30 Days Wild, June 2019: Orca to Orchids, Puffins to Poppies

As the old cliché goes - this years 30 Days Wild was a month of two halves.

The first part of the month was based at the south end of Shetland - which offered the expected assortment of bright sunshine and misty days, and lots of opportunity to watch and photograph the puffins at Sumburgh Head.  It also provided the hoped for (but never expected) delight of seeing a big pod of orca at close quarters.

Back further south (despite the distraction of my desk job) the pictures mostly revolved around wild flowers both in the garden and further afield.  The real bonus this year was discovering places to see wild orchids - I don't know if it has been a particularly good year for orchids, but I've certainly noticed more of them this year - and I don't think they've featured in previous 30 Days Wild collections.

Orcas to Orchids

Wednesday, 5th June 2019
Tuesday, 25th June 2019
Puffins to Poppies

Saturday, 1st June 2019
Saturday, 22nd June 2019

This year I also managed to include a couple of conservation volunteer days during the month - one at Stansfeld Park and one at the Oxford City Farm with work colleagues - both hard work but good fun too.

Sunday, 16th June 2019
Friday, 21st June 2019

I've throughly enjoyed 30 Days Wild again this year, and I fully expect to be back next year.

30 Days - June 2019

Long Days, Short Nights, June 2019

In the winter on Shetland it gets light very late in the morning and dark very early in the afternoon - it's quite possible to set off for a walk at dawn and get back after sunset without getting very far at all.

In June comes the payback - Shetland isn't quite far enough north to see the midnight sun, but it really doesn't get properly dark at this time of the year.  The local name for it is Simmer Dim (the summer dimness) - and unless you're staying somewhere with decent curtains the light will soon start to mess with your body clock.

Over the last few days I've taken quite a lot of photographs (no surprise there, I hear you cry) - the earliest was at 04:50 and the latest at 22:55.

Early Start 04:50 looking out onto Quendale Bay
Late night (22:55) clouds over Quendale Links

So what to do with all those intervening hours?

As with any time on Shetland, you keep your fingers crossed that the weather is going to co-operate.  In the summer you might well get 18 hours of sunshine between dawn and dusk, but you might also get 18 hours of brightly lit fog.

Sunshine and Waves on Scat Ness
Quendale Bay - on a good day you can see Fair Isle 25 miles away

But, assuming the weather co-operates (which it mostly did for the last few days) you're going to want to do things like puffin spotting (lots of other bird life is available), Shetland Pony watching and (if you've got everything crossed) you might get to see one of the passing pods of orca.

Puffin in the sea pinks at Sumburgh Head 
Shetland Ponies - in front of the Sumburgh Hotel
Passing Orca - taken at The Taing, just north of Grutness Voe

The ponies are there all year round - just keep your eyes open as you walk or drive around Shetland - at this time of year there are lots of foals around too.

The puffins appear in mid-April and stick around until late July or early August - there are puffins in lots of places around Shetland, my favourite puffin spotting place is Sumburgh Head at the south end of the Shetland mainland.  Some days you'll see lots of puffins coming and going (and sometimes just hanging about on the cliff-tops), other days you might need to be a wee bit patient.

The orca are the real lottery ticket item.  Shetland doesn't have a resident pod of orca (much to the relief of the local seals), but it does have several visiting pods who spend time as far north as Iceland and as far south as the Scottish mainland. The orca do often work their up or down the Shetland coast line so you will often get a heads-up that the orca are around via a local Facebook page that a pod has been sighted.  This will result in crowds of both locals and visitors gathering along the coastline hoping that the pod will pass by close to the shore. Last week the pod took almost 8 hours to travel the 20 odd miles from near Lerwick (where they were first spotted) down to Sumburgh Head hunting fish and seals as they went, and providing a wonderful spectacle for lots of people

And if you don't spot any ponies or the puffins are too busy sitting in their burrows or spending time fishing at sea and the orca just aren't around, you'll just have to stick with wandering on the crowded beaches and busy headlands. Which isn't really such a tough call.

Quendale Beach
Scat Ness

There are more pictures from the last few days in a Flickr album.