Owls on the May

Thursday 12th November comments: Migration is a wonderful thing as places like the Isle of May see the action from start to finish (and we are very privileged to do so). During the early spring, seabirds are returning whilst thousands of summer migrants are arriving. Its also a time when other birds are departing having successfully spent the winter in the UK and returning to breeding grounds in the north. Generally the summer months are quiet as the majority of birds are on breeding territories (but there is always some exceptions to the rule) and then the migration cycle continues with the excitement of the autumn.

There is not may months of the year when there isn’t something moving although late November and December can by quiet except for the odd Blackbird or Fieldfare arriving. On the May we do have the added factor of having no disturbance as once we leave, the island is left to sleep for the winter. Its during this period that we have a very speiclist arrival as we welcome our Short-eared Owls. Although ‘Shorties’ breed in the UK, we don’t have them on the May until late autumn when birds arrive from Russia, Scandinavia and Iceland (just like the Blackbirds, they are escaping the poor weather).

These birds will set up home on the Isle of May safe in knowledge that they have a good place to roost and hunt. The islands mice provide them with enough food and they’ll happily live for the winter months on the sleepy Isle. Numbers fluctuate from winter to winter as a few years ago we had 24 but on average we normally have 4-6 individuals. This year the arrival has been late as unfavourable weather conditions have prevented many turning up, so at present we have two but I’m sure that will change (I hope the mice are paying attention). So it just shows, even in the middle of winter special places like the Isle of May can offer sanctuary and safe haven for our special wildlife.

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