Fair Isle ‘Life and Death’ photo wins national award

It’s an image that demonstrates the brutal reality of nature in Fair Isle.

And the photographer behind it hopes the shot makes people reflect on the environmental threat posed by climate change.

Sunil Gopalan’s Life and Death at the Edge of the World (Great Skua and Puffin). The image is published in British Wildlife Photography Awards 9 published by Ammonite Press.

Sunil Gopalan took Life and Death at the Edge of the World (Great Skua and Puffin) and it has earned him first place in the Animal Behaviour category of the British Wildlife Photography Awards.

Mr Gopalan spent a week in Fair Isle in the summer of 2017 – his first visit to the UK – with the aim of photographing the puffin colonies.

His award-winning shot was taken on a “non-descript” morning. He had been up since 3.30am and had been alone on the cliffs before eventually deciding to go for something to eat.

He said: “I heard a great racket from the far side and this skua had grabbed some breakfast of its own. It proceeded to make quick work of it giving no mind to my close presence.”

He says that gave him the opportunity to “capture the circle of life” at point blank. “I have thoroughly enjoyed your wildlife and the seabird colonies on the Shetland Isles are unparalleled. I am planning on being back in the summer of 2019.”

The American photographer says winning the award means a great deal. He said he was aware the photo may upset some people but added that the bigger concern was the damage being caused to seabirds by climate change

Mr Gopalan added: “I know some people don’t like seeing the death of a lovable bird like the puffin captured on camera – but I hope that concern will translate into some thought towards human-caused climate change which is the real cause of concern for the seabirds across the world.”


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • November 6th, 2018 18:27

    We da numbers a bonxies black backs and alans not to mention dratsies doing dis every hour of every day through da breeding season, when are toonies going ta wake up ta da fact dat dis is why da bird populations are crashing. When predators have free reign to predate da prey pretty soon da prey is no more.
    At least da selkie has da orca ta keep some kind a control on dir numbers.

    • Mrs S M Burns

      • November 7th, 2018 10:00

      SAurely the main reason puffin numbers are declining is not that skuas are predating them but that they can find no food because fishermen have taken all the sandeels?

      • Ali Inkster

        • November 7th, 2018 21:40

        Sandeels have made a bit of a recovery around Shetland, despite the efforts of the EU in handing denmark an extra 80,000 tonnes quota this year. Plenty of birds finding fish only to have it stolen from them before they reach the nest. When there are two or three predators going after every bird they don’t stand any chance. And those chicks that do fledge are easy pickings for the predators too.

    • Mr ian Tinkler

      • November 7th, 2018 19:41

      “bonxies black backs and alans not to mention dratsies doing dis every hour of every day through da breeding season” and Ali, so they have done so for at least the last 10,000 years or so. It does not take the “Wisdom of Jove” to realise that they are not the problem. Perhaps is it not the toonies that should wake up. I will leave you to ponder what the problem may be. ” “bonxies black backs and alans not to mention dratsies”! perhaps man, greed and stupidity may fit is somewhere!

      • Ali Inkster

        • November 8th, 2018 15:07

        For 10,000 years up until very recently man would be taking care of the numbers it doesn’t take the wisdom of jove to realise the increase in predators due to bans on their being shot is having an extremely detrimental effect on already suffering seabird colonies.

      • Ian Tinkler

        • November 9th, 2018 12:34

        Ali, just what proportion of the last 10,000 years has Man, been shooting predators to preserve prey species? I find it hard to believe any proportion at all at all! A few kill for sport (fun!!!), mostly kill for food only the very, very stupid try to convince themselves killing of one native indigenous species will help preserve another native indigenous species is rational. There is a natural balance between prey and predator which has evolved long before the gun and bow and arrow or for that matter man, entered the balance. It is only the very ignorant who believe otherwise. “bonxies black backs and alans not to mention dratsies ” lived alongside their prey species long before mankind started the wholsale slaughter of anything and everything edible. What was inedible was killed for fun (sport) with the most idiotic justifications being given. For example, hen Harriers to protect Grouse, Seals to protect Salmon in cages, Dunters to protect shellfish and perhaps the cruellest of the cruel. Faroes traditionalist killing whales (The Grind).

