Orca for Starters

Shetland, Spring 2012

Having spent the last couple of weeks on Shetland, here begin some posts on the adventures had. I was guiding as staff member on this holiday with Shetland Nature. Yes, there is a great list of species seen, inc. scarce and are birds, and the other wildlife.

A list would be easy to write and there are lots of nice photos. But STORIES are best. Encounters with birds and other wildlife involve stories, some of which we never forget. Photos are just a snapshot and sometimes fail to really get across the all the ‘colour’ and emotion of the event.

I know my words and photos will fail to convey all the fun and adventure. But I’ll have a go…

Group One – the arrival.

In the first 2.5 hours:

Beginning late on a Friday afternoon (24th May), my start was a 4.10pm pickup from the airport. The rest of the group was already in the Sumburgh Hotel. Imagine my delight and consternation when Brydon Thomason rang around 3.30 pm to say he was watching a pod of c4 Killer Whales (Orca) below Sumburgh Head. I dashed off to the head for a quick look then had to figure out how to get 2 different groups back up to the head. Meanwhile other another Shetland tour group came screeching up asking directions to the Killers. Ian Cowgill (‘Gilbert’) came to aid and head to hotel while I went for airport collect. Thankfully we made it back with somewhat bewildered (and excited) folk for views of Orca as they headed off east.

Orca SumburghKiller Whale off Sumburgh. Always a magical sight. This was one of four that guided newly arrived guest on my firsts weeks guiding. Indeed the first 3 hours before dinner on day one were high scoring!

Little Boom!

We left the Orca pod to try to see a beautiful female Red-necked Phalarope at Spiggie. While watching it I got a nudge- will you have  a look  through the ‘scope at this Martin – little boom- an Icterine Warbler on the fence-line. Superb! Roger R was nearby and Paul H soon came through and had time to capture it on camera while I led group on.

Icterine RROur first ‘Find’ of the Spring tour. A spring Icterine Warbler at Bakkasetter (Photo: Roger Riddington) above the west shore of Loch Spiggie. Found as we watched a Red-necked Phalarope.

We then went to check Hillwell Loch and picked up some tasty bits and pieces:


rbg1-rr08051st summer Ring-billed Gull (photos Roger Riddington) with backcloth of such as 3cy Glaucous Gull, drake Scaup, Pintail, Gadwall and a rare 2cy sinensis Cormorant were picked up at Hillwell.

Iceland Gull fleck

iceland fleck2Both Iceland and Glaucous Gull were scored in the first couple of hours for group one: this one a 2cy which Ian Cowgill and I came across opposite Fleck Farm earlier in the afternoon. A particularly dark billed bird (made me wonder about kumlieni). It’s just beginning primary moult. A second bird  (3cy) was at Sumburgh Farm.


am wigeon hillwellThe drake American Wigeon which had been present for several days at Hillwell failed to hang on for the group. here’s Roger R’s shot (on the ground) and mine in fight taken the day before the group arrived.

Despite no rare wigeon, not a  bad start.


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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