Thursday 4th April comments: The Isle of May is a bee-hive of activity and it’s not all about Puffins. Our friends at the Isle of May Bird Observatory have been very busy replacing one of the four Heligoland traps on the island.
Heligoland traps are specialist catching traps designed to funnel small passerine migrants into a catching box for the purpose of bird ringing. The Bird Observatory which has been operating on the island since 1934 catch over 5,000 birds annually in these traps on the Isle of May.
However the rigors of island life (and salt atmosphere!) mean that the traps need replacing every now and then. With funding from SNH, a team of dedicated volunteers has been working hard since 23rd March removing and replacing the Bain trap on the island. The photographs above show the old trap and the new construction underway.
It’ll still be a matter of a few weeks before it’s fully operational but it’s an excellent job so far and much thanks to the teams who have been part of the construction especially Mark, Iain, Brian, Ron and Bill amongst others. We look forward to see it in action and long may it stand the test of time.
Pair copulating in late March
Magnificent Shag on the Isle of May
Tuesday 2nd April comments: Our season is well and truly underway! Yesterday we welcomed the first boats and this was followed by the news that our first Shag egg was discovered.
As previously mentioned the mild weather has been encouraging early nesting behaviour amongst the resident Shags and copulation was noted in late March. It therefore has come as no surprise that yesterday the first egg was discovered and now we have four birds sitting (thanks to Mark for the information). This is in complete contrast to the previous year when the ‘Beast from the east’ delayed proceedings with the first egg not discovered until 29th April.
However this year things are more ‘back on track’ as late March-early April is peak first egg laying date. It’s great to have the season underway and with other birds settling it won’t be long before we have more eggs to celebrate.
First visitor boats of the season
So maybe not. The story below was brought to you by April fools day but at least we made a few people smile!
On a more real setting, we welcomed our first visitor boats of the season today with the May Princess (pictured) landing just before midday. Its great to be open again and we had good numbers of Puffins for the visit, and long may it continue.
The new Puffin pound based on the Lundy coin as shown
Some of the major sporting events now open to the Isle of May residence
Monday 1st April comments: Today the Isle of May was unveiled as a separate sovereign state and will be endorsed by the United Nations late this month. High level confidential talks have been on-going for several months and today we can bring you the confirmation that the Isle of May has broken away from the United Kingdom.
The full details of newest country to the world stage have yet to be revelled but some details are filtering out. The island will adapt the ‘Puffin Pound’ as the main currency whilst the flag of the Isle of May is currently at design stage. The result of independence means that any visitors heading over in the future will require a passport with passport control near the landing stage on the island. In a positive move, visas will not be required as a deal was struck with the UK government. The new Islands parliament will sit for the first time in late April with health care, reform and education high on the agenda.
Other key aspects of the breakaway include the promotion of the sporting teams of the island with entry at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the Qatar Football World Cup 2022 of great interest. Talks are already underway to secure a friendly international match against Scotland at Hampden Park.
This exciting announcement has taken many by surprise but many see it as a beneficial step forward and we hope, like many, you look forward to visiting the new country, but don’t forget your passports! More news to follow.
Sunday 31st March comments: Today marks a significant day in the history of the Isle of May as thirty years ago today; the last lighthouse keepers departed the island for the very last time. On 31st March 1989, a helicopter landed at the helipad and resident researchers Sarah Wanless and Mike Harris were handed a set of keys before the lighthouse keepers jumped into the chopper and departed. It marked the end of an era.
The Isle of May has a long deep association with lighthouses and lighthouse keepers as it boasts Scotland’s first ever lighthouse (the Beacon) constructed in 1636 followed by the main lighthouse engineered by the famous Robert Stevenson. From 1636-1989 (a total of 353 years) lighthouse keepers lived and worked on the island keeping the light burning to allow safe passage at sea. However with the automation of Scottish lighthouses starting in the 1980’s the end was near and in March 1989, the lighthouse keepers were no more.
The island then took on a new history although the lighthouses still remain and the main lighthouse is still operational, beaming out nightly reaching 22 nautical miles. In recent years the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) converted the light to run purely on solar energy (in 2015) and the following year SNH went into partnership to open the lighthouse to the public. If you are interested in visiting this magnificent building (including the views from the top) it’s free to access and will be open at weekends from May-July and every day from 1st August. If you get the opportunity then make sure this is on your ‘to do’ list.
However today is about remembering the past and all those who served the mighty Isle of May lighthouses. We’ll raise a wee dram tonight in their honour. Best wishes to all.
Saturday 30th March comments: Slowly and surely we are sorting the Isle of May. We’ve been here since Monday and we’ve cleaned, scrubbed, sorted, organised and we are almost ready to go.
Over the last four days we’ve had the drinking water tested, fire extinguishers serviced, fire alarm systems reviewed, kitchen units installed, solar power batteries checked….you name it, its been happening. We also had a great group of SNH staff who volunteered for the day to help open up the visitor centre, clean toilets and collect rubbish off the beach(thank you to everyone involved). The Isle of May is almost ready to open and the final touches will be made this weekend before the boats sail for the first time on Monday.
As well as the facilities being sorted we’ve been keeping a check of the seabirds as slowly and surely the season sparks into life. It’s been a good start and we look forward to the first boats landing.
Vast numbers of Puffins now landing on the island
Shags on well established nests and first eggs not far away
Kittiwakes back on the clifftops
Thursday 28th March comments: Its been a good start to life back on the Isle of May National Nature Reserve. The SNH staff moved back on the island on Monday and since then we’ve been full of busy preparing the island for visitors whilst welcoming back old friends (the thousands of seabirds which call this place a home).
Over the last few days thousands of Puffins have touched land for the first time since last August. Since departing the island late last summer, these hardy seabirds have been out at sea (regardless of weather) and are now just finding their land legs. The birds will come and go over the next week or so, with plenty of spring cleaning and pair bonding to take place.
The only real all-year round resident; the Shags, look like heading for an early season with the majority of pairs now on established nests with some impressive structures. Copulating has been observed and we are probably just a matter of a few days away from our first egg of the season. We’ve also welcomed back hundreds of Kittiwakes with plenty on cliff ledges preparing for the new season ahead. As usual thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills are well in attendance although currently just during the early mornings but gradually birds will settle.
Overall its been a positive start (compared to this time last year when we had just seen off the Beast from the East) and the seabirds are responding to the mild conditions. its still very early days and still thousands more birds (and species) to arrive, but all is good as we prepare to open our doors on Monday. Are you visiting….?