I’ve been out as crew and wildlife guide a few times this summer for the very wonderful, original Noss boat – the Dunter III of Seabirds and Seals. The first trip of the year was an absolute peach on Easter Sunday, at a time when the summer seemed to promise so much.
Of course, things went pretty wrong where this year’s breeding season was concerned, at least where some of Shetland’s seabirds were concerned. Once again, an almost blank year for Arctic Terns, for example. There just didn’t seem to be any Sand Eels available for them when it mattered.
Some of our marine wildlife’s done rather better. There seem to be good numbers of Common Seals still on the east side of Shetland, and on the first of today’s two trips out with Dunter III we were treated to a large haul-out of them, with some well-grown pups scattered amongst the adults, and a handful of Grey Seals hanging out with their cousins on the skerries and holms. And then there was a particularly cheeky Common Seal. It was almost like she was trying to tell me something.
One other species seems indefatigable in the face of poor breeding seasons where other animals large and small are concerned, and that’s the Gannets that call the sheer cliffs of Noss their home. I couldn’t help but take hundreds of photos of them today – the conditions were absolutely wonderful out there on the water. I know I enjoyed myself enormously – and judging by our guests’ broad smiles and warm comments, they did too.
There was other wildlife to be seen too – a couple of Red-throated Divers, a hunting Peregrine Falcon, and an immaculate Painted Lady butterfly amongst many others. No two trips on the Dunter III are ever the same – but I can’t think of one when I haven’t come away having seen something new or something in a new perspective. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying a day out on the water today. Lerwick was bustling with yoals racing one another; there were many pleasure craft out fishing south of Bressay; and tucked under Noss we found this intrepid family seeing what they could find. It was lovely to see everyone having a fine time outside. These are the days and memories to bank against the long winter ahead…