Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Dave Williams

Isle of May, Scotland 2019 Trip report

Recommended Posts

Dave Williams

Some of my friends and family don't get it, in fact few do! Why on earth do I keep returning to this tiny island off the Scottish coast, staying there for a week at a time, with few people for company and usually coming home smelling slightly high having shared my week with 250,000 seabirds who think nothing of using you for target practice!

The answer is that the island has got under my skin, it's in my blood now. I keep on saying no more but the truth is I get drawn back every year.

Some things have changed in the years I have been visiting. The Bird Observatory, of which I'm a member, provides accommodation in an old disused lighthouse, the Low Light. In recent years it has undergone some serious changes , extended and now provides comparative luxury when I look back to my first visit in a bleak April seven years ago. Since my last visit a coat of paint has been added to the exterior too although it's already showing signs of deterioration in the sometimes incredibly harsh conditions the paintwork has to stand up to.

Isle of May

3 twin bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, boot room, indoor flushing toilet and  separate shower might seem like something you'd expect but it hasn't been like that for long. It's essential to conserve water despite new spring fed storage tanks having been installed and although there are solar panels to provide electric lights the water didn't reach sufficient temperature for other than a cold ( and consequently very brief) shower. You have to plan your week carefully to ensure you bring with you all the supplies you might need because once on the island there is is no shop.

In the past I have always applied for two places and been lucky enough to be accommodated. This year I decided to just apply for myself as I realise that demand outstrips supply so I thought why increase it by asking anyone else. However, I was lucky enough to get the exact week I had requested but it might mean sharing with total strangers who I might or might not get on with. That's a chance I was happy to take just to be on my beloved island.

As luck would have it the booking secretary had paired me up with someone I'd met previously on the island several years back so that was a major boost. I knew we'd get on well, and indeed we did, right from the off. We were informed we'd be sharing with two other couples, one natives of France the others, English. My offers to give them any help or tips needed in preparation for their stay were met with the information they had also been many times before. OK, message understood. My suggestion that we might pool our cooking and each prepare a meal on one night were also rejected. Again, fair enough, The reasoning that they preferred to be flexible on when they ate was sound enough for me and it just meant that myself and Mark, my allocated room mate would look after ourselves. It does mean putting a bit more thought into planning 7 meals instead of 1, and also means being prepared not to be able to use the cooking facilities if they were being used by someone else but in fairness it worked out without problem. 

Transport over to the island is by a rib boat and space is limited so I am always conscious of what I take but I need a bag for clothes, one for my photo gear and also a large plastic box for food and drink. It weighs a fair bit too. I'd arranged to meet Mark in the local Co-op car park to get last minute supplies and to pool all we were taking in to one car. For the first time ever, we'd been told we'd be leaving from the east pier in Anstruther Harbour. It's a long harbour wall, much too far to carry all the gear but a word with the friendly harbour master got my car through the security gate right to the top of the steps where we expected to load our gear on to the rib. As requested we were there early and as the time ticked by we began to wonder what had happened to our fellow travellers. Then with 15 minutes to departure we spotted some ladies carrying some baggage followed by a chap pulling a loaded trolley. They looked like they were heading to the May but instead of stopping where we were they carried on to the end of the harbour wall, another 50m at least. With our car safely parked in town we now had a major dilemma of how to get our not inconsiderable amount of luggage the extra distance. My opening words to the man pulling the trolley had been something like "You might be the man with a trolley  I really need to meet right now' had elicited no reply whatsoever. Mark decided to follow them to make sure we hadn't been mistaken as to who they were.

No we hadn't, and yes we were. In the wrong place. The man with the trolley was returning for his next load, he wasn't even enquiring who we were. Looked like we might be in for an interesting week!

All was not lost though. There was a local fisherman working on his boat and nearby a pick-up truck. I enquired if it was his and explained our dilemma. The truck wasn't his but there was a trailer nearby and he had a tow bar on his saloon car. What a hero! He quickly hitched up the trailer, we loaded the gear and when we were going to walk behind he told us to stand on the A-frame and he'd give us a ride down the harbour wall.

Brilliant. Mark and I proceeded down the harbour wall laughing our heads off like conquering heroes riding a chariot. The man with the trolley raised an eyebrow as we passed him heading for yet another pick up. He must have been knackered!!

