About Chrys Muirhead

writer, activist, campaigner

Steady Fulmars

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Thursday 14th January comments: As part of the seabird series we are running on the blog, today we follow on with looking closely at the Fulmar as we reveal how the population levels are doing and what the national picture is all about.

During the 2020 full island census, the Isle of May supported 324 nesting pairs, a 16% increase on the previous season’s total. However it was still below the 2017 breeding figure of 341 pairs and way short of the all-time record of 369 pairs on 2001. In general, Fulmars have been doing well on the island although the population is fairly stable and is around the 300 pairs mark per year.

In contrast, the national picture is a bit more glum as Fulmars are not doing that well with almost a third of the population has declined between 1986-2018. During this period numbers in the…

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Bright Horizons

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Tuesday 5th January comments: It’s a new year and a new season is just around the corner. However with yesterday’s (and Boxing day) news which effects all of the UK (sadly more Covid related lock-downs) we have to remain positive and look towards the future. I think we are going to need a lot more nature in our lives to help us get through this difficult time. So let me introduce you to the Isle of May…

The Isle of May lies at the mouth of the Firth of Forth about 8 kilometres (km) south-east of Anstruther in Fife and 17km north-east of North Berwick in Lothian. The island is characterised by a low lying and rocky eastern coast, and a west coast dominated by high cliffs. Although only 57 hectares (ha), it is of national and international importance for its seabird and seal colonies and was recognised…

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Happy New Year!

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Happy New Year! Well we’ve put 2020 behind us (I can here the sigh of relief) and we can hopefully look forward to a positive new year. Over the month of January we’ll be bringing you all the news from the seabird breeding season 2020 including population figures with any news from the island at present.

We’ll also start building towards the new season (we open our doors on 1st April 2021) and will be bringing you details of how you can book boat trips, what to expect and when is the best time to visit. All of this and a lot more on the blog so keep checking us out as we say hello to a new season.

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Merry Christmas!

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

We can’t deny it’s been a tough year for all concerned and the Isle of May did not escape the pandemic as staffing, research, tourism, local businesses and all connected to the island were effected by global events. However we have to stay positive for the future so as we approach the final week of the year, we’d like to wish you all a very…

Merry Christmas and a

Happy New Year

Stay safe, enjoy the festive period and we look forward to a brighter future in the New Year and sharing the Isle of May with you all. Season’s Greetings from David, Bex and the team. Merry Christmas.        

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December Display

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Tuesday 8th December comments: As we mentioned in yesterdays blog post, some seabirds remain all year round in Isle of May waters but interestingly Eider duck numbers have increased and displaying has started, but why and is this early?

The Isle of May is one of the most important Eider colonies in the country with the last census revealing 1,200 nesting females (population graph shown above). Eiders are the UK’s heaviest duck and fast flyer at level flight. During the winter months vast number congregate in places like the Firth of Forth as the breeding season starts from April on remote predator free islands like the Isle of May (although very small numbers can be found nesting on the mainland). Eiders are diving ducks which feed on a variety of prey but especially on crustaceans and molluscs.

At this time of year birds are in fine plumage, the…

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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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