|The 2015 Young Birders’ Training Course|
participants and SOC / IoMBO leaders
The first chance all the course participants got to meet each other was at the harbour on the morning of departure. None of us knew each other at that point; however with talk soon turning to birding and wildlife, it was clear we’d all get on well! Ourselves and our leaders from IoMBO and SOC, set off for the island soon after, filled with anticipation about the week ahead.
On approaching the May, the cacophony of sound, as with any seabird colony, was the first real taste of things to come. Passing beneath the westerly cliffs of the island, we had fantastic views of Razorbill, Guillemot and Kittiwake, the birds leaving and returning to the sheer face of the white, guano-covered cliffs.
|The Low Light by Samuel Hood|
As the RIB pulled up to the island’s jetty and we disembarked, we were greeted by staff from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), before heading straight to the island’s bird observatory, which was to be our ‘home’ for the week.
The Observatory is housed in the ‘Low Light’ (one of three lighthouses on the island), and is the oldest continuously operating bird observatory, having maintained its official title since its inception (apart from during the war years, between 1939-45, when the Low Light was used as a billet for troops based on the island).
Our setting for the training course was therefore, pretty spectacular!
Over the next seven days we had the opportunity to get involved in a number of the day-to-day duties that managing a nature reserve, such as the Isle of May, entails and a chance to develop our bird survey skills and techniques. We assisted CEH with some of their ongoing project work, which involved for example, Puffin netting and studying specific Puffin burrows, as well as doing a stint observing Kittiwake colonies as part of CEH and SNH’s 24-hour nest watch study of nesting pairs.
Kittiwake with SOC leader Eilidh and
course participant, Ptolemy
Over the course of the week we got the chance to ring a range of different species, including Kittiwake, Artic Tern, Puffin, Great Black-backed Gull and Starling. Others tasks carried out during the course included constructing Tern nest boxes and chick shelters, with the hope of encouraging Roseate Tern back to breed on the island in the future. The team also spent a night trying to catch Storm Petrel, without success unfortunately.
|Lesser Black-backed Gull by Samuel Hood|