No Wrong Weather at the South End - Shetland June 2011

A week on Shetland can, at any time of the year, offer a huge variety of weather, and at the height of summer there is certainly plenty of daylight to enjoy the meteorological variety. The trick, if that's the right word, is to choose your entertainment to match the weather.

If the weather is bright and sunny there is no better entertainment than visiting Sumburgh Head. The road up to the RSPB Reserve and Sumburgh lighthouse is lovely, but you get an even better view of the sea and the Head by walking slowly up from the Sumburgh Hotel (an ideal place for a lunch stop) and Jarlshof. At this time of year you'll certainly get to see eider, oystercatcher, terns, wheatears, various gulls and maybe a bronxie (great skua) or an arctic skua, as well as gannets heading to or from Noss. On the cliffs as you get up to the Head you'll see guillemots, razorbills, shags and puffins. Out to sea you'll also see rafts of guillemots and puffins taking a break from nest duty. The downside of the bright sunny weather is that as well as being good for us, it's also good for puffins. So while there may be a few puffins sitting around the cliffs, most will either be sitting on eggs in their burrows, or will be out at sea.

If you come back on a wild and blustery day (which could very well be the next day), it may not be quite so pleasant to wander up the coastal path but your reward is likely to be lots more puffins. If the seas are rough, the fishing is much less easy, so if there aren't yet young demanding to be fed, the puffins not lurking in burrows will be sitting around the cliff tops very willing to pose for photographs.

But what if it rains? When the rains falls and the wind blows it's not very pleasant to wander around at Sumburgh Head. On days like this, the ideal antidote is to find one of the local voes and sit and wait for otters to appear. Wet, windy weather may not be ideal for us to be outside, but (provided you can find somewhere up-wind) it's perfect weather for otters and for otter spotters.

We had all these sorts of weather in a few days around the south end - and got to see puffins and otters, and to get sun-burnt too.

Update:  There are more pictures on Flickr and on Picasa

Another update: A rather scrappy audioboo version of the post - still working on this aspect!

South end of Shetland (mp3)