Friday, 23 July 2010

Shetland Diaries

I had wanted to go to Shetland for years after Simon King presented the TV program Springwatch from there in 2006. After years of saying we’d go 2010 was finally the year that we would make on journey.
I had made a list of target species that I would like to see throughout the week, which included Orcas, Red-Throated Divers and Otters.

2nd- 3rd of July 2010
When we left the ferry terminal at Aberdeen there was both a feeling of dread (fear of seasickness) and extreme excitement, but the worry of sicknesses soon disappeared when I spotted a Red-Throated Diver off the harbour. This was a first for me and we had only just left the terminal, I had a good feeling deep inside that this was going to be a fabulous week. There were plenty of seabirds on the journey, which included: Eiders, Black and Common Guillemots, Great Skuas, Shags and many more.

3rd July 2010
The ferry was due to arrive at 7.30am, but I wanted to see the arrival of Shetland so at 6.00pm I woke my dad up and we went on deck to see the tip of Shetland near the ferry, the further north we travelled the more we saw and the excitement was becoming overwhelming. The islands, which I had wanted to visit for 4 years, were finally in sight and it was a fantastic feeling. We left the ferry at around 8.00am and we had plenty of time to kill, as we weren’t allowed to move into our house for the week until 14.00. We stopped off on the outskirts of Lerwick by the sea, to be greeted by Grey Seals, Arctic Terns, and plenty of Oystercatchers - I’d never seen so many Oystercatchers before.
We arrived at the house (near Bixter) a few hours early before the arrival time but we were allowed in early thankfully. After a few hours relaxing and unpacking my dad and I were off out to a beach nearby. The beach was known as Red Ayre and as my dad pulled up to the beach two lovely Shetland Ponies, which were very tame, greeted us. We got talking to one of the locals and they had said the ponies learnt how to open the gates so they escaped on several occasions, now there was a fence keeping them in. I surveyed the beach looking for seashore wildlife, and photographing whatever I could find.
We arrived back to our house and had our first look at the rocky shoreline in front of the house where we were greeted yet again by more Oystercatchers and a small flock of Dunlin.
We were waiting for a good time to contact the Jamieson family to check the weather conditions were adequate for the boat trip we had booked with them to Mousa. Fortunately the trip was on. Going over in the twilight period was very intriguing, as I didn’t really know what to expect. We arrived and gradually the noises of fairies being sick, which is how the locals define their call. Their call began creeping in to the crashing of the waves and the sound of people’s footsteps. We arrived at the broch and within in an hour or so it was swarming with Storm Petrels. When the Storm Petrels are breeding they only change shifts at nighttime, so they will not be predated by gulls and skuas. The broch on Mousa is the biggest broch in Scotland.

4th July 2010
Woke up to rain this morning which wasn’t too nice but I wasn’t prepared to let the rain get the better of me as each day was valuable on Shetland and I wasn’t going to let the day go to waste. We got geared up in waterproofs and braved the outdoors. We went to a loch near Bixter and had a walk around there, which was very productive as we saw Turnstones, Arctic Skuas, a Red Throated Diver, Eiders and many, many more Oystercatchers.

5th July 2010
It was an early start this morning to make our way to the south of the island in the hope of seeing Orcas on Sumburgh Head. We didn’t have much luck on the Orca front but we saw plenty of seabirds including Razorbills, Arctic and Great Skuas, Gannets and very close encounters with Puffins.
We left Sumburgh Head to head to Jarlshof and I left on a high after getting a lot of photographs of the puffins. The Iron Age Village at Jarlshof was somewhere I wished to visit but the price to get in was ridiculous so we didn’t bother. Everyone went for a toilet stop in Jarlshof while I went to the beech where I was met by a family of Eiders and 2 Red-Breasted Mergansers. We then moved on to the Pool of Virkie where there were a lot of wading birds including Shelduck, Redshank, Curlews and plenty of opportunities to photograph Arctic Terns.



