Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Beautiful moths.

An angle shades moth with its delicately rolled wings looking just like a dead leaf. Butterflies are hugely popular wildlife with the public but moths have a bit of a hard time. People usually firstly think of holes in theri woolens or coming out of wallets and the fact that most fly at night doesn't help their cause. But many of the moths found in the Uk are absolutely stunning. We run a moth trap most nights on the island. It consists of a bright light that attracts the moths in, a wooden box under the light with a slot that mothdrop into and can't get out and lots of eggs boxes. Before you ask these go in the box and the moths hide under them until we release them in the morning. Below are pictures of a selection of some of the species that we have caught so far in the seaosn. Enjoy.

A burnished brass

A yellowshell

An antler moth - it gets its name from the white antler patterns on its wing.

A garden tiger (next 3 pictures), many peoples favourites moth.

A dark arches - the commonest moth on the island, it is possible to catch 200 in one night.

A brimstone moth

A square spot dart, a notable species as it is rare in the UK, recorded for the first time on the Isle of May this year.

A rosy rustic, not always rosy but always beautifully put together.

A hedge rustic.

Isle of May on TV

Following hot on the heals of 'Dancing' John Sergent on the 'One Show,' ITVs 'Daybreak' came out to film.

The Isle of May features last in this travelguide to Edinburgh. They came out on the Seabird Centre RIB.

And you guessed it, they wanted to film Puffins......

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bird movements

The other night Jeremy and I had to go down to the North Horn to check that a key that we had been given fitted. The sun was setting and we took advantage of being in an elevated position to watch the sun going down and see what birds might be coming over to the island to spend the night. On the isle of may we are always looking at birds moving about, it can look a bit random (them not us) but birds always move from place to place with a reason. So some are on migration heading north or south depending on the season, others only pass the island once a year, Some travel to the island to breed for the summer and then head away and some just spend the night on the island as it is safe from many predators.

Half an hour just watching revealed a lot of moving birds. As the sun dropped down behind Fife making it look almost beautiful parties of curlew and knots came speeding in low over the water having spend the day feeding along the mainland. The knot are working their way south while the curlew are mooching around while the moult their feathers. Shags and cormorants rumbled in to spend the night together on a rocky point. A black-headed gull, a rare sight here, flew down the island going south. But what was most striking was the herring gulls coming onto the island for the night. The first few parties came in in groups of 20 to 30 and then they started to pour in. When I looked up I could see a steady stream of them all the way back to Fife. Having been feeding all day and now replete on earthworms, landfill rubbish and chips they gained height over the mainland and then taking advantage of the wind in their faces to maintain lift they just soared downhill to the island. We stared counting and in half an hour reached 1000 and when we left in the gloom there were still birds drifting in. An insight into the bird movements of the island and a spectacular sight from one of our commoner birds.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Waders Count


Purple sandpipers

At this time of year the seabird monitoring has finished but there are still birds to count and this time its waders. Now the island doesn't look like wader country as they usually have very long bills for sticking in mud and we have lots of rock. But actually one of the many reasons while the Isle of May is legally protected for its wildlife are because 2 types of waders gather after the breeding season in important numbers. They are the turnstone and the purple sandpiper. Both actually prefer rocky ground and are specialised at picking small snails and shrimps from the seaweed and under rocks. So from July to September we try to do a number of counts to find out how many of these birds there are . The Isle of may has many rocky inlets and gullys so it takes a coordinated count from between 2-3 people to cover all of the north, east and south sides. And it is an incredibly intensive 2-3 hours where you are totally focused on what you see. As usual there is always lots to see:
You might find a gull chick eyeing you up.

You can enjoy the poo art from the kittiwake roost.

And marvel at the way the wreck of the Island has been broken down by the sea and pushed up on the rocks so that it is now just a scattered few lumps of metal.

And you get to explore lots o dark gullys where people don't normally go.

At the end of the last count we managed to find 5 different species of wader and nearly 200 birds...not bad for a lump of rock.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Catching Up

No visitor boat today as it is blowing hard from the west and has been raining for much of the day. So a good day for catching up, including, of course the Blog. Well the seals are getting more frequent and more curious. The one above was watching me in the harbour. The seal below was trying to sleep but the incoming tide and waves were making life uncomfortable - time to move.

