A native Shetlander, Brydon grew up on a croft on the beautiful island of Fetlar. Sharing his home island with such an evocative array of birds as Snowy owl, Red-necked phalarope, Red-throated diver and Storm petrel literally on his doorstep, it is little wonder Brydon had a passion for birds from childhood.
From that early age, bird migration in particular fascinated Brydon and quickly became one of his main birding motivations with a predilection for the thrill of finding and identifying rarities around the Isles and there can be no where better to do so!
But it wasn’t just birds that inspired Brydon, Otters and in particular their secretive lives fascinated him from a young age. Learning to track their movements and elusive behaviour through his childhood developed into a life’s passion and helped him build a career as a world renowned otter guide and has featured sharing his knowledge and field skills on several TV documentaries such as BBC1’s Countryfile, ITV’s Alison Steadman’s Shetland and Irish televisions RTE travel program No Frontiers. He has also appeared and worked on various other Shetland natural history documentaries such as Simon Kings Shetland Diaries, Martin Clunnes British Islands and Gordon Buchannan’s search for Killer Whales in Shetland.
Brydon’s interest in his natural environment was inspired and greatly encouraged by his childhood hero and legendary Shetland naturalist, the late Bobby Tulloch.
It was a combination of his experience as a naturalist, his warm personality and a heady blend of pride and passion that led Brydon to establish his wildlife tour company ’Shetland Nature’ in 2006 and build a career around the life he feels so privileged to live. Brydon is a keen photographer and in recent years has led itineraries for some of the top British wildlife photographers such as David Tipling, Peter Cairns, Mark Hamblin, Chris Gomersal, Steve Young and Neil McIntyre.
Over and above a love of the islands and their wildlife is his family life and home on Unst with wife Vaila and two sons Casey and Corey.
Hollie moved to Shetland in 1999 when she and her husband Deryk arrived on Fair Isle to run Fair Isle Bird Observatory. They left the Observatory in 2010 and moved into a croft house in the south of the island with their four children. Having run the world renowned Fair Isle Bird Observatory for over a decade, Hollie has a great deal of experience dealing with people and planning their holidays and understands the logistics unique to Shetland, making her ideally placed to coordinate our bookings and admin as part of our team. As well as running a busy croft and household Hollie also works as a knitter and enjoys looking after her two native ponies and working in her poly tunnels and vegetable gardens.
Gary’s passion for nature started at a young age, and by the age of 13 he recalls finding his first pod of Killer Whales while seawatching on a family holiday on the west coast of Scotland, a memory as vivid now as it was over 30 years ago. Gary originally moved to Shetland in 1983 and spent most of the remainder of the 1980s on the islands. Leaving to attend college and university in his home town of Edinburgh, Gary was the instigator and editor of the Lothian Bird Report and has served on committees for the Scottish Ornithologists Club, as well being a group leader for them and the RSPB. He has also undertaken ornithological survey work both professionally and voluntarily for the RSPB, BTO and SNH. Employed as an interpretive guide for nearly ten years with The City Of Edinburgh Council, Gary has a rare ability to communicate with a wide audience.
Rob originates from Leicester, where he was, amongst other things, County Bird Recorder and Chairman of the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society. He first visited Shetland in 1986 and after many years visiting the islands became a permanent resident in 2007. He is now part of the editorial team that writes the Shetland Bird Report and is jointly responsible for maintaining the Nature in Shetland website.
Rob won the national ‘Young Ornithologist of the Year’ competition (organised by the junior section of the RSPB) in both 1984 and 1985, and since then has been employed in a variety of professional and voluntary capacities relating to wildlife, including recent spells with the RSPB and the Shetland Biological Records Centre. He has been a wildlife tour guide since 2006.
One of his main interests is writing, and Rob has recently written ‘Where to watch birds in the East Midlands’ and ‘The Birds of Leicestershire and Rutland’, both published by A & C Black/Helm. His passion for wildlife is not just restricted to birds, with butterflies, dragonflies and especially moths being particular interests.
Rob is widely travelled, and has visited South and North America, the Caribbean, Asia and large parts of Europe in search of birds and other wildlife.
Iolo Williams is a Welsh naturalist, broadcaster, public speaker and writer who has worked in conservation for more than 30 years. Born and bred in mid-Wales, he worked for the RSPB for nearly 15 years before leaving to follow a career in the media. He has presented more than 20 series for BBC Wales and S4C and, for the past 6 years, has been one of the regular team of presenters on the BBC’s popular “Springwatch’, ‘Autumnwatch’ and ‘Winterwatch’ programmes. He has written several books in both English and Welsh and is a regular contributor to several magazines including ‘BBC Wildlife’. He has addressed the Welsh Assembly on conservation issues on several occasions and in his spare time, he contributes to several wildlife surveys in Wales. Through his work, he is very well travelled and has been guiding throughout the UK for the past 3 years. In spring 2015, he travelled through Caithness, Orkney and Shetland for ‘Springwatch’ and despite taking a much-publicised televised tumble when he tripped and fell, on screen in pursuit of orcas, he describes seeing them on the Scottish coast as one of his greatest wildlife moments.
