Sightings Success

GBB Gull1 (Kris Gibb)

Fledged Great Black-backed Gull at Levan (seen & photographed by Kris Gibb)

Kittiwake (Richard Somers Cocks

Colour ringed adult Kittiwake at Findhorn Bay (Richard Somers Cocks)

Tuesday 30th August comments: The Isle of May is such an important place for wildlife with thousands of seabirds and Grey Seals making it their home (in some cases hundreds of thousands). The work that goes on here is vital to give us a better understanding of what is happening to our fragile marine ecosystem but it’s not just the teams work on here that are vital to improving our knowledge.

Birdwatchers, nature lovers and the general public are all willing helpers; finding ringed birds, tagged seals and colour-coded seabirds. This week alone we’ve had some great examples as Stephen Welch reported seeing one of our colour-ringed Sandwich Tern chicks at Seaton Shore along the Lothian coastline whilst Kris Gibb sighted one of our fledged colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls at Leven in Fife.

Further afield Richard Somers Cocks photographed another Sandwich Tern youngster at Findhorn Bay along the Moray coastline. More impressively Richard also photographed a colour-ringed Kittiwake at the same site, which will be heading north-west into the Atlantic (details supplied by Mark Newell at CEH).

So it’s all happening and it’s all part of the jigsaw. Thank you for this week sightings and look forward to plenty more, so if you are walking the beaches, just remember you can be contributing to science without even knowing it.

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Welcome home


Top photo: Older sister Yolanda, Bottom mother with 8 day old Nicola (photos NLB)


Nicola revisiting ‘home’ and pointing to when she was a baby

Monday 29th August comments: At the weekend we had a very special visitor on the island, as Nicola Bruce returned to the island, the first time she had visited since her family lived on the May. The Bruce family moved to the Isle of May in 1971 as Eric Bruce became the supernumerary Lightkeeper for the island.

Later that year Nicola was born in Stonehaven hospital and returned to the May at just eight days old (and has the ‘isle of May’ on her birth certificate!) The photographs on the current interpretation panels in the lighthouse show Nicola on the day she arrived, being held by her mother whilst a second photo shows her older sister on the island.

It was great to meet up with Nicola and show her the lighthouse which the family once called home and hopefully she will return with her older sister in the future. Remember the special ‘Open Doors’ event takes place this weekend and you can gain access to all buildings, including the main lighthouse on both Saturday and Sunday.

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What you doing next weekend?

Main lighthouse

Access to the Main Lighthouse and see the rooftop views!


Look inside Scotland first (and oldest!) Lighthouse built in 1636

Low light

Unique chance to climb the Low Lighthouse tower normally closed to the public

Dave with engine

See the engines that powered the lighthouses

Saturday 27th August comments; So what are you doing next weekend (3rd-4th September?) As the seabirds have departed and the Grey Seal season has yet to start, we are having a special events weekend and opening all the buildings on the island.

During the visitor opening hours, we’ll be giving people access to buildings normally closed to the public and offering experts on hand to chat about the history. Everything from the main lighthouse to the engine rooms, to the oldest lighthouse in the Scotland, you’ll be able to gain access free of charge. We’ll even have the low lighthouse tower open and archaeologists on hand at the Chapel to give people more information about the history of the May.

So don’t delay and book today! For full boat details see below:

Boat details

For further information on sailings, check out the individual boat companies sailing times and prices for the weekend. Boats will sail Saturday 3rd September at 14:00 and Sunday 4th September at 14:30

May Princess (from Anstruther):

Osprey Rib (from Anstruther):

Seabird (From North Berwick):

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Greenish Warbler!

Greenish Warbler (down sized)

Greenish Warbler on the May

Greenish Warbler 2

Big eye stripe going on

Thursday 25th August comments: We’ve been waiting for it and sure enough today, the first rare bird of the autumn arrived following a spell of easterly winds. A Greenish Warbler was trapped and ringed on the island this morning, a bird which breeds in north-eastern Europe and winters in Asia.

The island has had fourteen previous records of Greenish Warbler, three in the spring and eleven in the autumn with the last recorded in 2012. It was a welcome arrival this morning as a number of birds were discovered across the island including 20+ Willow Warblers, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Reed Warbler amongst others.

The magic of migration can bring in just about any species of bird to the island and with more easterly winds forecast, don’t bet against the Isle of May producing yet more exciting rarities. You heard it here first…

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Finding the Sandwich

Richard Somers Cocks

Its one of ours! Sandwich Tern chick in Findhorn bay (Richard Somers Cocks)



How it all began this summer…Sandwich tern chick ringed


Tuesday 24th August comments: Success! We’ve had some good news from further afield as our first Sandwich Tern chick to be ringed has been sighted! The bird was given a unique lettered code ‘UJB’ and was the first chick to hatch, first to be ringed and the first to fledge off the island.

The bird successfully departed the Isle of May in late July and on Monday was photographed by Richard Somers Cocks who provided the details (thanks Richard – good sighting!). Richard photographed the bird on the sands at Findhorn Bay along the Moray coastline and instantly shows the value of the colour ringing scheme (and shows you how far they travel in such a short space of time).

Hopefully this will be the first of many sightings of our youngsters as they disperse the island before eventually heading south to wintering grounds in West Africa. It’s been a good year for Sandwich Tern success and long may it continue.

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Bottle-nosed Dolphin fun (Ed Thomson)


Leaping for joy (Ed Thomson)


Spot the youngster… (Ed Thomson)


On the way…a Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Ed Thomson)

Tuesday 23rd August comments: What a show! This morning the visitor boat the May Princess was embarking on its usual run to the Isle of May (sailing from Anstruther) when it encounted a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins.


Top photographer and boat crewman Ed Thomson was on hand to capture the magic moment as the Dolphins (complete with at least one calf) swam alongside the boat and were seen breaching clear of the water on several occasions much to the delighted of the visitors and crew onboard.

Its not every day you get the opportunity to see these majestic animals and it just shows what a visit to the Isle of May can bring with a bit of luck. The seas around the island are rich in diversity and it’ll be interesting to see if we can re-find these Dolphins in the forthcoming weeks. We’ll keep you posted!

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Autumn is here…

Citrine 2

remember the spring? Citrine Wagtail one of the stars!


Thrush Nightingale another spring star

Friday 19th August comments: As the easterly wind increases and the rain falls, rare and scarce migrant birds are back on the menu on the Isle of May. Having seen the last of the seabirds depart and looking forward to the start of the Grey Seal pupping season, we can expect a few things along the way before then.

The spring was excellent for the May as the records below prove and it hopefully won’t be long before we are shouting about some good birds for the autumn starting this weekend! Fingers crossed and get ready, its migration season!

Spring record from Isle of May

3rd record        Citrine Wagtail two previous records in autumn 1968 and 2014

7th record        House Sparrow (7 records in last 50 years involving 11 birds)

10th record      Subalpine Warbler (first-summer) first since 2007 and DNA testing underway

12th record      Leach’s Petrel (caught & ringed) first since 2011

13th record      Rustic Bunting (female) last recorded September 1999

16th record      Marsh Harrier (female) last recorded in 2013

18th record      Thrush Nightingale last recorded in May 2012

8          Bluethroats (6 males, 2 females)

5          Red-backed Shrikes (4 females, 1 male)

2          Red-breasted Flycatchers (both female-types)

2          Treecreeper (first since 2013)

1          Wryneck

1          Wood Warbler

1          Icterine Warbler

1          Firecrest

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