Seal team Arrive


Now over 80 Seal Pups on the Isle of May


Cow seal with pup on the island road

Boxes galore

Seal team arrive today!


Plenty of stuff for a three month stay

Friday 21st October comments: The Grey Seal colonies of the North Sea are certainly starting to spring into action as the Isle of May has crept past 80 pups whilst the Farne Islands has reached 30 (we still wait the first pups further south in Lincolnshire and Norfolk).

As pup numbers increase today marked the arrival of some other important autumn guests; the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) from St.Andrews. The team arrived today to once again base themselves on the island to continue their long-term studies on the seal populations and will be present until mid-December.

Arriving on an island for the first time is always a big event and the team of twelve has a lot of kit from three months’ worth of food to all the important field equipment. The Seal season is now and truly underway and we’ll bring you more trials and tribulations as they develop on the colonies.

Posted in Uncategorized

Double Fin

Goldcrest (Bex)

Europe’s smallest bird; the Goldcrest (Bex bird; Outram)


Wednesday 19th October comments: Incredible. Last week we reported a Goldcrest which had been caught bearing a Finnish ring on its leg (1,000 miles away) and today we can report another.

A second Finnish ringed bird was caught last week by the visiting Notts Ringing Group who were staying at the Isle of May Bird Observatory( The team caught the bird and it transpires it comes from central southern Finland at a place called Toules, a further 150 east of where the first bird was originally ringed (so over 1,100 miles away).

It just shows the value of bird ringing and where the birds were coming from on the Isle of May following those easterly winds. Its a great story and an incredible journey as these birds, only 5 grams in weight have travelled over 1,100 miles and still have some way to go before reaching wintering grounds. Incredible.

Thanks again to Jouni Tikkanen of Suomen Luonto magazine for supplying the information.

Posted in Uncategorized

Seal delight


Sleeping babies…


First few pups born beside the jetty


Island life is changing as the Seals take over


Sleep before the hard work of raising young begins


…and the Bulls have started to arrive…

Monday 17th October comments: The Grey Seal pupping season is well underway now with over 40 pups born across the island and this number is increasing on a daily basis. The first pups have now been born at the jetty, soon we’ll be closing it for access leaving just the far north island jetty open; such is life on the island and how the Seals take over.

As mothers tentatively raise young we’ve also seen an increase in the number of bull seals arriving. These bruisers, weighing in at 40 stone, will fight rival bulls for top sites on the colony as they protect a harem of females ready for mating later in the season.

It now feels a very different place as the Puffins and seabirds have given way to the monsters of the sea. We’ll keep you posted on all the drama of the colonies over the next few months and news of the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) who arrive next week to live and work on the island with the Seals…plenty going on!

Posted in Uncategorized

Record Year!


Long staying Little Bunting still here; was ringed on 7th October


Good numbers of Woodcock on the move…


Sad decline. We don’t get many so this Greenfinch was a welcome arrival

Sunday 16th October comments: It just hasn’t stopped. Since the wind switched to the east almost two weeks ago the Isle of May has been buzzing with life as thousands of migratory birds have been recorded passing through.

Today produced a few long stayers including a Little Bunting (first ringed on 7th October), the Great Grey Shrike for its third day as well as Barred Warbler and Firecrest. As well as these rare species, we’ve also continued to have lots of others birds including two Greenfinch, 15 Reed Buntings, 5 Siskin and 120 bramblings to name but a few.

However it was two reasonably ‘common’ mainland birds which caught the eye; our first Little Grebe since 2011 and Bullfinch since 2013. Both these birds took our annual total to 170 species – a new record for the island for the number of species recorded in a single year! So good times and it reflects the year the island has had. The Isle of May, its never dull…

Posted in Uncategorized

East Wind Still Blows


Immature Great Grey Shrike caught and ringed


Common Redpoll invasion continues


Low Lighthouse and the raging sea

Saturday 15th October comments: Its been an epic few weeks on the May as migratory birds have been arriving in their thousands and in the last 24 hours it appears to have cranked up a notch.

The island has been carpeted with migrants with some of the figures looking impressive with 300 Robins, 400 Goldcrest, 71 Blackcaps, 80 Chiffchaffs, 199 Brambling amongst thousands of Thrushes. As you would expect we’ve had a few rare birds as well with Dusky Warbler and Olive-backed Pipit over the last two days alongside Long-eared Owl and four Short-eared Owls.

However the presence of a ‘butcher bird’ (a Great Grey Shrike) has kept everything on its toes as these predatory birds will kill the smallest of birds from Robins to Goldcrests, so its one to watch out for! The wind has continued to blow from the east which is producing some impressive heavy seas but will it continue? Will more birds arrive and how are our Grey Seal pups doing? All will be revealed…

Posted in Uncategorized

Olive Branch


Eastern rare: Olive-backed Pipit on the May today


7th Isle of May Olive-backed Pipit record


Good numbers of Common Redpolls arriving


And plenty of other birds like this Siskin

Thursday 13th October comments: Those easterly winds continue (how long have they being going on for now?) and more and more birds arrive. Today witnessed another new pulse of birds, as yet more Goldcrests, Robins and Thrushes arrived from the east.

The island is carpeted with birds and amongst them some very unusual visitors; an Olive-backed Pipit was discovered today (only the islands seventh record) whilst an invasion of Common Redpolls brought 35 to the island. The ringed Little Bunting is still present with 3 Short-eared Owls keeping everything on their toes.

Its certainly been a purple patch for migrant birds on the May and with more easterlies we suspect more birds and no doubt more blog posts. Stay tuned…

Posted in Uncategorized

Incredible journey…


Britain’s smallest bird; the Goldcrest


From Finland to the Isle of May


Stunning little bundles of joy!

Wednesday 12th October comments: Migration is an incredible thing as birds all over the world undertake mammoth journeys of mind boggling proportions. In the UK, up until recently, we relied heavily upon bird ringing (putting small metal rings on bird legs with unique identification codes) as an insight into migration patterns. A few days ago this produced an impressive report…

A young male Goldcrest was caught by those staying at the Isle of May Bird Observatory ( but very intriguingly the bird had a Finnish ring on its leg. After a bit of detection work the results are back with us and it is a staggering record.

The bird was ringed on an island called Säppi, which is located four miles off the west coast of mainland Finland, approximately 15 miles west of the city of Pori ( The young bird was ringed on 20th September by Jari Niemi and was subsequently caught here on the Isle of May on 10th October.

It is such an impressive movement as not only are Goldcrests the UK’s smallest bird (weighing the same as a 20p piece) but the island of Säppi is some 924 miles away from the Isle of May. It’s an impressive journey to undertake for any bird and the wonders of nature (and science) cannot be underestimated as it just shows where ‘our’ birds are travelling from.

Thank you to Jouni Tikkanen for making contact and forwarding the Finnish details of this remarkable discovery

Posted in Uncategorized