Sunday 17th July comments: It has been an exciting year for the Terns on the May, with a late start and lots of shifting of colonies.
Things started off slowly and we thought we were going to be down in numbers but as the season unfolded, a second wave of birds boosted the numbers. The colonies have moved around and there aren’t as many nesting down by the visitor centre or by the boat landings (which is nice as people don’t get pecked as often!)
We now have 527 pairs of Arctic Terns nesting on the island, with 280 of those choosing to nest up by the Beacon and surrounding area, an increase of 126 pairs on last year. We have done a lot of work up in that area; converting waste area into tern terrace and the results are clear, with the extra terns nesting there.
The Mousehouse field has also seen an increase, so unfortunately the original picnic area had to be closed off to allow for these extra birds. It has turned out to be a great little colony as the public can view them easily whilst not disturbing them too much or getting pecked.
The overall figure is an increase of 43 pairs on last year’s count, which is a step in the right direction for these long distance migrators. Arctic Terns make the longest annual migration of any bird species, seeking summer in both hemispheres and heading to the Antarctic for our winter months.
The Common Terns too have increased from 13 pairs last year to 19 pairs. These birds have also taken to the new terrace well and hopefully they will fledge young and come back to keep increasing the Isle of May population. Not many people know we have Common Terns nesting on the island as nest away from the public up by the Beacon. These birds are similar to the Arctic Tern but a key characteristic to the Common Tern is the distinctive black tip to the bill.