The Isle of May and more!


The Isle of May, what an amazing place to visit! Myself and two other students; on placement with SNH-Blair and Simon, got the chance to go for a few days last week.  We were there to help David Steel the reserve manager to set up the reserve in readiness for the influx of seasonal visitors.  ‘The May’ as is it is known to locals is well worth a visit and can be accessed by boat from the Scottish Sea Bird Centre in North Berwick, East Lothian or Anstruther in Fife.

The may

Isle of May NNR


The rib and sun

Approaching  ‘The May!’


David Steel the warden on ‘The May’ has an excellent blog that is well worth a read. On the island we were kept busy unloading the boats, storing the provisions away and cleaning and airing the accommodation. We also built some tern nesting sites and even had a some spare time to do some birding.


Daryl  SNH staff member, after storing away two tons of coal!

quad and simon

Simon on the quadbike with the main lighthouse behind

Vistor centre

The visitor center after being Spring cleaned. The vegetated roof is used by nesting terns later on in the season.

inside lighthouse

The view from the lighthouse

The lighthouse, which is now completely automated will be opening to the public.  Part of it is being opened as an art gallery. There is a great view from the top!

‘Palpitation Brae’ is the brae leading up to the main lighthouse, so called by World War Two service men because of the steep incline.

The brae

‘Palpitation Brae’

Being early on in the season there was relatively few birds about apart from a huge influx on the first day that filled the sky with whirring puffins and the sea which seemed covered with black dots of the birds.


The Island is a hugely important site for summer breeding seabirds and has a large colony of breeding seals. Because of this it is designated  “as a European Special Protection Area for breeding seabirds, and a Special Area of Conservation to protect its seals and the rocky underwater reefs around the island”.

Moving on from the Isle of May SNH staff Craig and myself along with Willie completed ‘Trout in the Classroom’ a couple of weeks ago. This is a partnership between local schools, SNH and Willie from  Loch Leven Fisheries. The project which is done every year involves local schools hatching and caring for brown trout eggs which are then released  into a  waterway which flows into  Loch Leven.  Later on in the year we will return with electro-fishing stuns the fish temporar

The project teaches children about their local environment and gives them practical experience in curriculum related work in such things as math and biology.

Other things going on the reserve have included cycle training, in preparation for our busy events schedule which includes guided cycles around the reserve.

Cycle training

A great day was had by all on the Cycle leading course

Staff and volunteers have been updating their first aid training this week with an excellent two course. The course underlined the need to check unconscious casualties pockets and bags etc for clues for the reason of their collapse.


The ‘whisky’ held in hand by Simon was in this case tea. Used in one of the many scenarios played out on the course. We  got a few funny looks at the Green Hotel where the course was based!

Lastly I will leave you with a few pictures of a valiant volunteers doing the day-to-day repairs needed to keep the reserve open to the public.

Walkway repair

Replacing a rotten section of boardwalk

Voluteers rubbish

Rubbish and tree guards being collected on the ‘iron horse’

Path mant

After removing some large tree stumps the trail needed repaired.

About Tom-Trainee Reserve Officer

After studying conservation at Elmwood college in Fife, I am doing a fulltime student placement at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve. This is with the Kinross team at Scottish National Heritage.
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2 Responses to The Isle of May and more!

  1. Pattie Leonardis says:

    wish I was there! thanks for the great photos!

    • Tom-Trainee Reserve Officer says:

      Well worth a visit if you can make it. Cant guarantee such good weather as we had unfortunately…!

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