• A hint of Spring

    There’s been lots happening around Shetland over the winter but now that Spring is finally starting to appear we thought we’d bring you an update on what has been happening on our reserves.

    At Sumburgh Head  we’ve been working on preparing an area for planting trees. Assistant Warden Lizzy has been leading on this with the help of some wonderful volunteers. The main focus so far has been making the area safe…

  • Surviving and Thriving in the Shetland Winter

    Last September a friend and I were discussing the looming Shetland winter. She shared her wisdom, that although the winter may be long, there was no need to be frightened of it. Her words gave me comfort and the nudge to retrain my brain on embracing (rather than quivering) at the wild weather ahead.

    The seed of an idea was planted that turned into the series of RSPB Shetland events, Wintering Wild and Well. With a remit…

  • Early migration in Shetland

    Shetland Conservation Officer Matt Willmott gives us a little glimpse into a days birding in early Spring here in Shetland.

    Part of Out Skerries - photo credit Matt Willmott

    Heading to Out Skerries for the first birding trip of the spring always comes with an air of expectation and Sunday (31st March) didn’t disappoint.

    Departing Vidlin in blue skies, with light wind (a gentle southerly) turned into more optimism…

  • International Women’s Day


    Friday 8th March marks #InternationalWomensDay, and we’re celebrating the women in our team.

    You may not be aware, but the RSPB was founded by women. In 1889, Emily Williamson created the organisation with one core aim – to fight a fashion for feathers that were driving birds including little egrets, and birds of paradise towards extinction. The all-women movement was born out of frustration that the male…

  • Guide in the hide and upcoming events

    After a week of snow, and now named storm after named storm, Shetland is feeling wild at the moment, it's wonderful.  

    We are currently helping with the Wintering Wild and Well program of events, which will be explained in more detail in a separate blog post. The reserves team are involved by hosting Guide in the Hide. 

    These events give anyone a chance to come down to the hide, where members of the reserves team will…

  • The start of another year

    Hello from Shetland and Happy New Year to you all!

    This side of the festive season the breeding season feels within touching distance and we’re starting to get things ready for the season ahead.

    The first week back at work was mostly spent in the office, thanks to the incessant gales! But it gave us a good chance to catch up with each other, take stock of where we are in the work programme  and get planning to complete…

  • If you can’t see, listen: using bioacoustics to monitor European Storm Petrels

    The UK’s coastline, and increasingly its inland areas, are home to globally important populations of a host of seabird species. However, our seabird populations are increasingly being negatively impacted by a suite of anthropogenic threats including climate change, pollution, and bycatch, hence it is ever more important that we obtain robust data on the health of their populations.

    Yet, the often-remote nature of…

  • A look back on the 2023 breeding season

    Welcome back to the RSPB Shetland Blog,  

    The team have been busy in the last few weeks number crunching and writing our annual reports and thought now was a good time to share the results with you all.  


    Our main survey season starts with the whole island Black Guillemot or Tystie survey. It’s a great way to start the season and the results show an increase in birds this season, with 109 breeding plumage birds recorded…

  • Energy Isles consented

    Helen Moncrieff, Shetland Islands Manager, has written this blog in response to the announcement that the Energy Isles windfarm in Yell has been granted consent by Scottish Ministers.

    Peatlands are important for so many reasons – from their summer soundscape of breeding birds such as Skylark, Dunlin, Golden Plover and Red-throated Diver, known as Laeverick, Plivver’s Page and Raingoose here, to their role in tackling…

  • Improving habitat for Red-necked Phalaropes

    Readers of this blog will no doubt know how important Shetland is for breeding Red-necked Phalaropes and that we work hard to give them the best breeding conditions on our reserves. If you only visit in the summer months, it might be a surprise to know the amount of work which goes on to create the right conditions.  

    We use a mixture of methods to create the best habitats. Hydrological management, grazing, hand-cutting…

  • Join the Species on the Edge Youth Panel!

    Shetland is amongst the most spectacular and biodiverse areas in the UK, home to vibrant and resilient communities of people and many special species. In fact, Shetland is a precious refuge for some of the most threatened and unique species in the UK. That is why Shetland is one of seven project areas in which the new multi-partner conservation programme, Species on the Edge, will be active over the next four years.

  • A new view

    Hello all. 

    We are delighted to have a new addition to facilities for visitors at Sumburgh Head. Last week saw the conclusion of the main construction of the new "The Lookout" viewing structure in its prime cliff top location at Sumburgh. 

    We hope to officially open it in the coming weeks, once we have finalised some further accessibility touches to round it all off. 

    The new space will provide easy access for…

  • A Wonder through the Wonders: Species on the Edge explores the Keen of Hamar

    Species on the Edge logo

    A Wonder through the Wonders: Species on the Edge explores the Keen of Hamar

    Our Species on the Edge Shetland team were out and about enjoying Unstfest recently, the most northerly festival in the UK. This festival sees an exciting array of activities take place across Unst, ‘the island above all others’.

