Visitor centre with its ‘green’ roof….
The jetty landing area near visitor centre
The Low Lighthouse (bird Observatory)
Tuesday 24th March comments: The Isle of May is slowly and surely waking up to spring as the flora of the island germinates as day light hour’s and temperatures increase. We’ve also seen it in bird behaviour as Rock Pipits have started singing, Shags are frantically nest building and various other seabirds are starting to show signs that the breeding season is just around the corner.
However it’s also a strange time as we know over the next few weeks we won’t (disappointingly) be welcoming visitors to share and enjoy this wonderful place. We also won’t be seeing the boatmen we know so well and the various research teams and bird observatory friends who help make the Isle of May what it is. However we hope things will change over the next month and this will be just a distance dream.
We’ll keep you posted with the daily events; today we’ve been busy sorting out the accommodation on the island, as a full spring clean has been in order. From deep cleaning fridges to painting walls, it’s been a busy day as we prepare not just for the birds arriving but also the various groups of people. Life goes on!
Monday 23rd March comments: It finally arrived. The start of a new season for the Isle of May is underway but unlike any previous season, it has a large black cloud hanging over it. The events of recent weeks in the UK regarding the Coronavirus has finally caught up with the island. SNH took the difficult decision to close the island to all last week following the advice from the government and NHS and today should have been a celebration as various staff, volunteers and bird observatory guests should have been arriving, but sadly not as only two did.
Reserve Manager David Steel entering his sixth season on the May (and 20th year on islands following 14 years on the Farnes) and Bex Outram Assistant Manager entering her seventh year on the May (and 10th on islands following 3 years on the Farnes) arrived. This valuable experience will be needed over the forthcoming weeks and months ahead to steer the May during these troubled times. The two staff have been put back on to maintain the reserve and ensure the wildlife remains protected whilst also ensuring the safety of others whilst we wait for the currents events to subside.
SO the new season is here and over the next few weeks and months, we’ll be bringing you all the news and highlights from the May. From the return of the Puffins to the first Shag eggs. If it moves, we’ll let you know, as even though you can not visit (just yet) we will be bringing the May to you. Stay safe everyone and get ready for an island adventure….
Saturday 21st March comments: So it’s official the Isle of May is temporarily closed due to the current national situation and we hope everyone stays safe and well. In this unique and exceptional time we appreciate the importance of mental health and wellbeing and as a result we’ll be doing our bit by bringing you as much news from the Isle of May as possible.
Over the next few weeks we’ll attempt to bring daily updates from the island bringing you all the news and views of what is happening with the seabirds on the island, the build up to the new nesting season and anything else that is happening from the unexpected to the surprising. When timelines are being filled with serious news and issues, it’s nice to escape and appreciate that the natural world is going along as normal, business as usual.
As a result, from Monday we’ll be doing everything we can to bring a little bit of the Isle of May national nature reserve into the comfort of your home. We’ll also be encouraging people to get out and about along the coasts and countryside to enjoy the great outdoors and see what Mother Nature has to offer; you might just be pleasantly surprised, after all it is spring and even the first Swallows have been seen!
So stay safe everyone, follow all the advice from the government and NHS but enjoy the outside world, breath it in, as spring is on its way.
Isle of May NNR – COVID-19
Thursday 19th March comments: The Isle of May National Nature Reserve has announced that it is to close with immediate effect due to the unique and exceptional circumstances we currently find ourselves in. In accordance with current UK and SG government policy and NHS guidelines, the island will be closed to all personnel wishing to visit or work on the island. The island will continue to be managed by resident SNH staff on a care and maintenance basis only. It is hoped that this exceptional measure will be temporary and will be under constant review.
Please note that the remainder of all our other SNH beautiful and varied reserves do however remain open for the public to enjoy during this difficult time, while following the social distancing guidelines set out by the government.
We recognise that this will be a very stressful and anxious time for many people, and spending time outdoors and connecting with nature can provide a real boost for both physical and mental health. In a recent survey, around 9 in 10 outdoors visitors reported benefits to their mental and physical wellbeing, with 67% saying it helped them to relax and unwind and 64% saying it improved their physical health.
Where possible we would encourage people to relax and keep active by continuing to explore and enjoy their local nature reserves, parks and greenspaces. Even simple activities such as getting out for a walk, breathing fresh air, listening to birdsong or noticing wild flowers can all greatly improve our wellbeing during this time of uncertainty and stress.
Puffin in flight over the May (Michael Christie)
Wednesday 18th March comments: Spring is seriously just around the corner now as news has filtered through that Puffins have been seen back in the Isle of May waters. A small number were seen grouped together off the island, a sure sign that spring is almost here.
Puffins departed the breeding colonies in August last year and since then have been out at sea, not touching land in that time. The birds have been generally in the North Sea although small numbers move into the Atlantic. Regardless of weather the birds remain out at sea until now as they start moving back along the east coast to breeding colonies. Over the next week or two they’ll touch land for the first time in eight months and the pair bonding, courtship displays and burrow cleaning will commence.
Its an exciting time as the sightings show the seabirds are reacting to the weather and the time of year. Its just a matter of time before other seabirds follow suit and the Isle of May will be alive and kicking. Its good to have them back and we look forward to reporting more news as Puffins are back.
Tuesday 17th March comments: The Isle of May remains one of the most important seabird colonies in the British Isles and tonight you’ll get the chance to see a snap-shot of the place. A new Channel Five program has started called ‘Britain; a Year in the Wild” and tonight (Tuesday) features Islands. In this episode both Puffins and Arctic Terns feature, all filmed on the Isle of May by Sam Oakes.
We look forward to watching and seeing a place we know well and hopefully you’ll all enjoy the wonders of nature on the Isle of May from the comfort of your home and it may help take minds off other current affairs.
Feature: Isle of May
Where: Channel Five
Date and Time: Tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm
Featuring: Arctic Terns and Puffins of the island
Sunday 15th March comments: The Isle of May team are preparing for another season on the island which will bring highs, lows and everything in between (and I hope you are with us every step of the way). However it’s not just our teams who are preparing for island life as at this time of year a number of island wardens/rangers are gathering their kit, sorting themselves out and preparing for new seasons on their respective bit of rocks around the UK coastline.
The UK is blessed with some of the most important seabird colonies in the world and a loyal, dedicated number of people work, live and breathe on these rocky outcrops studying and protecting the precious wildlife whilst also sharing it with thousands of visitors. Already we’ve seen the teams of Coquet Island (Northumberland) and Skomer Island (Wales) return whilst there are many queueing up including the staff of St.Kilda, Noss, Mingulay and Handa in Scotland, Ramsey Island, Bardsey Island, Skokholm Island (Wales) and Farne Island in Northumberland amongst many others.
Like ourselves, the island teams will work long hours in the summer often starting days early and finishing late whilst weekends become a blur as days roll into weeks which roll into months. The job satisfaction maybe huge with a lot of reward but it’s still tough work at times and you sacrifice a lot when you spend summers out on islands. However we wouldn’t change it for the world and little over one week, we’ll be joining the teams out on their rocks as we say hello to a new Isle of May season.