Fourth Nature Festival celebrates Orkney's wildlife in style

Alison Nimmo

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Nearly 1,000 people flocked to take part in the fourth annual Orkney Nature Festival earlier this month.

Coordinated by the local RSPB Scotland team, partners around Orkney put on 22 events in celebration of the county's spectacular wildlife, culminating in a grand wildlife cruise around Hoy on NorthLink's MV Hamnavoe.

Festival organiser Alison Nimmo, from RSPB Scotland, said, "On behalf of all the partners involved, thank you to everyone who came and made it such a celebratory week."

"Thanks too to all those who led events, volunteered and contributed ideas for this year's programme. The Festival wouldn't happen without this support and once again the result has been a wonderful chance to explore new places and wildlife in different ways, whether in a kayak, through a lens or even under water!"

Speaking of the event, Stuart Garrett, Managing Director at NorthLink Ferries, said: "It was great to take part in the finale of the Orkney Nature Festival. Our wildlife cruise was a unique chance for wildlife watchers to travel the full length of Hoy's spectacular coastline whilst listening to live commentary and learning more about the points of interest on route."

"The weather was perfect and with more than 400 passengers joining us on board, the atmosphere was fantastic."

Many of those who took part in this year's Festival commented on the range of activities on offer - a strength of the collaborative nature of the week, with community groups, island rangers, businesses and individual volunteers all involved.

Creative arts were strongly represented with workshops on both sketching and photography, led by artist Tim Wootton and photographer and travel writer Charles Tait. The George MacKay Brown Fellowship introduced a group to 'renga', a form of Japanese poetry, while the Wirdsmit Young Writers Group led a children's nature writing afternoon and the Pier Arts Centre put on a popular drop-in family craft day.

For those in search of an adventure, snorkelling sessions led by Scapa Scuba and kayaking with the Kirkwall Kayak Club offered a fantastic experience.

For others, the Nature Festival was a chance to explore somewhere new - a different island or one of Orkney's many hidden gems. Those on the day trip to Sanday were lucky enough to spot both an otter in the harbour and orcas on the way home, while the RSPB Local Group's small boat trips, venturing into the open sea cave at Mull Head, proved as popular as ever.

Several events delved deeper into particular aspects of the natural world. Despite challenging weather, the Field Club found plenty of colourful lichens and plants amongst the peat banks of the Birsay Moors and Professor Peter Slater gave a superb talk to a packed room on Papay on 'The how and why of bird song'.

The International Centre for Island Technology, Heriot-Watt University's Orkney Campus, added a trial citizen science project into the mix, and Director Sandy Kerr gave a great account of his efforts to unravel the story of Orkney's last vertebrate extinction, the Arctic char.

Highlighting Orkney's exciting recent arrivals, Tomb of the Eagles and RSPB Scotland joined forces to offer a special sea eagle celebration and RSPB Scotland also ran a drop-in day at Marwick Head exploring the world of seabirds.

Fittingly, the week began and ended with events that brought together the whole wealth of Orkney's wildlife. The Pickaquoy Centre screened the new Discover Wild Orkney for a packed auditorium, while the special service at St Magnus Cathedral on Sunday morning offered space for reflection on the natural world. NorthLink's spectacular finale cruise brought the week to a close in style with birds, marine life and dramatic scenery all around.

Generous donations and a raffle during the Festival raised over £400 to support RSPB Scotland's provision of free outdoor wildlife lessons for Orkney schools, with any last donations welcome at

Editor's notes:

1. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

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