Shetland Nature

Wildlife, Birding & Photography Holidays in the Shetland Islands

Call:  (0)1957 710 000

Shetland Nature Photo Competition 2013

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 31st January 2014 | News, Photography

We are delighted to announce the results of our 2013 guest photographer competition and thanks to our very good friends at Earth in Focus, (who judged the competition) we have a winner!

All the images entered were really beautiful and showed just how fantastic and exciting Shetland is for photographers. The variety of wildlife, habitats and landscapes were illustrated especially well in the first, second and third choices.George Stoyle, Earth in Focus

Italian photographer Mauro Mozzarelli won first prize, (an exclusive stay in our stunning self catering Shetland Nature Lodge) with his stunning portrait of an Atlantic Puffin entering its burrow with its catch of sand eels, taken on a bespoke one-to-one itinerary in early August.

In second place was Ruth Asher’s atmospheric shot of one of the Gannet Stacks at Hermaness, taken on our ‘Shetland Autumn- Nature, Ligfht and Land‘ workshop.

In third place was Simon Hawkins’ fabulous Otter family portrait, showing the intimate bond between mother and cub as they groom at a grassy headland lay up, taken on a one-to-one Otter Photography itinerary in September.

A review of our 2013 season

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 10th January 2014 | News

So let us begin by wishing a Happy New Year to all. Whilst looking forward with excitement and anticipation of what this season will bring it seems very appropriate summarise our 2013 season with a look back at our main highlights.

We have been delighted and extremely fortunate in our 2013 season to have had our most exciting and indeed busiest season to date. The latter is of course with great thanks and gratitude to all who enjoyed Shetland through us in 2013 (and previously), without this custom and support we would not be so fortunate as to do what we do.

With our sole focus as a tour company being on Shetland, you could say ‘all our eggs are indeed in one basket’ but this is simply because we believe whole heartedly in what we have here and how uniquely special Shetland is and this is why we offer the widest range of tours and opportunities to enjoy Shetland and its wildlife throughout the seasons.

Visitors from all corners of the globe

As well as it being our busiest season in terms of footfall of guests it was also a season where we were delighted and proud at just how many countries these were visiting from. We had guests from as far as Australia, Tasmania, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Netherlands, Norway and France to name but a few.

2013 summer season sightings highlights in brief

So, what did our guests see? It is perhaps best to start with the two Shetland specialities that most visitors have first on their wish lists, Otters and Orcas…

Otters – true to form our experience with our signature species was the highlight for most. We are very proud of this and that we offer a wider range of opportunities to enjoy Shetlands otters than any other, from day trips, one to one photography, bespoke holidays and of course featuring in core season holidays. Our otter experience is unrivalled.

Orcas – with 2012 summer being one of the quietest summers in recent years for sightings of ‘Killer Whales’, it was thrilling to see Shetland return to form for this stunning and magnificent predator. In total we enjoyed encounters on seven trips- eight if you count that one group saw them twice!! One of our groups saw them within ten minutes of arrival at airport- “Quick, grab your luggage; we’re taking you straight to Killer Whales!” Imagine it – that’s what happened, that’s Shetland for you!

To have had such success with such an awesome and to a degree, unpredictable species was truly fantastic.

Other sea mammals enjoyed on our holidays included the summering Bearded Seal, a pod of Pilot Whale, many Minke Whale’s and Harbour Porpoise, White-sided, Risso’s, White-beaked and Common Dolphin. Our guests were lucky to enjoy more sea mammal encounters of more species than any other company this season. Basking Sharks were also seen on a few trips later in the summer.

Debut holidays new to 2013

We were proud to launch these new itineraries to our holiday program, all offering more exciting ways for our guests to enjoy a fantastic Shetland experience. Each of these itineraries went very well and proved to be very popular indeed.

Here are links to reviews of these itineraries or links to the pages with recommendations from happy customers…

Shetland Spring Birding:

Showcasing the thrill and magic of the islands during spring bird migration and also the islands renowned breeding specialities, led by Martin Garner.

Spring Birding guests

Walk Seven Shetland Islands:

The idea to feature three guides with each of us covering our areas of expertise (nature, geology, and history/heritage) proved to be very popular indeed and sold out quickly. Collaborating with two other local companies Shetland Geotours and Island Trails offer our guests a totally unique, authentic and informed insight into Shetland.

