• We want snails!

    We hosted a visit from our wonderful ecologists last week. Our own Ecologist Iain was joined by his colleague Clive for site visits, and it was a great learning experience for us all. It was a wonderful week. We, in RSPB Shetland, are always keen to learn more about the natural environment and we have a range of passions within the natural world. Obviously, we all love the birds, but we also have a couple of marvellous…

  • The issue of disturbance

    In this blog post we wanted to touch on a slightly less enjoyable side of our roles here in Shetland, and indeed a common theme for colleagues around the country too.


    Disturbance comes in various forms, often perfectly innocent, through lack of understanding and awareness, to that at the more sinister end of the scale.

    Here in Scotland, we are fortunate to have the outdoor Scottish access code, that permits…

  • Tree planting at Sumburgh Head!

    That’s it, the park at Sumburgh is now full of trees!

     Tree branches with a blue sky behind

    Photo - Arty shot of the new trees - L Farrel. 

    This started as an idea in Kevin, our site managers, head. We have an absolutely wonderful site here at Sumburgh Head, and we want it to become a first class visitor (of the avian as well as human sorts) experience. Visitors have long come to Sumburgh for our wonderful Puffin, and other sea birds, and once the seabirds…

  • Whimbrel – The Shetland ‘Peerie Whaap’

    Most Shetland folk will be aware of the Curlew (‘Whaap’) as a familiar breeding bird of the hills and croftland across the Islands. Less well known is it’s smaller relative: the Whimbrel or ‘Peerie/Tang Whaap’ (to give it it’s Shetland name). The Whimbrel really does probably also deserve the name ‘Shetland Curlew’: over 95% of the total British breeding population occur here! – just over…

  • Otter Love Stories

    Today's blog post comes from Helen Moncrieff, Shetland Islands Manager

    On Monday evening, I was lucky enough to attend a screening of ‘Billy and Molly’ at Shetland’s cinema and music venue Mareel. It was great to see Mareel filled with people of all ages and backgrounds brought together for a  good story.  Billed as ‘An Otter Love Story’ this absolutely beautiful documentary follows Shetlander Billy…

  • The start of survey season

    This week has been really lovely one, full of getting out to sites and kicking off the survey season.

    We started the week at Loch of Spiggie doing a couple of little jobs and inspecting the tern rafts. There’s some minor repairs to do on one but we’ve called in the troops and they’ll be going out in position next week. The pools and scrapes across North West marsh are nicely holding water and our breeding birds are back…

  • 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…