David has worked as a freelance wildlife photographer since 1992. Birds have been a passion of David’s since childhood and so it is no surprise that these are the focus of his work. David has written and been the commissioned photographer for more than 40 books on birds and wildlife photography, including the best selling RSPB Guide to Digital Wildlife Photography. He has collaborated with some of the UK’s leading nature writers including Jonathan Elphick and Mark Cocker. It is with Mark that he is currently working on Birds & People the world’s largest survey of cultural attitudes to birds worldwide and is in association with BirdLife and Random House Publishers. David is one of the most widely published wildlife photographers in the world. His pictures have been used on hundreds of book and magazine covers, regularly on TV and in just about every other conceivable way from wine labels to being projected in New York’s Time Square. Sir David Bellamy has described David’s pictures as “windows of wonder”.
Recent TV appearances have included a short film on photographing Nightjars with Chris Packham which was featured on Springwatch, with further recent appearances on Anglia TV again featuring photographic subjects within Norfolk. In 2009 along with co presenter Chris Gomersall he once again appeared in front of the camera for the Wildlife Photography Masterclass DVD. David’s work has won him many awards such as European Nature Photographer of the Year Documentary Award, multiple wins of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature’s Best where most recently in 2009 David was awarded the Indigenous Cultures Award for his work on Mongolian Eagle Hunters. In 2008 he was named as one of the worlds top 50 wildlife photographers by Digital Photography Magazine. David is a regular judge for photography competitions, notably British Birds Bird Photographer of the Year and the International Wild Bird Photographer of the Year. He is photographic consultant for British Birds Magazine and writes a regular monthly column for East Anglia’s biggest selling paper the Eastern Daily Press in which he showcases local wildlife in pictures.
Chris has been a keen birdwatcher since childhood. He became hooked on the birds of Scottish Islands when studying breeding tysties on Papa Westray (Orkney) as a Zoology undergraduate in the summers of 1995-6. This passion for island birds has taken Chris to work as warden and ranger on many islands such as Hoy, Rum, Islay, and Arran, and regularly visit many others. None, however, quite combine all the ingredients that Shetland offers and after working on Unst as Hermaness warden in 2000 and then Ranger on Fair Isle in 2001, Chris has returned to Shetland every year since, including researching an MSc dissertation on diving seabirds in Bluemull Sound in 2014. Following several years working as warden at the RSPB’s Vane Farm reserve, Chris now works throughout Scotland as a freelance ornithological consultant.
Martin Garner: In memory of a dear friend and colleague
In early 2016 Martin very sadly passed away. Martin was a huge part of how we have developed over recent years. He was not only a huge inspiration to us all but a dear and trusted friend too. Once described by Dominic Mitchell as ‘requiring excitement management’, Martin was married to Sharon for 20 years and they have 2 daughters, Emily and Abigail. He was birding since he was 11 years old, was always interested in thinking outside the box, an approach to life which lead him to finding the first Caspian Gulls in Britain. He was a hugely valued member of the British Birds Rarities Committee, a renowned and respected identification consultant and the creator an leading force behind the internationally enjoyed BirdingFrontiers website. He was the director of the Free Spirit Trust, a Christian Charity involved in bringing transformation to tough situations in Sheffield and Rwanda as well as coaching leaders in mission and in the business community. He published many papers on identification and highly respected author of three best selling books; ‘Frontiers in Birding’ and his ‘Challenge Series’. He loved wild places, new discoveries and trying to inspire other people to reach their full potential in life. We miss you, but will never forget you Martin.
Martha and Malcie Smith
Based in the north of Yell, Martha and Malcie met through their shared interest in conservation.
Malcie is originally from the Isle of Lewis and is the RSPB’s Species and Habitats Officer for Shetland. He is a big fan of Shetland’s natural history and has a particular interest in red-necked phalaropes. He has an MSc in Ecology and 25 years of conservation experience, mostly in the North Isles of Shetland. He enjoys taking photos and travelling to warm, dry landmasses to savour their wildlife and landscapes.
Martha grew up in North Yorkshire. Drawn to wild and remote places she has a particular love for the North Isles of Shetland where she has lived for the last 12 years. With a degree in Zoology she has worked in conservation for 18 years and is currently the RSPB’s Community Engagement Officer in Shetland.