We rewarded our new fisherman pal with a couple of cans of lager, precious supplies but worth it for such a grand gesture and then I went to speak to the two ladies who were guarding the deposited luggage. Ah, they were French and didn't speak any English. We later discovered Monsieur found my accent hard to understand too hence the lack of a response when I'd spoken.

Anyway, we were ready to go. Once again heading to the Isle of May. Bring it on!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams
Posted (edited)

So there we were, now installed in the last spare room we were told was ours. The two ladies having shot off ahead to grab their rooms of choice whilst the men unloaded the baggage, and in some cases helped loading the baggage of the departing visitors too. Not a democratic way to begin the week but not a problem. All the rooms have their plus points so I would have been happy with any of them.

Mark and I picked up some camera gear and set off to explore the island.

What was I hoping for this year?

Photographs of Terns. The previous year's breeding had been disastrous and not only that it was also late. When I'd been there the Tern activity had been virtually non existent. Few nests had eggs and certainly there was no feeding activity whatsoever. This year things were looking very positive indeed. They were number one priority, after that it was anything of interest really.

One of the attractions of being a guest amongst this huge seabird colony is the opportunity to cut yourself off from the outside world, well with the exception of phoning home, and just sitting back and taking in your surrounds. Watching the everyday struggle of all these creatures makes you realise we as human beings have it easy. Life for so many of these birds is one long battle for survival. The weather is not the only thing they have to battle against. Finding food can involve long and difficult journeys and once they have it, bringing it back to the nest is just another opportunity for a predator to mug you for your catch, worse still, even become part of the food chain. Sitting on eggs for days on end just to have them stolen, long journeys to feed the chicks just to see them predated. I find it heartbreaking to watch but it's all part of the circle of life.

So how did the photography go?

In truth it was OK but not the best year by any means. One of the biggest problems was that the wind often blew quite strongly which is fine but from the wrong direction all week. It makes a huge difference as the wind dictates the way and direction a bird flies, or at least it's landing approach.

Then there was the nesting ground itself. Most of the terns were nesting in amongst the fairly high plant cover. Makes good sense of course as it offers better chances of survival for the chicks. From a photographic point of view not so good though.

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

Chances watching the chicks being fed were few and far so instead we made do with shots of terns with fish waiting to visit he nest.

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

or Terns trying to see off the daily trippers as they disgorge the "May Princess" visitors boat.

Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea

Sometimes they just engage trying to see off each other!

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

The best chance of action photography was in the harbour which is no more than a concrete slipway leading in to a natural inlet which offers excellent protection from the sometimes rather rough seas that surround the island. 

May Princess


This area is a favoured hunting ground by the resident breeding Eider Ducks, offers a good area for roosting Terns and is also visited by the Grey Seal population too. 

This year, and for the first time I got to see some summer plumaged Ruddy Turnstones in this area too.

Ruddy Turnstone

They look much more attractive than when seen in their rather dull winter coats.

Ruddy Turnstone   Arenaria interpres

There were around 22 altogether, quite a score for the island too.

Ruddy Turnstone   Arenaria interpres

I was there for the Arctic Terns though and they proved to be more difficult than I imagined. With the wind direction blowing in from the sea it meant the birds were flying in the wrong direction. As a photographer you need to be at their level to get the most satisfactory shots but that meant the access to the water had to be at high tide, which in turn meant the concrete slip way was submerged, which then resulted in a rather small field of view. It also meant we needed the sun to be in the right position at high tide too!

You see there's a lot more to getting that shot than simply pressing the shutter button!

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

Choosing the right shutter speed to freeze the action, the correct aperture for depth of field come next.

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

When it all finally comes together though it's very rewarding.

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

These weren't the shots I'd been hoping for but nevertheless I was pretty happy.

Arctic Tern   Sterna paradisaea

It had taken me all week before everything clicked in to place and I took these on our last full day! The Terns aren't actually catching the fish they are dipping them, presumably to refresh them after they have been wind dried on the return from being caught.Perhaps it makes them easier for the chicks to swallow if they are slippery?

Whatever, they make a good photo opportunity if you can nail the focus!

A Splash!

Although I'd dedicated a lot of time to watching and waiting for Terns, there were other attractions too!