      • David Spence

        • November 11th, 2018 1:49

        When it comes to humans governing what species should live or become extinct, the record does not bode too well.

        Humans have been responsible for the fastest extinction rate of many species of life in many ecosystems in recent history than at any other time. What has been the main cause of this, the man-made concept of money and agriculture and literally nothing else?

        Oh, yes, the hunting and collection of rare species, ironically due to the above comments, usually when they are dead and have been under the knife of the taxidermist as a lasting memory of an animal which has become extinct….but it has monetary value.

        We are part of a complex system of life, but we have separated ourselves from this because we believe we are superior. Humans have created their own environment, an environment which is not cohesive or in harmony with nature.

        We perceive ourselves to be the most intelligent animal on Earth, and we base this on a human-made system of money, which has no bearing on life, the environment or the planet.

        How foolish we are………what price do you put on the life of the planet?

  • David Spence

    • November 6th, 2018 19:02

    As long as humans put the man-made concept of money as the number one priority, very little will be done to address climate change and the repercussions to the environment, eco-systems, and life itself.

    Although we are being pointed towards transportation and power stations as the leading cause of climate change, the industry which causes more pollution, destruction of habitat and the extinction of species is this of agriculture and the expansion of this to meet an ever-growing population being unchallenged.

    Transportation amounts to roughly 5% of global pollution, whilst agriculture is nearly 35%, 7 times more than transportation.

    Agriculture is the silent but polluting cause of global warming, but we are directed towards greenhouse gases produced by transportation and industry as the main culprit.

    One could hope this will reduce as technology and better ways to produce food is harnessed. There is also the oceans which could be a possible answer to reduce such emissions from land-based food production to this of the sea and/or water-based production of crops etc.

    As the population grows, we may be forced to find alternative and better ways of food production without affecting the environment, in all spheres.

  • John Tulloch

    • November 7th, 2018 13:36

    Mrs Burns is quite right. Danish fishermen are scooping out British sand eels at an alarming rate.

    Last year, as if to have a final fling before Brexit puts a stop to it all, our erstwhile “friends” in the EU awarded Danish fishermen – who hold 94 percent of the UK sand eel quota – a near 6-fold increase in allowable take, from 82,000 tonnes to 458,000 tonnes per year.

    • Graham Fleming

      • November 7th, 2018 19:46

      Gosh in Mr Tullochs new Jerusalem ,even the birds are going to be gutsed oot.Another great bratsit dividend, one wonders when starvation will be re introduced as form shows was Westminster policy in Ireland and India for the savages.Maybe rationing books for the priviledged and for the (non reading daily express reading). sub humans,you can jolly well stand on your own two feet,it’s British food!Real shame the United Kingdom is a net importer of food -so much for a no deal brexit and it’s rivers of bile and prejudices.

      • Mr ian Tinkler

        • November 8th, 2018 13:54

        Graham Fleming, the UK was a net importer of food, a long, long time before the EU was ever imagined. Just look back a bit further in our history, say 1940ish. We nearly all starved and had rationing for years! “Rivers of bile and prejudices” your own tender lines, what utter nonsense and pure hypocrisy. The UK, as a simple fact with a little help from US, Soviet and Commonwealth friends saved Europe from tyranny. Some of those friends outwith the EU, have and will prove immensely more valuable than the Brussels cartel of bureaucrats will ever be.

  • David Spence

    • November 8th, 2018 14:17

    I am intrigued as to what exactly is ‘ British Waters ‘ in regard to Brex*hit, and what is the government’s negotiations with the EU as well as Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, in terms of what area’s of the sea are British, what quota’s can be negotiated in reference to species being caught and what is the governing body to represent British/Scottish and Shetland Fishing?

    What position, if any, is there on fishing rights, the fishing grounds and who sets the quota’s under this new political ideology called Brex*hit?

    I cannot see under the EEZ, Britain being granted exclusive rights to the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and any other fishing grounds within 200 miles of the British coastline?

