Under the radar – rockets and waggies

A pied wagtail chick getting ringed.
Back in the nest.

The adult pied wagtails.


Rock pipits more commonly known as rockets.

Seabirds are big, striking, some are colourful, loud, smelly and often quite tame so naturally they get all the attention on the Isle of May at this time of year. But there are 2 island residents that tend to go under the radar and only the sharpest eyed visitors notice them. They are the rock pipit and the pied wagtails.
The pied wagtails or waggies are highly strung and the more obvious and the males make a bit of a song and dance earlier in the season before they are buried under parental responsibilities. They are an early warning system for birds of prey as as soon as they see a likely predator they make a twittery racket and it isn’t uncommon to see a raptor flying through the island streaming a comets tail of 4 or 5 madly twittering waggies. A pair nest right behind our cottages so they are a regular site criss-crossing with beakfuls of food and they are very good parents. They have just about finished bringing up their 2 brood of chicks for the season already and just the other night we ringed the chicks. Though not migrants in the traditional sense the island birds mostly head south for the winter as there is little food for them here during the harshest time of the year.
Rock pipits are the naughty little boys of the island. Naturally their name gets shortened to rockits. There is also a pair nesting right behind the cottages on Fluke Street and the birds are constantly nosing around the buildings, peering in windows and generally look like teenagers up to no good. These birds are tough, they will spend the winter on the island feeding on goodness knows what. The population on the isle of May crashed a few years back for an unknown reason but they are gradually recovering and we now have more than a dozen pairs. So if you come over to the island look out for these chaps.

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