TBC

Edited by Dave Williams

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Soukous

Maybe not your best tally, but still some lovely pics. And a text in large print too. B)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams
1 hour ago, Soukous said:

Maybe not your best tally, but still some lovely pics. And a text in large print too. B)

 

Thanks Martin, and yes, large print so that the screen can remain clear of marks where my nose has pressed against it is always a bonus;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TonyQ

The terns with fish are amazing. All of your patience paid off!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pedro maia

The terns sequence is stunning, looking forward for more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
offshorebirder

The tern grabbing small fish sequence is my kind of photography @Dave Williams!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Soukous
7 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

The tern grabbing small fish sequence is my kind of photography @Dave Williams!

 

Mine too, if only I could achieve it. :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

So, with the Arctic Terns as number one priority, what would be number two?

I'd sworn it wouldn't be Puffins! In fact leading expert Mike Harris who happened to be in residency during my visit exclaimed "not after more Puffin photos are you?!" when we bumped in to each other. He's a right one to comment as he's spent a lifetime dedicated to the species!

Anyway, within minutes of arriving I'd taken my first photograph of a Puffin with Sand Eels in it's bill and over the week I was to take a lot more too!

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

I think as a UK wildlife photographer it's probably top of most peoples list of images they want to take. I have many such images now but still can't resist a few more if I happen to be in the right place at the right time. I wasn't too bothered about flight shots, well not like the ones I have taken in the past, but the combination of Puffin and water appealed greatly and was something still to experiment with.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

The only accessible spot would prove problematic though as it was either backlit by the sun or in deep shade. Still, the light does interesting things with the feet!

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

The Puffin is a gold medal swimmer but when it comes to flying, especially landing, they are far from being the best.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

That might look promising but....

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

elegant it isn't!

However, most of the time they are simply adorable to photograph

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

A bit of sea mist gave a softer image even if they were just metres away.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Change the water colour for something a bit different

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Enough's enough!

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Watching them clamber out of the water was fun as they had a game of "King of the Castle" trying to keep the one space on a newly revealed ledge as the tide went out.

Mark decided this was the best shot taken all week but I have to disagree. 

Isle of May Puffins

It could have been but I should have used a smaller aperture to get a better depth of field. There are lots of elements that make it interesting but technically it's not as good as it should have been. Besides, Mark had taken an image I could only dream of, and he has given me permission to show it to you but that will be later!

Meanwhile he and I compared photographs and ideas , each feeding from the other although I ate better than he did !

Getting shots of birds in the rain was something we both had decided would be a bit different. The only problem was lack of rainfall! Well, except for just a short downpour one morning.

From our bedroom window I took a couple of shots.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

before deciding to get out there myself.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Initially I chose the position for the background not realising a foot was obscured, and besides the lighter background doesn't pick up the rain as well.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

By the time I was where I wanted to be the rain had eased off! Ah well, one for next time.

Mark had shown me some shots of a Puffin with it's bill illuminated by the setting sun. I tried to copy the idea.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Just as I did when I saw his take on group photos.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

I failed to get anything like the ones he had taken, it takes a lot more skill and luck to get them. Much depends on how the group is standing, anyway, again something to work on in the future, meantime I decided to try with smaller numbers of birds and see what I could achieve.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Again, something for the future too.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

But that's enough of Puffins.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

Well maybe just one last one?!

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica

A bit of Puffin interaction. More likely to be seen during the courtship period...now there's a thought. I must try a different time of year, who needs Sand Eels anyway.

Atlantic Puffin  Fratercula arctica


TBC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams
Posted (edited)

As previously mentioned Mark and I fed off each others ideas. Each evening we'd review our days efforts whilst having a beer and it was great fun laughing at the failures, encouraging the nearly ones and admiring those that were worthy. I had arranged with Mark that he could use my laptop to transfer his images on to a portable hard drive he'd brought but it wasn't compatible with my Apple machine, hence we began looking at our shots together. Without a doubt this increased my enjoyment of the week tremendously, it was going to be  a learning curve to add to the usual challenge. We were competitive in the most friendly of ways but from Day One I knew I was on a hiding to nothing for "Photo of the Week". Yes you have to have luck to be in the right place at the right time, but you need to be ready to take advantage when it happens and that takes skill.

To my mind this shot of Mark's ,which he kindly allowed me to share, is awesome. Now awesome is a totally overused description of many average photographs, but in this case I don't think so.

Kittewake by Mark Medcalf

The bad news for me was it couldn't be beaten in my opinion, the bad news for Mark was it was taken on the very first day ! Still, no harm in setting the bar high right from the off.

Kittewakes had been on my wish list as second favourite subject after the Terns as I'd spent little time with them in the past. I have witnessed aerial disputes many times but never managed anything remotely as good as Mark's shot. I mean he has the feather in the bill of the chasing bird. Perfection!

