Out of puffin


This is the second and last post  covering our trip to the Isle of May.  The opportunity to see 90,000 puffins was a once in a lifetime affair so I make no apology for going on about a bit.  If you don’t like puffins, skip this post.


The Island is a very green place, even on a gloomy day.

Isle of May

You can see one of the paths that visitors have to keep to in the middle of the picture.  One side of the island is made up of steep cliffs and the other has a slightly more gentle run down to the sea below.

Isle of may

But it does not have a hospitable shoreline…

Isle of may

Isle of may

…and there are only two places for a boat to land.  Because of the strong winds, we had had to use a sheltered one that was being used for the first time this season.

There are some permanent features on the island but we saw only one little group of houses…

Lower light house

..tucked in below the lower lighthouse.

As well as puffins on every rock…


…did I mention that there were puffins?


…there were plenty of other birds to see as well.  Gulls in the grass…


…and perched on ledges and rocks there were Kittiwakes…



…and Shags…


…I liked this one struggling to keep its balance in the breeze…




…Oyster catchers…

oyster catcherand Guillemots


Lots of guillemots.


There were banks of celandine…


and sea campion (I think)…


…and the odd clump of thrift.


It would have been easily possible to spend all day on the island…

Mrs Tootlepedal isle of may
Mrs Tootlepedal doing a little bird watching

…but we were only allowed two hours.  Even so, it was a wonderful opportunity that made the terrible crossing a price well worth paying (after I had recovered from the shock).  We had to  make our way back to the end of the island all too soon.

Isle of May

On the island, the puffins were the stars of the show…


…but once we got back on the boat, they took us for an excursion along under the cliffs which provided very good shelter from the wind.

Here, the guillemots were the stars.


The cliffs themselves were very impressive.

Isle of may cliffs
The sky was full of birds

Isle of may cliffs

Isle of may cliffs
The free standing stack in the centre of the picture is known as The Bishop

The birds of the island are very thoroughly researched.  Indeed the island was described as a science laboratory and bird spotting students come and stay for weeks at a time to count the birds.  We saw one of their hides from our boat…

bird hide

..it is perched right on top of the cliff and you can just make it out in the centre of the frame on the right.  I don’t think I would care to work in it.

I wasn’t looking forward to the trip back but the crew said it would be better than the trip out and they were quite right.  I sat in the back of the boat looking back at the Isle of May as it grew smaller….

Isle of may

…and smaller until it disappeared behind the large waves which were looming over the stern of the boat.

Isle of may

Miraculously they always seemed to slip underneath us as they caught us up and I really quite enjoyed the ride back though I must say that Anstruther…


…had never been a more welcome sight.

All things considered though and in spite of the very uncomfortable trip outward, this must have been one of our very best days out if not the actual best ever.  Did I mention that we saw 96,000 puffins?

flying puffin

Note: By sheer coincidence, the nesting eider duck by the path which appeared in yesterday’s post also made an appearance in the nature notes in The Guardian newspaper today.

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

40 thoughts on “Out of puffin

  1. A day? I could spend weeks there photographing the birds and the scenery! While the puffins may be the star attraction of the island, the scenery is also spectacular. If you had just two hours, you must have never lowered the camera from your eye the entire time to shoot so many great photos.

  2. So glad it was such an interesting and fascinating visit, in spite of the rough crossing. You have certainly given us a good idea of the variety of birds and, yes, the large number of puffins.

  3. I’m afraid I would have been that poorly person hanging over the side of the boat! I would just have become a hermit living on the Isle of May until the sea was as calm as a millpond. I am not a happy boater 😳. I also love puffins. Such industrious busy little fishers.

  4. I had a story book when I was a child that featured a puffin and I’ve been fascinated by them ever since. The are so unlikely looking in their less-than colorful northern habitat. Fun to watch them taking off and landing too. Beautiful photos.

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