So with an extended bank holiday weekend thanks to the Queen’s Jubilee, I decided it was a time to get out with my camera and shoot some shots! I had done my research and knew that the month of June is a great time to visit puffin colonies as they begin to rear their nesting chicks. The Isle of May, known as the Jewel of the Forth, is a stunning volcanic island just 6 nautical miles off the coast of Anstruther in the east coast of Scotland. This minuscule island measuring just 1.8km x .5km is home to many thousands of sea birds and has been a National Nature Reserve since 1956 and is currently owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. In addition to it’s incredible geology and sea faring inhabitants, it also houses 2 beautiful foghorns and one of Robert Stevenson’s most ornate gothic lighthouses, so it really is worth a visit. From April until September every year, a team of up to 15 researchers make this their home as they study the sea bird population. However as this was my first visit I was most definitely going to see and photograph the puffin community.
I love an adventure, so I was happy to pack my kit and set off on the 4 hour journey to give my sea legs a whirl…little did I know! I should probably say at the outset that this was my 3rd attempt in the last 2 months…public transport and bad weather having halted previous attempts….
I arrived in good time and checked out the historic Reaper before boarding the May Princess with 99 other passengers. Ships ahoy captain! Out of the harbour and the skipper announces that we should probably sit down as it’s a bit choppy out there…oh, and there’s a risk that we might not be able to land. To be fair they had told me that as I picked up my ticket…but ever the optimist! The waves rolled, so did the boat and there were more than a couple of passengers looking a little worse for wear.
We neared the looming island and traversed the westerly cliff faces which were crammed with nesting guillemots, fulmars, shags and razorbills whist a smattering of puffins chattered on the grassy cliff tops. Oh and there was the odd researcher hanging around too!
Another announcement for us to take our seats and my incline that we wouldn’t land was realised. Out into the mouth of the forth and the swell and spray were pretty wild and frothing but it did look pretty spectacular.
We headed west again for 30 minutes or so before a second attempt. This time it was absolutely clear that there would be no landing this trip! Sad as I was not to get up close to the puffins I had come to photograph I quietly sat with my view firmly focused on the horizon and my fingers gripped to the box seat I was precariously perched on. At that moment a young girl on the boat took a call, a conversation ensued with someone on the island. I later discovered that her brother and sister are both researchers posted on the island. She had travelled all the way from Devon to spend a day on the Isle of May with them. Her train had been cancelled yesterday which delayed her visit by a day and here she was in waving distance but unable to get onto land. She wouldn’t see them until November time. So the dark and angry sky of this photo seemed to reflect the mood of the passengers as we made the trip back to the mainland.
Unlike some of the passengers on board the May Princess yesterday, I know I can return at the end of the month or so and look forward to seeing the little feathered creatures up close and personal. Me and my camera can hardly wait and I’ll hopefully be able to post some good shots from my next trip. None the less the last shot of the day was probably worth the ride x