Friday, 18 May 2012

Shetland seems to be blessed with many excellent  photographers. Jim Nicholson, Jim Wood, George Petrie, Ivan Hawick, Hugh Harrop &  Rob Brookes to name just a few. Like anywhere you have to be out with your camera in all weather & Shetland certainly has quiet a variation in weather conditions even in one day.
                                          Photographers at Spiggie

The other is opportunity, and Shetland has this in abundance. With minimal tree cover many birds are forced to find other locations and with a good eye these can be seen in unusual open areas. When birds arrive they are often tired and with precautions can be approached closely without disturbing them. Another factor is that many birds are approachable anyway and don't have the fear factor often encountered elsewhere in the UK which is good news if you follow the code of conduct. (See Shetland bird club website).
                                         Sanderling at Grutness

It also pays to have a large lens which means you can stay further away from the bird, many use their car as a hide and use the wait and see approach. As with any island, but especially Shetland, you are never sure what birds are going to be encountered, especially on migration which makes it even more interesting .
                                         Rock Dove Wester Quarff

The above photographer who are based on Shetland all year certainly have the patience, skills and understanding as well as devoting plenty of time photographing birds, the results are fantastic . But even the people who visit Sumburgh head to take Puffin photos close up return home very satisfied.
                                          Puffin Sumburgh Head

Monday, 14 May 2012

Spring is my favorite month,  travelling north to Shetland from England you can benefit from having two Springs. Shetland is still in Spring mode even in early June with plenty of primroses in flower beside the road and on banks.

Lambs are still being born even at this late stage. Sheep are a very important source of food and income and the last figures produced show that 283, 659 sheep could be found in 2010, but only 21,500 people on all the Shetland islands.

Birds are in full song and in breeding plumage and with the lack of tree cover in Shetland small birds are sometimes easier to see, saying that i came across a sub-alpine warbler a few years ago that disappeared into a rubbarb patch never to be seen a again.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Shetland is a great place to watch Puffins, especially down at Sumburgh head in the south mainland. The RSPB installed a Puffin cam a couple of years ago in one of the burrows, check out for live views.

This is one from last year

This year an egg was laid a few days ago.

Last year when we visited Shetland we made a number of visits to Sumburgh to look at the Puffins and live pictures of a Puffin on an egg. The egg was due to hatch on the last Thursday of our holiday so we made our way down. Unfortunately the egg had hatched but the young had been predated, possibly by a stoat which had been seen around the lighthouse a few days before.

Hopefully things will go well, providing the adults can find the food to feed the young !!!

It's always interesting to listen to people when they are watching Puffins, last year some Americans made a whistle stop tour of Sumburgh with some saying how cute the penguins were and others making comments about the young puffins, which due to their size they had miss identified the adults.

I have always thought to get people interested in birds it's great to take them to a seabird colony where the sound, smell and sight will convince them to take up watching birds

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Shetland is one of the last wilderness areas of the UK. So far only about 10% of the total area is protected by 85 SSSI's (Special Site for Scientific Interest). These include added protection as: 1 National Nature reserve, 4 RSPB reserves, 2 SNH reserves leaving the rest as single SSSI areas.

Everyone knows that the SSSI areas don't carry much protection and that changes have been made to a landscape before anyone gets to know then it is too late. But generally everyone on Shetland has a great affinity to the great outdoors, most have a good knowledge of wildlife and are willing to share it.

Alot of birds are on the edge of their North or South range have only a few breeding pairs. Other such as Great Skua, Artic Skua, Whimbrel have the bulk of the UK breeding birds in Shetland.

Seabird colonies are having a bad time, with many not breeding at all in some years. Certainly numbers are significantly less than on our first visit in 1987. The lack of Sandeels are the main problem possibly caused by global warming making the Sandeels breed later, stay deeper and moving further north, as well as being over fished.

All this seems bad news but we all can help by highlighting these points to others to gain support, we can submit records of birds etc to help build a better picture of what is happening to our wildlife, not just rare birds but the common ones as well.

                                           Sumburgh Head

On a good note it has been interesting to hear the the RSPB are planning to redevelop Sumburgh head into a fantastic visitor attraction , with a £5.4million pound development which should be completed by 2014.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Following on from yesterday. The Scottish Government has agreed to reduce the number of turbine to 103 at this site in the mainland of Shetland - 24 less than previous, not because of the threat to birds but the threat to air traffic at Scatsa airport.
The area holds about 45% of Shetland breeding Merlin population, numerous Red throated diver which breed on the lochs but fly out to the sea to feed, and various waders such as Golden Plover, Curlew, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and two specialties - the Artic Skua and Whimbrel both of which are in decline.

In January 2012, the Scientific Congress of Wind Energy and Wildlife and Conservation published a report on Spain's 18,000 wind turbines which are estimate to kill around 6+ million birds and bats per year. Also in England at Portland, a single wind turbine at a school has been turned off because it killed 14 seabirds in 6 months.

The facts are worth considering and should not be taken lightly, once they are up and running they will not be turned off.                                          

                                                              Photos:      Artic Skua

Photos: Artic Skua

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Having been a regular visitor to Shetland since 1987 I have explored most areas around the islands. What I cannot understand is why Viking Energy seem intent to set up a massive wind farm in the central mainland. This will be devastating for the wildlife no matter what they deduce from surveys they conduct in advance of installing the wind farm.

As a visitor one of the main reasons I travel to the isles is for the unspoiled beauty, magnificent views and superb wildlife. This will certainly put visitors off and the wind farms will also be a threat to birds such as Red throated diver and whimbrel which are already in decline

They should look at working with wave/ wind power as an alternative and less intrusive form of gathering energy. While the wind farm is not yet set in stone lets hope that it doesn't get the go ahead.