Walking group on Fetlar

Wide angle photo of puffins at HermanessShetland Late Summer Experience:

Launched to showcase Shetland in late summer this itinerary, this holiday is also aimed to suit visitors who can’t travel during the core summer season here, which is something no one else offers. It too sold out.

Shetland in autumn – Nature Light and Land photography:

The Shetland Nature Lodge – our stunning new self-catering venture

Taking on this stunning self-catering property, the most northerly visitor accommodation venue in Britain, has been such an exciting and popular venture for us.

We were thrilled at the response and occupancy since we started to promote it at the end of last year. It came as no surprise the consistent delight and amazement of the property and location and word has travelled fast- 2014 summer dates are already just about full from late April through August into September. It has also been encouraging how much interest we are receiving ‘out of season’.

Looking ahead to 2014

We are very excited to launch yet more exciting and unique holiday itineraries and ways to enjoy all that is so very special here in Shetland.

Following the popularity and demand for our collaboration walking holiday we launched ‘Discover Shetland’ for 2014 season and were thrilled to see the debut itinerary selling out so quickly we had to add another date- which has already more than half filled! This is a totally unique holiday experience, with three tour leaders offering an insight into wildlife, history and archaeology, geology and Shetland heritage which you can find in our 2014 program:

Photo Tours

Otters and Puffins

Otters and Puffins

Otters and Gannets

Otters and Gannets

Keeping up with demand in photographers wanting the best opportunities to photograph the best of Shetland we are delighted to launch a new ‘species assignment’ program of photo tours in collaboration with Richard Shucksmith the most popular of which is our Otter and Puffin assignment, which sold out within a few weeks and we added a new date.

Supporting Conservation

RSPB IOSF

As nature professionals we have a major responsibility to wildlife and the environment. We take great pride in communicating and promoting a responsible approach through what we do. Similarly we feel it equally as important that we should support those who manage, protect and support the habitats, reserves and species which feature so prominently throughout the holidays and tours we run.

In addition to supporting the International Otter Survival Fund as corporate sponsors we are also now corporate sponsors of the RSPB (Giving nature a home).

To help raise funds for the International Otter Survival Fund we ran a sponsored Otter search to support their International Otter Awareness day in May.

BBC 1′s Countryfile appearance

It was great to be asked to help out and feature on the program on Shetland and I was delighted to be involved. I was especially proud, (though quite nervous on screen!) to take them out to look for otters….

Our debut appearance at The British Bird Watching Fair

Attending and exhibiting the Birdfair was an overwhelming exciting experience for us and we were proud to be the first and only tour company representing Shetland at such a internationally renowned and important event.

It was so wonderful to have received such interest and support at our stand from so many familiar faces and indeed new ones, all keen to experience a taste of Shetland. Thanks to all who visited us, we will see you next year!

In spirit of helping raise awareness and money to support conservation across the globe we were delighted to donate a place on our Spring Birding holiday in May 2014, which was sold in the Birdfair auction.

 

So to all who have travelled with us and to all who are doing so in the near future, we wish you a happy New Year!

All at Shetland nature

Shetland Nature Photography – Brydon Thomason 2013 Image Gallery

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Thursday 9th January 2014 | News, Photography

A seasonal selection of some of my own photography in 2013. This selection is a mixture of some of my favourite moments, encounters and projects throughout the year here in Shetland.

Needless to say, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have access to such exciting subjects but as is so often the case, I so wish I could spend more time on so many of these – in fact all of them! I really enjoy working on project photography especially and in particular ‘species specific assignments’ and to do so I often innovate hides to work from.

My Arctic Skua bathing hide worked really well this year and was a new build from last years. New to this year was my Long-tailed Duck hide too, which was really awesome. Also new to this year was a Raven hide which was really fantastic but they are so, so sharp; getting into the hide under cover of darkness was essential or they just didn’t come in!

These are all available for ‘day hire’ and can all (and do) feature in the itineraries I lead.

Unfortunately, due to so many commitments and our busiest season so far, although I had a schedule 1 license for my fourth season running, I didn’t manage to continue my work on Breeding Merlin or Red-throated Diver – which I really missed. Both those spectacular species were the highlights of the previous year and I am looking forward to continuing those projects this season and am delighted and privileged to be able to do so.

