Notes from the Discovery Centre team – Alex
The Bass Rock is filling up nicely with gannets and soon the island will be completely white! Adults continue to return from the sea carrying seaweed for their nest preparations. No sign of returning juveniles as of yet on the clubbing area but they will, hopefully, follow shortly. The peregrine is making more and more appearances on the lighthouse following the return of the gannets. Now the female is the only one being spotted so far but we hope that the male will make more appearances as the months progress. A young seal has also been spotted over the past couple of days down near the boat landing steps, relaxing in the sun.
Puffins have been coming and going over the past week with both busy and quiet days. Craigleith and the Isle of May continue to be the best cameras to see the puffins with, which has helped with our Easter talks. When present, the puffins have been exhibiting lots of billing as well as gaping with their neighbours. The best news of the week came from our live burrow camera where two puffins were spotted entering and leaving the burrow. Fingers crossed for a repeat of last year with another successful chick! More and more cormorant nests have been spotted containing eggs with recent nest count at seven. The shag nest adjacent to the cormorant colony is now fully established and hopefully will produce eggs, despite the presence of the female peregrine. She continues to be spotted on the ledge above the shag nest and has made a few appearances during our puffin talks, which often causes a flurry of excitement among the audience.
There is a shag nest on Fidra that contains eggs, the first of the season. Current egg count is one but more will surely follow. Fulmars, guillemots and razorbills continue to be seen on the cameras, with puffins being less frequent. Greylag geese are also still being spotted on the island, as well as on Craigleith.
The Isle of May still shows our shag pairs on their nests but no eggs have been spotted yet. Guillemots are now increasing in number on their usual stacks and chatterstone however are often dependent on weather and are more likely to be seen in the morning before they head out to sea later in the day. Puffins are also being spotted along the wall and along the clifftops. Numbers should increase as they become more settled on the islands and begin breeding.
Kittiwake pairs are still preparing their nests at Dunbar and a few eiders are often spotted on the water surface.
Sightings – Maggie Sheddan
Life on the May – Mike Fraser, Sarah Wanless, Dave Picket, Sue Lewis and Therese Alampo are just some of the familiar names listed on the notice board of reserve mangers since 1975. This brought to me the reality that my involvement with the May Island began 12 years ago! Very recent when you think of the Bird Observatory founded in 1934, to 1966 that has brought and continues to bring one of the most complex and data rich seabird studies in Europe. The ‘Mouse House’ built in the late 60’s to accommodate mouse research of unique May mouse, not to mention the long term grey seal studies.
People come and people go, each leaving their mark in time but it is this eclectic mix that makes the May what it is, there is an overlapping and an interweaving, that makes this island such a special place that touches and grasps the hearts of those that spend time here.
Dinner talk tonight not the tagging of birds, nor seals, but mice! Yes it D day for mouse tagging tomorrow, if they can find any. There is a distinct lack of them in the buildings for which we are all quite happy about. Researchers from Nottingham University are hoping to undertake quite intense studies from genealogy, their immune systems, to parasites. It is hoped if funding is available next year to allow continuing and more detailed studies to be undertaken. The May plays host to its own sub species of mouse, a hybrid of the field and house mouse. In 1982, 77 house mice were released on the May from Orkney as part of a research project in gene hybridisation. Before we realised it, from all aspects of mouse study exhausted, rabbits became the focus of debate. Recovery after the myxomatosis outbreak is good, but we have all noticed the darker ‘bunnies’ appear to be doing extremely well. Back to ‘genealogy ‘ or could it be something else that is creating this. Various thoughts were thrown around but, perhaps thought for another aspect of research. Although still early season the moth traps were set before we all retired for the night.
At first light, a glimmer of pink followed by a deepening red spreading over the sea in Kirkhaven Harbour, was all it took for me to head straight out to watch the morning sun break the horizon. Breakfast could wait! Immediately I heard the thin high wispy calls of goldcrest, I realised there had been a fall overnight along with meadow pipits. Also spotted reed bunting and chiffchaff among the resident wrens, robins, blackbirds, and pied wagtails. The usual mix of gulls mewing, puffins whirring overhead, soft growls coming from underground making me smile even more.
Somewhere in the distance the melancholic sound of a lone curlew, the piercing call of oystercatchers much closer. Something caught my eye, 2 wheatear darted about, but I was off to check that ‘THE’ bird of the May was still in residence. Yesterday on the boat, and out for no other reason than to twitch this bird, we had met Julian Osborne (brother of the late Johnathan). Dave (SNH) and Carrie (CEH) were also on the boat. As we sailed into Kirkhaven we stood in a line all scanning the area it appears to favour. The call ‘there it is ! ‘ binoculars focused in and there it was A first record for this island …….A red, now know as THE red, grouse of the May was busily feeding unaware that this is not moorland and perhaps a little puzzled by all the surrounding gulls. How long will it stay?
To add to the delight of the day the first swallow was seen this morning. As outside chores appear to be the order of the day I’m enjoying sitting at the picnic tables outside PK writing this.