Monthly Report, August 2021

From Auks to Orca

Very pleased to be able to extend the Shetland Summer through most of August - but eventually the list of things-to-be-done-in-Oxford did get long enough to require a few days back in the over-crowded southeast of England.

First week of August: Puffins start to head out for winter

  • Reporting Days: 31

  • Location: Mostly ZE3 - with a bit of OX3 towards the end of the month

  • Miles walked: 140

  • Miles driven: 928

  • Gardens Tended: 2

  • Puffins Seen: Lots (mostly in the first few days of the month)

  • Orchids Seen: None

  • Orca Seen: Six

  • Photographs Taken: Thousands (but not quite as many thousands as last month)

The disappearance of the puffins is only one part of the autumnal changes around the south end of Shetland.  The other auks disappear too - with the tysties being the last to abandon their nests. And the waders reappear around the feeding grounds having fledged their young elsewhere.  Some of the birds disappear quietly at the end of their breeding season - others seem to want to shout about it.  However by mid-August the cliffs have been left to fulmars..

Black Guillemot: Would the last auk to leave, please turn out the lights.

Black-tailed Godwit

Kittiwake: Shout

Fulmar: Reclaiming the cliffs

It's not just about the birds. Shetland is one of the best places in the UK for whale watching (OK, tell me somewhere better?). After a relatively quiet few weeks (in whale terms) the Shetland south mainland got a real treat in mid August when a pod of orca (or it might have been two pods combined forces) spent a day methodically touring every bay and voe around the south end looking for seals.  We opted to pick our spot on a convenient headland and just sit and wait until the orca came to us. 

Orca - in West Voe of Sumburgh

Most of the bird photographs were again taken around Sumburgh Head - but I also got to spend time around Quendale Bay (ideal for paddling) and the Pool of Virkie (not so good for paddling)

Sumburgh Head: everyone should have a favourite lighthouse

Quendale Bay: summer crowds

Pool of Virkie: Harper's Marina

And finally, I did drag myself away from Shetland (very temporarily).

Aberdeen: Arriving at sunrise

Oxford: C S Lewis Nature Reserve

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