Fluffy chicks at this time of year
Friday 4th August comments: The number of our serene tube-nose Fulmar has risen, with an increase of 10% on sitting birds. The overall population is 341 pairs, the sixth highest count; the highest population count being 381 pairs in 2010.
Our Fulmars are still very much present on the island at the moment feeding chicks. Both adults are now able to go on fishing trips bringing food back for their young, which are now large enough to fend for themselves. The defence strategy of Fulmars is to squirt an oily substance from their beak towards any unsuspecting intruder that gets too close; something a seabird doesn’t want is to have oiled feathers as they won’t be able to fly. The chicks are now at that stage where they are able to project this far enough to keep them out of any harm. It is an amazingly effective defence strategy and there are few predators that are brave (or stupid) enough to try and predate a Fulmar.
These superb seabirds are also more prone to ingesting plastics than many other seabirds due to their foraging strategy. They will often feed on carrion and pick bits of food off the surface in feeding frenzies. With such an abundance and variety of plastics in the ocean it can be very hard to differentiate between what is food and what is potentially harmful.
They seem to be having a good season and we hope that this success continues for one of our under-appreciated but quietly brilliant seabirds.
Two proud parents incubating their blue egg
Two of this seasons young – one hiding under its parents wing
Razorbills with their chick – almost ready to jump
Tuesday 1st August comments: Today we start revealing our population counts and we start with the Auks; Guillemots and Razorbills. Both of these have seen an increase in numbers.
Guillemots have seen a 2% increase in the number of pairs, increasing to16,468 pairs nesting on the cliffs, the highest count since 2005. Razorbillls have increased 9% to 3,899 pairs, the second highest count in recent years and again the highest count since 2005 when 4,713 pairs bred.
The majority of the young have now left the island, the jumplings (chicks) will be well on their way out to sea, learning what it entails to being an adult Razorbill or Guillemot. These birds will stay out at sea, returning again to island around three years old but not breeding until they reach four or five years of age.
These unassuming Auks are incredible animals, with Guillemots able to dive to depths of over 200 metres to find food and Razorbills capable of living for over 40 years. The long term studies carried out on the May give us an insight into these internationally important populations and from our work we can hopefully do what we can to protect them. For now though, all we can do wish the class of 2017 all the best as they head out to sea for the first time.
Yesterdays Red Kite being mobbed by Arctic Terns
Minke Whale off the east side (Sarah Long)
Two-barred Crossbill still present today
Saturday 29th July comments: We have had a few unusual sightings over the past couple of days. It started off with the Two-barred Crossbill on Monday (still present today), feeding up on the Hogweed seeds, slightly different to the pine cones that they usually feed on.
Yesterday lunchtime we heard a commotion with the Terns and they were busy mobbing a juvenile Red kite. They chased it off over the South Plateau for it to then be mobbed by the Gulls. The seabirds here aren’t very welcoming to raptors, this morning an Osprey flew over and again the gulls saw it off the island.
The Isle of May is a great place to witness migration as many birds will use it as a fuel stop on their way south or as a waypoint when crossing the Firth of Forth. The unpredictability of autumn migration keeps you constantly on your toes, you never know what’s going to be around the next corner!
Aside from the birds, on Thursday we saw a Minke Whale of the east side feeding in the waters close to island. It was first seen early morning and then again in the same spot for around 40 minutes early evening. It is now the beginning of the cetacean season and hopefully we should be seeing more around from now on.
With all this going on and still plenty of seabirds around, it’s a great time to come out and visit.
Wednesday 26th July comments: Its not all about seabirds, rare arrivals and football! The Isle of May NNR is a fantastic place for wildlife and a visit can bring you anything… yesterday visitors were treated to a spectacular sighting of Bottle-nosed Dolphins approaching the boat and leaping alongside (as shown in the wonderful photos above taken by May Princess crew member Ed Thomson).
This season has seen some great Dolphin action off the boat in the waters surrounding the May and with the best months approaching for whales and dolphins (August-September) what else might we see. With Humpback Whales and Killer Whales seen in recent years, you just never know!
Boats sail daily until 1st October to the Isle of May departing from Anstruther and North Berwick. For full sailing details check out the websites of the various boat companies. Until then, enjoy the photos. (Also of note, the Two-barred Crossbill is still present for its third day!)
Caught and ringed last night (Sarah Long)
The distinct two bars of the bird (Sarah Long)
Second day and still here showing well (Sarah Long)
Feeding on the seeds of hogweed
Tuesday 25th July comments: Day two and our star avian visitor remained. The immature Two-barred Crossbill which arrived (and was ringed) last night remained loyal to the Arnott Trap area of the island feeding well on Hog Weed seeds.
The bird, a very rare visitor from Boreal Russia, arrived yesterday following a spell of easterly winds. It represents only the third record for the island following individuals in 2001 and 1997.
With spaces available on the boat (check out the various boat websites) and with the bird showing so well, its well worth a look as its something very different to the usual Puffins and Terns. The Isle of May never ceases to amaze.
Two-barred Crossbil!! (Sarah Long)
Showing well on the Isle of May this evening (Sarah Long)
A rare from the east! (Sarah Long)
Monday 24th July comments: The magic May! You never underestimate the Isle of May as even in quiet times the wonders of migration can bring about something different. This evening volunteer Sarah Long was out photographing a Siskin when she came across another bird….
That bird has proved to be a Two-barred Crossbill, a very rare visitor to the UK which breeds in coniferous woodlands across northern Scandinavia and Russia. This represents the third record for the Isle of May with previous singles in July 2001 and August 1997.
It just shows you the magic of the Island in any weather and at any time of year and hopefully it will remain for a few days to allow visitors the opportunity to enjoy this rare arrival.
Sunday 23rd July comments: The Isle of May NNR is a brilliant place to visit, brilliant place to work and a brilliant place for wildlife especially seabirds and seals. The teams who live on here work hard for the island ensuring all of the above but sometimes they like to let their hair down… (just occasionally)
During the week, finer weather allowed all present on the island to enjoy a BBQ (yes we have had some sunshine) and an entertaining game of football involving everyone including the residents of the Isle of May Bird Observatory.
The entertaining game pitted the two reserve managers against each other…Bex hammered a hat-rick passed goalkeeper Steely, although David got the last laugh as his team ran out overall winners. It was a good night and gives you a snapshot of life behind the scenes of what makes a place like the Isle of May NNR tick.