Shetland Isles [1] - seabirds

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1 year 6 months ago - 1 month 3 weeks ago #87293 by
created the topic: Shetland Isles [1] - seabirds
I have just returned from a week in one of those spots that I have wanted to go to for years and finally did, the Shetland Islands - a 550 mile drive from London to Aberdeen then a 225 mile 12 hour overnight car ferry ride to Lerwick. At this time of year Shetland has what is known to the locals as the "Simmer Dim", a mere 5 hours between sunset and sunrise and during this time it is still light enough that you can make out the horizon where sea meets sky.

I was hoping to add one lifer in European Storm Petrel as Shetland has the largest breeding population of this species. I managed to secure a place on the "Mousa Ferry" on the final dusk run of the year to see the Storm Petrels returning from far out to sea to their nests in the walls of the Mousa Island 'Broch', the best-preserved Iron Age roundhouse of its kind in Scotland. This photo was taken at 10:27pm before it got too gloomy to take photos and 10 minutes before I missed out on a photo of a pair of Arctic Skua (a.k.a. Parasitic Jaeger) sitting on the ground next to the Broch.

The birds started arriving at about 11:20pm and we stayed till midnight watching them swarm around the broch and wriggle their way into their nests within the stone structure. Their nestlings had set up an eerie call within the walls from 11pm in anticipation of their parents' (and food) arrival. Unfortunately too dark to photograph but what an experience.

Being as remote as they are the Shetlands are, with miles and miles of very high cliffs, an ideal breeding site for seabirds. Here are some of those I managed to photograph.

In the small bay at Okraquoy where I was staying were nesting Northern Fulmar

Everybody's favourite, Atlantic Puffin at Sumburgh Head

and off the Isle of Noss

Common Murre (a.k.a. Guillemot) breed on the smaller and less accessible ledges of the cliffs of Noss within the gannet colony.

When the nestlings are ready to leave the nests they plunge from the ledges into the sea below where they are joined by the male parent. The young are known as "jumplings".

Here we have a jumpling and proud Dad.

and an adult of the bridled form with a puffin

Northern Gannets in their thousands packed every available bit of real estate on the cliffs. How some of the chicks survived in their precarious homes I do not know.

They were by far the commonest bird to be seen from our boat, with examples of just about every possible plumage variation from 1st year to 5th year when full adult plumage is achieved. Here we have an immature bird

and a juvenile with an adult

Once our boatman had started throwing out pieces of chopped fish the real scavengers appeared. First the Great Black-backed Gulls and then the vultures of the sea the Great Skua - I achieved my first photos of this species having only seen one single bird of this species off the Isle of Rhum some 7 years ago. Some epic scrapping ensued, gull on gull

skua on gull

and skua on skua

and here a Great Skua in flight

Returning to the more sheltered waters off Lerwick Harbour we encountered Razorbill

some of which had their own juveniles tagging along

as well as Black Guillemot

this one resting on harbour marker buoy

Onshore I found a Mew Gull (a.k.a. Common Gull) breeding colony on an islet in Tingwall Loch. Here we have an adult and a pair of immatures.

and this adult in flight was taken from Sumburgh Head.

I missed out on photos of a few Black-legged Kittiwake at Sumburgh Head, but still had to sift through some 2,000 shots to pick out those I have posted.

Last Edit: 1 month 3 weeks ago by nkgray.

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1 year 6 months ago #87296 by Peregrinedive
Peregrinedive replied the topic: Re: Shetland Isles [1] - seabirds
Hi Neil,

Great series of posts!


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