8th May 2013: Isle of May - with SNH’s Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Unit
Krystina Campbell writes:
A Grey and Windy Day! Afternoon rain
However, fears that the May Princess would stay in her berth were unfounded and she stalwartly ploughed her way Forth from Anst’er, with SNH’s CME Unit + guests like me, who work in a ‘cross-team’ capacity. So the SNHers included advisers who appraise the impacts of fisheries, oil and gas exploration, production, pipelines, aquaculture and marine renewable energy; the ornithologists, advisers of things that grow, creep, crawl, swim and the myriad of types of beach and shore, sea- bottom and tide…
For some it was their first time across, for others a repeat visit. So our impressions are varied – like Karen sitting by me on the way back, my first time there was the surprise at the amount of ‘hardware’ left over from lighthouses, with compressed air systems for fog horns, bits of WWII infrastructure – concrete. After a few minutes this gives way, as you walk round and experience your surroundings -- amidst sea, standing guard at the mouth of the Forth. Overall, to visit the Isle of May is a visit to the birds (the real owners) and all that this means – sounds, smells, being allowed into their private space – that is the strongest, persistent impression.
From helping on the bird-count a few years ago, my Isle of May image is the nesting Eider – the torpid Maduck, duckling cheeps and lawns of pink and eider downy nests. But this year thrift was thrifty – the mounds of flowering sea-pink, almost there but not quite and the sea campion nodded heavy buds at us!
Central Scotland’s East Coast island is special on many counts. The research done here since the 1930s has fuelled an increasing public awareness and interest of the May’s wildlife. Many who cannot visit in person nevertheless are aware of this natural, remote island – it is ever present in so many views from our Forth shores and inland hills, there is a measure of access to it from books and paintings; some of the peace there is transmitted in many other ways. It inspires so many, in so many ways – it is a resource central to our wildlife and our interaction with our environment. Appreciate its place in our art, history, folklore, customs and language too!
Return to One Man’s Island. Painting and Sketches from the Isle of May. Birlinn (2012)
The Firth of Forth An Environmental History. T. C. Smout and Mairi Stewart . Birlinn (2012)
Hoping to omit puffin photos I have had to bow to pressure, so I sign off with the earliest Scottish puffin picture known to date, Sibbald’s of 1684.
Krystyna Campbell, Landscape adviser: coast & seascapes