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 so many great moments, too much to put into words, so where do I start...

Tom outside the off at RSPB Sumburgh Head

When I started in February 2020, I landed at the deep end as the Biodiversity Challenge Fund works were happening on the Mires of Funzie. My first day in between induction was spent watching diggers attempting to clear pools whilst trying not to sink, with some dodgy moments; that was the moment when I realised this was going to be a great job, watching habitat being created, knowing somewhere down the line this would attract red-necked phalarope (Little did I know back then that in 2022 we would have our first phalarope breeding on the mire since 2009) 

Getting creative and using clothes to map the pools and ditches at the Mires of Funzie

Speaking of Phalaropes, I had never seen one before coming to Shetland, and one day in June, whilst paddling in the sea, this small bird swam up to me and swam around me. I was stunned; in my head, I was trying to identify the species, and everything told me it was a phalarope; a quick photo of the team confirmed my theories, and it was!!! At that moment, another 3 birds joined the first bird, and I spent a great afternoon watching them.

Tom's first red-necked phalaropes


After that moment, I had an excellent opportunity to work closely with these magnificent birds, experiencing the highs and the lows throughout the season. Another great tail was finding my first chick. Whilst surveying one of the mires, I saw this 'bee' in a wet patch. I went to pick it up until this thing squealed and ran into the nearby pool, at which the mire erupted with birds. I am not sure who was more scared! 

Out on surveys - there is a phalarope in this picture!


Another highlight that we have talked about a lot on these blogs is the management of the sites. During my time, we have successfully set up grazing on three mires, resulting in increased breeding of birds on the sites. In one year, we managed to excavate pools on all the sites on Fetlar. This is most notable on the Mires of Funzie, as mentioned previously. Hopefully, with this work, we will continue to see the reserve flourish for years. 

Cutting at the Mires of Funzie


Finally, to round up, we were running a rock pooling day last summer, helping Ali with Unst Fest. The rain was heavy, and we weren't expecting too many people. But out of nowhere, so many people were keen to get involved, and that number kept growing throughout the day. But seeing the interaction of people who were scared of crabs at the start overcoming their fears to holding them by the end of the day was really special. 

The view whilst travelling to Unst

Well, that's all for me now; I will still be about. To finish with, say a massive thank you to all the staff, volunteers and community that have supported me during my time. Tom


Ps enjoy the photos (many of them are me in water – where I feel most at home!)

Tom in his natural habitat

Brough lodge beach

Discussing habitat management with other reserves staff on a visit to RSPB Loch of Strathbeg