Westerly Woes


Storms on the Isle of May (Jamie Coleman)


Lower ledges smashed by big seas

Saturday 16th June comments: Thanks Hector. The Isle of May was battered on Thursday as Storm Hector raged across the central belt of Scotland producing gale force winds and difficult conditions.

Out on the Isle of May the strong westerly winds only lasted one day but it was enough. Combined with large high tides, the island was battered on the west face with the expected results. Any low nesting Guillemots and Kittiwakes were just simply swatted aside, as nests and eggs were washed and lost into the sea.

It is the third consecutive year the lower ledges have been washed clear and its a sad fact of nature. It often doesn’t take much; this one day event produced carnage and even if we now have settled weather for the rest of the summer, the damage is done. However seabirds are long living and can take such impacts…but maybe not year after year…

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Eiders on the UP!

Eider cuddy duck

Nesting female Eider duck


eider mother

protective of young (Bex Outram)

Eider male

Handsome drake Eider

Eider crche

Crèche of youngsters

Wednesday 13th June comments: Fabulous news from the Isle of May NNR. Following the all island count in late May the dust has settled the numbers crunched and we can reveal some good news…

Our Eider population has increased! The number of incubating female Eiders has increased on the Isle of May with 1,183 nesting birds, an increase of 4% since our last count in 2016. It may not sound much it is hugely significant as a number of other colonies are reporting declining populations down the east coast.

This figure represents almost 5% of the British breeding population and is the third highest ever counted on the island. Its great news for the species despite the impacts of the early spring weather and predation.

Tonight you can watch the trials and tribulations of our nesting Eiders on BBC Two Springwatch (starts 8pm) as it will feature two short films about our nesting Eider ducks. It’ll be worth watching…

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Springwatch Eiders!


Wednesday 13th June comments (part one): Exciting news from the Isle of May as for two consecutive nights the Island will feature and BBC television (the Isle of May beaming into your living room).

Tonight Springwatch (starts at 8pm on BBC Two) will feature two short films about our nesting Eider ducks. The Isle of May supports almost 5% of the British population of nesting Eiders and tonight we’ll see the trials and tribulations of our nesting birds so tune in…and be prepared….

And more later!

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Remember the Beast?

Monday 11th June comments: The Isle of May was hammered. There was no escape as late February and early March the island was hit by some serious easterly winds bringing with it huge amounts of snow (which is unusual for this coastal island). Although it was bleak and extremely cold, it was an incredible sight with plenty of great photo opportunities as posted on the blog during that time.

Today we’ve shared some of those same photos taken during the ‘beast from the east’ with all the snow on the island but added the view you see today. As you can see, its a very different view as the island is full of life with flowering Sea Campion, seabirds galore and glorious sunshine. It’s hard to imagine that just four months earlier it was bleak winter.

That time may have passed, but the weather events of that week are still felt to this day. The cold spring start delayed the seabird breeding season (in some cases by over a month) whilst the island itself suffered from saturation from snow melt. It certainly was an epic weather event and hopefully won’t be repeated too soon…

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Busy busy busy!

cliff count 3

The scale of the seacliffs and the counting of seabirds…

cou8nt 2

Counting the island tops

coubnt 21

and the cliff sides

Saturday 9th June comments: The Isle of May is a busy place at this time of year and not just for the thousands of seabirds which make it their home. Over the last few weeks the workload of the island’s residents has increased sharply as the full seabird breeding season kicks in.

The populations on the cliffs have been counted, the Puffin numbers surveyed, the nesting Eiders and large Gulls logged and that’s just for starters. The research teams are deep into monitoring of the various species and it’s just a beehive of activity for all human inhabitants.

The amount of work which goes into a season cannot be underestimated as work is daily, sometimes long and sometimes with no reward (especially if you are hit over the head by an Arctic Tern or a large Gull defecates over you!). The joys of working and living on an active seabird colony, but it’s all for a good cause and we all fully enjoy it; why else would we do it?

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Chick Central

Guillemot 2

Adult Guillemot with fish – a good sign we’ve got chicks!

Guillemot with chick

Photo from previous season but showing a Guillemot chick!

Thursday 7th June comments: The Isle of May…its non-stop. At this time of year we are flat out as the island community are working hard dealing with everything from researching the islands seabirds to welcoming thousands of visitors and much much more.

And we bring you even more chick news. Following rapidly on from the first Puffin, Shag and Shelduck young, we now have Guillemot chicks! The first youngsters have just started hatching and now the islands seabirds have a job to do; feed the chicks. Over the next month or so the island will be buzzing with activity as adults of all species will be continuously bringing food in.

Interestingly Guillemot chicks are raised by their parents until approximately 21 days-old and then, long before they are fully winged, they jump from the ledges of the tall cliffs and are taken far out to sea…but more on that when it happens…

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Shag eggs

Isle of May Shag at nest


Shelduck family heading away from the island

Tuesday 5th June comments: After yesterday’s Isle of May celebrations as we confirmed the first Puffin chicks had hatched, we then had even more good news as we’ve now got Shag chicks!

The cold harsh weather in early spring delayed the Shag breeding season by over a month and rather than finding the first eggs in late March (as when we usually do) this year the first eggs were not found until 28th April! However we had the great news that the first chicks had hatched yesterday.

It takes almost six weeks for Shag chicks to fledge from hatching, so we’ll see plenty of action over the forthcoming weeks as adults feed hungry youngsters. On top of this great news, we also discovered a family party of Shelduck (we have four pairs breeding on the island) leading their youngsters away to sea. And what’s next? Any day soon we’ll have Guillemot chicks…it’s never dull!

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