What a great choice to go on a wildlife trip to The Shetland Islands.
It was an amazing trip with some great people.
Although the islands are just about 1500km away from where I live, that should like a short plane trip to the North of Spain, it took me 3 flights and over 12h of travelling time…
The flights were following up so tight that during the first flight from Brussels, I already was forced to be rebooked in Heathrow, not able to fly to Glasgow anymore and I had to go via Aberdeen. The return was quite similar, several issues but I will spare the details as I want to tell more about the beauty of the Shetland Islands.
The first full day, we planned to go to a nearby hill for some fulmars, and arrived there it took us only 15 minutes until we got a message that the orca’s are on their way to the bay were we were.
Several minutes later we saw a pod coming to our direction… and from then on it only became more exciting.
I ran down the hill to get a close look of the orca’s hunting near the rocks and with my 100-400, I had an issue because they were just too close. I managed to make some nice pictures, but this was nothing in comparison to the moment of several orca’s, including a male with a dorsal fin of 1,5m high, hunting on 5m of where I stood!
If I turned myself looking into the bay, I realized the orica’s were even passing the shoares of our hotel, The Sumburgh Hotel!
After enjoying this specatcle for about 1,5h and they moved further towards the coast, and we were not able to following the as there was a lack of roads, we decided to go to another hill, where the Sumburgh Lighthouse was located and, if possible a huge collony of puffins.
Arrived there, it was another Walhalla, this time we were lucky again with the puffins and fullmars.
There were more then 1000 of them flying all directions, landing on the rocks and the flowers… Another amazing moment!
As we were so lucky and spent already so much time on these 2 locations, we were forced to drive to the Saint Magnus Hotel in Hillswick… When we arrived there, it was already evening and got a bit of time to put the lugage into our rooms, and then went to dinner.
After dinner, I like to make a short walk for the digestion, and what place is better then the beach in front of the hotel. Lea was having the same idea and sitting on the beach and enjoying the views, we suddenly saw 2 porpoises. Unforutantely we didn’t had our camera’s but for sure this was a great moment again.
The morning after, we decided to go back to the beach and suddenly we saw a small pod of dolphins. Now we had our camera’s but they were quite far away. After analysis with Gary, we came to the conclusion these were white-beaked dolphins, and actually very rare in this area. Even Gary, our guide, was was astonished!
That day, we started a search of some special endemic flowers. We found the Shetland oyster plant and the Moonwort.
but during the morning, we got a message that the killer whales were spotted again. We immediately jumped into the van and went to the spot. Arrived there, we saw they from up the cliffs, passing some boats.
As we spend almost the full afternoon on them, we just visited some remote beaches to see some red-throated divers and some common mergansers.
The following day, we prepared ourselves to go to the last hotel of the Trip. The Saxa Vord Resort on the most Northern island, Unst. Here we would first of all, plan our trip to Hermaness. Hermaness is a huge reserve of Scottish National Heritage, were you can find the second largest colony of Great Skuas (or Bonxies how they are called in Shetland) in the world with 650 pairs breeding here.
The Bonxies are found in the grassland during the walk to the great cliffs of Hermaness. These cliffs are about 170m high and a huge paradise for cliff-breeding birds. There are about 20000 breeding pairs of gannets + and extra 3-5000 immature none nestling gannets. This makes this one of the biggest gannet colonies of Europe and truly impressive to stand above them.
On our way back, we visited some other spectacular cliff and places.
The day after, I was lucky to go on a trip with Brydon. He is probably the otter spotter 🙂 and otter reasearcher on the Shetlands.
We went in search for some otters, but first were lucky to spot some common and grey seals that we enjoyed.
Afterwards it started to rain very badly. But, we were on a mission so the rain couldn’t stop us. 3 hours later, soaked and still no otters… we started to loose our hope. We drove to one last spot and suddenly I noticed one.
Brydon saw a problem as it was a mother with 2 cubs and behind the seaweed and the rocks, there was only grassland so we couldn’t hide us. We decided to go around, there was a fence in the grassland and we could hide us against it and hoping they would come a bit closer.
But then it happened. Suddenly the mother and the 2 cubs got out of the water, jumped onto the grassland and started to walk straight into our direction. At a certain moment, I stopped taking pictures as they were coming too close without even noticing us. I didn’t want them to get scared of my movements and the sound of the camera… Strangly enough, the 3 of them just passed us at 1.5m without hearing, seeing or smelling us. It was an amazing moment. They didn’t see us because otters have very bad sight, but normally they hear and smell really good. Because of the heavy rain (it still was after several hours) they didn’t hear us, and after walking and hiking for hours into the rain, they probably didn’t smell us either. We were so gratefull of this moment and I took some great pictures. (eventhough I was forced to squeeze out my driving license as we were soaked till our underpants)
The last day we visited a spot with some seals again…
and upon my request stopped over to make some cool shots of the Shetland ponies, off course.
We also took some time to make some pictures of several other birds, and I even got a creative flow in my body and took some creative art pictures from the some of the many ruines we passed.
As I said, what an amazing wildlife trip. I just love Shetland!