Archive for the ‘News’ Category:

2015 Season’s Summary So Far

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 19th June 2015 | News

Well what a start to our 2015 core holiday season it has been, barely half way through and it has already been truly remarkable.

We have holidays running each week from late May through to mid August and each one has been full, which is something we are really thankful for and indeed excited by. In fact the only holidays left with spaces on, both outside the ‘core season’ and they too are limited, is one of two Late Summer Experience (an additional August date due to first one selling out) and Shetland Autumn Birding. It’s actually been a busy year all round with one or two bespoke itineraries, particularly Otter Photography through winter into to spring, as well as day tours too. Each week we have day tours running too, along with holidays this can often see us with as many as five guides out in any one week- a huge thank you to each and every one, as we always say, we couldn’t run to the scale we do without the help and collaboration we are so lucky to have.

So, what have we/our guests been seeing? What haven’t we been seeing is maybe a better question to ask! With Killer Whale’s, Risso’s Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale all having already been seen on trips, cetaceans have already been very well represented. On the birding front it has already been remarkable with rare and exotic spring visitors, scarce migrants, iconic breeding species and superb spectacles. The rare and exotic; Rustic Bunting, Subalpine Warbler, Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Greenish Warbler (actually found by group), Great Reed Warbler, Bee-eater, both the Unst ‘small race’ Canada Geese not to mention multiple Icterine Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Marsh Warbler. On one day alone one of our groups found two Icterine Warbler’s and four Red-backed Shrike! Where else but in Shetland!

And the otters, oh the otters! True to form we deliver a truly unique educational encounters with Shetlands otters. Over the range of experiences for guests we run, from one-to-one specialist photo assignments, day tours and bespoke Otter watching holidays and on all of these so we/the otters have certainly not disappointed. These images from Otter photography guests so far this season showcases the kind of encounters we deliver to our guests. We are also launching a new holiday dedicated to Otter’s in 2016 The Shetland Otter Watching Experience.

2016 holiday dates and departures

Shetland Nature Experience GuestsWith so many superb highlights already logged for guests this season and Shetland featuring on screen on BBC Springwatch its worth pointing out that our 2016 dates were uploaded to our website recently and are already starting to fill.

Other news

Visit our blog for our latest news posts and what we have been up to. In particular we have enjoyed working with and being involved with two film crews. It was particularly exciting working with BBC Springwatch helping out in the field with local knowledge and also having our hides used for filming. Also we were delighted to work on another program, due to air later this year with BBC Scotland’s Grand Tour of The Scottish Islands who we worked on otters with and got some superb encounters with one of the families we are working on, more on that nearer the time…

So if you are due to travel with us, we very much look forward to welcoming you and making your visit as exciting and memorable as everyone’s so far has been- and if you are one of those guests, we thank you again for your company and custom!

Bonxie club site bathing hide

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Wednesday 10th June 2015 | Brydon's Shetland Nature Blog, News

Following on from the success and popularity with photographers in working from my one-man Bonxie bathing hide last year I set up a new larger hide at a much better location. Thanks to Josh Jaggard and the use of a quad and trailer from Duncan, it was not as back breaking a project as it would have been on my own.

The behavioural action at these loch-shore club sites offers some superb opportunities to photograph these superb skuas. Often there can be as many as 50, 60 or even more birds at any one time and often down to 5 to 10m from the hide. It is of course especially good for bathing birds but also there is frequent squabbles break out so plenty of action.

We were really pleased to have BBC Springwatch use both this and the Arctic Skua bathing hides whilst they were filming on Shetland. Wildlife cameraman Raymond Besant was particularly pleased with the footage he shot from it;

We were able to get fantastic footage with the help of Brydon Thomason and Josh Jaggard from Shetland Nature who showed us their best locations. The purpose built hide where Bonxies gather at bathing club site was especially great. I was barely in the hide when they started landing in front of me, just 5 meters away! I’m used to working in small cramped cold hides, so to sit in a chair in a warm dry comfortable hide was a real pleasure. Even more so as a group of 50 Bonxies displayed, washed and fought with each other allowing me all the shots I needed.Raymond Besantwww.raymondbesant.com
Wildlife cameraman
BBC Springwatch presenter

There is arguably nowhere better to photograph a portfolio of these awesome skuas than Unst. The island is home to the third largest colony in the world, set in some of the wildest and most breathtaking backdrops. Hermaness especially offers outstanding opportunities for photographers. Just on the outskirts of the colony on the National Nature Reserve is situated one of Britains most important and impressive seabird cliffs and colonies which provide the Bonxies with the larder they so desperately need for their own circle of life, to feed themselves and their chicks.