Paul’s introduction to Shetland came with YOC trips to Fair Isle in the summers of 1995 and 1996. Quickly becoming hooked with the heady mix of stunning scenery and seabirds, he vowed to return as assistant warden on Fair Isle as soon as he was old enough. This ambition came to fruition during the seasons of 2001 and 2002. After two successful seasons on Fair Isle he spent two seasons as RSPB Assistant Warden on Fetlar, followed by a season at Sumburgh Head and then five years working in habitat creation and restoration on the wonderful RSPB reserves of Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore and in the Trent valley. He is currently a freelance ecologist and tour leader, as well as being the Chairman of the British Birds Rarities Committee and a member of the British Ornithologists Union Record Committee. Paul has also published articles on identification in both British Birds and Birding World and was a contributing author for the popular Birding Frontiers “Challenge” series.
Micky is a professional ecologist and nature tour leader from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His love of natural history started with numerous forays into Northumberland National Park and coast with his parents when he was a child. Thereafter, his goal was to work in the conservation sector. At seventeen he was studying at Northumberland College and at the same time working for the National Park and Countryside Service. Micky went on to work for many of the UK’s conservation and wildlife organisations, including RSPB, BTO, WWT, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, Scottish Natural Heritage and JNCC. In 2001, after a spell in the Seychelles, he came to live in Shetland and took up the role of Site Manager at Noss NNR. Feeling as though he’d arrived home, he then went on to work as the North Shetland Ranger two years later.
Micky has travelled throughout the world in search of wildlife, in particular birds and cetaceans. He has a natural and respectful affinity with the Sea, and has recently had the privilege to swim with Whale Sharks and Mantas in Maldives, Blue Whales in Sri Lanka and Killer Whales in Norway!
Identifying and recording wildlife and the wonders of migration are high on his list of favourite things to do and as such, he was Shetland’s bird recorder for five years, a member of the Shetland Sea Mammal group committee and now serves on the British Birds Rarities Committee.
After leading his first guided walks as a teenager in Northumberland, he has continued to guide holidays throughout Europe and Asia, with Shetland high on the list of favourite destinations. Micky is proud to work with a team at Shetland Nature, which contains many long term friends, and was delighted to be best man at the wedding of Brydon and Vaila in the summer of 2008.
Josh is a freelance wildlife photographer and cameraman from Norfolk. He studied ‘Marine and Natural History Photography’ at Falmouth University. As well as being a committed stills photographer he has filmed various commissions including work for The Norfolk Wildlife Trust and a short film for BBC Springwatch on Urban otters. Following this he has been working on pieces with them for the last 3 years. His work with NWT led to an enviable meeting with Sir David Attenborourgh.
Joining the SN team in Shetland Josh brought a passion for otters from his home county with him and he was overwhelmed by just how spoilt we are on the islands to be able to spend so much time with them – especially as he gets to show them to people as his job!
His images have been used in numerous magazines and papers including a double page spread in the BBC Wildlife Magazine. Josh was highly commended in a number of competitions and recently got one in the British Wildlife Photographer of The Year Awards. Josh also leads his own photography workshops in Norfolk.
Native Shetlander, living and working in Shetlands South Mainland, John has been a keen nature watcher since a young age. Brother to Shetland RSPB area manager Helen Moncrieff, John didn’t have to look far to share a passion for local wildlife. Seeing his first Otter at the age of 6 or 7, they naturally to become his favourite subject. He took up photography in 2008, to capture and share images of local wildlife and scenery and likes to photograph anything from limpets to Orcas!
As well as featuring in national press and books, John has done well with images in competitions such as the British Wildlife Photography Awards. The newest recruit to the our renowned team of leaders, he is delighted to be able to devote more time to sharing Shetland with fellow wildlife enthusiasts.
Jon is a natural history writer, photographer and experienced wildlife tour leader based in the Shetland Isles, but with strong links in mainland Europe and North America that see him travelling widely in search of memorable wildlife encounters.
An accomplished all-round naturalist, Jon is the author of the “Britain’s Sea Mammals” field-guide, and co-author of the “Britain’s Mammals” field-guide, both for Princeton University Press. Jon writes weekly “Rarity Round-Ups” for Rare Bird Alert, and is currently writing an orchid book for Bloomsbury. His writing and photography feature in many popular wildlife magazines, including BBC Wildlife, Birdwatching, and British Wildlife.