Guillemot colony:

Arctic Skua attacking a Hooded Crow:


Ringed Plover and Dunlin:

Arctic Terns:

6th July 2010
Last night we decided we were going to visit the islands on the east coast of the mainland. On the ferry from Toft to Ulsta I met a guy who said he would let me know if Orcas were spotted in Yell Sound. We arrived on Yell and another wildlife tour guide said Orcas were seen from West Sandwick, we were in luck. They were far away but through a scope the views were pretty good.
We went from West Sandwick to Buravoe to look for otters but didn’t have too much success but we did see Black Tailed Godwits.
We headed over to Unst and visited the Hermaness NNR where I saw Golden Plovers, Common Snipe, Skylarks and Skuas.
On the way back home we stopped off south of Voe where we saw 7 Whooper Swans.

Great Skua:


Gannet colony:

7th July 2010
We had a general mooch around Shetland today as we decided we would take it easy. The day was rather quiet we visited the Shetland Jewellery store and art gallery in Weisdale for a few hours in the morning.
8th July 2010
We wend back to Yell and Unst because I was given some information on good places to see otters, the first few places on the list were a little unsuccessful but at one of the sites there was otter spraint by the holt. We went back to west Sandwick again for the second time and this was the destination where we saw an Otter for the first time on Shetland. I’ve seen Otters previously on Mull, but I was surprised this was the first one I’d seen on Shetland as they are supposed to be in such high numbers.

9th July 2010
There were a pair of Starlings nesting just outside the house we were staying in, I timed how often they were feeding the chicks, about 4 times every 5 minutes. I fetched my camcorder from the house and my camera and spent a little while watching their busy lifestyles.
We visited the isle of Whalsay today where we saw Water Pipits which were a first for me, Turnstones which I’d previously seen on Mull, Oystercatchers and we also had good views of Grey Seals. I made my way down the rocky shoreline every time the seal went under water and by the time I had gone as far down as I could I was within 10 metres of it.
The Isle of Whalsay was a fantastic looking place and it was easily a place that I could have called home.


Grey Seal:

10th July 2010
We had to be out of the house by 10am this morning as there would be new people moving in, in the afternoon. We headed to Lerwick to the place where we had visited the first day. We headed off to Lerwick town centre to be greeted by the skipper of the Dunter III who was taking us on the Seabirds and Seals boat trip around the Isle of Noss. The whole trip was fantastic the views of the Gannet colony were absolutely fantastic and it’s one of those experiences that you will never forget. Every trip the skipper leads a ginger biscuit is held out of the boat for the Great Skuas. I was filming this happening at the time and the Skua flew straight into my camcorder, I ducked at the last second, other wise it could have been the end of my camcorder. Arriving back in Lerwick was the sign that the holiday was coming to an end, we were soon to be leaving Shetland unfortunately, which I wasn’t happy about at all. As my dad drove onto the ferry at 19.00 I knew this was the end of my holiday.

Grey Seals:

Great Skua

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Potteric Carr

I went over to Potteric Carr Nature Reserve yesterday near Doncaster. I personally think it's one of the best sites I know where you can photograph insects in summer.

Here's a list of birds seen:

Little Grebes

Grey Heron

Little Egrets

Mute Swans

Canada Geese

Greylag Geese


House Martins








Black Headed Gulls

Great Spotted Woodpecker




Great Tits

Reed Buntings

Great Spotted Woodpecker:


Here's a list of the Dragonflies and Damselfies seen:

Broad Bodied Chaser
Common Darter
Blue Tailed Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly
Ruddy Darter

Here's a list of butterflies seen:

Small tortoiseshell
Large White
Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown

Small tortoiseshell:

Here's a list of insects seen:
Soldier Beetle
Pellucid Hoverfly
Cinnibar Moth caterpillars
6 spot Burnet
Leptura Maculata

Pellucid Hoverfly:

Soldier beetles:

Leptura maculata:


Monday, 12 July 2010

Fox Hunting Poll

I'm sure many of you will be aware of the fox hunting ban by now with the constant broadcasting on the news. MPs are being given the chance next year to vote on whether to repeal the Hunting Act or not. The League Against Cruel Sports believes the MPs currently have a chance of keeping the ban banned but this new intake of MPs means this could change.

I personally don't agree with the way this is being decided, members of the public should have some sort of say in that matter surely as we're the ones who have created this controversy.

What are your feelings on the matter?