Friday, 14 August 2015

Isle of May

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Isle of May- the 'Jewel of the Forth'. The Isle of May is a well-known seabird colony, only 6 miles from nearby Anstruther in the Kingdom of Fife. The island boasts huge numbers of nesting seabirds including Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Shags, Arctic Terns and 120,000 puffins! These birds nest from May-July so my visit was outwith the main nesting season however there was still plenty to see. Late nesters such as Kittiwakes and Fulmars were still around in good numbers with well developed chicks almost ready to fledge.
Fulmar chick getting big (photo by Laura Shearer)

Kittiwake chicks close to fledging (photo by Laura Shearer)

I have visited the Isle of May on several occasions however this time I was staying overnight alongside some friends. With several birthdays due (myself included), the Farne Island Ranger team from 2013 met for a mini-reunion. Working around the country, it can be difficult to keep in touch so this seemed like an excellent opportunity to catch up.  As the visitors boarded the boats back to mainland, the hustle and bustle descended and we were left alone. It wasn't long before we fell into our old routines, going off for walks, doing some seawatching and generally having a good time. The team regrouped to assist with cooking diner before cries from outside shrieked "MINKE!". Within seconds the team were watching 2 Minke whales, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, feeding close to island. They continued to stay around for up to an hour- without a doubt the best show I have ever seen of these magnificent animals.

Clockwise from back Left to Right: Andrew Denton, Ciaran Hatsell, David Kinchin-Smith, Rebecca Outram, Jamie Coleman, Emma Witcutt, Jack Ibbotson, Elizabeth Morgan, David Steel, David Roche and Laura Shearer
Feeling elated, the team was buzzing as we headed to the Isle of May Observatory to assist with some overnight bird ringing of European Storm Petrels, Hydrobates pelagicus ( These beautiful birds are lured to mist nets using pre-recorded storm petrel vocalisations before being ringed and processed by licenced BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) bird ringers. During that evening 2 birds were caught and I had the privilege of ringing and processing the first bird- what an honor! Heading to bed that night I could hardly sleep as I relived the amazing wildlife encounters I had experienced throughout the day. This visit to the Isle of May is one which will stick with me for a long time!
Isle of May Bird Observatory (photo by Laura Shearer)

Thank you to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the team on the Isle of May. Keep up to date with their blog: and on Twitter: @SteelySeabirder

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