* Apologies – the 2017 course application deadline has now passed *

Saturday 1st – Saturday 7th July 2017

Applications are invited from individuals aged 16 – 25 to participate in a week-long
sponsored training course run by the SOC and the Isle of May Bird Observatory, on the Isle of May.

Now in its fourth year, this joint venture between SOC and Isle of May Bird Observatory will provide an opportunity for six more individuals to gain experience in various activities to help them progress with future involvement in wildlife recording and conservation. Open to individuals aged 16–25 years, the Young Birders’ Training Course is the only course of its kind in the UK.

The Isle of May Bird Observatory is gearing up for the fourth YBTC and getting to meet another group of participants keen to learn more about bird recording, species monitoring and observatory life. With a full programme of activities in place, and the breeding seabirds already back on the island, we can look forward to an interesting and fun week on the May

Stuart Rivers, IoMBO

This is a great opportunity for young birders to learn from enthusiastic experts.  For the SOC funding the course means that, for the future, the good work of recording and conservation of Scotland’s birds will continue

James Main, SOC President

It presents a unique opportunity for budding ornithologists’, both in its setting and teaching options. Course participants will get a thorough introduction to daily recording of birds and other taxa, species monitoring (including assistance with ongoing seabird studies), hands-on  experience of bird ringing, and activities such as visible migration watches and co-ordinated seawatching counts. Outwith the scope of most university curricula, these skills are essential attributes for those embarking on a career or role in wildlife recording, surveying and conservation. The successful applicants will gain invaluable first-hand practical experience of a wide range of bird survey skills and techniques and participants will be able to draw on the talents and knowledge of highly experienced bird ringers, researchers and surveyors.

The week-long stay on the island will also allow participants to find out more about the Isle of May National Nature Reserve (NNR) and to experience the many aspects of island and bird observatory life. At the end of the course, participants will be provided with a certificate to present to potential employers outlining their achievements on the Young Birders’ Training Course.

How to apply

In the first instance applicants are required to submit a completed application form:

Young Birders Training Course Application Form (Word)

Young Birders Training Course Application Form (PDF)

Before completing the application form, please read through the following guidance and make sure you can satisfy all of the minimum criteria to be awarded a place on the course:

  • You must be aged between 16 and 25 years of age on the day of trip departure (written permission will be required from a parent or guardian if under 18 years of age, see below)
  • Applicants must be resident in GB and Ireland
  • You must be available for the full duration of the course (Saturday 1st- Saturday 7th July 2017)
  • You must be able to make your own way to and from Anstruther
  • You must be able to make  a personal contribution of £25 (for food & drink supplies) if successful in your application


Please post or hand in a copy of your completed application form by the application deadline of Monday 1 May 2017 at 5pm to: Jane Cleaver (Confidential), The SOC, Waterston House, Aberlady, EH32 0PY, or send it via email to jane.cleaver@the-soc.org.uk

Receipt of your application will be acknowledged via email within 3 working days. If you have not been contacted within this time frame, please email jane.cleaver@the-soc.org.uk

Who to contact should you have any questions about this project:

Jane Cleaver on 01875 871 330 or email jane.cleaver@the-soc.org.uk


More information about the project

 About the Isle of May

The Isle of May lies 5 miles off the Fife coast in East Scotland. It is a National Nature Reserve and is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/nnr/The_Story_of_the_Isle_of_May_National_Nature_Reserve.pdfSituated at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, the May is ideally placed to draw in migrating birds as well as providing a breeding site for many thousands of seabirds. It is internationally important for its populations of Puffins.

Contributing organisations

This opportunity is a joint collaboration between the SOC and the Isle of May Bird Observatory, and will be led by representatives from each organisation. Additional support and resources will be provided from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) staff on the island.  The project is being funded by the SOC.

Participants should be aware that neither the SOC, The Isle of May Bird Observatory, nor individual leaders of  this project, can accept any responsibility for any injury suffered by individuals taking part in the training course, nor any loss or damage to personal property. Successful applicants will be given a thorough health & safety briefing on the island as part of their induction process.

Under 18’s on the Isle of May

Individuals aged between 16 and 25 are invited to apply for a place on the course. If you are under 18 and successful in your application, then written permission from a parent or guardian will be required before we can confirm your place on the course.

Travelling to the island

Transport to the island (less than 5 miles) is provided by the Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) ‘Osprey’. This sets sail from the middle pier in Anstruther, the same pier as the lifeboat house is on, postcode: KY10 3AB. Due to the nature of the crossing and entry and exit to/from the boat, travelling by RIB is not suitable for anyone with back ailments, those who are pregnant or persons reliant on wheelchairs / walking aids.

Accommodation on the island

Accommodation for the duration of the trip will be provided at the Isle of May Bird Observatory, with dorm-style separate male and female facilities. Pillows and a duvet will be provided, however successful applicants will need to bring their own bed linen, or sleeping bag. The recently upgraded facilities also house a dining kitchen, washroom, lounge, boot room and store room. There is limited access to electricity in the accommodation, however there is the opportunity to charge laptops/mobile phones at the nearby SNH/CEH facilities. There are no shops on the island, however snacks can be purchased from the May Princess when she docks at the island, which happens most days.