QRC – Citizen Scientists!

Marianne writes: While out rowing in recent weeks many of us have seen a significant number of dead guillemots, and (thankfully) larger numbers of live, though rather lethargic birds.

I met with the Isle of May National Nature Reserve Manager, David Steele yesterday.  What David doesn’t know about birds and islands on the East Coast of Scotland isn’t worth knowing!

David’s conclusion is that, as George also speculated, the recent easterly winds may have been blowing the birds up the Forth away from the vicinity of their breeding cliffs on the outer Forth islands and the eastern coast (a few do nest on the inner islands and mainland).


As far as mortality is concerned, the state of recent tides may have led to an unusual concentration of normal numbers of dead birds.  More worrying are the lethargic birds, which may indicate feeding problems, or that they are tired from bad weather.

The annual sea bird count on the Isle of May will take place in late June, and this will give a good idea of whether there is something going on regarding numbers this year.  David will give me an update when the results are in and I’ll let you know.

David was really interested to hear about what we’d been seeing and congratulated QRC members on being great ‘citizen scientists’.  Citizen science is an important resource, and these sorts of reports can be really helpful. We’re in a unique position to observe, given the amount of time we spend on the water.  So, carry on the great wildlife spotting, while trying to not to attract the ‘eyes in the boat’ call from your cox!

David’s really keen to come and talk with us about the Isle of May, the internationally important populations of seabirds in the Forth, so I’ll get a date for that in the Autumn.  He’s a terrific speaker and has a huge wealth of stories, having lived not only on the May, but also on the Farnes Islands off the Northumberland coast.

You can follow life on the Isle of May via David’s entertaining blog: https://isleofmaynnr.wordpress.com/