• Wonderful whoopers

    Although summer is our main survey season, we do still like to keep an eye on how some of our wintering birds are doing. We have some fabulous volunteers who do these counts for us but this week our volunteers who do the winter swan counts are away. This meant I had the chance to do it. It’s a fairly simple survey – count all the swans on Loch of Spiggie, making a note of if they are whooper or mute swans,…

  • Autumn Migration

    Apologies for the lack of updates over the last few weeks, a combination of staff holidays and end of season report writing has taken up a large portion of our time.

    One of the truly special things about Shetland is being at the vanguard of bird migration. In autumn Shetland is the first land hit by south bound migrants spilling out of Scandinavia and from central and eastern Europe caught up in easterly airflow.


  • After the breeding season

    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…

  • Dave and Jacky Sabbatical Blog

    Arriving on Shetland

    Like many visitors our first encounter of Shetland was a misty morning coming into Lerwick on the overnight ferry from Aberdeen.  The arctic terns (tirricks to give them their Shetland name) wheeling about and a passing arctic skua a welcoming sight. Two more ferries lie ahead to take us to our volunteering home for the next two weeks on Fetlar….

    Arriving on the boat


    The range of birds…

  • There's chicks about.

    We’re at a really lovely time of year on Shetland; the wildflowers are in bloom, the sun occasionally puts in an appearance and there are chicks everywhere.

    Down at RSPB Sumburgh Head the first pufflings have been seen and the adults are putting on quite a show for visitors as they bring in food and take well deserved breaks on the cliff tops. Guillemot chicks, which are also known as jumplings have started to fledge…

  • A month in Shetland - Keith's sabbatical

    My sabbatical on Shetland was planned from mid-May to mid-June, as although quite early in the season for many species so far north, it is a key time to help with breeding bird survey work, and there's a chance of seeing an exciting species or two on spring migration. The work was very varied, with breeding bird, wader and skua surveys, AECS farm surveys, reserve visitor trail and sign maintenance, fixed point photography…

  • Phalarope season

    This week has seen the start to our favourite part of the year – red-necked phalarope monitoring time! 

    Once a week for the next six weeks we’ll be visiting phalarope breeding sites in Shetland to record the number of birds and the behaviour they are displaying. 

    Phalarope surveys are unlike any other surveys we do. As the birds often move around the sites we make notes on individuals to ensure we don’t double…

  • Wader data and photography, all in days work for the reserve team

    Hello, the last few weeks for the reserve team have involved lots of different surveys and many miles walked!

    We have nearly completed our wader surveys, breeding bird squares and AECS wader surveys across Shetland. So far the numbers seem to be good, but it is a bit too early to say just yet. Once we crunch the numbers, I am sure we will let you know.

    One thing we have noticed is that sites are wetter this year, which…

  • Survey season in full swing

    Welcome back to the RSPB Shetland blog

    We’re properly into survey season at the moment and taking advantage of all the good weather windows to get our work done. The team have been all across Shetland, carrying out surveys at Spiggie and Mousa aswell as on sites we manage on Unst and Fetlar.

    We have a couple of plots on Lumbister, Yell, where we carry out wader surveys each year. This gives us a snapshot of how…

  • The issue of disturbance

    Welcome back to another RSPB Shetland blog.

    This week we wanted to touch on a slightly less enjoyable side of our roles here in Shetland, and indeed a common theme for colleagues around the country too.


    Disturbance comes in various forms, often perfectly innocent, through lack of understanding and awareness, to that at the more sinister end of the scale.

    Here in Scotland, we are fortunate to have the outdoor…

  • Surveys, Sun & Shetland Team

    Hello from the RSPB Shetland Team  

    It has been a busy and exciting few weeks since our last blog post.

    Every month, the Shetland team runs a learning and development session intending to improve our knowledge and understanding of specific topics or get involved in projects throughout Shetland. At the end of April, the Shetland team ventured to Fetlar. 

    On the island, the team got involved in a project run by a local crofter…

  • Puffins are back in town

    Welcome to the RSPB Shetland blog!

    It was busy last week with lots of preparation for the season ahead, across our suite of managed sites.

    Last week also signalled the start of the monitoring season, with the first count on one of the sites completed, and always a great start to a new season- the puffin count.


    So what does this involve?

    We have to gauge as accurate a count as we can for returning adult puffins at Sumburgh…

  • Hello from the team

    An introduction to some of the RSPB Shetland team.
  • Shetland highs and lows

    Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates here lately.   Have you missed us??

