Dolphin Days (again)


Bottle-nosed Dolphins yesterday off the Isle of May (Simon Chapman)


Youngster with the adults (Simon Chapman)


impressive beats (Simon Chapman)


Bottle-nosed Dolphin (Simon Chapman)

Wednesday 4th July comments: The amazing Isle of May National Nature Reserve. Once again wildlife never failed to disappoint as yesterday a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins was discovered between the island and Anstruther and seen from the local tourist boats.


The pod, up to twenty animals, followed the boat for a short period and included at least two juveniles (which can be seen on the above photos). The pod have now been seen a few times in recent weeks and its hoped they’ll become a more regular feature.

As certain fish species move into the area during the summer months, the number of whales and dolphins increase and July-August is peak time to see something special. Harbour porpoise are the most common but Bottle-nosed Dolphins are seen regularly whilst Minke Whales will be appearing soon. Its never dull on the Isle of May…

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Plastic Un-Fantastic

Rubbish 1

Plastic galore…collected in just one hour

rubbish 2

The beach engrained with polystyrene and plastics

rubbish 3

The team in action cleaning the beach


Litter 5

The depressing plastic tide

Monday 2nd July comments: The Isle of May welcomed the Young Birders Course, a joint venture between the Scottish Ornithological Club, Scottish Natural Heritage, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the Isle of May Bird Observatory. The course runs for one week and six people between the ages of 16-25 attend and are offered the opportunity to find out how bird observatories and nature reserves are managed and the research that goes on.

As part of this year’s course we’ve started the week with a variety of jobs from seawatching (recording passage seabirds) to helping out ringing Great Black-backed Gull chicks. However an important job involves a beach clean along the short 100m beach on the island and the results were as expected…depressing.

In just one hour the team cleaned and removed all the rubbish they could find and as expected, it involved mainly plastics and polystyrene. Everything from cigarette lighters to cotton buds (a lot of cotton buds!) were picked up but sadly it is only scraping the surface as the next incoming tide will bring even more… However we have done something and will keep on working hard to make a difference.

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Who is eating the Snails?


Adult, calling away.


A pair with their youngster in the middle.

Sunday 1st July comments: Visitors to the Isle of May have many questions for our staff on the island and one popular question at this time of year is “why all the empty snail shells?”, “Who eats the snails?” The answer…..Oystercatchers!

Oystercatchers have a varied diet, from probing the ground for worms, pecking limpets and barnacles from the shore line and of course the snails.  They use their sturdy beaks to pick the snails from the walls and then suck out the body, either eating or feeding them to their chicks. Unusually for a wading bird, they also predate the eggs of other ground nesting species, such as Terns.

We have 19 pairs nesting across the island this year making a small scrape on the ground and lining it with a variety of items, some shells, others moss and some even rabbit droppings. They lay between 2-4 eggs (usually 3), hatching around twenty-five days later. It takes the chicks around thirty days before they can fly, until this time they rely on their superb camouflage to hide from predators.

It is also interesting to note the difference in behaviour between the pairs on the island. Some pairs will immediately make a racket and call loudly if you’re close to their nest, while others will slink away and rely on the natural camouflage of the eggs/chicks to protect them. The idea about making a racket and mobbing predators is that they are alarmed enough to vacate the area, while slinking away draws less attention to the presence of a nest. Two very different strategies employed by the same species on the same island – amazing!

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Art Exhibition Open

Saturday 30th June comments: Today a new exciting art exhibition featuring the Isle of May opened in the islands lighthouse featuring work from Fife artist Leo Du Feu. Leo has a long association with the island having visited annually for a number of years and loves nothing more than the stunning wildlife and scenery.

The Edinburgh born artist, a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art will have his work displayed in the lighthouse throughout the summer with the collection viewable at weekends throughout July and daily from 1st August-30th September.

The work features landscapes and the special wildlife of the May which includes inks, watercolours and sketches of a variety of topics. The exhibition is free to enter and boat times/fees apply for the trips from either North Berwick or Anstruther.

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Guill chick 1

Young Guillemot chick almost ready to jump

IOM Cliffs

Guillemots packed in on the Isle of May cliffs

4 Guillemot with young on sea

Father and chick! together on the sea

Friday 29th June comments: The Isle of May and its seabirds are incredible. Over the course of the season we have so many stories, so many highs and lows and we are now onto our next chapter of this years story; its jumpling time!

The Guillemot breeding season is as interesting as any as birds lay a single egg and incubate under their feet (a bit like Penguins, they don’t build a nest). After hatching, the chick is raised by both parents but then after 20-21 days the male will take the youngster out to the relative safety of the open sea. To do this, they have to call the chick down from the tops of the cliffs (regardless of height) and the father will then lead the chick away where it will grow flight feathers and become independent.

For a Guillemot chick of 20-21 days old, its a massive leap into the unknown as these small youngsters still not fully winged, have to leap off the cliff tops and into the sea below. Its an incredible strategy but one which works and is repeated across all seabird colonies!

So the youngsters are known as ‘jumplings’ and so begins the jumpling season. We wish them all good luck in their leap of faith.

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Basking in…haar

Fog 2

This morning on the Isle of May…


rolling in…

Wednesday 27th June comments: Glorious sunshine, heat wave, sun tan lotion needed? Not on the Isle of May… Typically the wind has switched to the east and temperatures have soared over the UK in recent days. However as warmer moist air moves over the relatively cooler North Sea, the moisture in the air condenses and forms haar (fog!)

Interestingly the term haar is used along areas bordering the North Sea especially in eastern Scotland and the north-east of England. Variants of the term in Scottish and northern English include har, hare, harl, harr and hoar whilst the origin may be of Low German/Middle Dutch hare or Saxon. In Yorkshire and Northumberland it is commonly referred to as a sea fret

So there you have it. So spare a thought for us out here whilst you are eating ice-creams, wearing shorts and topping up the tans. Now where are my gloves…

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BBC Timeline


Puffins with a mouthful of food!


Puffins galore featuring on BBC Timeline

Monday 25th June comments: If anyone missed the Isle of May on BBC Two Timeline last Thursday then here is a chance to catch up with it as iPlayer is now available. The Isle of May section starts at 8mins 50 seconds in and runs for five minutes. It’s worth a watch! Enjoy.

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