Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Isle of May in May

The Safari has another guest blog for you today from our A Focus On  Nature youngster Alicia who was lucky enough to spend some of her holidays on Scotland's superb seabird colony, the Isle of May. It's somewhere the Safari has never been and reading Alicia's account it's somewhere we really must try to get to.

Isle of May Blog

In the month of May, my family visited the borders of Scotland. My Dad and I had booked a boat trip to the Isle of May so we could see some of the Seabirds which live there – the whole boat trip was weather dependent, however thankfully the weather was in our favour and the Island did not disappoint.

We arrived on the Isle of May around 10.30am, and already from the boat I had seen a variety of seabirds including Gannets, Puffins and Guillemots. As  we landed and walked up towards the visitor centre, we walked through the middle of an Arctic Tern colony – it was amazing! They screeched and swooped at us a bit – and hovered around our heads. I think that Arctic Terns are extremely beautiful, and they make me think of angels or butterflies. We headed off with our guide to one side of the Island, where we stayed for an hour. There were hundreds of Puffins: flying, by burrows, feeding, fishing – it was truly fascinating to watch them. I saw a Greater black-backed gull eating a Puffin which was really interesting to watch - if slightly gruesome!
 Puffin with a catch of sand eels
I sat on the edge of the cliff looking down between two huge cliff faces where I could look directly onto the nests of Razorbills and Kittiwakes. It was lovely to see the birds so close, but not at all concerned by us being there with a relatively close view of their private lives!
After taking lots of photographs and being buffeted about by the strong sea-winds, we headed back towards the other side of the Island. On the way I saw lots of female Eider ducks at the edge of the path where our guide explained they built their nests. Some of the ducks were extremely hard to spot! As we were walking to the other side, we saw lots more Puffins all sitting together – a circus of Puffins! They make such lovely sounds when they are calling to each other which I love. However I think that out of all the seabirds, Arctic Terns are my favourite.

Eventually we reached the other side of the Island which was a lot more sheltered! I counted at least fifteen Grey Seals in the bay, which was great. We were also surrounded by Razorbills whilst we had lunch – they came fairly close and kept repeating their call which I think sounds a bit like a chain-saw.
 Razorbills in conversation
We saw pairs of Cormorants and Shags which already had large chicks – this was good to see because in recent years there has been a decline in many seabirds, so it was great to see some success already!

After an hour or so we started our way back towards the Visitor Centre. To get there we had to walk along a path which went right through the Arctic Tern colony. Being the shortest person there, I wasn't too worried about being 'attacked' by the Terns – however this proved not to be the case. The terns swooped and dived at me the most out of the 13 of us – they screeched and screamed, it was impressive! They would hover above me before diving with their beak wide open straight towards my face – I took hundreds of photos and was constantly ducking to avoid being clipped by a wing! When I eventually managed to reach the visitor centre I continued to take photos of the Terns, not only on the ground and in the air but on the visitor centre's roof which was covered in beautiful pale pink Thrift!
 Tern attack!
Time flies when you're having fun and soon we had to leave the Isle of May, but this wasn't quite the end of our adventure yet – next stop, Bass Rock!
I went to Bass Rock for the first time last year and was astounded by the Gannets, so I was very excited to be going round the rock on the way back.
Bass Rock has the country's largest colony of European Gannets and it is truly incredible. The Gannets swirled around my head in the sky and looked quite pterodactyl-like, they flew past our boat effortlessly, overtaking us without even trying. When we paused by Bass Rock I watched them on their nests and bringing in seaweed as nesting material for their partners. Gannets fly so effortlessly, I envy them hugely – not only do they get to walk on land, they can dive in the sea and fly through the air – they get the best of all worlds and I can only dream of such things!
 Gannet collecting seaweed
My first visit to the Isle of May was a huge success – I'd seen everything I'd wanted to see and more, and I loved every minute of it. The highlight for me was definitely the Arctic Terns, they're so beautiful and they make such incredible migrations every year. It would be tragic if we lost seabirds like the Arctic Tern because not only would we lose a beautiful species of bird, we would lose a spectacle in nature – the magnificent journey that so many of the seabirds undergo to come to Scotland and England to breed every year.
I loved the Isle of May and Bass Rock, and hopefully next year I can go again.

By Alicia, Aged 15                                                    June 2015

Now doesn't that sound like a very special place you just have to visit, many thanks to Alicia for sharing her adventures.
Where to next? We've had a school group on the beach and mini-beast safari-ing today and another on the beach tomorrow so we should have plenty for you.
In the meantime let us know who's all at sea in your outback. 


Ian Doyle said...

Great post, super photos.

cliff said...

An excellent read there Alicia together with wonderful photographs, that's another place added to my 'must visit' list, which continues to grow longer.