Wednesday 15th June, and one-by-one a dozen smiling members of St Andrews Photographic Club met up at the harbour in Anstruther for a trip out to the May Isle. Personally I was pleased to leave the clouds behind on my side of Fife, as they had triggered memories of stormy days on the Forth, when all the puffins had been either been out foraging for sand-eels, or forlornly trying to rescue their pufflings from flooded burrows. That bad weather was not to be today, and after a long (too long) period of not meeting up with other club members because of Covid, the trip was a delight.
Most club members chose to travel via the May Princess, and there was an air of excitement as we boarded. It was a full passenger complement, and there were many posh cameras and long lenses to be seen. By the time I managed to board Emily and Nicola had already settled and were fast making friends with others around them. Quite a summer holiday atmosphere! Chris had chosen to travel via the rib instead, and by the time the rest of us arrived on the island he had already bagged lots of photos of seals and in-flight puffins from closer-up.
On arrival we were met by one of the wardens who gave us a brief introductory talk, and warned us of where we weren’t allowed to go. Then we were free on the island for a couple of hours, which was wonderful. Despite a low-level attack by nesting terns as we walked up from the boat, we were soon at the cliffs on the other side of the island and we were all in awe of the thousands of other seabirds nesting there. From long-necked green-eyed shags to nesting fulmars, guillemots and razorbills, there was bird-life in every direction. Of course however, the stars of the show were the puffins which often obligingly perched on the rocks with beaks packed full of sand-eels, waiting for the robber black-backed gulls to move on.
All our members had a wonderful time, and there were smiles everywhere. Perhaps J-K had the biggest smile, as he later commented that he had thought that his days of visiting the May Isle were over. With Robert’s help he managed well and added to the bag of images collected by all our members.
All too soon however it was time to return to the boat for the long trip back to Anstruther. The excitement was not over yet however, as there were seals to be spotted from the boat, and then once at sea the towering cliffs of the island revealed how every ledge and cornice was the home to nesting birds, with not a vacant space. On the way back there were also flights of gannets to be seen skimming close to the surface of the sea.Certainly an eventful return trip too.
On landing at Anstruther there was a universal feeling of having had an experience that will stay with each of us for a lifetime. We have the photos to prove it too!
Stan Farrow. All images Chris Reekie.