Our work here
26 July 2007
Sumburgh Head, on the South Mainland of Shetland, is bounded by steep cliffs that support a large and accessible seabird colony. The grassland on top is home to other birds, while various whales and dolphin species regularly visit the surrounding sea.
The RSPB is managing the site for all its wildlife interest, while promoting marine conservation and offering an exciting visitor experience. We also support other conservation and research organisations. Our Area Office has been on the reserve since 1996.
We are safeguarding the site for its breeding colony of more than 10,000 seabirds, which includes gannets, kittiwakes, puffins and important numbers of shags. We also maintain the sea-cliff grassland for breeding birds such as wheatear and oystercatcher by limiting grazing to 4 ha in the north.
Aberdeen University monitors our breeding seabirds for the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG). The Shetland Ringing Group and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) also help. We are encouraging this process, while doing our own work to monitor puffin chick survival. We also support the Shetland Sea Mammal Group in its monitoring work.
Spreading the word
We are using Sumburgh to promote marine policy issues to local and national government, and other relevant organisations. When possible, the reserve also serves as an advisory, education and training resource.
Sumburgh Head’s accessibility and relative safety makes it an ideal site for showing people seabirds and so promoting our marine conservation messages. We receive up to 24,000 visitors annually and aim to increase this number, using free leaflets to promote the reserve locally.
On-site, we provide nature trails and interpretation signs, offer guided walks to school groups and hold at least two annual public events. We maintain our infrastructure for the security of visitors and carry out regular safety inspections.
We are working to maintain good relations with the landowners and all key stakeholders to ensure the smooth development and implementation of our management plan. These include SOTEAG, the Shetland Sea Mammal Group, the Shetland Ringing Group and Shetland Islands Tourism, as well as the local community council and our neighbours.