June 3rd   Leave a comment

I went to the May Island yesterday. Every trip there is a bit special. A spectacle as worthy of anything I saw in Antarctica but a lot closer to home. If you have never been then get a ticket on the May Princess from Anstruther this month. June is the best time to go. There are sailings most days and the round trip takes about five hours, with an hour each way there and back. The journey out there is a gradual unrolling of the seabird fest. The occasional distant puffin half-way across becomes thousands of puffins, on the water and filling the skies around the island. Once you land, you can approach the birds to within a few meters, although the arctic terns at the landing site might be considered too close. But you haven’t really been to the May unless you have been pecked on the head by an Arctic tern protecting its nest. Best to wear a hat or walk alongside a tall person if you are bothered. Everywhere you go there are puffins. Flying in with beaks full of sandeels and plopping in and out of their burrows. Occasionally they gather in little groups waiting for you to move on away from burrows close to the path. In the long run these small disturbances probably make little difference to the chicks which only get fed every few hours at best, and the visitors probably pay their disturbance debt by keeping the gulls away from mugging the puffins. In several places on the island you can perch on top of the cliffs and watch all of the seabirds – guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes and shags – on their nests at close quarters. The birds know they can’t be approached any closer and carry on as normal. Watching lots of wild animals really close when they pay you no attention characterises the best wildlife encounters you can have anywhere in the world. Go and see what I mean.

Three May Island stars: puffin, razorbill and guillemots (WC)

The winds haven’t been great for migration the last week and the bluethroats were long gone. But there were a couple of migrant spotted flycatchers around the few bushes on the island and a willow warbler. The real bonus was a cuckoo. I saw it flying out of the lighthouse keepers old garden and then later on it perched for everyone to see by the old light. On the boat out I saw a nice light phase arctic skua – the first of the year. It is turning out to be a good year for my year list – I am now a month ahead of my best ever year: its been a good spring even if it is probably over now.

The cuckoo on the May yesterday

Posted June 3, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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