Pufflins!

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Puffins with a mouthful of sand-eels for a hungry chick

Puffin with big fish

Its not all about sand-eels…sprats are good as well

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Not one of this year but just a sneak preview of what a Pufflin looks like

Thursday 25th May comments: Welcome to the world Pufflins! The big news we’ve been waiting for in recent days has finally happened as the first of the Puffin chicks has hatched. Over the next few weeks, thousands of chicks will hatch across the island and then we are into the serious end of the season for the parents.

Adult Puffins will now be frantically bringing in sand-eels all day every day, feeding the hungry youngster until it hopefully fledges forty days after hatching. However don’t expect to see one of the new-born as chicks stay underground in their burrows safe away from predators (but check out the sneak preview of one of last year’s chicks).

However you should now get some great views of Puffins as they actively return with food throughout the day. Puffin chicks (also known as Pufflins) are raised over a forty day period and then eventually, without parents’ consent, they’ll leave their burrows under the cover of darkness and head for the open sea. However more on that later… Now just come out and visit for some real Puffin action!

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Dolphin Delight!

Monday 22nd May comments: What a start to the new week! As the boats were sailing from Anstruther to the Isle of May this morning the boats encountered a pod of Dolphins (Bottle-nosed Dolphins) which put on a tremendous show for all who witnessed them as they were seen to leap several times from the water (and thanks to May Princess staff member and photographer Ed Thomson for the photos).

In recent weeks this pod has been seen on several occasions hugging the Fife coastline and with the help of photographs, individuals within the pod have been identified. This identification process has revealed that this pod has been seen as far south as the Farne Islands (Northumberland), Whitburn (Durham) and even off the Yorkshire coast.

Regardless of their origins, it was a great wildlife experience which everyone enjoyed. It just shows what you can see when you visit a place like the Isle of May and its well worth a visit. That exciting news was followed soon after with news of our first Puffin chicks hatching….but more on that tomorrow! Until then enjoy the Dolphins.

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Watch Your Heed!

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Ladies and gentlemen; the stunning Arctic Tern

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Coming to a head near you!

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Magical encounters with Terns on the May

Sunday 21st May comments: They are back. The worlds longest distant bird migrant in the world is back. Arctic Terns  spend the winter off the pack-ice of the Antarctic and have been travelling north for the past two months have now returned to breeding grounds down the east coast.

In recent days the numbers around the Island have increased and we’ve now confirmed our first eggs. Over the next week or so more and more will settle and then the fun really begins. Despite their size (just 100g in weight) they are fearless birds and will peck people regardless of size or shape. These birds nest close to the pathways on the island and will make sure that visitors are fully aware of this.

 

As we always warn people, if you are visiting over the next month or so please bring a hat (You’ve been warned!). The Isle of May is buzzing with seabirds now as our season is now well and truly here. Get yourself over and see what all the fuss is about…you’ll be amazed and not disappointed…

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1,000 Years of History on the May

Friday 19th May comments: As part of county of Fife’s ‘Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology’ the Isle of May is celebrating its past in glorious fashion. An exhibition has been installed in the main lighthouse featuring artifacts excavated in the 1990s and tells the story of the island as a focus for Christian pilgrimage for a thousand years, beginning in the 5th century AD.

The exhibition is a joint venture between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the National Museums Scotland and entry to the island, lighthouse and exhibition is all free although boat fares apply (see below). The exhibition will be open at weekends (Starting 20th May) throughout the summer months and daily from 1st August as part of the lighthouse opening hours.

Peter Yeoman, consultant archaeologist said, ‘This is the first time that the fascinating objects from the May island monastery have ever been displayed. The excavations uncovered remarkable evidence relating to 1000 years of Christian community on this small island at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, including some of the oldest church buildings ever found in Scotland. Leading historian Dr James Fraser described the place as “St Andrews before St Andrews”. One of the key discoveries was the remains of a pilgrim buried around 1300, with a scallop shell from Santiago de Compostela in Spain placed in his mouth.’

David Steel, SNH’s manager on the island said, ‘We are delighted to be marking the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology here on the wonderful Isle of May. As well as its spectacular wildlife, the island has a rich cultural history.  This exhibition will give a fascinating insight into the lives of the monks who worshipped here.’

 How to get to the Island:

Boats sail daily (weather dependant) and please check out the websites below for further details of sailing and prices

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

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

Seabird Rib (Sails from North Berwick): www.seabird.org

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Gull-p!

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Monsters…the impressive and intimidating Great Black-backed Gull

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Eating an adult Puffin (Jamie Coleman)

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research into the birds begins; this is a male being ringed (Mark Newell)

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Unique individual colour-ring attached (Mark Newell)

Thursday 18th May comments: This year on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve a join venture between SNH and CEH is being carried out on our small breeding population of Great Black-backed Gulls. Sophie Bennett takes up the story:

“Alongside the monitoring of other nesting seabirds on the island, one of the more gruesome pieces of research this year is looking at the predation of Puffins by Great Black-backed Gulls. While our puffins don’t have to worry about terrestrial predators like foxes or rats attacking them and their chicks they must keep a wary eye on the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting near their burrows. These gulls will take both fully-grown puffins and pufflings as prey, turning them inside-out before enjoying their colourful dinner!

In recent years the number of nesting Great black-backs has increased on the island, with 2017 shaping up to be another record year. As the gulls increase in number it is important to understand whether they are having a significant impact on the May’s puffin population. In order to determine which individuals are responsible for the predation, pairs that have been seen to take puffins are being caught and given a colour ring with a unique identification number. These pairs will then be monitored throughout the season to try and quantify how many gulls are specialising in this feeding behaviour and just how many puffins they are predating.

Not all Great black-backs take puffins however and those that do will be specialising in this feeding strategy. The majority of individuals instead will predominately be feeding on crustaceans, fish and other prey items. Gulls are often publicly portrayed as terrors of the skies, but these impressive seabirds are just making the most of an abundant food source to try and raise their chicks. With Great and Lesser Black-backs currently being amber-listed birds of conservation concern and Herring Gulls being red-listed, we are very fortunate to have healthy populations of these three species as part of our incredible seabird colony on the Isle of May.

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Evening Talk

Free Talk – Tuesday 16th May, at Dreel Hall, Anstruther, Fife

Doors open: 7pm for a 7:30pm start. Free tea & coffee

As part of the Isle of May roadshow, Reserve Manager David Steel will be giving a talk in Anstruther at Dreel Hall (High Street, Anstruther, KY10 3DG) all about the Isle of May. Come and learn all about life on the island and everything that happens out on this stunning National Nature Reserve from the 46,200 pairs of Puffins to the life the team lead on the remote island.

Entry is free with tea & coffee provided.

Show you’re support and get yourself along.

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Eider chicks!

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First Eider chicks of the new season (Bex Outram)

 

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A very watchful mother (Bex Outram)

 

Fulmar egg

First Fulmar Egg of the year (Beckie Lakin)

Sunday 14th May comments: The season continues to advance and the weekend brought even more seabird breeding news. The first Eider chicks were discovered on top of the island (near the lighthouse) and eventually made their way to the Islands loch (a reasonable distance for the five small chicks to walk).

However the family party soon joined lots of other Eiders on the Loch and over the next few weeks, more and more chicks will hatch. Despite this, we still have adult females just settling on nests so as expected it’ll be a protracted season.

One bird which knows about how to take its time is the Fulmar. The first egg was found today but the chicks won’t hatch until early July. Staggeringly those chicks will then not fledge until late August, showing you just how long their breeding season will last. So the Isle of May seabird season continues to advance and next stop; the terns.

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