Goodbye 2017!

Sunday 1st October comments: Thank you and goodbye. Yesterday we welcomed our final visitors to the Isle of May NNR as we said goodbye to another visitor season. Despite the weather (remember the rain in June?) we’ve had a brilliant year (a record year!) with lots of people visiting and enjoying the island (but more on that in a few days time).

The boats departed the island for the last time late yesterday having had a great day as part of our Seal day (with great help from Sea Mammal Research Unit from St.Andrews). We’ll now close our doors to the public as the island will transform into a major Grey Seal nursery over the next two months but don’t stop tuning into the blog as we’ll be bringing you all the views and news from the island as it transforms.

So you still with us? The Isle of May NNR is about to become a very busy place…its Seal season! Let the fun begin.

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Thursday 28th September comments: Today there is something different on the blog as we celebrate national poetry day. As a way of celebrating, the small team on here wrote and produced an Isle of May poem called freedom (brilliantly read by our volunteer Simon). (Unfortunately technology would not allow us to switch the image around as you can see!)

For those who would like the wording, here is the poem in full…


Freedom is a Fulmar, soaring through the waves

Freedom is the Seals, that call their homes the caves

Isle of May is blissful, magical and free,

A home from home, in the middle of the sea.


Windy, rainy spring to fall,

Nothing compares to the Puffins call.

Seabirds galore on the cliffs so high,

Terns displaying, dancing in the sky.


People arrive from boats south and north,

To see the jewel in the Firth of Forth.

Walking this island, joyous can be,

Enjoying the views, as far as can see.


When it’s time to leave the isle,

I cannot but help to grin a smile.

This home from home in the middle of the sea,

Will always be a place for me

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Arctic on a Plate


Arctic Warbler caught and ringed on the island



Tuesday 26th September comments: We were building it up and it didn’t disappoint. As the winds switched to the east, so did the number of migrant birds on the island and over the last 24 hours we’ve had plenty.

Amongst the scattering of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, a few nice scarce visitors were found including six different Yellow-browed Warblers (all the way from Siberia!). The collection also included another northern Great Spotted Woodpecker (fourth this autumn) and other good birds like Reed Warbler and Redstart amongst others.

However we kept the best until last, as late yesterday an Arctic Warbler was trapped and ringed and was still present all day today. These birds breed in the boreal forests of Russia and this represented only the sixth ever island record and the first since 1996. It certainly brightened up the day and with more easterly’s forecast, are we expecting even more…

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May Alert

pecker 1

‘northern’ Great Spotted Woodpecker caught and ringed


Yellow-browed Warblers arriving from the east


First Redwing of the autumn

Monday 25th September comments: There is east in that wind boy…and the birds are coming…. The Isle of May is back on full migration alert as this week we are experiencing easterly winds resulting in plenty of migrant birds arriving from Scandinavia and beyond.

In the last twenty-four hours we’ve seen Yellow-browed Warblers from Siberia (three of them), the invasion of northern Great Spotted Woodpecker (from Scandinavia) continue with three present yesterday, the first Redwings of the autumn (moving into  the UK  for the winter) and summer migrants on their way south including Ring Ouzel and Lesser Whitethroats amongst others.

Once again its all go as the island is lifting with life. With easterly winds forecast we are expecting more and we’ll also be focusing on our Grey Seals as we’ve had our second Seal pup birth; but that’s another story…

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Thank-you to the Class of 2017


Saturday 23rd September comments: The Isle of May NNR is a very special place but without the help of volunteers the national nature reserve could not be what it is today. This year we’ve had some fantastic help from some wonderful people and they’ve contributed to the island in many ways from physical hard work to bringing the world of Ping-Pong to the island.

Our two long-term volunteers; Sacha and Beckie have worked extremely hard over the summer months, getting involved with everything on the island from monitoring Arctic Terns to scrubbing jetties. In their spare time (they don’t get much in the busy summer) they even built a table-tennis table complete with bats and changed the social aspect of the island for many summers to come. The island owes these two a huge debt of thanks for all their efforts.

Thanks also need to go to various others who  gave their time to the May including Simon, Sarah, Liz, Daryl, Ptolemy, Gus, Will, Jamie and Viv amongst others. A THANK YOU to all, and we’ll raise a glass of red to you all tonight. Its been a tough season (from a weather prospective) but a very enjoyable one working with you all. So from the island team, thank you and we look forward to welcoming you back in future years.

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Pup parade


Seven days old and doing well


Islands first grey Seal pup of the autumn

Seal 5

The number of cow seals increasing daily

Friday 22nd September comments: Its mid-September and our first Grey Seal pup born last Thursday is still doing well with mother in attendance on the north edge of the island. This is the first of over 2,500 pups which will be born on the Isle of May over the next few months, so expect plenty more Seal blogs in the future…

If you want to learn more from the experts and see our Grey Seals up close, we have a special ‘Seal Weekend’ event next weekend (30th September and 1st October) where you can join the experts and learn more about these impressive animals (boats will depart on Saturday at 14:15 and 09:30 on Sunday – see various boat company websites for more details).

Until then we’ll keep checking the island as the number of adult Grey Seals increases on a daily basis and the number of pups will start rising. It’s a very changing scene on the Isle of May as we are well and truly entering seal season.

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GS W Iain English

Great Spotted Woodpecker for second day (Iain English)

Rosefinch 1 (Iain English)

Common Rosefinch (Iain English)

Tuesday 19th September comments: The Isle of May has been buzzing the last few days as migrants birds have been arriving, the first real arrival this autumn (due to a direct result of the wind direction).

Our Great Spotted Woodpecker was still r=present for a second day, enjoying life on his new treeless island but glad to report its feeding well. The Little Bunting, the real star of the show was also still present but elusive whilst a Common Rosefinch was new in. On days like this, we do feel privileged to live and work on one of the best east coast migrant stations with migration happening all around us.

However as quickly as birds arrive, they’ll move on as the winds are switching back to the west and we can concentrate on other things; like our Grey Seals. The number of seals are increasing daily around the island and the first pup is doing well with plenty more to follow in the forthcoming weeks and months.

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