Steve Young’s April in Shetland itinerary
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…
“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staggered up Hermaness a couple of paces behind as the wind billowed around my face; the rain had relented, but had been replaced by snow and sleet showers…but then we reached the cliffs…and everything was forgotten at the scene that unfolded before me.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.
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.
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.
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….
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.