As well as sharing these images it hopefully gives photographers interested in the one-to-one itineraries I offer the chance to see what subjects are possible throughout the year here. Here are links to a couple of these bespoke itineraries from 2013:

And here also is a link to a gallery of this years Otter Photography guests on one to one itineraries:

Shetland Autumn Birding Trip Report 2013

Posted by Martin Garner on Friday 20th December 2013 | Birding in Shetland

A ‘systematic style’ round up of this year’s Shetland Autumn Birding trips in late September and early October by Martin Garner…

The extremities of Britain are the Shetland Islands to the north and the Scilly Isles to the South.  Both have been a magnet for birds and birders for many decades.  Something’s changing though.  Light-hearted banter goes on each year throughout the birding nation and amongst visitors to these exciting archipelago’s about which will see the greatest number of rarities.  Hands down. Autumn 2013 saw Shetland run away with all the prizes.  Whether it’s a shift in the jet stream, factors in the birds’ origins or reasons as yet unknown and once again the Shetland Nature team were well-positioned for a treasure trove of autumn birding.

An image gallery of some of the headline acts over the two weeks:

Row 1: Hudsonian Whimbrel - Dave Pullan; Baltimore Oriole - Ian Cowgill; Brown Shrike - Jim Nicolson; Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - Jim Nicolson; Pechora Pipit - George Petrie; Row 2: Subalpine Warbler - Martin Garner; Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll - Brydon Thomason; Arctic Warbler - Mike Pennington;  Blyth's Reed Warbler - Brydon Thomason;  Lesser Yellowlegs - George Petrie.

Row 1: Brown Shrike – Jim Nicolson; Lesser Yellowlegs – George Petrie; Eastern Olivaceous Warbler – Jim Nicolson.
Row 2: Hudsonian Whimbrel – Dave Pullan; Blyth’s Reed Warbler – Brydon Thomason.
Row 3: Eastern Subalpine Warbler – Martin Garner; Rustic Bunting – Andy Cook; Pechora Pipit – George Petrie.

Highlights and headlining events

Some of the notable events the Shetland Nature team got up to:

  • Re-identifying an Eastern Subalpine Warbler with ground-breaking ID features
  • Finding a Rustic Bunting
  • The unexpected excitement of identifying a Blyth’s Reed Warbler which had been put out as a Marsh Warbler
  • The surprise team ‘discovery’ of an Arctic Warbler
  • Helping identify an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
  • Mega rarities; Hudsonian Whimbrel, Thick-billed Warbler, Eastern Olivacious Warbler, Brown Shrike
  • Being first on sight to a just found Pechora Pipit (by Shetland Nature team member Roger Riddington)
  • Watching a flock of over 2,000 Snow Buntings with a Merlin flying among them
  • Finding the first Great Grey Shrike of autumn 2013 in Britain
  • Record breaking arrival of Yellow-browed Warbler and one in the hand

We love our lists!

We scored a 100 species in the first week and 115 in the second week.  Only 2 shy of our 2010 record of 117 species.  Keeping a list during the week adds to our variety, a little competition and lots of fun…

Swans to Herons

Dark bellied Brent Goose, Skaw, Autmn 2013. Photo by Martin Garner.It’s always lovely to see the Whooper Swans both birds that have bred on Shetland and migrants from Iceland.  Small flock of Pink Feet dropped in near the Lesser Yellowlegs.  A female Pintail (scarce in Shetland) felt wild on Lamba Ness.  A Dark-bellied Brent Goose found by a group member got an Unst local birder running.  Eider rafts always provided a spectacle.  Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter were seen together several times.  Both Red-throated and Great Northern Divers added sparkle to the day in late summer plumage.

Gannets, whilst not rare, thoroughly entertained, plunge-diving and battling with Bonxies.

Grebes to Great Bustard

OK there were no Great Bustards :)  Slavonian Grebes were found on little patches of water.  Both Merlin and Peregrine encounters were special which likely included Icelandic Merlins.  But the Unst Crane had sadly died by the time we got there.

Oystercatcher to Glaucous Gull

Golden Plover flocks were not rare but always beautiful but the Hudsonian Whimbrel stole the show on the wader front, followed closely by a young Lesser Yellowlegs and moulting adult Wilson’s Phalarope.  Four types of three different species of cryptic snipe were enjoyed.  Jack Snipe, Woodcock and both Common and very rusty Icelandic (faeroeensis) Snipes.  Bonxies patrolled every day, Black Guillemots sported a variety of age and plumage types and scarcer Gulls included juvenile Little and adult Glaucous.

