All at sea on Easter Sunday

IMG_1155 OtterI’m fresh home this evening after a day crewing on board the fabulous Dunter III for Seabirds and Seals – and as ever, we had a brilliant trip around Bressay and Noss. No two trips are ever quite the same, but this one really did tick all the boxes – some tremendous wildlife, great weather and sea conditions, and a terrific group of guests to share it all with.

We left Lerwick harbour surrounded by smart summer-plumaged Black Guillemots – more on them later this summer, I promise – and headed north towards Shetland Catch. As we hoped, this hosted both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls – white-winged winter visitors to our islands from, counterintuitively, Greenland and Iceland respectively.

NossA short way away and as we began our lunch at sea we found somebody else tucking into something tasty – a fine Otter fishing for Butterfish with some success, devouring some in the sea and coming ashore to consume others. Our boat allowed a close approach and tremendous views for all. They’re by no means a dead cert on our boat trips, and it’s always a thrill to find one.

Further around Bressay and we began to encounter Great Northern Divers, and small flocks of other winter visitors to the isles – Wigeon and Purple Sandpipers. Lovely stuff, but the main birding event was of course still to come – the immense seabird colony on the cliffs of Noss. IMG_1296 Bridled GuillemotThousands of Gannets awaited us; and studded amongst them were good numbers of Guillemots, Razorbills and Fulmars, with a sprinkling of Kittiwakes for good measure.

Many Gannets were busily gathering nesting material and boisterously contesting coveted nest ledges on the eroded sandstone cliffs. Lower down, Shags were also hard at work gathering seaweed and putting it to good use as nest material. Rock Pipits were zipping to and fro, and up above a Robin was busily foraging at the cliff edge – a timely reminder that spring migration is very much about to kick off here in the far north, with our winter visitors departing for their breeding grounds and the possibility of all sorts of interesting and unexpected birds blown in from mainland Europe.

IMG_1246 ShagWe spent some time counting the Kittiwakes at their breeding colonies – their numbers crashed immensely in the past decade or so, so we’ve an active interest in seeing if they begin to prosper once more.

And then back home into our berth at Lerwick via yet more Grey and Common Seals – it’d been a fabulous circumnavigation of the islands on a fine calm and even sunny Easter Sunday. More days like this please!

If you’re in Shetland, why not join us on board Dunter III for a day out like this? Replete with the best coffee in Shetland… Check out Seabirds and Seals’ website for more details.

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