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Half term trips: the Scottish Seabird Centre


This is the third half term trip I have written about after Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre and the National Museum of Scotland, and it is one of the most special trips of all because I was meeting Mrs Powell who is also a bone collector. We had swapped some amazing skulls before and I had asked her if I she would like two red deer skulls (one of which was this one). She said yes and offered to swap for a pig and a seal, which are amazing and  I am going to write about later. She said maybe we could meet up in person, and she lives in the north of England and I live in Scotland and when we looked on a map the Scottish Seabird Centre was  in North Berwick which is about half way between.
There are not actually any birds at the centre but there is a famous island nearby called Bass Rock where loads of seabirds come to live, including 150,000 gannets. But the Seabird Centre has lots of cameras on the island so you can watch the birds close up without scaring them. You can control the cameras and zoom in and zoom out.

The birds get much closer to the camera than they would be to you if you were there:

There are loads and loads of cameras to choose from and to watch the birds:

There was a really good gallery which had all the different birds which you find near the centre and on Bass Rock. It was really useful to see these birds because I don't live near the sea, and also because Mrs Powell had swapped some of the skulls with me. This is what the big display looked like.

I had only seen a few of the birds before:

 This is a cormorant, which is a big black seabird which sits on a rock and catches fish. There is one which lives in the geese lakes near me, and I have only seen it once.

 This is a shag, which I haven't seen but which is very much like the cormorant. The only difference is the tuft and the head is all black.

 I recognised this straight away. It is a dolphin skull.

 Gannets are one of the most important birds at the Seabird Centre because they come to live there between February and October. They are huge seabirds with really pretty heads and webbed feet. I liked seeing one because Mrs Powell had given me two gannet skulls:

 When I opened the parcel of the first one I couldn't believe how big it was and how strong it was. But the skulls need to be strong because gannets dive into the water at 60mph to catch fish.

 The second skull even had a few feathers still on it above the beak.

 Some seabirds have grooves at the top of the eye sockets to let get rid of the salt from saltwater at the top of their heads, but gannets don't seem to have them there. I think they are nearer the nose.

 There were small bones inside the bottom jaw. I don't what they are there for.

 This was a full skeleton of a gannet at the seabird centre.It had been amazingly put together.

 This is a great black-backed gull. It is the biggest type of gull we get here. Mrs Powell had given me one of these skulls as well !

 The skull is very powerful and the bottom jaw looks very strong. You can see the bone on the far left which some birds and ducks have and which goes between the skull and bottom jaw.

 Here you can see the grooves above the eye sockets which are where the salt glands go to get rid of salt from the saltwater.

 This is a great skua. It is a bit of a nasty bird because it steals fish from other birds, and even kills them if it has to. It lives in Iceland, Norway and the north of Scotland.

 Common Guillemots nest on cliffs and don't even build nests for their eggs. They are smaller than the other seabirds here.

 Mrs Powell had given me three guillemot skulls but is the best because it has the beak sheats and that extra bone by the ear.

 Mrs Powell always puts excellent labels about where she found them, when she found them and what they are. You can see where the salt glands were here as well.

 This bird is a bit like a penguin and a bit like a puffin but it is a razorbill and has an amazing beak and it only comes to land in order to breed. Next week I am going to write about an EXTRA SPECIAL SKULL that Mrs Powell gave me as a surprise present ! She has been really really kind.

The Seabird Centre was really good but its probably best to go in summer and do a boat trip up around Bass Rock at the same time.  

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