Rock Dove to Raven

Rock and Turtle Doves were studied for different reasons.  The first for criteria compared with Feral Rock Doves, the second due to its increasing rarity in Britain.  Migrant Long-eared and Short-eared Owls showed well and Shrikes were a highlight with a first winter Brown Shrike on the first morning, both Red-backed and Great Grey seen (the latter the first of the autumn in Britain).  Rooks and migrant Scandinavian Jackdaws added value to our week-long list.  Another northern speciality seen were Great-spotted Woodpeckers from Scandinavia.

Goldcrest to Wheatear

Here comes a group that never disappoints – warblers!  Both Siberian Chiffchaffs and Common Chiffchaffs were available for comparison – this being the best place in Britain to see the eastern sub-rarities and a single Short-toed Lark fell into this category too.  Overall warblers stole the show.  Yellow-browed’s were everywhere with an amazing total over 150 on one day seen by Shetland Nature leaders on Unst and West Mainland.  An Arctic Warbler was a great team find.  The finer points of Siberian Lesser Whitethroat were studied on a couple of birds.  New ID features were played out on an Eastern Subalpine Warbler and the biggest rarities attracting National attention were a Thick-billed and an Eastern Olivacious.  We had great opportunity to study the ‘acros’ by finding and identifying Blyth’s Reed, Marsh and Reed Warblers.  And to complete the set Brydon found a Paddyfield  Warbler just after the holidays had ended.  Early winter Thrushes, sparkling Scandinavian Robins, Red-breasted Flycatcher and two types of Wheatear filled out the chats.

House Sparrow to Baltimore Oriole

The only Yellow Wagtail seen was an interesting grey-headed type (thunbergi).  The Shetland speciality, Pechora Pipit performed for us again and Finches brought colour every day with Chaffinch, Brambling, Crossbills, Common Rosefinch and Hawfinches.  The Redpolls as ever challenged and entertained with Lesser, Mealy, a brief Coue’s Arctic, a tricky Hornemann’s and possible Icelandic Redpolls.  Snow Buntings were simply spectacular, seemingly everywhere, everyday.  But a flock of over 2000 on Fetlar said “Once in a life time”.  A Rustic Bunting find for the team was a special moment.  Point blank views of a smart male Little Bunting were enjoyed with no other birders, though Bydon’s Baltimore Oriole didn’t wait for us this time.  Of course there’s always next year!  Will you be joining us?

Read more about our Shetland Autumn Birding holiday »

Shetland in Winter

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Wednesday 4th December 2013 | News

Having been asked to write a feature on Shetland in winter for the exciting new digital travel magazine Go & See – which can be viewed here – we felt we really needed to share just how special Shetland is in winter and with this image gallery you can see why…

The Shetland Islands in winter is a classic example of the wonderful wildlife we have right here in Britain during the winter months. The unspoilt beauty of the Shetland landscapes is ever changing through the seasons but often in winter it is even more so. Although in the heart of winter there may be little more than six hours of daylight, on a clear day this light offers a purity and clarity that will take your breath away and often on such a crisp calm winters nights the skies can be brought to life with the aurora borealis…

From calm clear-skied frosty mornings to wild winter storms thundering waves onto dramatic sea cliffs, the weather is far from predictable. Throughout the isles wintering sea duck’s, wildfowl and waders arriving from the Arctic abound as does the highest density of Eurasian Otters in Britain, active by day along beautiful and remote coastlines. There is beautiful blend of adventure, excitement and tranquillity found in winter in Shetland whether you are a walker, naturalist or wildlife enthusiast that is totally unique.