Well, with a week to get something similar the challenge was on but in truth I never came anywhere near but I did get a couple of shots I was happy with. 

Black-legged Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla

Straightforward flight shots but the evening light was nice.

Black-legged Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla

I found a spot where the birds were flying directly towards me as they returned to their nests.

Kittiwake

but it didn't produce anything of any great excitement. 

Black-legged Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla


maybe a few verbal exchanges but that was about it.

Black-legged Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla

It did provide me with an interesting shot though.

Black-legged Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla

This bird is wearing a tiny GPS transmitter.

Black-legged Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla

The information is only picked up when they return to the island as the signal is fairly weak.

GPS receiver

but the researchers can follow were the birds have been on a regular basis. I guess there are only a handful of birds amongst the 250,000 wearing these devices so I was lucky to find one that did.

But as far as outstanding shots went, well it wasn't to be, well not for me anyway.

TBC

Edited by Dave Williams

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Soukous

Delightful Mr Williams. There is no such thing as too many Puffin photos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Zim Girl

A complete joy to read  -  incredible photos!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TonyQ

Can’t have too many Puffins.

Wonderful shots Dave, and a great one from Mark. It sounds like you motivated and helped each other a lot.

We really must get to the Isle of May.

 

This is the first ever trip report for Scotland that I have read that complains that there is not enough rain:D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter Connan

One day when I grow up, I want to be able to take photos like these!

 

Stunning Sir!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pedro maia

Nothing to say that hasn’t been said yet, I’ll just keep watching and trying to learn something (while enjoying).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
offshorebirder

Superb stuff @Dave Williams!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kitsafari

Just love the delightful series on the enchanting puffins. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

Thanks for the kind comments everyone, appreciated and makes the effort of writing it worthwhile!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams
Posted (edited)

So, that's Terns,Puffins and Kittiwakes done and dusted. What else happens on the island?

Well there are gulls. Lots of Gulls. Well, maybe not lots in comparison to the total number of birds resident on the island but still enough to reek havoc amongst the rest of the population. Recent estimates put the number of Herring Gulls as 1685 breeding pairs, Lesser Black-backed at 3398. The are producing lots of mouths to feed and these guys are like living with the worst possible neighbours.

The Herring Gull is actually quite a handsome bird but it has some very anti-social habits.


European Herring Gull  Larus argentatus

They have been getting some bad press in the UK recently with one national newspaper actually demanding a mass cull after an alleged incident involving a disappearing Chihuahua. Well that particular newspaper hasn't been dubbed "The Scum" without good reason but there are a lot of people who actually agree. Herring Gulls, often referred to as 'seagulls" are now spread right across the UK, both on the coast and inland too. They are extremely resourceful and have learned to adapt to the loss of traditional feeding and have become scavengers on rubbish tips and bins or simply have learnt to beg from seaside holidaymakers eager to feed them. We all know what happens when wild animals associate people with food. It all ends up rather badly.

Anyway, on the Isle of May, a more traditional breeding ground, the Herring Gulls also have a more traditional diet which involves stealing eggs, mugging birds for the catch they have in their bills or stealing chicks.

European Herring Gull  Larus argentatus

The Herring Gull isn't enjoying the view in the evening sunshine but plotting a raid.


European Herring Gull  Larus argentatus

On a ledge down below a Guillemot chick is being protected by it's parent bird. The Gull flew away but 5 minutes later swooped in at speed to try and knock the adult off the ledge, perhaps the chick too. It failed on this occasion but I have witnessed it happen with a rather different outcome in the past.

You can't blame the Gull really. It's the way they are. The slightly smaller Lesser Black-backed Gull isn't nearly as dense in numbers around the UK but on the Isle of May they outnumber the Herring Gull 2-1. They too take the easy option for food preferring to steel than find their own. They are usually lurking ready to pounce on an unsuspecting Puffin trying to reach it's burrow with a bill full of Sand Eels.They will also take eggs and chicks too.

Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus

The Lesser Black-backed Gull is distinguishable from the Great Black-backed not only by size but the colour of it's legs, which also help distinguish it from Herring Gull too.

The Great Black-backed Gull has pink legs.

Great Black-backed Gull   Larus marinus

It's also top of the local food chain. It has no enemies on the Isle of May but it's the enemy of everything else including its cousins.

