Seabird Update

Thursday 25th April comments: Today we bring you an update on our breeding seabirds as the season has started for some species whilst others have even yet to arrive!

Shag: As is usual, Shags were the first to settle and were incubating eggs from 1st April. Despite this, there are still a number of birds to settle so we are expecting the typical protracted breeding season.

Razorbill: The first egg was discovered yesterday (23rd April) compared to 5th May in 2018 (delayed due to the Beast from the East) and 22nd April 2017. With 4,867 individuals counted on the island last year, we have plenty nesting and plenty more eggs to be laid!

Guillemot: Good numbers returning although birds are only just settling on the cliff ledges. The first egg has yet to be discovered but it will only be a matter of time (next day or two).

Kittiwake: Returned in good numbers but still waiting for some activity. Nest building has yet to commence and therefore still some time away from the first egg laying date.

Puffins: returned to the island in late March touching land on 25th March although remained unsettled due to weather. The first egg was discovered on 14th April (an average egg laying date in recent years) and the adults are now incubating across the colony.

Common Tern:  two adults were seen displaying around the Beacon (the islands main breeding area) on 20th April but still early days whilst no Arctic Terns have yet to be sighted (return in early May)

Eiders: Large number on the islands Loch (including displaying males) whilst the number of incubating females is increasing daily (so watch your feet as they nest on the paths)

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Beach Clean…

Tuesday 23rd April comments: Its like a stuck record on the Isle of May as we clean, repeat, clean, repeat. Our small beach on the island was given another clean up recently with the help of SNH staff and its the same old issues; plastics and balloons.

The amount and variety of plastic which washes in with each tide is astonishing (and depressing) as everything from cotton buds to plastic bottles can be found in vast quantities. Although we do our bit (every little helps), with every turn of the tide more is brought in.

Without doubt wildlife does suffer. Balloons are also a big issue (even 6 miles out in the North Sea) as birds can become tangled or they eat them mistaking them for food. Balloons can even just drift over a cliff scattering birds far and wide taking vulnerable eggs and young with them over the side. Its as easy as that. Attitudes need to change and its great such issues are now gaining general support and being talked about (long may it continue) and hopefully we’ll start seeing real progress. Hopefully. Until then we’ll just keep on cleaning….

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Happy Easter

Sunday 21st April comments: So how did you do? Yesterdays blog post brought you six seabird eggs (fake of course) for you to try and guess which species. Well here are the answers;

Top Row: Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern

Middle Row: Razorbill and Shag

Bottom Row: Kittiwake and Eider

Not as easy as it looks? Hope you had fun trying? And today the Easter egg event went very well on the island and the weather matched it (stunning sunny weather). Soon we’ll be bringing you a full update on all our breeding seabirds so stay tuned but until then Happy Easter from all the team on the Isle of May.

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Saturday 20th April comments: Who’s Egg is it anyway? Today (and tomorrow) on the Isle of May we are celebrating Easter with various crafts and games with a few prizes to be won (yummy chocolate eggs).

As part of the set up the talented team have created artificial nest sites of our seabirds and purchased some fake eggs (which look like the respective seabirds) for people to guess what they are. As part of the fun, we thought we would try it out on everyone who reads the blog so good luck!

So do you fancy yourself as a seabird scientist? Have a look at these six eggs displayed above and have a guess which Isle of May nesting seabird they belong to. The answers will be displayed tomorrow morning so you’ll just have to wait and see. Test your knowledge and give it a go!

Remember it is illegal to collect wild bird eggs and these are fake replica eggs purchased from a shop!

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Hoop Scoop!

4 hoopoe

Rare visitor: Hoopoe on the Isle of May (David Steel)

2 Hoopoe

First Hoopoe on the island since 2015 (David Steel)

3 Hoopoe

Feeding well (David Steel)

1 Hoopoe

Content and happy amongst the seabirds (David Steel)

Ian Darling and Hoopoe

The finder Ian viewing the bird (David Steel)

Thursday 18th April comments: The magic of the Isle of May. We woke just after 06:30 this morning with the news that Ian Darling, Honorary President of the Isle of May Bird Observatory (had to get that in!) had discovered a Hoopoe at the north end of the island.

As you would expect, everyone scrambled out of their beds and accommodation and soon after we were sitting watching a Hoopoe feeding amongst the Puffins and Eiders. The bird had arrived on the back of some south-easterly winds as sometimes Hoopoes ‘over-shoot’ continental Europe (where they breed) and end up in the UK. This unique visitor was feeding well throughout the day and we suspect given half the chance, it’ll be off back south.

However until it moves, we’ll enjoy this stunning bird. This represents the 15th record for the island the most recent birds being in October 2015, April 2008 and May 2002. It’s been a cracking start to bird migration and with the island full of birds we’ve got plenty more to tell on our next blog post…

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Not the Day for it…

Wednesday 17th April comments: Setting up for the season involves a lot of logistics and planning and today we made further progress but things didn’t go quite to plan….

Today we welcomed researcher Mark from CEH back to the island alongside over £2,000 worth of food (a lot of boxes and kit) as we can have up to 16 people living and working on the Isle of May in the summer. With plenty of support and help the boxes were lifted from the boat to the jetty ready for moving up to the accommodation but that is where our good luck ran out.

Unfortunately the tow hook on the trusty quad bike sheered (before we had even used it) much to our shock and horror. The end result was that we could not use the trailer and the job of moving all the boxes and food had just become a lot more difficult.  However thanks to the team for their great effort we’ve managed to get it all up and now we can relax (although I now have a trailer to fix). Its never dull on the Isle of May….

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History at our Feet

Wednesday 16th April comments: The Isle of May is a very special place for wildlife but it is also steeped in history. from early Christianity to World War action, the Isle of May has seen its fair share of action.

In recent days we’ve been putting in some new seats beside the Byers (old stables) and during the foundation work, we discovered a soiled object which looked like a coin (pictured above on the left – and what it should look like on the right). On further inspection it was evident it was not a coin but indeed a button! After a further clean-up, we decided to contact our friends at the Museum of Scottish lighthouses in Fraserburgh for more information.

The button was inscribed with the words ‘Northern Lighthouses In Salutem Omnium’ and has a lighthouse in the centre with navigational bouys either side. The button was probably from a jacket worn by a lighthouse keeper on the May and probably dates from the early 20th century. At some stage the staff member must have lost the button near the Byers and has remained there until we found it. We can only speculate who it belonged to but regardless it was a great little find. It just shows the history this island has and what other little secrets are waiting to be discovered.

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