Sumburgh and Toft

I went to Sumburgh Head RSPB reserve, on the southern tip of the Shetland mainland. The day had started out bright and clear, but by the time I reached Sumburgh a bank of cloud had rolled in and there was a thick fog. Walking from the car park up to the lighthouse, there are great views over the cliffs of guillemots, fulmars and puffins. The puffins, nesting in their burrows on the cliff tops, are evidently quite used to humans watching them over a dry-stone wall, from just a few metres away. It’s still early in their nesting season, so the numbers are relatively low. A new visitor centre has just opened around the lighthouse, which includes an excellent marine life centre.

Puffin pair with nesting material

Puffin on the cliff top

Not so graceful in flight

I’ve had another brief sighting of an otter – the fourth in my trip. I drove to Toft, where the ferry leaves for the island of Yell. I’d read that it’s a good place to see otters. After five minutes there, I saw one in the bay, right next to the ferry terminal. It was repeatedly diving and popping up in a different place. At first I thought it might be a seal, but then I saw its tail as it dived and was quite sure it was an otter. Each time it surfaced, it dived again before I could get a photo. After a few minutes, it disappeared and I hadn’t got a single shot. There was a curious churring noise coming from the meadow behind the beach. Could this be a snipe? I managed to record it, although it is almost drowned out by the wonderful curlew noises.

While walking along the shore looking for signs of otter, I found an ’otter house’. They were originally traps used to catch otters for their fur, but are now just a cosy shelter for any passing otter. This one had spraints outside.

The otter house


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