A Change of Local Patch

I spent Friday night on a boat. I’d stocked up on sea-sickness tablets, but didn’t need them. The sea was flat calm, there was no wind and I went out on deck to watch the sun go down over the northern tip of Scotland. I was sailing to Shetland, which will be my ‘local patch’ for the next two weeks. Even miles out to sea, there were lots of birds, both on the water and flying over – gannets, fulmars, guillemots, puffins, eider ducks and lots of silhouettes I couldn’t identify.

Sunset over the northern tip of Scotland

Next morning, the sea was only slightly choppier. We docked on time at Lerwick and I left the ship at 8am, parked the car, then walked back on board for breakfast – this is a civilised place after all! By about nine, I was on the road heading north, over moorland that looked at first remarkably like the North York Moors. Spring is later here and the daffodils are still flowering. There are primroses on the verges and marsh marigolds in the ditches. I stopped at a small fishing village on a voe, a sea loch. In front of the harbour I saw my first red-throated diver – a superb bird.

I continued on to Brae, and did some food shopping, but still had time before I could check in to my accommodation, so drove down to Muckle Roe, which is an island connected by a bridge to the Shetland ‘mainland’. I drove to the end of a narrow lane and then walked down to a beach. There were oystercatchers and ringed plovers on the beach and I found some interesting footprints, which I decided had to be otter.

Footprints in the sand

I walked back across the hillside, from where I could get a good view down into the water and was amazed to see the lithe figure of an otter swimming towards the shore. It disappeared behind the rocks, so I moved a bit closer and crouched down, hoping it would reappear. Sure enough, it climbed up the rocks to a grassy knoll, where it lay down and groomed itself for a good five minutes, before returning to the water. This was what I’d come to see and I’d only been off the ship a few hours - I was astonished.

A very fat otter - a pregnant female perhaps?


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