Here is an image gallery/profile of this brutal but very beautiful bird, the Bonxie:

Please contact us for tailored photo assignments and tours.

BBC Springwatch on Shetland

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Tuesday 9th June 2015 | News

What a treat for the nation to see BBC Springwatch back in Shetland. I’m sure I speak for all here in the Isles and also fans of the show both old and new, when I say what a great job they have done to showcase some of our very best wildlife spectacles. Of course this must also be said for their journey throughout this whole current series and what they brought to our screens from Caithness and Orkney especially. Huge praise to the crew and all involved in the show throughout, especially Malcie Smith and John Campbell here on Shetland.

Hi Brydon, Thanks very much for such an enjoyable time on Unst. The wildlife and people are memorable and really made my time up there special. You know you’ve had a good day when icterine warbler, great reed warbler, red-backed shrike, otter and frog orchids are finished off with a pint of real ale from the Valhalla brewery! All the bestIolo Williamswww.iolowilliams.co.uk
BBC Springwatch presenter

It was a real pleasure to meet the crew and help out with some ground work, local knowledge and to have some of our purpose built hides used. It was especially good for our newest team member, Josh Jaggard (working with us this summer), who worked as an assistant to wildlife cameraman Raymond Besant for a few days on Unst while he worked on Bonxie’s, aka Great Skua.

We wanted to film the fantastic Bonxies on Unst, the third largest colony of the species in the world, whilst filming for Springwatch. They are brilliant to film, said to be the apex predator amongst the islands birds, displaying lots of different behaviour. But doing it well means getting close to them and shooting at a range of different locations.
We were able to get fantastic footage with the help of Brydon Thomason and Josh Jaggard from Shetland Nature who showed us their best locations. The purpose built hide where Bonxies gather at bathing club site was especially great. I was barely in the hide when they started landing in front of me, just 5 meters away! I’m used to working in small cramped cold hides, so to sit in a chair in a warm dry comfortable hide was a real pleasure. Even more so as a group of 50 Bonxies displayed, washed and fought with each other allowing me all the shots I needed.Raymond Besantwww.raymondbesant.com
Wildlife cameraman
BBC Springwatch presenter

A great time had by all; a picture of the crew, myself and Josh as well as the staff at the Baltasound Hotel all together celebrating their time on the isles and the last night of them being together on Unst.

Christmas 2014 Newsletter

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Tuesday 23rd December 2014 | News

Seasons' greetings and happy New Year, From all at Shetland Nature


Dear friends,

HermanessHollieOtter familyIt’s hard to believe that the festive season is upon us once again and with it another year draws to an end. There is never a time that we take for granted just how lucky we are to do what we do in the place that we love and along the way meet and work with so many interesting and exciting people. Perhaps even over and above this sentiment is our huge thanks and gratitude to the continued and growing support from guests on our holidays and tours. Without this we could not do what we do so thank you sincerely from us all! I’d also like to say a personal thank you to everyone involved in the team at Shetland Nature and to our associates, sponsors and providers.

Whilst wishing you season’s greetings we wanted to share some of this year’s highlight’s and update availability on our holidays and photo tours for 2015, which is already looking to be a very busy season – many holidays have already sold out.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome Hollie Shaw, who is taking over the bookings and admin role from Karen Hannay, who we are sad to see moving on to pastures new. Some will know Hollie from her many years running the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which she ran along with her husband and warden Deryk, already a valued member of the SN team.

It is worth mentioning here that we are currently going through this ‘hand over period’ and so updating and familiarising new systems and procedures.

2015 Holiday Ideas & Availability

We are very excited to see how busy a season 2015 is already filling in to be. Several holidays have already sold out and we have even had to add on new dates to our ‘flagship’ Shetland Nature Experience itinerary due to popular demand.

If Shetland is on the wish list for 2015, we hope you may find something of interest in our program and here are some of the most popular suggestions –


Holidays

Photo Tours

Otters

Day Tours

Here also are links to some of our recent news highlights –


Proud to become Shetland’s first Tourist board awarded Five Star wildlife experience (one of only four in Scotland) by Visit Scotland

Promoting opportunities for young birders and conservationists
Onscreen appearance on ITV’s Alison Steadman’s Shetland Our continued support to conservation bodies, helping those who help our wildlife

And finally here is a link to some of my personal favourites, that have been some of the many highlights from this season’s photography assignments. Also and of course, otter encounters (which I am blessed that my life essentially revolves around) –

Shetland Otter Watching Blog – Sharing my passion for otters with one of the world’s most experienced and well-known wildlife camera men, Doug Allan was a particular personal highlight. Brydon’s Nature Blog
Read about Brydon’s recent photo assignments and projects along with images and stories from them.

