Sorry it has been a while since our last update from Shetland. It is a busy time and I took a few days holiday to enjoy my other love, live music, at the Shetland Folk Festival. Our Date With Nature Assistant Newton Harper started work on 5 May and Field Teacher Rebeca Lopez Lozano joined the Shetland Team on 6 May. Here they are having encountered a giant puffin outside the Engine Room.
An important aspect of the Date With Nature at Sumburgh Head is to share the stories of puffins with visitors to the reserve, and we have been busy working with Shetland Amenity Trust sorting out the Engine Room to make it a temporary visitor centre (photos to come soon). But before this came the matter of trying to set up a puffin camera, as seen on Simon King's Shetland Diaries. Well, to cut a long story very short, I am delighted to say that everything has gone remarkably smoothly and with thanks to the support of Promote Shetland, the puffin cameras are live on the internet here. It is sooooo exciting. Following a little techno-tweaking, the images will soon be coming from the RSPB website (where you will be able to find similar cameras across the country). One thing to note is how very careful we were in setting up the camera and to have things in place before breeding commenced.
Attendance in and outside the burrow was sporadic until 5/6 May, the time when the egg was laid. When I first saw it I felt a little broody myself. We are all now checking the images when we wake up and before going to bed, and often during the day. It's a privilege to have such an intimate view of these characterful seabirds. Anyhoo, we'll no doubt post plenty more about our puffin family in the months to come.
It's a hectic time here for people as well as the seabirds. Martin Heubeck from Aberdeen University/SOTEAG recorded his first guillemot egg in his study plot on 2 May. He can be found perched on the cliff every day from now until the last chick fledges. You can keep up-to-date with other news about Shetland by joining our Shetland Group in the RSPB community. We'd be glad to see your comments and pictures. Our work on Mousa has been a bit scuppered due to the weather, but Arctic terns and skuas are trickling in. On Sunday the RSPB and Ness Under 14 football team took part in "Da Voar Redd Up" removing loads of rubbish from the reserve. I was going to use the words "flotsam and jetsom," but that almost sounds romantic. There' s nothing romantic about 60 bagfulls of plastic bottles, netting, drums of burnt oil and other pollution brought up by the sea.
I'll quickly mention the bearded kittiwakes. Usually, we just see kittiwakes flying over the sea and on their nest sites low down the cliffs. Over the last few mornings though, we've been seeing them in the ditches around the reserve. They come to pull out muddy vegetation for making their nests. This morning, the bright sunlight was highlighting quite how beautiful and clean these birds look. However, when they have beaks full of muddy grass they looked a bit beardy. Bizarrely, they were gathering their nest material in the snow today. Such is our spring.
All the best from the snowy sunny snowy sunny north