    A group of people stood loosely in a circle, some looking at the plants on the ground and some looking through binoculars
    Everyone enjoying getting up close to the wonders of the Keen with Mike and Robina to guide them, ©…

  • Survey season

    Welcome back to the RSPB Shetland blog. The last two weeks have seen the reserves team visiting all of our reserves as we carry out second visits for some surveys and do the first for others. There was also a lot of excitement on Monday, when halfway through us planning the week, some Orca appeared at Sumburgh Head, so of course we all had to run outside to see them!

    We’ve been across to Mousa  a couple of times…

  • Lizzy's first few weeks

    Hello everyone!

    Welcome to my first blog post, as the new Assistant Warden for the Shetland reserves (It still feels very surreal that that’s me!!)

    Lizzy stands in upland habitat with weather writer in hand
    Lizzy carrying out wader surveys 

     This is now week 5 of the job, which has absolutely flown by. It’s the perfect time to join the Shetland team, as we are at the start of survey season. So I have been out and about with Beth, learning the ropes of survey plots, and methodologies…

  • A reserves catch up

    It’s been a little while since we gave an update on what’s been happening across our reserves but I promise that we’ve had a lot going on!

    The puffins are back at Sumburgh Head! Seeing these little guys is always a sign spring is underway and it’s always fun to take a break from the computer and pop out the office door to say hello to them.

    A single puffin sat on a cliff
    A Puffin at Sumburgh Head

    Down at Loch of Spiggie, the…

  • Wild about Whaaps at Spiggie Hide

    Join us in going Wild about Whaaps on World Curlew Day

    Friday 21 and Saturday 22 April, World Curlew Day Drop-In Event 12-4pm

    The evocative burbling cry of the Curlew, affectionately known as Whaap here in Shetland, is sadly commonplace in few places in the UK, and the fact of its familiarity in Shetland is something to be celebrated.

     Curlews are not the only special species for which Shetland is a refuge, and this has…

  • Tom's highlights as Assistant Warden

    Hello, it's a different blog this week as after working as the Assistant Warden for the Shetland team for nearly three years (Well, two years and fifty-one weeks, to be precise), the time has come to take on a new challenge working as the Species on the Edge project officer in Shetland.

    So I'm taking this opportunity to reflect on my time in the role and share my top 5 moments in this role. However, I have experienced…

  • A phalarope success story

    After we carry out practical work on the reserves there’s a period of time where we have to wait to see if species respond in the way we hope. There’s a lot of skills and experience within the organisation that backs up why we manage habitats the way we do, but there’s still a moment of relief when wildlife uses the new or improved habitats. Sometime things turn out even better than expected, as was the case this year…

  • A look back at the breeding season

    In previous blogs we’ve talked about the surveys we carry out and recently, the team have been spending time number crunching and writing annual reports, so thought it would be nice to share how species have fared on some of our sites this year. 
    Loch of Spiggie

    At Loch of Spiggie our surveys are targeted on waders and wildfowl (ducks and geese). Waders have had a good year with an increase in breeding pairs of

  • Monitoring storm petrels on Mousa

    There's nothing very exciting to report from the reserves team this week. Some of the team are off on holiday whilst the rest of us have continued keeping an eye on the reserves, checking cows, cutting vegetation and doing office work.

    At this time of year we're writing our annual reports and looking back on everything we've done over the last 12 months. As I was writing the Mousa report I realised we didn't…

  • Wonderful whoopers

    Although summer is our main survey season, we do still like to keep an eye on how some of our wintering birds are doing. We have some fabulous volunteers who do these counts for us but this week our volunteers who do the winter swan counts are away. This meant I had the chance to do it. It’s a fairly simple survey – count all the swans on Loch of Spiggie, making a note of if they are whooper or mute swans,…

  • Autumn Migration

    Apologies for the lack of updates over the last few weeks, a combination of staff holidays and end of season report writing has taken up a large portion of our time.

    One of the truly special things about Shetland is being at the vanguard of bird migration. In autumn Shetland is the first land hit by south bound migrants spilling out of Scandinavia and from central and eastern Europe caught up in easterly airflow.


  • After the breeding season

    Gosh it feels like a long time since I’ve written a blog post!

    Since my last post the reserves team have finished all of our breeding bird surveys – they only take place over a few months of the year but it is a very intense time for the team and I will admit I’m slightly glad things calm down a little for us now. Looking back over the last few months we have achieved a lot and managed to get all our visits in despite…

  • Dave and Jacky Sabbatical Blog

    Arriving on Shetland

    Like many visitors our first encounter of Shetland was a misty morning coming into Lerwick on the overnight ferry from Aberdeen.  The arctic terns (tirricks to give them their Shetland name) wheeling about and a passing arctic skua a welcoming sight. Two more ferries lie ahead to take us to our volunteering home for the next two weeks on Fetlar….

    Arriving on the boat


    The range of birds…