Northerly swell crashing on the island
Puffins still happy in the sleet
A pair of Eiders finding the perfect nesting site – life as normal for the birds.
Definitely a wind swept look today
Tuesday 25th April comments: It’s a bitterly cold day here, as everywhere, but that 20mph northerly wind has certainly dropped the temperature, so it’s been a day in the office sheltering from the elements catching up on the computer work. It’s alright for some, with our seabirds without the luxury of popping the kettle on!
Seabirds however, cope well, being hardy creatures and it’s business as usual for them, with breeding activities happening regardless of the weather. We are lucky that this is the start of the season and those that have eggs will be sitting tight keeping their eggs nice and warm, if it was later on when chicks are about it might have been a different story.
Eiders are still pairing up and walking across the island tops finding a suitable nesting site and those that have laid, sitting tight on their eggs on a bed of Eider down will be quite cosy.
The weather is due to improve soon, with a possible warm snap and a period of easterly winds on their way. This could be just what is needed to encourage the rest of the seabirds to settle down and could also mean migration kicks in too, bringing north bound migrants our way after a quiet start to the spring migration season.
Gathering of Razorbills (now on eggs!)
Isle of May Razorbill with Bass rock in the background
Sunday 22nd April comments: It’s not taken long. Following the first Puffin and Guillemot eggs on 18th April, late yesterday evening the first Razorbill egg was discovered near Bishops Cove on the west cliffs. The seabird season is certainly with us as all three Auks (Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill) are now incubating eggs.
Despite this, its still only the beginning as the majority of seabirds have yet to lay (only these early pioneers are nesting) and some species won’t be on eggs until May including Kittiwake, Fulmar and the Tern species.
The Isle of May seabird season is hotting up (unlike the weather) and with some of the best months to visit ahead of us, I would start booking now! Fingers crossed for a good summer for visitors and seabirds alike.
First Guillemot eggs of the season
Puffins now incubating
Monster egg; GBB Gull now nesting (Mark Newell)
Shags been incubating since late March
Thursday 20th April comments: The seabird season is well and truly upon us now as a number of species are now incubating. Following the usual early suspects; the Shags (which have been incubating eggs since 29th March) were followed by the largest of the Gulls, the Great Black-backed Gull on 16th April.
Then followed a rush of ‘first egg’ dates as Eiders were discovered on 17th April followed by Puffin and Guillemot on 18th April. It’ll still be a few weeks before the majority of birds are sitting and we should have Razorbills on eggs very soon.
However we still await some birds (never mind their eggs) as our Terns are yet to arrive; the month of May is when all that excitement begins. Until then we’ll enjoy (and share) the birds we do have including 46,200 Puffins…yes we have a few!
Puffin pair on Isle of May
First Puffin egg of the new season
Puffins chilling out on the island
Tuesday 18th April comments: Each day appears to bring new egg news from the seabird colonies on the Isle of May and today was the most noticeable to date. This morning our first Puffin egg was discovered on the island!
Despite the unsettled start, the birds have obviously settled enough to lay the first egg and over the next few weeks we expect mass laying across the colony. Puffins will incubate for forty days before the chick hatches so hopefully it’ll be late May when the first sand-eels are being brought in. Then it really will be all go.
Until now, we’ll settle for the first egg and will enjoy the sights and sounds of the Puffins as they’ll settle on the island. And why not join us? Boats sail almost daily from now until 1st October and its well worth a visit.
Up close…female Eider
Intricate Eider feathering
Monday 17th April comments: Well we predicted it and its happened. Our first incubating female Eider has been discovered this morning on the island, indicating the start of the nesting season for the species.
A number of birds have been prospecting nesting grounds in recent days and it came to no surprise that we discovered our first nesting individual. However this is the first of many as the Isle of May supports over 1,200 nesting females!
Over the next few weeks, more and more will settle with displaying males sticking to the Loch on the island and its well worth viewing (and hearing!) as the breeding season continues to advance. With Guillemots settled on the cliffs, we suspect they’ll be next to lay…
You looking at me? Drake Eider
Coming soon…female Eider nesting
Eider numbers increasing daily
Saturday 15th April comments: In recent days we’ve been talking about the breeding Auks of the island but we are also welcoming many other nesting species. One of those; the Eider ducks have been increasing in numbers daily with prospecting pairs inspecting the island looking for suitable nesting sites.
It’ll be a matter of days before we discover our first sitting females on eggs. Eider ducks nest in good number on the island with over 1,200 females counted last year (the drakes don’t help in any of the incubation work) as the females will lay clutches of 4-5 eggs and incubate for four weeks.
After only 24 hours of the chicks hatching, the females will take the chicks to the open sea and away to the relative safety of the nearby coastline (away from predatory Gulls). So the next time you are visiting, keep your eyes peeled and look out the Eiders…some even nest on pathways so watch your feet!
Mark starting his 20th year on the Isle of May…
One of only two people to see more than 200 species on the May!
Thursday 13th April comments: As well as the seabirds, it’s also the time of year when various staff return to the island. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the reserve staff return, the Bird Observatory open its doors, the public welcomed back and today the final piece of the jigsaw as the researchers returned.
During the summer months the Isle of May is a beehive of activity as researchers from CEH concentrate on several key species on the island, looking at everything from breeding success to dietary requirements. As part of the team returned today, for one person it was a special anniversary…
Today saw Mark start his 20th season on the island having lived and worked from April-July every year on the May since first setting foot on the island. We hope it’ll be another successful one for Mark and everyone connected to the island and now we have everyone back, we can now look forward to the season ahead. Over to you Puffins….