Here it's being seen off after an attempted raid on the Lesser Black-backed Gull's chicks. 

Great Black-backed Gull   Larus marinus

The GBBG is a monster predator and if it wants to it can swallow a whole adult Puffin or reasonable sized Rabbit, maybe even a Chihuahua although there are none on the island. Fortunately there aren't too many GBBG's either. I think perhaps no more than 10 pairs but that is a guess.

The GBBG spends much time just flying around the cliffs looking to strikeout an easy target.

Isle of May

Not a bad life on a nice day!

Isle of May

But it's not always the best of weather so even they don't have it all easy.

TBC

Edited by Dave Williams

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

So what is left to share about the islands population? There are a few birds that are totally independent from the sea but not many. Pied Wagtail, Feral Pigeon, even a few Barn Swallows breed on the island but my favourite is the Rock Pipit.

Eurasian Rock Pipit   Anthus petrosus

I spent little time photographing them though, in fact just I only took a couple of shots of the latter and that was that.

Also indépendant of the water is one of the most important inhabitants!

Rabbit!

Yes, the humble rabbit was an introduced species as a food source for the resident monks way back in the 14th century.The monks are long gone but the rabbits do what rabbits do and have thrived. They play an extremely important role in providing the burrows the Puffins nest in and do a decent job keeping the grass presentable too! The island is also host to a unique species of house mouse too but seeing them isn't easy, in fact I have only ever caught a glimpse of one once in all the times I have visited. Like most things on the island they are being monitored and researched though!

The other mammal species are totally dependant on the sea. The Isle of May has Scotland's biggest breeding population of Grey Seals and during the winter breeding months the population is estimated at around 3000. There are far fewer during the summer months and getting a photo isn't always easy either.

Grey Seal

OK, I'll pose if you go away and leave me in peace!

Grey Seal

I suppose I should also mention homo sapiens too. The Low Light usually has six occupants staying, the research centre numbers tend to vary depending on the work being undertaken but it never exceeds more than 20 I wouldn't think, usually far fewer. Maybe a dozen. I have never actually asked the question. Day trippers either arrive on the May Princess, a pleasure boat with a capacity of 100 I believe, there are two rib boats which make daily landings too. That's another 24. The day visitors get about 2.5 hours ashore and sailings are tide dependant too. The boats are often full so pre booking is advisable, oh and there are no day tourist boats on Fridays.

Anyway, back to why they come!!

Without a doubt it's for the Puffins.  We in the UK are lucky to have large populations but most are on islands so getting there does involve a boat trip.

By mid summer most of the Eider Ducks of which there were about 1183 breeding pairs have all gone. This year there were fewer left than usual. I only saw a handful and they were only the less attractive females and their offspring.

Eider Duck

The males are one of the most handsome ducks I have ever seen, I'd love another  crack at photographing them one day but they are very challenging as they have such contrasting colours, brilliant white downy breast feathers being the most difficult part! The female by comparison is a doddle!

Common Eider  Somateria mollissima

There aren't too many Oystercatchers on the island, maybe 20 breeding pairs.

They were not a breed I particularly targeted either but when sat on the harbour rocks I had an opportunity I had to take.

Eurasian oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus

This one worked it's way down to the rocks just in front of me.

Eurasian oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus

They don't eat Oysters they make do with other shellfish but I have also noticed that land snails play a big part in their diet too.

Eurasian oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus

One bird that's regularly seen but never lands on the island is one of my favourite species.

Northern Gannet  Morus bassanus

Gannets fly past in huge numbers, all heading to Bass Rock where a huge breeding colony exists.

Sometimes they fly very close to the Isle of May but I never see them flying over the island and only very occasionally do I see them landing in the sea after an attempted dive for fish.

Northern Gannet  Morus bassanus

They are a big bird and fly many, many miles in their search for food.

Northern Gannet  Morus bassanus

Another bird I'd like to get close to! Bempton Cliffs is the place if you want an inexpensive trip because the cost of visiting Bass Rock is quite substantial although must be very memorable too.

TBC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

To round off this years trip report a look at the remaining breeding  species typically found on the Isle of May. It's a mixed story of success and sad decline so the latter first.

Shags. This year just 389 pairs are nesting on the island compared with 1916 pairs back in 1987. There's been a huge amount of research in to this species on the island. Meticulous counts and ringing exercises are not easy, access to nesting sites often in treacherous spots make life very difficult for research teams. As a photographer the rings or bling as we call them don't make for the most photogenic pose but the ease at which they can be read from distance is very important and a photographers needs rightly doesn't come in to the equation!

