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 be on hand to help ID any birds, answer any questions you might have and be on hand to chat all things Shetland nature and our reserves. In this week’s session, Beth and I were on hand, and spent 2 wonderful hours looking over Loch of Spiggie.  

 4 Adult Whooper swans on Loch of Spiggie

Photo: 4 Adult Whooper swans on Loch of Spiggie. Credit: Beth Aucott 

The full list of what we saw will be at the end of the post, but we definitely had some highlights!  

There was a Barnacle Goose in a flock of Greylags in the fields above Spiggie which was a wonderful way to start the morning.  

The Caloo or Long-tailed duck is a sea duck that winters in Shetland from its breeding grounds in the high Arctic. There is thought to be around 14,000 birds that winter in the UK. They tend to winter in deep water well offshore so they can give a misleading impression of distribution when seen from shore.  

 2 Long-tailed ducks in flight

Photo: Two male Long-tailed Ducks in flight. Credit: Kevin Kelly 

Another wonderful species to pop up from a Slavonian Grebe, which popped up 3 seconds after Beth said “We usually see Slavonian Grebe in winter”. This rare grebe is striking in the summer, while in the winter its identified by its sloping head which has an obvious cut off line between the black forehead and the pale white cheeks as well as a thick bill. A fun fact about the Slavonian Grebe is that they regularly eat their own feathers! The reason for this is not entirely known but is thought to act as a filter for food and/or to hold bones until they can be digested. They also feed their chicks feathers.  

The first Goldeneye recorded nesting in the UK was in the 1970s, there are now over 200 breeding pairs, that grows to 21,000 wintering birds, mainly coming from their Scandinavian breeding grounds. Goldeneye breed in tree cavities next to water and will nest in boxes provided for them…However they have not yet nested in our box! The starlings seem to like it though.  

 A male Goldeneye on Loch of Spiggie

Photo: Male Goldeneye on Loch of Spiggie. Credit: Beth Aucott 

During the session, we saw Slavonian Grebe, Long Tailed Ducks (Caloo), Whooper Swans, Golden Eye, Heron, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Rock Pipit, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Greylags.  

Now, some important dates for your diaries,  

This weekend is the Big Garden Birdwatch 

This is the worlds largest garden bird survey, and provides an important snapshot into the state of garden birds. It is easy to sign up, and all you need is one hour between the 26th and 28th of January to count all the birds that land in your garden, local park or green space.  

We at RSPB Shetland are also helping out at Lerwick Library running hour long observation sessions at 11am and 2pm on Saturday 27th Jan , so please pop along if you would like to be involved but want support with bird ID.  

Guide in the hide dates coming up.  

We have 4 more Guide in the Hide sessions and would love to see you.  

10am -12pm Tuesday - 6th and 20th February  

10am -12pm Tuesday -  5th and 19th March.