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 the lack of summer weather.

Now that we’ve collected all the data out in the field we have to spend some time in the office number crunching. Using the maps and number of birds collected on the surveys we can work out the number of breeding birds on our reserves. As we follow the same methodology every year we can then compare numbers from previous seasons to track changes in populations. I’ve worked through most of the sites but still have a few survey results to go through before we have the final numbers.

Our thoughts are already turning to next years breeding season and how we can tweak our reserves to keep them in the best condition possible for a successful year. Grazing is a huge part of our habitat management – the way cattle graze creates a mixture of short sward and tufts whilst their weight helps to trample other areas and make muddy edges to pools, all which contributes to the creating the mosaic of habitats birds need to successfully raise young. We already have cattle on at Loch of Spiggie and a site on Fetlar, with plans for grazing at some other sites across the rest of autumn and winter. Unfortunately some areas are too wet for cattle to reach safely so the reserves team will be getting out and doing some hand cutting too.

A small herd of cows amongst the vegetation at Loch of Spiggie

The cows at Loch of Spiggie

This weekend we’re joining other organisations across Shetland to host wildlife drop in sessions in South Mainland. Between 1pm and 4pm there will be experts at different locations helping visitors look for cetaceans, discover the birdlife at Spiggie, get to grip with waders at Virkie and explore rockpools at Leebitten. Check out Shetland Community Wildlife website for more details.  

A single puffin sat on a grassy cliff edge

The last few puffins are still at Sumburgh Head

Recent sightings

Sumburgh Head – There are still a few puffins hanging around on the cliffs though many have joined the guillemots and razorbills in heading out to sea after the breeding season. The kittiwakes chicks are ready to fledge whilst the fulmars have a bit longer to go with plenty of large chicks viewable on the cliffs. There has been a number of sealife sightings in the last few days with minke whales, basking sharks, harbour porpoise and white-sided dolphins all being spotted.

A fulmar chick

A fulmar chick on the cliffs

Loch of Spiggie – Although most chicks have fledged or are very large now there are still curlewredshanksnipe, and oystercatchers around the loch. There has been an autumnal feeling with some passing waders as greenshank and groups of black-tailed godwits have been reported around the reserve. A short-eared owl has also been photographed between loch of spiggie and brow loch.

Fetlar – Although we have finished surveying them there are still some red-necked phalaropes around including juveniles, one of which was seen at Funzie loch earlier this week. A barred warbler was found in the willow by the hide at Funzie whilst across the island there have been willow warblers, whinchats, short-eared owls and a green sandpiper. Autumn migration is getting underway!