40 days and counting…


Stunning drake Eider (now displaying)


Fulmar in flight


Shags back on the ledges

Monday 20th February comments: 40 days….until the Isle of May opens its doors to the public (interestingly the same amount of time a Puffin takes to incubate an egg before hatching). The first boats will sail on Saturday 1st April and we’ll be in full swing thereafter.

Slowly and surely spring is creeping ever closer and the seabirds are responding. Good numbers of Guillemots have returned to May waters and have been visiting the cliffs in anticipation of the new breeding season whilst the first handfuls of Puffins have been sighted. Large flocks of Eiders complete with displaying males are gathering offshore whilst Fulmars are currently stationed on their breeding ledges. Shags (who remain around the island all year) are back at nesting ledges and we’ll soon have a breeding season.

To visit the magical Isle of May check out the boat operators websites below:

May Princess (sails from Anstruther) http://www.isleofmayferry.com/

Osprey Rib (sails from Anstruther) http://www.isleofmayboattrips.co.uk/

Seabird Rib (sails from North Berwick) https://www.seabird.org/visit/boats/isle-of-may-landings/10/22/159


For further information on volunteering on the island please check out the link to the volunteer page (deadline is Friday 10th March): http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/isle-of-may/volunteering/

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Volunteer on the May

Thursday 16th February comments: Are you looking for a unique opportunity to work on one of the country’s top seabird reserves? You may be looking to gain extra skills for the C.V. to break into conservation, a student looking for a placement or even looking for a career change. Then look no further.

We are offering long-term volunteer placements on the Isle of May which will give you the opportunity to work on this stunning National Nature Reserve. You will be involved in all aspects of the May with a range of monitoring, maintenance and visitor management tasks that will help with the management of the NNR.

Main Tasks

  • Species Monitoring: Carry out species monitoring work on ground nesting Arctic Terns (studying the success rate of the nesting attempts) and may include ringing of young.
  • Recording; help to maintain the daily bird log, recording butterflies and moths, carrying out tern predation monitoring and cetacean watches amongst others.

  • Visitor management when the visitor boats are on the island. Everyday visitors are landed on the island for up to three hours. The volunteer will patrol the paths chatting with visitors to explain the natural history that they can see while ensuring visitors act responsibly.

  • Undertaking practical maintenance works as and when needed to maintain the visitor infrastructure, the field station and enhances habitats and species. This can include all aspects of the reserve from toilet cleaning to practical habitat management.

    Date Required : April-August but length of contract and starting date can be discussed

For further information please check out the link to the volunteer page (deadline is Friday 10th March): http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/isle-of-may/volunteering/

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Bean there before!


After passing over the May…the winds increased!


And back home to try another day

Sunday 12th February comments: Well would you believe it! Carl Mitchell of the Bean Goose Action Group forwarded information about the movement of Taiga Bean Geese over the island earlier in the week. Well once they had passed over the island, things got interesting…

Having set off on Monday morning in relatively benign, but not ideal conditions (medium southerlies) the Geese crossed the Isle of May just after 9am. However once out into the North Sea the skein were met with strong south-easterly winds as soon as they left Scottish waters. Presumably, half way across the North Sea the birds decided to turn back but were blown to Orkney (good job they did not disappear north west between Orkney and Shetland). They then moved to Caithness before heading due south back to the wintiering grounds near Glasgow!

With the new technologies available, it allows us a remarkable insight into failed migrations, how rare birds occasionally turn up and what happens to them afterwards. So the Geese are back but the next question is, when will they have another go and will they track over the Isle of May again? All will be revealed…

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Magic Beans!


Taiga Bean Goose up close (Brian Minshull)


The tracks of the birds on Monday (Carl Mitchell)


Close up detail of the birds movements (Carl Mitchell)

Wednesday 8th February comments: The wonders of nature and the wonders of modern day technology. On Monday we received some very exciting news of some movements of Taiga Bean Geese.

Taiga Bean Geese are rare winter visitors to the UK with only two known wintering groups which can be found in Norfolk and near Glasgow. Some of the latter birds are satellite tagged and on Monday 6th February some birds decided to leave and head back to breeding grounds in northern Europe. A group departed their overnight roost near Glasgow at approximately 06:15 on Monday morning and flying east at a steady 528 metres per minute they were tracked over the Isle of May some 3hrs 14 minutes later, just after 9am.

This ‘sighting’ breaks many boundaries as it may become the first time that a species has been recorded from the Isle of May without anyone actually seeing it (ground breaking in its own right). This would represent only the second ever record of Taiga Bean Goose on the May, following two individuals together in November 2014.

Thanks must go to the Bean Goose Action Group (BGAG) for supplying the information and detail, especially Brian Minshull and Carl Mitchell. For more information on the groups work check out the website: http://scotlandsbeangeese.wikispaces.com/home

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Heading back our way…


Not long now!

Monday 6th February comments: Not long now. Over recent days we’ve had reports of a small number of Puffins returning to several Puffin colonies in the North Sea including several in ‘May’ waters.

These early pioneers are just returning to the area having spent the winter further out in the North Sea with some as far out as the Atlantic. However these early arrivals won’t set foot on the island until late March but in the meantime will stay locally, feeding and getting on with life as normal.

However from late March we’ll expect them ashore and then the season will really begin, with pair bonding and spring cleaning of burrows. So don’t miss the chance to see them return as the Island opens its doors from 1st April; its Easter break so why not book a visit?     

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History Trail…


The full extent of the Benedictine monastery from the mid-1100’s revealed in excavations (Fife Council Archaeological Unit)


Early Christians buried deep down underneath the later churches (Fife Council Archaeological Unit)

Friday 3rd February comments: The year of 2017 is the year of ‘History, Heritage and Archaeology’ in Fife and as a result we have some exciting plans in relation to the Isle of May. Although the island is renowned for its seabirds and seals it also has a very interesting past, dating back to the seventh century.

During the early 1990’s an archeological dig was undertaken on the island over several seasons by Fife County Council Archaeological Unit led by Peter Yeoman and they discovered just how important the island was to early Christianity. The site produced evidence suggesting early worship from the 7th century and a mosaic of buildings which were used throughout the ages.

Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be bringing you stories and special events surrounding the history of the island as so much was discovered. Did you know Scottish Kings made pilgrimages to the Island and what was so special about the discovery of a skeleton of a young man with a scallop shell wedged into his mouth? All will be revealed…

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Booking Now!

Wednesday 1st February comments: Welcome to February and today marks the day you can start booking trips for the Isle of May for the new season. The boat times and dates of sailing for the entire season are now available and if you’ve never been, its well worth a visit.

The island opens its doors on 1st April and this hidden gem has so much to offer including:

  • up to three hours on the impressive island
  • stunning walks and views across the Firth of Forth
  • no entry charge (apart from the cost of the boat fare)
  • see spectacular wildlife including 46,200 pairs of Puffins (never mind all the other seabirds and seals which nest on the island)
  • and room to escape everyone so it feels like it just you and nature

The Isle of May is accessible from both sides of the Forth with links to the various boat companies shown below. So don’t delay book today!

May Princess (sails from Anstruther) http://www.isleofmayferry.com/

Osprey Rib (sails from Anstruther) http://www.isleofmayboattrips.co.uk/

Seabird Rib (sails from North Berwick) https://www.seabird.org/visit/boats/isle-of-may-landings/10/22/159

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