    It's been all go here in Shetland, with literal and metaphorical highs and lows.  In the last couple of months our work has taken us low to beneath the sea  (via hydrophone on a Chris Watson sound recording course, run with our Shetland Nature Festival partners as a part of the Year of Natural Scotland)  to the islands' highest point (partnership…

  • A May Day surprise!

    Former Contributor
    Former Contributor

    Today we’ve had a lovely May Day surprise, and no it wasn’t a pinch and punch for the first of the month! It was the news that our Puffin pair that we watch via #puffincam laid their egg this morning. The egg was spotted at 9.41 am by @pridith and can be seen below in the following picture. Around this time, each year is when most of the Puffins around the cliffs of Sumburgh will be laying their eggs. Last…

  • Sumburgh Head - mucky but you may be lucky!


    As you may know, Sumburgh Head is in the midst of being redeveloped, so is a bit of a building site at the moment.  Please note that access to the lighthouse isn't possible this weekend as there is digging work taking place at the gateway. 

    However, you can walk up past the cattlegrid (wear boots as it is pretty mucky), and you may be lucky to see the guillemots on the stack.  They aren't here every day, it depends…

  • Braer +20

     Do you remember what you were doing 20 years ago, on the 5th of January 1993?  I do. I was a local Shetland lass who loved nature and suddenly this happened -

    The Braer oil tanker ran aground at Garths Ness, and started leaking more than 80,000 tonnes of light crude oil.

    With the Braer Anniversary this weekend, I've been taking a peerie walk down Memory Lane.  I was a teenager, living just a mile or so from the wreck…

  • Environment Awards - recognising achievements

    You’ll likely be aware of the more public face of the RSPB, such as Date With Natures, campaigns and our wonderful network of nature reserves. What you may not know is that behind the scenes, all across the world, RSPB works in partnership with hundreds of organsations.  We sit on boards, project teams, delivery groups and more. We cover everything from community mental health projects to steering international marine…

  • If you go down to Sumburgh Head today...


    First of all - a quick mention must go to local woman Charlotte Black.  She reached Sumburgh Head at lunch time  today having run through the night all the way from UNST!!!!  That's around 80 miles!!  Congratulations Charlotte on an exceptional effort, raising money for local good causes.  We hope da spaegie isn't bad.

    This blog entry is mainly a note to say please take care if visiting Sumburgh Head by car, particularly…

  • Miles apart but closer than you think


    I have just returned to Shetland after my sabbatical on the uninhabited desert islands of Santa Luzia and Raso in Cape Verde.  I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to help the Cape Verde NGO Biosfera 1 in their conservation work (check out the saving species blog). 

    The archipelagoes are thousands of miles apart, but in many ways closer than you may think.  I've been home a week now and am reminded of similarities…

  • Seals, sunsets and snow

    Former Contributor
    Former Contributor

    A wee autumn update...It’s been a while since the last blog, but been kept busy with reserve work. Once the summer’s breeding data had been entered it was time to look at some practical management tasks, from planning boardwalks on Mousa and new pools at Spiggie to removing the old observation hut on Sumburgh Head, inbetween the end of season take-downs and tidy-ups on all three sites, which included a hairy removal of…

  • Puffincam - CSI Sumburgh Head

    First of all - thank you everyone who has been in touch about Puffincam.  It is most heartening for us to hear how much you've enjoyed watching seabirds online or at Sumburgh Head.

    Secondly - thanks to Andy Steven, from our partners Promote Shetland.  Like Newton and I, Andy has given up so much of his own time to help bring Puffincam and Cliffcam to our computer screens.  Andy has gone through hours and hours footage to…

  • A magic night with flying sea fairies

    We could do with some good news today.  I've just spoken with Mark Bolton, the RSPB's seabird ecologist, who is staying on Mousa undertaking a fascinating study on storm petrels (come back for news in future postings).  He told me that they've discovered their first storm petrel chicks of the year today!!  That's quite timely as our Date With Nature Assistant Stephanie Miles had written a blog entry following…

  • Puffincam - mysteries and revelations.


    It is a very beautiful day here in Shetland.  The sun is shining, the air and sea are fairly calm, there are still some guillemots with their chicks lower down the cliffs (I imagine many of whom will leave this evening as it is calm), fulmars have fluffy gorgeous chicks and there are loads of puffins on the cliffs looking like they are posing for visitors.   It was at this time yesterday when we noticed strange occurences…