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 as we’ve now started monitoring the Shags that use the island. There are 6 geos that we visit at regular intervals across the breeding season, counting nests, and later chicks. This gives us a snapshot of how the population is doing as a whole. One of the geos had 11 nests this week so fingers crossed it’s going to be a good season.

Left - Lizzy counting Shags. Right - Shags on nests

The second visits for all of our wader surveys have now been carried out. These visits were much more productive with an increase in birds seen, particularly Dunlin, who are now on their breeding territories. At Loch of Spiggie the Lapwing and Redshank already have chicks and it shouldn’t be long until there are some Oystercatcher chicks running around the reserve too. There is one more visit to do to each of the sites, and then after that we can analyse the data and see how it compares to previous years.

Golden Plover from a wader survey

Possibly the most exciting thing about the last few weeks is that the Red-necked Phalaropes  have returned to Shetland for the summer! There is always a moment of relief at seeing the first birds as we spend a lot of time on working on their habitat over the winter, and then waiting for them to return. We don’t start surveys for them for a little bit yet, but we do keep an eye on which sites they are using. This year we have set up a view point at the Mires of Houbie in Fetlar, so visitors can enjoy these lovely little birds, without risk of trampling or disturbing them. The whole team had the pleasure of talking to visitors yesterday as we watched three birds swimming around on the mire. We ask that people are sensible when viewing phalaropes, or any wildlife, and do not disturb the birds. To read a little bit more about this issue please see this blog post from last year – The issue of disturbance

Phalarope view point at the Mires of Houbie

Red-necked Phalaropes - photos taken by volunteer Paul Macklam

It looks like summer has finally arrived in Shetland so the team will be enjoying the sun this weekend and we hope you all have a fabulous one too.

Until next time


Recent Sightings:

Loch of Spiggie:   Great Skua, Moorhen, Arctic Skua, Sandwich Tern, House Martin, Gadwall, Black-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Dunlin, Barnacle Goose, Sanderling Garganey, Spotted Redshank, American Wigeon, Arctic Tern, Lapwing, Whooper Swan, Mute SwanCurlew,  Ringed PloverOystercatcherRedshank

Sumburgh Head: Tundra Bean Goose, Puffin,  Guillemot,  KittiwakeRazorbillFulmar, TwiteWrenStarlingWheatearOrca

Lumbister, Yell: Golden Plover , Dunlin, Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Skylark , Meadow Pipit , Bonxie 

Mousa: Goldcrest, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Fulmar, Arctic Tern, Eider, Tystie  , Bonxie, Storm Petrel, Dunlin, Wren, Greater Black-backed gulls, Skylark, Meadow Pipit