Quotes from team members

For me there is no other species or subject that captures the atmosphere of the Shetland wilderness as authentically and magically as otters do. Throughout the seasons I am privileged to spend my days tracking and studying these captivating creatures and winter is my favourite for this. Getting to know the movements and behaviour, particularly of mothers with cubs is very special indeed, as you follow their daily routines along our beautiful and remote shorelines. With shorter days our diurnal Otters condense their foraging activity into the available hours of day light. It’s a challenging, busy and special season for our otters.Brydon Thomason

When the clouds break the low mid-winter sun bursts through, the light is exquisite. I have never experienced such beautiful light that can last all day creating an orange glow along some of the most dramatic seascapes in Britain. It is so much fun being out with the camera creating pictures in such awe inspiring light and scenery that you don’t want the day to end. Sometimes the skies remain clear into the night and the most amazing light show takes place, the aurora, always breath taking.Richard Shucksmith

Britain’s most Northerly town of Lerwick is full of mid-winter magic. The picturesque, vibrant & historic harbour town holds many hidden gems for the photographer& naturalist & what better time to visit than January when one can enjoy near-Arctic wildlife coupled with the spectacle which is ‘Up’Helly Aa’ the traditional Viking Festival. Shetlanders really celebrate in style, the men dress in full Viking regalia and parade proudly & whisky-fuelled through the old streets of Lerwick. Bearing large lit torches at night & following an ornate Viking Long-ship to a drum beat procession is great fun to capture on camera – a true highlight of the Shetland year& my own! I enjoy photographing birds around the harbour such as Black Guillemot, Long-tailed Duck, Common Eider & White-winged Gulls in the low Northern light and in the evening a hearty traditional ‘Cullen Skink’ soup or a ‘Shetland Gin’ helps warm me by a roaring peaty fire.Rebecca Nason

If you would like more information on what we offer during the winter months, such as a self catered stay in our stunning Shetland Nature Lodge with bespoke itinerary of day tours, or perhaps a holiday option, please contact us for details.

Photo Diary of a Bespoke Photo-tour Itinerary in Shetland

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Thursday 28th November 2013 | News

Lenka Gondova and Stefan Kordos from Slovakia joined us for bespoke photo-tour in early July and share a photo diary of their week in Shetland…

Arrival- Puffins, puffins, puffins!

With no sign of any of the fog that had prevented us from landing on the Islands the previous day, we took advantage of the lovely weather and enjoyed our encounter with the puffins and the wonderful view from Sumburgh Head. The first pictures of these puffins made us very happy as we could not wait to see them again after having photographed them in Norway in 2009. After a pleasant drive through beautiful countryside and the city of Lerwick, Garry Bell took us to the ferry station, where we met Brydon Thomason, our host, guide and pleasant company for our week on Shetland.

Beautiful first morning

Photo by Lenka Gondova.

Our new home for the week was the luxurious cottage, The Shetland Nature Lodge with a breathtaking view of the fjord and sandy beach. Even though rain had been forecast the night before, we woke up to sunshine that lit the green meadows on the opposite hills under a dark dramatic sky. We quickly grabbed the camera and began shooting this fascinating landscape before it disappeared and the weather forecast came true.

More puffins

Lenka and Stefan.

Brydon took us to see more puffins, this time on Unst, the most northern island in the Shetlands archipelago. Slowly walking up the hill with all our equipment to where the cliffs of Hermaness, it was difficult to know what we were enjoying more: the lovely views of “our” house looking back from the reserve to the other side of the fjord or the nesting great skuas or the colorful grass and lichen under our feet next to the wooden path.

Our reward for this short walk was a fantastic vista from the top of the hill, full of puffin nests. Where the rocks met the ocean deep down under our feet, we could see flying gannets searching for fish. Many hours were spent here enjoying the beloved puffins then we moved just around the corner to behold an unbelievable colony of gannets.

After a successful day, we had a taste of the Shetland Islands cuisine and found it delicious. Everybody here was so kind to us; an unbelievable warm welcome from the local people eating at the restaurant in the Baltasound Hotel!

Skua Day

Today Brydon planned to be “skua” day. We had a wonderful experience seeing them at a special great skua habitat, where they were gathering in large flocks at close range. Interaction between the Great Skua birds was exciting entertainment and made great photo opportunities for half the day. The afternoon Brydon took us to work on bathing Arctic Skua from his purpose built blind/hide next to a fresh water loch, where arctic skuas and other birds usually land to have a bath, which again provided excellent opportunity to photograph exciting behavior.

On the way back to the accommodation, Brydon took us to Skaw beach, at the northeast of Unst Island. Arriving at the beach and when we got to there we could not believe our eyes, there were gannets fishing just next to the shore! We quickly climbed to some rocks on the beach to get a good view and enjoy this spectacular show.

The alchemy of Otter spotting

Photographing otters. Photo by Brydon Thomason.