Besides, if you position yourself you can avoid seeing too much.

European Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis

or make them less obvious at least

European Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis

In fact you can eliminate them all together if you wait for the right moment!

European Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis

I got to photograph one swimming in amongst the Puffins.

European Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis

and to my surprise when it got out of the water I discovered this one hadn't been ringed at all! An Isle of May rarity!!!

European Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Most newly born chicks are down right ugly but somehow the Shag chicks top the lot.

European Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis

The comparisons with the film "Alien" are plain to see.

The Guillemot chick is as cute as they come but the Shags remain ugly until maturity...well in my opinion anyway. No doubt their parents disagree.

Common Guillemot  Uria aalge

My visit this year was probably only days away from the first Guillemot chicks leaving the nest. They literally leap off the cliff and down in to the sea below, sometimes bouncing off the rocks on the way down. It's a perilous time as they are easy targets for predation. There were 15974 nesting pairs this year. I wonder how many survived?

At least this year I found a few opportunities for photographing the adults on the water.

Common Guillemot  Uria aalge

The sea mist descended on one particular day but although it softened the images I quite liked it.

Common Guillemot  Uria aalge

I didn't spend a huge amount of time with the Guillemot, for once I haven't taken a single shot of a Guillemot with a fish in it's bill although I tried waiting for a while at my favourite nest spot.

Common Guillemot  Uria aalge

Guillemots often appear to proudly parade their catch, often for quite some time, before deciding who the recipient will be. This usually happens when a group of adults huddle around a chick or two for protection. Anyway, the only shots I took were of the adults preening and posing.

Common Guillemot  Uria aalge

Things with the Razorbills worked out to my advantage though!

I soon tired of getting them in flight returning to their cliff ledges, been there and done that before and all the shots look pretty similar.

Razorbill  Alca torda

Not the easiest to get but once you get the hang of it it's not so difficult as you might imagine.

There are far fewer Razorbills than Guillemots, roughly a quarter of the number of pairs at 4166. Like the Guillemots though they nest on narrow ledges, actually I should rephrase that. They lay their egg on the bare rock, as do the Guillemot. DIY obviously not their forte! 

This year breeding was well advanced compared to last year when this site still had an egg there on my visit. By a piece of good luck I was there when an adult arrived back with some fish.

Razorbill  Alca torda

I was able to witness feeding the chick, well to a certain extent anyway.

Razorbill  Alca torda

Whilst the returning adult offered the fish that the chick took, one at a time, the other adult stood guard offering protection from attack.

Several days later I timed my arrival to perfection as an adult had just flown in again, but this time with a single fish.

Razorbill  Alca torda

That's a pretty big fish, surely too big for the chick? 

Razorbill  Alca torda

The adult obscured the food pass but one minute the fish was there the next it was gone. Swallowed whole with no bother whatsoever. Bit like me swallowing a 10kg Atlantic Salmon I would have thought!

Anyway, I was pleased to have witnessed the event, a special moment in a special week.

My week was rapidly coming to a close though and it was only on the last full day I even bothered taking some Fulmar shots. 

Northern Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis

They are still sitting on eggs at this time of year and are amongst the last to leave.They are a joy to watch flying as they seem to do it for the pure love of it. I was happy to watch rather than photograph them.

And that just about wraps it up really. Another week over too soon.

Not necessarily the best in some ways but hugely enjoyable in others. We had been blessed with decent weather. OK the wind did us no favours but we had a good amount of sunshine. As someone pointed out you don't often hear visitors complain about a lack of rain so I won't although ironically the drive home through Scotland was treacherous with incredible downpours and flooded roads. I wondered what it was like back on the island.

Razorbill  Alca torda

I'll just treat it as something to look forward to next time!

In the meantime my thanks to all the people that make my visit possible as well as those who dedicate their time and energies in trying to make sure our native wildlife survives and prospers.

Thank you all.

Dave

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
TonyQ

Excellent Dave, a real treat for us. Such high quality photos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter Connan

Magnificent right to the end!

 

Thanks for spoiling us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Zim Girl

Really enjoyable report to read and fabulous pictures throughout!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Williams

Thanks for the kind comments everyone and as a postscript I would add that the story in the press relating to a Gull taking a Chihuahua has been revealed as total fabrication. I had my suspicions as you could see as I referred to it as an alleged incident!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy