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 year for example our pair laid their egg on the 4th of May.
Puffins typically mate for life and each year return to the same burrow to try to reproduce. Like most seabirds, Puffins lay only the one egg. Once laid, they will spend roughly 5 weeks incubating it until it hatches out.
We’re now slowly counting down the days until our birds welcome their new arrival. If you spot any interesting behaviour or activity on our webcams, please let us know by tweeting with the hashtag #puffincam or contacting us via email. Shetland@rspb.org.uk
To view the webcams click here.
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 on the weather and sea state. When it is rough, the birds go out to sea to avoid the waves smashing onto the rocks. This morning though, it looks like winter with a dusting of snow, but sounds rather like summer with the call of guillemots and fulmars.
It's always wise to keep an eye on the sea and to the skies. A puffin was spotted nearshore a couple of weeks ago and a peregrine has been seen now and then. A little auk was nearby at West Voe yesterday. So, if you're lucky, you may spot something a bit different.
Best wishes from Sumburgh Head
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 site and Wildlife Response Centre, which was based in the local Scout Hut. I simply had to volunteer to help with dealing with the wildlife casualties. I’ve memories of walking coastlines, collecting dead or oiled birds and other wildlife, observing and recording the oil, birds, otters, seals, fish and other marine life. Oh, and the weather - it was wild to say the least!
I remember the media descended on the islands, I think increasing the population by ten percent! It was strange to have the eyes of the world watching events around my community.
At the time, I didn’t understand the complexities of what was going on with the Wildlife Response Co-ordinating Committee, the politics and such like. I just wanted to help. It was certainly a time of emotion and experience for everyone and was a life changing event for me. Actually, it’s probably a reason why I now work for the RSPB! Now I can look back with more experienced eyes and better appreciate the work of all the individuals and organisations that did their bit to help. You can read Shetland’s oil spill contingency planning and response here on the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group site.
Looking through photos today, I felt a bit teary seeing the suffering and dead animals again. That side of things was dreadfully saddening, and it was the worry that we all felt - how bad would it be? I also feel glad and proud to have met some fantastic people, people who came together in horrible conditions to help.
I am going to take the local Shetland RSPB Wildlife Explorer Group to the site on Sunday – exactly twenty years and one day after the tanker grounded. There's no sign of the ship now. Instead, we'll be looking for porpoises, seals, great-northern divers, long-tailed ducks, rock pipits and so on. It’ll be easy to describe the effects of oil pollution to the bairns and how individuals and organisations can help. The difficulty comes trying to communicate the problems that we face now, like the shocking amount of rubbish littering our sea and shore and climate change.
They’re big big issues that makes dealing with the Braer oil spill seem simple in comparison. The problems are not insurmountable though and in twenty years time I’ll surely be blogging that I am proud of the individuals and organisations who have successfully tackled these problems. Won't I? We can all do something and you can find out about the steps you can take to help nature through the RSPB website.
Best wishes from windswept Sumburgh Head.
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 policy. One group we’re proud to be involved with here is the Shetland Environment Group, based with Shetland Amenity Trust. The Group recently hosted the 24th Shetland Environment Awards.
I sometimes feel a bit downhearted with the way we humans treat the planet, but the Awards gladden my spirits. The Shetland community is quite small in size, but there are many folk committed to making the islands better. Here are the 2012 winners!
From left to right, Julie Thomson & Cheryl Jamieson - Gardiesfauld Youth Hostel; George Sutherland - presenter of the awards; Beth Gerrard – Sandgarth Tree Project; Rick Nickerson – on behalf of all Voar Redd Up Volunteers; and Cecilia James who won an award for her marathon litter pick. You can read more about this years awards here.
Congratulations to everyone.
It is timely to remind you that there is a call for entries for the Nature Of Scotland Awards 2013. Now in its 2nd year, these awards wish to recognise and celebrate excellence, innovation and outstanding achievements in Scottish nature conservation. Do you know a species champion? Is there a politician that has gone that extra mile? Has your youth group been working on a wildlife habitat? Whilst your tucking into mulled wine and mince pies over Christmas, why not mull over who might be suitable nominees. Closing date is 15th March 2013.
On behalf of the RSPB staff and volunteers in Shetland, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!
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 in these icy conditions. The sun never quite reaches some sections of road leading to the reserve, so ice remains throughout the day. Remember that there is a lot of construction traffic on the road too, so please be patient as the work continues - it will all be worth it come 2014!!
You can still walk around the reserve on foot, but best put on rubber boots as it's rather muddy in places. Either walk up from Grutness or Jarlshoff, or park at the main car park (you'll see quite a bit of equipment there), and take notice of Corramore's access signage as you walk up to the lighthouse.
The new education building has really taken shape, and you can actually watch the work live via a webcam!. The contractors are trying to allow public access as much as possible, and permitted safe access around the perimeter of the South Park for birders to get a look at the Rosa Rugosa bushes in the hope of spotting rare migrants in autumn.
What sort of wildlife might you see in December at the Head? Well, fulmars are always a joy to watch. Take time to enjoy watching them surf on the wind and cackle away to one another at their nesting sites. Twite are frequently around the lighthouse buildings or on the cliffs. We put out canary seed for them to help sustain wintering birds in particular. Their population has declined in Shetland over the years. This is largely down to changing times in agriculture, with less arable weeds for them to feed upon.
Twite feeding outside the office window.
Twite, or Linties as locally known, like to perch on the various wires and strucutres around the lighthouse and are really rather tame. Their twitterings are lovely to listen to on a calm day. Occasionally, you can spot something different on the reserve. In the last few days there have been robins, redwings, fieldfares, blackbirds and snow buntings.
It's great to go for a walk looking for wildlife, but I think Sumburgh Head is a marvellous place to visit to purposefully do nothing - to have a wander and a ponder. Wrap up warm and gaze at the sea, sky and land. The sunsets and sunrises have been amazing the last couple of weeks. I'm sure I heard a "tssssssss" as the sun dipped behind the sea beside Fair Isle!
The Good Shepherd passing the reserve on a calm frosty morning, on her way from Fair Isle.