A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen feeding near the walled garden this week, porpoise have been spotted most days and grey seal often pop their curious heads up from below the surface to gaze around.

Grey seal - Photo credit: Rob Conn

The lighthouse tower and exhibition is open daily between now and 3rd September, 10am till 4pm (last entry 3:30) and the RSPB Visitor Centre is open each day between 10am and 5pm. Every weekend between now and 3rd September there will be a free ‘Wildlife Detective Trail’ for families with free prizes!

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