With festive cheer and best wishes from all at Shetland Nature,

Yours sincerely,
Brydon Thomason

Five Star grade awarded by Visit Scotland

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 24th October 2014 | News

Brydon Thomason receiving the award from Visit Shetland manager Steve Mathieson.

We can hardly put into words how thrilled and proud we all are to have recently been awarded a Five Star accolade by Visit Scotland. What makes it all the more special is that we are the first and only company in Shetland to achieve this grade from a national tourism organisation. To be one of only four Wildlife Experiences in Scotland to have achieved such a prestigious Five Star grading is something we are extremely proud of.

Obviously this means a great deal to me personally, but there are more than just myself who have worked hard towards achieving this. First and foremost without the love and support of my wife Vaila, I’m sure none of it would have been possible! It is the support and collaboration of so many others that has helped us continue to grow with the work they do and none more so than Karen Hannay and Gary Bell. But others who lead tours and collaborate on itineraries such as Rob Fray, Richard Shucksmith, Rebecca Nason, Martin Garner, David Tipling, Micky Maher, Allen Fraser and James Tait have all helped towards this achievement.

The wildlife that visitors experience here is second to none and yes, I am understandably biased, but to have the experience we offer our guests accredited to this level, really is something we are all extremely proud of. This is heartfelt not only from a Shetland Nature perspective but in a more holistic sense this is a fantastic achievement for Shetland tourism in general.

Visit Scotland’s Quality assurance scheme

VisitScotland’s world-leading Quality Assurance schemes are highly regarded by consumers as a decision-making tool when planning their breaks. QA provides consumer reassurance as an official rating by the national tourism organisation – a testimonial to what a business provides – and helps them reach their full potential and truly shine.

VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance Scheme currently boasts over 7,000 participants and has been used as an example of best practice with countries all over the world, including Sweden and Namibia.

VisitScotland Islands Manager, Steve Mathieson, said:

“Nature tourism is incredibly important not only to Shetland but to Scotland as a whole. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Brydon and his team at Shetland Nature on this fantastic achievement.

“Five-star status shows visitors that they can expect a fantastic and enjoyable experience, whilst learning all about the amazing wildlife offering here in Shetland.

“Our natural environment is the number one reason why people visit Scotland – let’s celebrate it!”

Alison Steadman’s Shetland

Posted by Brydon Thomason on Friday 20th June 2014 | News, TV Appearances

When establishing Shetland Nature there were few greater motivations or inspirations than communicating my passion for Shetland and its natural heritage. For me personally and for the many individuals that I am fortunate to work and collaborate with, sharing our knowledge and love for Shetland’s wildlife with guests from all over the world is as rewarding as it is exciting.

On a similar level communication of this passion is perhaps even more exiting ‘on screen’ when approached to work on TV documentaries featuring Shetland such as Countryfile, Simon King’s Diaries, Martin Clunnes British Islands and a few others. Even though I have yet to overcome the preliminary nerves and anxieties when in front of a camera (even a microphone!), working with a film crew and helping to promote Shetland to the nation (and beyond) is always really great fun and something I am always proud to be part of. It was with all this in mind that I was delighted to work with Alison Steadman and the crew back in April on ITV 1’s ‘Alison Steadman’s Shetland’, to broadcast on Tuesday evening on the 24th June on ITV at 21:00.

Well known British actress Alison Steadman, (often described as a national treasure) was great fun to work with and although it is perhaps appropriate to say that the elements were at times ‘unkind’ to us, she really seemed to enjoy her time with us and her stay at The Shetland Nature Lodge, which we were thrilled that the crew chose as their base for their four days on Unst. The crew too simply couldn’t have been better to work with who made it all the more enjoyable for myself and good friend and colleague Richard Shucksmith, who also did some work with them.

Perhaps not surprisingly it was Otters (my lifelong obsession of!) and also my background as a native Shetlander that brought them to me initially. The producer Scott Tankard was also intrigued and excited by the kind of work I did with the hides I build and so it was great to feature that element of the work I do as well.

Fortunately on the one day they had to do Otters out of the three I worked with them, I did find them otters in the morning and evening even though tides and time were stacked against us. I have my fingers crossed that the next film crew we work with ask for the best window when tides are best, which would take away at least a little bit of the preasure!

We hope it comes across on screen as much fun as it was to shoot…

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’.

  • Shetland Nature Lodge

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