He credits a childhood living in the rural West Country of England for his lifelong interest in all things natural history based – a childhood spent exploring the water meadows and abandoned orchards of the Somerset Levels, and the droves and ancient woods of Dorset’s Blackmoor Vale. Before long he had spread his wings further afield and was travelling widely around the British Isles and then further afield in search of birds, butterflies and orchids.
A move to Shetland some 15 years ago found him happily living in one of Europe’s great wildlife habitats, with Otters literally on his doorstep, and summer evenings spent watching Harbour Porpoises from the kitchen window.
Meanwhile, Jon is never happier than when he’s out in the field with his camera trying to do justice to the wonderful wildlife he encounters on his travels; though sitting watching the sun set over the sea in Shetland while he writes about what he’s seen comes a very close second for his affections. Once stalked by a Mountain Lion whilst birding on the edge of Mexico’s notorious Sierra Madre Occidental, he generally prefers experiencing wildlife on his own terms and not as part of the food chain.
Robina was born in Sunderland and grew up in North Yorkshire. She has family connections in Shetland and spent many childhood summers in Yell before moving permanently to the islands in 2006 to work for Shetland Amenity Trust archaeology department. She has an MA in Archaeology and Ancient Hebrew from Glasgow University. In 2008 she became Geology Project Officer at the Trust, responsible for coordinating the activities of Geopark Shetland. This role involves interpretation, education, promotion and conservation as well as organisation and delivery of the annual Shetland Nature Festival. Robina is a member of the European Geoparks Network Coordination Committee and the UK Geoparks Forum. In 2013 she became the Chair of the Scottish Geoparks Partnership and works closely with the Scottish Geodiversity Forum to conserve, interpret and promote Scotland’s incredible geo-heritage. She lives on the island of Bressay with her husband Stuart and cat Evy. She enjoys walking, swimming, reading, dancing, climbing and is involved with a number of local heritage and tourism related groups.
Deryk is a recent addition to our team, following his ‘retirement’ after 12 years as the Warden of Fair Isle Bird Observatory. He still lives on the fabled island though with his wife, Hollie, and their four children. He was introduced to nature at a very young age by his father – a keen naturalist – and grew up in the wilds of Galloway, where he would spend many hours observing the local birds and finding nests for his father to ring the chicks. Always interested in the conservation and research side of ornithology, he joined the BTO and qualified as a licensed bird ringer whilst still in his teens. Either side of a zoology degree he held several ornithological research posts, including a three-year stint at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, where he met his future wife. Deryk and Hollie moved to Fair Isle in 1999 to take up the enviable roles in charge of the world famous Bird Observatory. His reign was filled with glorious birding, including three firsts for Britain and climaxed with overseeing the building of the new observatory and guiding it through its first season. Now a Fair Isle crofter, ferryman, fireman, coastguard cliff technician, roads worker and aerogenerator engineer, he is pleased to be able to still find time to show people the delights of birding Fair Isle with Shetland Nature Tours.
After graduating with a BSc Hons Degree in Geography & Environmental Studies Rebecca undertook a Certificate in Ornithology at Cambridge & an MSc in Conservation Management. She has been an Ecologist & passionate Ornithologist for the past 16 years. This has included working for the RSPB, Wildlife Trust for West Wales and Fair Isle Bird Observatory. She became a freelance Ecologist & Bird Photographer in 2006 after an exceptional two years spent as Assistant Warden and Seabird Monitoring Officer on Fair Isle.
Rebecca has spent her spare time travelling, birding, bird ringing and developing her bird photography skills. She gained her BTO ‘C’ ringing permit in 2007 and helps survey & monitor various breeding & wintering birds voluntarily. She is also a Full member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). She became an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society in 2011, her natural history images have been published in hundreds of books, journals & magazines. Rebecca is represented by several photographic agencies and art galleries. A keen designer, she was recently commissioned to produce a large range of bird & marine themed stationary for the Shetland Amenity Trust’s Sumburgh Head development.
Rebecca moved permanently to Lerwick, Shetland in Autumn 2013 with her partner Phil. As well as freelance ecological survey work & bird photography, she leads wildlife and photographic trips throughout Shetland & abroad, keen to share her passion for birds, wildlife and photography with others.
Phil originally hails from Manchester but has moved around with his job as a Firefighter for the past 20 years, firstly with the RAF abroad and on Unst and later as a full-time and retained Firefighter in Hertfordshire & Crew Manager in Suffolk. Phil has been a passionate birder since a youth and spends all his spare time birding and bird ringing. He is a highly experienced bird ringer and holds both an ‘A’ permit & trainer license, he is also a keen ‘nest finder’ and voluntarily monitors many breeding birds for the BTO & RSPB. Phil moved to Shetland permanently last Summer after spending over a decade visiting the Isles several times a year birding, particularly on Fair Isle. He is now a Firefighter at Sumburgh Airport and a member of the Shetland Rarities Committee & Shetland Bird Ringing Scheme. Along with his partner Rebecca, Phil has led birdwatching & natural history trips for the past 8 years to the Greek Island of Lesvos as well as on Shetland & Fair Isle. Phil’s enthusiasm & experience in the field make him a popular & natural guide.
