Research on the May

research 1

Sue carrying out vital research (Mark Newell)


research 4

Important data gathering…Francis in action (Mark Newell)

Research 3 kitt

Vital work for the may; colour ringing seabirds (Mark Newell)


Data gathering throughout the season (Mark Newell)



Research 2

Long hours spent in the hides of the May (Mark Newell)

Friday 6th May comments: The Isle of May is nationally important for its seabirds and the island was designated a National Nature Reserve (NNR) 60 years ago to the year (in June). As part of that, a number of the seabirds have been studied by the research team from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology for the last 45 years as Mark Newell writes;

After a winter in the office it is a delight to be set free and since we came ashore on the May we have been busy checking on the seabirds and ascertaining who has returned and is ready to lay.  This is the first part of our season, going around the isle looking for individually colour ringed birds to establish who has survived the winter.  We are also keeping an eye on our monitoring plots where we follow the birds from the day they lay an egg until the last one fledges, all from the relative comfort of the wooden hides scattered along the cliff tops.  Later as the season progresses and the chicks hatch we will be studying the food brought in to compare to previous years in the type of prey as well as its size and frequency of feeds.

This work will be repeated across the isle and in three and a half months’ time we will know just how successful a season it has been for the puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, shags and fulmars.  All this data collected to compare to previous years on the Isle of May and to other seabird colonies around the UK aiding our understanding of the health of the marine ecosystem.

We will also be conducting various other research including looking into the effects of parasites on seabirds, attaching devices that will track their movements outside the breeding season and looking into how site and mate faithful individuals are.  So if you come out and spot a ringed bird we may have a comprehensive history of how old it is, where it has wintered, who it has paired with and how successful it has been in previous breeding seasons.  And we will be working hard over the coming weeks to add to this extensive set of information.

And if you spot a colour ringed shag anywhere along the north east UK coast please send details to

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