A couple of days ago another blogger Mark Avery visited the Isle of May. Mark, as Director of Conservation for the RSPB was an outspoken champion for wildife in the UK and he put his views over in a very popular and well-read blog. He has now left the RSPB and is self-employed and still writes his hard hitting blog. With trepidation I went on to find out what he had written about the Isle of May. The link here ( will let you read the entry for the 28th August but luckily he was very complimentary about the island, nearly as complimentary as he was about Fiona from the May Princess, none of the rest of us got a mention though.
Yesterday evening was beautiful, though today the shepherds would have been hiding their faces this morning. I took a few photos of the angel and the bishop at Pilgrims Haven while the shags watched me from the stack.

Today it is a different scene, but that is the Isle of May, never the same, always changing.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Purple Sandpiper video

Here is a short video of Purple Sandpipers on the Isle of May NNR taken on Saturday. The island gets nationally important numbers passing through in the Autumn. This charming wader hides amongst the rocks on the island.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Isle of May on the BBC

The Main Lighthouse on the Isle of May

Back in July David and volunteer Alice met John Sergent out here on the island. They were filming for the 'One Show.' They were going into the mainlight. We don't have a TV set out here so we missed the original broadcast. We have watched it back on the BBC i-player. It is great to see the island featured on a prime time show.

We are about 23 minutes into the broadcast or I as like to call it, the headline feature.

There will be a unique opportunity to visit the Mainlight on the 4th of September. On this day we will be celebrating the islands Lighthouse.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Unlucky Gannet

Every so often members of the public report dead of injured birds in to us. So on Saturday when a member of the public described what sounded like a Gannet to me my heart sank. These are quite feisty big birds that don't like to be handled. Loss of fingers and eyes are possible. I'd also received enough injuries from Puffins during the summer! So after the May Princess set off we headed for Pilgrims.

Here is a picture after the bird was successfully secured.....

Only after a short struggle.

It did however put up quite a fight. Heaven knows what people from the Seabird centre thought. The cameras were trained on me at all times. The stick was used to give it something to peck at so I could get a hand behind it's neck. For a badly injured bird its survival instinct was quite Strong as it charged at me. I managed to catch it receiving no wounds.

Here is a picture of its bill close up

Gannet have this wonderful foot pattern

Sadly this bird had to be humanly destroyed. It's wing was broken very badly. In the past here we have had Gannets caught in fishing nets. They do follow the fishing boats and can pick up injuries when they dive into the nets. Just last week I saw a line of Gannets sat on the back of a fishing boat out from the island.

Discarded fishing gear is just one of the hazards that our sea life faces. I was looking at the sea the other day when it was flat calm. I was amazed just how much rubbish there is across the sea as far as you can see with a telescope. It was really quite frightening. And that's just the rubbish we can see on the surface!

We do say in our introduction 'the way we all live our lives can have a direct effect on what goes on on the island.'

A few thoughts from last weeks open day.

A full house on the May Princess

Brother Baldwin was on the Priory watching the boat come in

It's great a sesame street extra could make it!

It was a fantastic day. My favourite memory was when I went to tell brother Baldwin that his coracle was leaving shortly, without breaking character he turned to the person he was speaking to and said 'the Abbot has requested me to return to the mainland.'

Our next event is on the the 4th September. You are welcome to celebrate the lighthouses of the island. More details to follow shortly.

We arranged this for you

Sometimes the weather is just bad. It's raining cats and dogs. But the boat still comes out and we will be there to meet it. On a particularly rainy day it was not looking promising. It had rained all day. It was so bad we stood in the bar on the boat and I did the usual talk. To be fair the weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of visitors. Off they went in their various directions. I stayed on the boat and had a coffee with the crew. I set off eventually with it still raining. I headed for the main light and as I walked up Palputation Brae the rain stopped.

A strange mist rose from all around

From behind the Beacon a rainbow appeared

Do you see the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow? (or a group of non english speakers off the path. Grrr)

The island was bathed in sunshine as the May Princess left. And yes I did use the old joke 'we arrange the weather' to every visitor I saw!

On average we get 40% less rain then the mainland. We have suffered with a water shotage this summer. Many days we've looked back towards Anstruther with dark clouds above while we are in bright sunshine. One of those stange phenomina of being an island.