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 to engage with the community through the long dark winter, nudge nature connection, support health and wellbeing and hopefully inspire a new group of individuals to want to volunteer with us later in the year, we set about designing a variety of opportunities. You may ask, why a conservation charity be interested in health and wellbeing? The simple answer, for a healthy environment, we need healthy people.

Big Garden Birdwatch at the Shetland library

With the entire RSPB Shetland team getting involved, the event opportunities for January, February and March ranged from nature journalling workshops, a film screening, guide in the hide, RSPB attending local winter hubs and living well hubs to share the new audio trail resources and introduce the RSPB Nature Prescription. We also arranged crafting workshops, making sun catchers, woolly whaaps, bird feeders and painting rocks. We enjoyed a fantastic trip to the Lerwick library for Big Garden Bird Watch and shared our experiences of Shetland nature over the winter via blog posts and joining a local walking group. Although the snowy weather did delay plans for a birding with a brew, we were chuffed to have the sun gods on our side for a fantastic fencing work party at Sumburgh Head, prepping the area for tree planting in the months ahead.

A volunteer work party at RSPB Sumburgh Head

A highlight over the season has been the series of online Wintering Wild and Well evening talks, that have proved very popular. Having a young child myself I often find it difficult to attend events after 5 pm, so creating a 6-part series of online talks that someone could tune in from anywhere across Shetland (or further afield) while have a brew or dinner seemed like an interesting idea to explore. We are exceptionally fortunate in Shetland to have so many talented individuals and organisations who have a passion for connecting with nature – and are happy to share their insight and expertise. We received talks and presentations from: Emma Williamson (how to sea swim safely in Shetland and boost health and wellbeing), Richard Ashbee (exploring the science of the sky and hunting the aurora, Mirrie Dancers in Shetland), Dave Wheeler (his global journey as a meteorologist and finding a home in Fair Isle), Renzo Spiteri (connecting with nature though the beauty of sound), Robina Barton from the Shetland Geological Society (why Shetland geology rocks!), and finishing up with a magical migration talk with the RSPB team. We received fantastic and helpful feedback and were humbled that the above individuals and so many members of the public shared their time. The sessions were informative, enjoyable, and utterly inspiring. A selection of the talks have been recorded and will be available soon to watch.

Crafts at the Library

Big thanks goes to a number of individuals who have supported Wintering Wild and Well: Jane and Howard from the Shetland Amenity Trust, Rita and Theresa at the Living Well Hubs, Joanne from the Winter Hubs, Louise and Chloe at the Lerwick Library, Graeme at Shetland Arts, Krissi at Healthy Shetland and the many members of the public who have supported the events, offered up their time and kindly donated -RSPB Scotland is fundraising for RSPB ( We feel that we haven’t just survived the Shetland winter, we have thrived!

We are delighted that over the coming months we will see our gallery space in the RSPB Loch of Spiggie hide become populated with beautiful images in a revolving local exhibition space. The audio trails that we have been recording and editing will join the NHS Healthy Shetland website, along with the online evening talks. We will have tree planting opportunities and many other exciting events. Do keep an eye out on the RSPB Shetland facebook page, and for further information email –

This blog post was written by Laura Farrell, Community Engagement Officer