Summer is here! Isn’t it?

Friday 20th April comments: Shhhhhhhhhhh…….Keep it quiet but the summer might have finally reached the Isle of May NNR! After almost four weeks of easterly winds bringing cold temperatures, rain and generally unpleasant conditions, we appear to have turned the corner.

The weather has improved, the sun is out and the summer migrants are moving through as small numbers of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins have been recorded. Birds like Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipits bring a real summer feel to the island whilst Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff are now pouring through.

Its great to see the change and the island feels like a completely different place. But what about the seabirds? Well after the delayed start we might have seen a change…but more on that tomorrow (and keep it a secret but visit the island this weekend and you might just see plenty of Puffins!)

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Bird Obs open!

Tuesday 17th April comments: Slowly and surely the Isle of May is opening for the season as the island team have returned, the summer residents are about to arrive and the Bird Observatory is now open.

The Bird observatory on the Isle of May was originally founded in 1934 making it the oldest bird observatory in Scotland. It is administered by a charitable trust and manned by volunteer observers between March and November with up to six people staying weekly in the Low Lighthouse on the island.

After four weeks of sorting, cleaning and repairing traps the observatory has finally opened with the first guests arriving on Saturday. Over the next six months various people will visit and stay and we look forward to seeing everyone on the island this year. For more information on the observatory please see their dedicated website:

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Visiting the May

Sunday 15th April comments: Its been a tough start on the Isle of May as the weather has hampered visiting and the seabirds have been struggling. Its very evident that the seabird season is going to be delayed; this time last year we had Shags, Eiders and Puffins all incubating, but very little sign of that this time around.

However things will get going in the very near future as the weather is about to turn the corner. And as a result we hope to see lots more people visit and enjoy the magical Jewel of the Forth. With over 40,000 pairs of Puffins nesting, what is their not to enjoy!

To visit the island we have various options on boats from both side of the Firth of Forth, so check out the respective boat operators and book today, you’ll not be disappointed!

Boat Operators (you can book on line)

May Princess (sails from Anstruther):

Osprey Rib (sails from Ansthruther):

Seabird Rib (sails from North Berwick):

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Litter Despair

litter 3

The team cleaning the beach of the Isle of May

litter 2

Flying plastic menace; Balloons remain a real issue even 6 miles out to sea

Litter 1

Plastics amongst along the shoreline

Friday 13th April comments: There is no escape. The Isle of May NNR does not escape the menace of modern day society; plastic. As part of our job out here the team clean the main beaches of the island and despite sitting 6 miles out at sea, its astonishing what we collect.


Plastic makes up the majority of the litter we discover as it comes in all sorts of forms from bottles to food containers. Its sad to see the amount we pick up and remove knowing that the next incoming tide will bring even more. Litter is a serious issue for our seas and its frightening what gathers and washes in.

Even balloons are a menace which surprises a lot of people but this ‘plastic on a string’ causes so many issues; whether it is entanglement with birds or forcing birds to scatter off nest ledges (which results in eggs/young falling off cliffs). Either way its all bad news. However we’ll keep trying to educate and keep collecting from the shorelines to help improve the environment of the Isle of May. However its an uphill battle…

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Welcome back (again!)

Puffin on rock (BO)

Welcome home…again (Bex Outram)

Puffins 10th April (DS) 2

Back in huge numbers

Puffins 10th April (DS)

Puffins galore across the Isle of May

Puffins 10th April (BO)

the place to be (Bex Outram)

Tuesday 10th April comments: It’s been an interesting start on the Isle of May and it’s not all been good news with the delayed start to the season and the impact the weather is having on our seabirds. So we thought we would bring you some good news (just to cheer you all up)

The Puffins are back! Having arrived briefly on the island in late March, the strong winds forced the birds back out to sea (they feel safer out at sea during stormy conditions). However on Sunday morning vast numbers reappeared and have been with us since. We’ve seen courtship and even a few muddy birds suggesting the start of spring cleaning of burrows.

Hopefully they’ll finally settle for the season and we can start enjoying their presence on a daily basis with the first eggs expected by mid-month (that’s if the weather behaves itself!) regardless its great to have them back on the island.

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Seabird summary

Saturday 7th April comments: Seabirds on the Isle of May have been effected by the recent weather, so let us explain…

So what has the weather actually done? Since late February we’ve been dominated by a series of easterly weather fronts which produced the ‘beast from the east’ and then the ‘mini-beast from the east’. Since then we’ve had even more easterly winds and plenty of rain.

The result? As well as cold temperatures (and snow on the island) we’ve also had heavy seas which make it difficult for seabirds to forage. With low temperatures and difficulties in finding food, some birds (especially the young and the old) have perished. As for the breeding season;

Shags are late. The last two years Shags were incubating eggs by late March with the majority of birds settled at well-established nest sites. However this year we’ve currently got very few in attendance and those which are present, don’t look like starting any nesting activity in the near future.

Puffins Good numbers of Puffins arrived on the island on the typical arrival date of 26th March. However we’ve not seen them since. The birds have pushed back out to sea and we now need settled weather to encourage them to return (which is hopefully just around the corner).

Guillemots/Razorbills The Auks were well settled into a daily routine but then the beast hit. Since then birds have been coming and going sporadically with very little breeding activity.

In conclusion the Shags are late but all other breeders will hopefully be on track and all we need now is a good spell of weather. Is that really that much to ask for? We’ll keep you updated with the breeding seabirds as hopefully we are just about to turn the corner.

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Water, water everywhere…


A very wet island…


water logged


Standing water

Wednesday 4th April comments: The Isle of May is saturated. Having experienced serious snow fall (then snow melt) in early March, the water logged ground has not had much chance to dry out since and its showing.

The island is in flood in several areas on the island as the easterly weather front (and rain) continues to dominate. We were hoping the good weather was on the horizon but it feels like mid-October rather than spring (with cold temperatures, rain and easterly winds).

As a result the seabirds have responded by heading back out to sea and its been several days since the Puffins were on land. For many reasons we are hoping the good weather will arrive to settle things down, encourage the birds to return and to start our season properly…and oh a bit of sunshine would be nice as well. We’re not asking much?  Until then, its back to the thermals and wellies…

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