Thursday, 14 March 2019

Isle of May - an illustrated talk by David Steel

David Steel is the warden of the Isle of May bird reserve in the Firth of Forth, not far from Edinburgh. Today he gave an excellent illustrated talk about the island at the National Library of Scotland as part of their excellent series of regular talks.

He talked first about some of the human history of the island, including a monastery and Scotland's oldest lighthouse, The Beacon, built in 1636 which still stands on the highest point of the island though it was replaced in 1816 by a new lighthouse.

He then talked about the island's birds, which include large numbers of breeding arctic terns, puffins, guillemots and razorbills, eider, and kittiwakes and shags. Plus one pair of manx shearwaters, which have bred on the island for a number of years despite most of their number breeding on the west coast of Scotland. David regaled us with stories about the lives of the birds including the guillemots and razorbills chicks throwing themselves over 100feet from their cliff top nests into the water to join their waiting fathers and the puffin chicks leaving home in the middle of the night and walking down the paths to the sea.

Most of these seabird species are thriving on the Isle of May (which they're not generally doing in other places around the UK and in fact across the world). Sadly though even here the kittiwakes and arctic terns aren't doing so well. The kittiwakes are struggling specifically because the sand eels that they eat are moving further down the ocean as the seawater becomes warmer. This isn't too much of a problem for diving birds such as puffins, guillemots and razorbills but is a problem for a surface feeding species such as the kittiwake.

The island is open almost daily (weather dependant) from May until 30th September, it is free to land once you pay the boat fare and you can have up to three hours exploring the island. For boat information and sailing times check out the websites shown below.

Boat Operators (you can book on line)

May Princess (sails from Anstruther):
Osprey Rib (sails from Anstruther):
Seabird Rib (sails from North Berwick):

1 comment:

Magyar said...

__ The fine directions in this post, Juliet, the list of seabirds has caused my memory to recover. _m

__ As New England seasons change, the Osprey scan those seasoned schools of fish; the schools and the Osprey both gain, as do we... in natures plan.

fish hawks
soon gather at Schoodic Point
seasoned schools