    I sincerely hope Shetland Fishing is not regarded as expendable, as we were in 1974, under a Conservative Government, then?

    • Ali Inkster

      • November 8th, 2018 17:21

      “I am intrigued as to what exactly is ‘ British Waters”
      Not intrigued enough to read or memorise the answer every other time you have asked the same question.

  • Mike Pennington

    • November 10th, 2018 19:43

    Bonxies eating Puffins has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change! It is natural predation.

    • David Spence

      • November 11th, 2018 13:18

      not so sure about this Mike. Human activity is causing the oceans to become warmer, thus the food many birds are dependent on going to a greater depth and possibly out of reach to those birds?

      Sea birds not getting food hence the unbalancing of the food chain and the affecting result on the numbers of such birds being smaller in numbers.

      Many sea-birds are also laying less eggs in the breeding season, because the survival rate is drastically reduced and bird populations are declining compared to the past.

      This also has an effect on birds who are predatory on other sea birds as part of the food chain, which may affect those bird populations as well?

      I suspect Brex*hit will have a greater negative impact on the populations of such birds in the future?

  • Mr ian Tinkler

    • November 11th, 2018 12:08

    How about a super predator to control The Bonxie? White Tail or Golden springs to mind. The Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) manage that quite well!

  • Mr ian Tinkler

    • November 11th, 2018 20:22

    David, what an observation, pure science at its best. Bizarre Natural history and today’s unusual ecology is all down to Brexit. What a stunning and lucid observation. Could that be why the Flawton wildlife park Unicorns have just had their best breeding season? The leprechauns did well also, but I put that down to Trump and fake news.!

    • David Spence

      • November 12th, 2018 16:10

      lol Ian. I was inferring if the UK goes it alone under the guize of Brex*it, then the selfish urge to make more money will kick in and the sea’s will be sucked dry of any fish within the limits of British waters, hence the comment, albeit with a slight touch of sarcasm. lol

      However, looking through my crystal ball, the Unicorns, the loch ness monster and the abdominal Snowman all seem to be quite happy in Pangaea. lol

      • mario lario

        • November 13th, 2018 16:38

        abdominal snowman? thats hard to stomach !

      • David Spence

        • November 14th, 2018 16:28

        lol Mario. Yep, it took me by surprise as well……..almost as bad as the Abominable Snowman. lol Good tongue twister though. lol

  • Mr ian Tinkler

    • November 13th, 2018 13:57

    All a bit irrelevant David. Shetland soon may soon become a massive Wind Farm, onshore and offshore. If that happens, there will be precious few birds or sea life of any type. Let us hope Brexit will stop the Green lunatic directives of our Brussels pals. If we are to wipe out Shetland wildlife (highly unlikely), let it be Shetland folk who do it! It is my belief Shetland folk will preserve our environment! Not a bunch of fat self-serving Eurocrats and profit chasers based in Edinburg, London and Brussels with their endless wind farms and ignorant dictates..

  • Mr ian Tinkler

    • November 14th, 2018 11:52

    I will ponder the following question to the Green lunatics. How come to meet our energy requirements we consider Windfarms, burn imported rubbish, forest destroying wood chip and consider oil fired back generators (diesel) as an energy source? All have high CO2 generation and the latter grossly polluting and all damaging to the environment. We have nearly limitless natural gas at our disposal. That is ten times less CO2 generation and almost pollution free. We hear the outraged cry from the Green lunatics, natural gas is fossil fuel and will result in global warming. Shetland cannot do that, and we are Green and pure (Stupid?)!! So what do we do, export all that gas for others to exploit and have cheap, clean energy. Someone, please explain that logic. We use filthy energy (woodchip/other people waste, diesel and environment destroying windfarms) and let others use our clean and cheap natural gas, pure Green lunacy at its most typical. Soon we will lose our Puffins, Bonxies and so much more if this lunacy continues. (Point of interest. Germany has a huge elected Green political movement. Germany imports more natural Gas than any other country on Earth. Is there a message there somewhere?)


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