16th July 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Here is a species that is still doing well: the wheatear

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ONE species of bird that seems to have done really well this year is the wheatear – just about every area of suitable habitat has either fledged young or harassed parents.

It’s probably a comparable situ­ation for several small landbirds, but house sparrows seem to have dis­appeared from places where I have encountered them in recent years.

Again at the beginning of the week, there seemed to be plenty of food in Burra Firth, causing a number of gannet feeding frenzies, with small numbers of accompanying neesicks. The most unusual bird last week was a summer-plumaged Sla­vonian grebe at Baltasound on the 8th.

The Shetland Nature Festival continued apace across the North Isles last week. Guided walks to Hermaness and the Keen of Hamar with both the SNH warden and the North Isles ranger were well attend­ed, as were the two Fantastic Fetlar events last Friday.

I also managed to get to one of the Seas Around Us events at the NAFC Marine College at Scalloway, an event pertinent to all parts of Shetland.

In among tanks containing dog­fish, turbot, goldsinny and ballan wrasse, of particular interest to me were the male lumpsucker fish, getting its name from its dorsal fin modified to form a suction disc, and the curled or lesser octopus, which made its way along the wall of a glass tank before completely chang­ing shape as it sneeked into a corner.

Thanks to Kenny Gifford for telling me that this is the only octopus we have around the isles, one of its distinguishing features being just a single row of suckers. I well remember finding one still alive on Norwick beach a few years ago, almost certainly dropped on the strandline by a gull, which I man­aged to successfully return to the sea where I watched it swim off.

The final event of the week, however, took place in the Shetland Museum last Saturday night, when a full house, including plenty of family and friends, celebrated the life of Shetland’s best-known natur­alist, and very much a North Isles man, the late Bobby Tulloch from Yell.

With reminiscences from Martin Heubeck, Jonathan Wills and Dennis Coutts each interspersed with appro­priate musical offerings from Ian Clark, Lana Thomson, and Brian Nicholson and friends from Hom Bru, the evening culminated in a showing of the golden oldie film Land of the Simmer Dim, which all served to illustrate how Bobby’s interests stretched far beyond just natural history.

Altogether a splendid finale to the week celebrating Shetland’s nat­ure, for which chief organiser Helen Moncrieff deserves congratulations.

Wendy Dickson