Puffin Watching, July 2017

I might have told a few folks that my main reason for being on Shetland last weekend was to cut the grass.

That wasn’t entirely true.  I really went to spend a few days hanging around on the cliffs and head-lands while the puffins were still around.  July is often peak puffin season – the breeding adults are all still hanging about on the cliff tops (and bringing food into the nests) and the non-breeders seem to be around too, presumably wanting to make sure that they don’t miss out on the big departure day. 

On a warm, still sunny afternoon (yes, those do occasionally happen on Shetland) there can be hundreds of puffins around on cliffs at Sumburgh Head.

It’s not just the puffins, at this time of year there are lots of other breeding birds around too, from fulmar and kittiwake high on the cliff faces to razorbills and guillemots a bit lower down.  There are rafts of shags and eider in the voes competing for water space with the guillemots.  And along the drystone walls you might also see wrens (feels like they’ve had a good year this year). 

Elsewhere, down at Grutness and on Scat Ness, there are colonies of terns.  In past years I’m sure the terns were happy to ignore passers-by until they got close to the colonies.  This year I think the terns have been transformed into bronxie-trained avian vigilantes – as soon as you get anywhere within sight, the terns will swoop down with the clear intention of drawing blood.

Oh, and in case you were still wondering, I did get round to cutting the grass. Twice. Probably to frustration of the local rabbit population.

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