Preparing for closing

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Sunday 22nd November comments: Its been a strange and unforgettable year (for almost all the wrong reasons) but the wildlife of the Isle of May has continued with life as normal throughout the seasons.

The spring period saw the closure of the island to all people as Covid-19 gripped the nation and it wasn’t until early June before the staff could return. It was then another month before visitors could enjoy the island (in restricted numbers) but regardless the seabirds got on with the job in hand of raising young. The summer was generally a success for the local wildlife whilst the autumn belonged to the islands Grey Seals and the migrant birds.

However we now find ourselves in late November with the shadow of Covid still hanging over us and the future unknown but life has to continue. We will be closing the island down for the winter…

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Hard Working Mums

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Tuesday 17th November comments: It’s been a busy month or so as the island has transformed into a major Grey Seal nursery since late September. Whilst we worried about the lack of seals present in mid-September, we are now full into the seal breeding season and numbers have peaked across the colonies.

In recent blog posts we’ve been focussing on the pups and bull seals, but we should also take our hats off to the cow seals who actually do most of the hard work. Female Grey Sealsare called cows and can be between 1.6–1.95m (5ft 3in–6ft 5in) long and 100–190kg (220–420lb) in weight. In the wild bull seals live on average for 25 years but females can live well beyond 30 years of age. Cow seals give birth to a single pup between mid-September and mid-December. They will wean their pups for18-21days and although the pup gains almost3lbs…

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Selkies

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Saturday 14th November comments: The Isle of May is well renowned for its Grey Seal colonies but do we have Selkies… and what we are talking about? Well lets explain.

As we are an island on the Scottish east coast it is only right we should mention Selkies as they are steeped in Scottish folklore. The word selkie (also spelled silkies,sylkies,selchies)means ‘seal folk’ who are mythological beings capable of changing from a seal to a human by shedding their skin.

The word selkie is diminutive for selch which in Scottish means ‘grey seal’ and folklore has many stories about these shapeshifting creatures (often involving romance). They were regarded as gentle souls and often overlooked in mythology by the more intriguing sirens or mermaids, but nevertheless had a place in Scandinavian, Scottish and Irish folklore. Traditionally Selkies were either men or women, but were…

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New Life…

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

New to the world; an Isle of May Grey Seal pup

Exhausted but born to the world (mum behind)

Looking about to see what its all about

Its first feed!

Monday 2nd November comments: Another day on the Isle of May NNR and yet more Grey Seal pups born across the Isle. The last 24 hours has seen some drama unfold on the west beaches but despite the best efforts of Storm Aiden and the the North Sea, the pups remained unharmed (and we should mentioned after some great work from the mothers – see yesterdays blog post).

Today brought more new life as a good number of seal pups were born including the youngster pictured above, just beside the visitor centre (where the BBC Autumnwatch team are based). As you can see the pup was curious to the big brave new world it had just been born into…

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Woodcock Moon

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Saturday 31st October comments: The ‘Woodcock Moon’ was shining bright last night over the Isle of May and sure enough today we’ve welcomed a good scattering of these northern migrants to the island.

Woodcock are cryptic woodland dwellers which breed in the UK but during the autumn these birds are bolstered by migrants from continental Europe. These birds are escaping the worst of the weather to the north and east of the UK as Scandinavia and Russia has the vast majority of breeding European Woodcock and they’ll move to warmer climes including the UK. Having overwintered, they’ll then return early the following spring when we can get one or two on the island as they head back. These great birds are a joy to watch as they often ‘explode’ underfoot (erupt out of the vegetation within a few feet of you) whilst you walk around the Isle. However…

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