A bit of an exciting bird day yesterday as at last the island received some migrant birds. The Isle of May has long been a stopping off point for birds migrating north in the spring and south in the autumn. Being an island it attracts migrant birds who use it as a stepping stone when they cross the Firth of Forth and a motorway service station when they get cold and wet and need a bit of a feed and a rest. This is why the Isle of May Bird Observatory has been based on the island since 1934, the second longest serving bird observatory in the UK. So all birds that move through the island are counted and ringing if possible as part of a nationwide migration monitoring programme. But things get a bit more exciting when the winds change from the usual south westerlies to easterlies as this is when birds that are migrating up the other side (east) of the North Sea get blown sideways and end up on the wrong side of the North Sea for them. This is when birds that we don’t normally see land up here. Yesterday after weeks of south westerly winds there was a little puff of south easterlies and suddenly 5 sedge warblers, 3 common whitethroats, a cuckoo and a blackcap appeared on the island. Though we get these species in the UK it is probable that these birds actually came from Europe. And mixed in with them was a bird the has hardly ever bred here, an icterine warbler, a beautiful round, glowing yellow and green warbler that was found feeding up in the lighthouse keepers gardens of the Mainlight. About 20-30 of these birds take a wrong turn and are seen each spring in Scotland instead of where they are normally heading to, Scandanavia. It was trapped in the special traps for this purpose and ringed so that if it is found again we can learn something of its movements.
Another exciting bird the evening before was a small duck called a garganey that is a summer visitor to the UK but is fairly scarce. A male bird dropped-in in the evening and was briefly seen on a pool on the West Braes. This was only the 2nd siting ever for the Isle of May.
Today the wind has gone back to the west and all these interesting birds have cleared out to continue their mostly secret travels, out of sight, but we are very glad to have got even just a tiny glimpse of their journeys.
The icterine warbler in the hand after being ringed.
Below, spot the person who rushed out of the cottages to see the icterine warbler.!