Snipe and Otter

I was walking along the shore of Sullom Voe, when I came across an injured snipe on the beach. It appeared to have a broken wing. I decided it might be worth capturing it and taking it to the Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary. Left where it was, it had no hope of survival. However, it was a feisty little bird and when I tried to catch it, it fled into the water. I had to leave it and continue my walk. On my return I saw it again and this time I caught it and wrapped it in an old towel.

The snipe on the beach

At the wildlife sanctuary they told me it was impossible to keep such a wild creature in captivity, so the best thing to do was release it into a wetland area next to the sanctuary, where they’d be able to keep an eye on it. I went with Jan and Pete, who run the sanctuary, and two French volunteers, to the wetland where we released the snipe. It would certainly be safer from predation there than if I’d left it on the beach. If it can feed itself, it might just pull through.

Pete about to open the box containing the snipe

The snipe in its place of safety

I’ve also had a walk around a bay on the east side, beside a small island separated from the mainland by only a narrow channel. I saw something big in the water and was sure it was a seal to begin with. Then I saw it dive and a tail came up, showing it was an otter. While it was down, I moved closer, but the grassy bank was only a metre above beach level, so there was no cover. I crouched down at the edge of the beach as the otter surfaced. The wind direction was in my favour. The otter dived again and this time a nose appeared right in front of me about a metre off shore, only three metres away. I was the one being watched.

Good otter habitat

It dived again and came up 30 metres away, with an eel in its mouth which it then ate. Now it was downwind of me. I got a few photos before it dived again and this time surfaced briefly 100 metres away, across the channel, before finally disappearing. That’s three otters I’ve seen in ten days - wonderful!

Who's watching who?
Oystercatchers on a wall


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