What alchemy is to find the Otter! Today we were very happy to hear from Brydon that the conditions would be very good for viewing otters. The low tide would also be in our favor to allow us a really good chance to encounter some otters. Brydon took a detour to scan a couple of sites before he finally started pointing down to the bay saying, “Yes, there they are, a family – a mother and two cubs!”  We could hardly believe him because the only thing we could see through the binoculars was some tiny dots down in the water.  Down there in the water was the family of otters we would never had discovered without Brydon. Brydon’s top expertise allowed us to get very close to the three otters, enough to have the privilege to take some detailed pictures and videos of these lovely creatures and to watch them without disturbing them at all. They were playing in the kelp, marking their territory, fishing in the water and swimming back to the bank to eat the fish they had caught.  After a while, they left the water and headed toward the opposite side of the bay.

Later in the day on Unst we visited the recently opened Café by the Muness Castle, again receiving an unbelievable warm welcome, this time from Maxi saving our lives with hot tea, hot coffee and tasty sandwiches, as we usually forget to eat and drink while we are looking for animals to photograph.

Never enough Otters

Photo by Stefan Kardos (Slovakia)

Lenka and Stefan photographing Otters.

Lenka and Brydon.

“Would you like to see some more otters, guys?” Brydon asked us next morning. We naturally replied:  “Let’s go!” as there would never be too much otters for us. The flowering Flag Iris like Yellow daffodils move in the wind and old walls from Viking times emphasized the quiet, ancient atmosphere surrounding us while Brydon scanned… suddenly, he jumped and whispered excitedly to us that one of the otters had caught a fish. After spending a long time with its meal, the otter slipped back into the water and swam toward the middle of the bay. Now we could start breathing again.

Shark! Shark!

Brydon checks the bay to see if the family of otters from yesterday was still somewhere nearby. Stefan suddenly announced that he had seen two seals through his binoculars. Brydon checked the scene and suddenly shouted “It’s a basking shark!” What Stefan had observed was not two seals but the front and back parts of an enormous basking shark! On the way back, we saw the otter family again fishing in the middle of the bay. Taking a detour to avoid disturbing a tern colony we watched as they sat tight on their nests, while oystercatchers also screeched loudly the rocks and moor that belonged to them.

Before returning to the car, we once more enjoyed the otters by lying behind a rock that had a good view of the otter family. The mother was swimming closer toward us where she reached the rock just in front of where we were hiding and watching her. She called to her cubs and again the family were soon reunited. The cubs came out of the water to join their mother on the shore.  We were watching them playing and resting until a sudden splash from a seal made them jump back into the safety of water.  All the way back to the car we could not believe how lucky we had been today.

And puffins again

Lenka and puffins at Hermaness.

This was going to be our last full day for photography, even though the forecast did not look very favorable, with low clouds, thick fog and rain. We hiked once more toward where the great skua site, hoping the weather would perhaps clear up on the hill, but it did not. Thick fog with low visibility and no light still gave us a good opportunity, however, to photograph the skuas in flight, panning over their path in the sky. The quick movements exhibited by the skuas allowed us to pan them quite well. Heavy rain then forced us to return to the cottage so we could dry up a bit. We decided afterward to climb up to where the puffins once more at Hermaness in order to say at least goodbye to them despite the weather.

Lenka and Sefan at Hermaness.

But we had not even reached the middle of the hill before the clouds were blown away by the wind and the sky in front of us was again clear. So in the end we got to enjoy a hot, sunny evening with the puffins! The conditions were so good that Brydon suggested he would call the restaurant to cancel our dinner – we agreed with excitement, we stayed with the puffins until late in the evening :)

The following day we had to wake up early to catch the plane back to Edinburgh. What a week we had and what joys of nature we experienced! In Edinburgh we spent another day at its famous zoo, though in really hot weather – 28°C compared to the pleasant 14°C temperature we had enjoyed in the Shetlands.  Yet this turned out to be good practice for the hot summer we were going to return home to – 39°C.

“What a wonderful week we have had. The wildlife photography here is an excellent experience that was beyond any of our dreams! The expertise of Brydon’s guiding made us easy reach all of our targeted species to encounter, enjoy and photograph. On top of this wonderful experience was this marvellous house- The Shetland Nature Lodge where we felt at home from the first night.
Thank you so much for a great holiday above all our expectations :)
Lenka Gondova & Stefan Kordos– Slovakia

Find out about bespoke one-to-one photo assignments with Shetland Nature.

