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Isle of May - BirdForum Opus

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Photo by delia todd
Isle of May View


This island with its famous bird observatory is a National Nature Reserve and lies at the entrance to the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland. Covering less than 60ha it is a small island with little vegetation and sheer, 50m cliffs on the west side.

There are good numbers of breeding seabirds although the island is best known for migrants and like most observatories it regularly attracts rarities. About 250 species have been recorded on the island.


Notable Species

Breeding seabirds include Northern Fulmar and Shag, Common Guillemot, Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin, Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. Terns of four species once bred on the island but were eventually driven out by the increasing numbers of gulls. Common Tern and Arctic Tern have returned in small numbers and other breeders include Common Eider, Oystercatcher, Rock Pipit and Northern Wheatear.

Divers and seaducks, shearwaters and skuas can be seen offshore during passage periods and in winter Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and Short-eared Owl are regularly seen on the island.

Migrants reach their highest numbers during periods of strong east to south-east winds. The commoner species of chats and thrushes, warblers, flycatchers, finches and others appear during April-May and August-October.


Scarcer migrants that occur regularly include Wryneck, Bluethroat, Barred Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler and Great Grey Shrike and Red-backed Shrike, Ortolan Bunting and Common Rosefinch are virtually annual and species such as Pallas's Sandgrouse, Siberian Thrush, Pied Wheatear and Paddyfield Warbler have also been recorded.


Birds you can see here include:

Red-throated Diver, Northern Fulmar, Cory's Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, European Storm Petrel, Northern Gannet, Shag, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Purple Sandpiper, Eurasian Woodcock, Jack Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, Common Wood Pigeon, Common Cuckoo, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Common Swift, Eurasian Wryneck, Eurasian Skylark, Barn Swallow, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Common Wren, Dunnock, Eurasian Robin, Bluethroat, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Great Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Common Starling, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Linnet, Common Rosefinch, Ortolan Bunting, Reed Bunting

Other Wildlife

Photo by eddwillis
Isle of May Seals

Grey Seal breeds at Rona, the northern tip of the island.

Site Information

History and Use

To do

Areas of Interest

To do

Nearby Sites of Interest

Kilconquhar Loch

Kilconquhar Loch is a freshwater loch, with an ongoing birding presence, near a town by that same name in the Fife area.

The pronunciation of Kilconquhar is not what one might think, based upon the spelling of it, but correctly pronounced is, instead, Kin-nuchar. [5]

Access and Facilities

The most popular time to visit the Isle of May is obviously spring, and especially, autumn when the widest range of species can be seen.

A maximum of six people can be accommodated, at a small cost, at the observatory on the island but visitors must bring their own food and sleeping bags. This must be arranged in advance with the bookings secretary, Mike Martin, 2 Manse Park, Uphall, West Lothian, Scotland EH52 6NX Tel. 01505 855285. Email: [email protected]; or [email protected]

The boat to the island sails from Anstruther and day-trips from here can be arranged in summer.

Contact Details

To do

External Links

Content and images originally posted by Steve