2013 Otter Photography Client Gallery

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 22nd November 2013 | Otters

2013 season has been our busiest so far and my unrivalled Otter Photography opportunities were no exception. It was yet another fantastic year of Otter photography encounters.

What was also really quite remarkable was just how far photographers are travelling for the opportunity to work on Otters here in Shetland and this shone through with the many nationalities of photographers I helped capture images of these marvellous mammals. I was thrilled and proud to host guests from as far and wide as Canada, Slovakia, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, France, Germany and of course UK.

It was particular exciting to see demand continue to grow and not surprisingly the months of May, June, July and August were all fully booked well in advance whilst the shoulder seasons were also busier than usual with itineraries in February and March and also September, October, November and even looking ahead to December.

Amongst these photographers I was delighted to host well known British Pro Photographer, columnist in Birdwatch and Outdoor Photography magazines Steve Young. You can read Steve’s testimonial along with my portfolio of leading professionals who I have hosted over the past few years.

For more information on my Otter Photography one-to-one itineraries visit these pages. For anyone interested in working on otters as part of a small group we are also launching an actual Otter Photography photo assignment/workshop ‘Focus on Otters – photography, ecology & field craft‘ in 2014, which is for just four photographers, which I am co-leading with Richard Shucksmith. We will split off to work with two guests and rotate over the workshop.

Steve Young’s April in Shetland itinerary

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 1st November 2013 | News, Otters

Steve is one of the UK’s best known bird photographers and is a monthly columnist in both Birdwatch and Outdoor Photography magazines. Returning to photograph Shetland for the first time since the days of Snowy Owl on Fetlar and Black-browed Albatross on Hermaness, he reviews his one to one itinerary with me back in April…

19th April

Aye, it’s only a peerie breeze Stevie; we’ll stroll to Hermaness and see some Maalie and Soalan Gus“. It was dawn at the Shetland Nature Lodge, a howling gale raged outside with rain showers driving against the windows, and Brydon Thomason had just arrived for breakfast…speaking a foreign language…I staggered up Hermaness a couple of paces behind as the wind billowed around my face; the rain had relented, but had been replaced by snow and sleet showers…but then we reached the cliffs…and everything was forgotten at the scene that unfolded before me. Crashing waves, calling birds and Gannets (Soalan Gus) and Fulmars (Maalie) hung in the wind at point blank range for my camera. It was a fantastic morning’s photography and the weather actually made it even better than it would have been on a sunny day. (Peerie means small or tiny and the breeze wasn’t!)

After lunch I was promised Otters…and an hour or so later I was indeed photographing three of them, a mum and two cubs eating a Lumpsucker, so can’t really complain about the guide not delivering, but his late afternoon tea making wasn’t up to scratch although I think it was just a cunning plan to make sure I made the rest.

20th April

Off to Yell today and it wasn’t too long before we had even better views than yesterdays of Otters. A prolonged photographic session followed, that took up most of the day, of three individuals that stayed around the same area for a couple of hours; Black Guillemots also showed well in one of the harbours and the day ended back on Unst with great views of flocks of Long-tailed Ducks flying along the sea.

21st April

Time for a prolonged tour of Unst with the morning spent at a Bonxie colony that was yet to start actual breeding, but up to thirty birds present with a bit of display action and lots of flight photography opportunities. We found the first Whimbrel of the spring and I also managed a few pics of Rock Dove, Oystercatcher and a few more on the Long-tailed Ducks.

22nd April

There are some days when you have to accept that you just cannot take photos and today was one of them with driving rain and gales for most of the day. We spent it sorting through photos and generally messing around with Photoshop and re-charging after a hectic few days.

Late afternoon brightness saw us looking for early migrants, but failing to find anything more interesting than a Chiffchaff….

23rd April

Much brighter for my last day and off to a bay to photograph Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper; good photos of both and of Common Gull over stormy seas, but then an Otter ran out of the waves, started feeding on crabs and everything else was forgotten!

Last afternoon and heading towards the airport, but still time to stop at various sites and photo Eider, Black Guillemot and Guillemot.

My short visit was at an end, but I took home with me some fantastic memories of a truly memorable trip and I also had over five thousand images to sort through… April in Shetland, a great time to visit.


Steve Young