Inquisitive by nature, I love being outside following, watching and observing animal behaviour. One of my favourite places is the coast as it has a wide variety of habitats, species and dramatic seascapes. For me the sea encompasses the power, turmoil and beauty of the world in which we live.
I have always been drawn to water, rivers and lakes in my childhood and as time progressed the coast and the sea. It was not until my late twenties that I set out to find more about these watery habitats. It lead me to study Marine Biology at the School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor before moving to the west coast of Scotland to the Scottish Association of Marine Science where I undertook a PhD in marine ecology. It was an incredible journey and still is for me, exploring the ecology of freshwater and marine ecosystems. During this time I used my interest in photography to document many of the animals and habitats I studied. In my spare time I would track and photograph otters and SCUBA dive, photographing marine life.
The digital era was taking over, the ability to be so creative with digital photography was overpowering, and really took a hold of me. I found myself spending more and more time, exploring the natural world through my camera lens, and I loved it. A dilemma built in me and I found myself debating science or photography, but the enjoyment of being in the field working on photographic projects won. In recent times I have found ways to combine both photography and science.
Moving to Shetland gave me the opportunity to pursue my fascination with otters. What really interest me is otters living on the coast and how they use the marine habitats. This has led to an otter obsession, spending thousands of hours with my camera, photographing, following, observing otter behaviour and how they make a living along the Shetland coastline.
James Tait grew up in a crofting community in the South Mainland of Shetland where his family has lived and worked the land for several generations. James returned to Shetland immediately after university to train and work as an accountant however he decided this was not the career he wanted to pursue for the rest of his life full time.
Interests in the outdoors and nature has led James into tour guiding with “Island Trails”, first as an employee and then from 2012 as the business owner. James enjoys planning bespoke tours to fit customer’s individual requirements and interests with an emphasis on the unique history and culture of Shetland. He is also a committee member of the Shetland Tourism Association.
James is involved in agriculture running the family croft with his father and brother where they keep a flock of just over a hundred sheep. In addition to the guiding James likes to be outdoors walking and bird watching in his spare time. He also enjoys photography, reading and anything to do with the traditional life and dialect of Shetland.
Supporting cast and contributors…
Roger Riddington lives with his wife Agnes in the south part of Mainland Shetland. His full time job, as editor of the journal British Birds, keeps him indoors too much, but the ability to work from home overlooking the famous Pool of Virkie is a major recompense. Following a summer spent in 1992, as seabird officer at Fair Isle Bird Observatory he was truly hooked and made a full-time move to Shetland in March 1994. Following four years as the warden on Fair Isle he worked for three years as manager of Shetland Biological Records Centre, before taking up his post with British Birds. He has been birding for over 30 years, and his main interests are seabirds and migration – perfect for a Shetland Nature Guide! He has guided many trips in Shetland, and further afield, including Galapagos, and is well travelled in Europe and beyond.
Rory Tallack has lived in Shetland since the age of 8, enabling him to build up an intimate knowledge of the islands. A relative latecomer to birding, he became hooked during his two seasons working as Ranger at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. Such an unrivaled introduction to birding, coupled with mentoring from step father Roger Riddington, soon fuelled his knowledge and passion for birds. Rory has travelled extensively in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia but has finally settled in Unst, the most northerly of the Shetland Isles. Here he holds the post of North Shetland Ranger, a job which has allowed his interest in Shetland’s diverse natural heritage to extend far beyond his love of birds, with botany in particular coming a close second.
Juan has worked in conservation for the past 18 years. He was warden on the Farne Islands in Northumberland, before moving to Shetland in 1998. Half way through the second season as warden on Noss, a career opportunity presented itself, and he spent the following eight and half years as Warden on the Welsh island of Skomer. At the end of 2007 Juan followed the pull back to Shetland, settling down with his partner Jane and young daughter Martha in their house overlooking the isle of Mousa. Following a season wardening Mousa and Sumburgh Head for the RSPB, he now works for Scottish Natural Heritage in Lerwick, visiting his beloved Noss as often as possible. In addition to a wealth of general natural history knowledge, Juan is a keen birder with a track record of rarity finding.
Andy has been involved in research on cetaceans for the past decade. He studied killer whale vocal behaviour for his Masters at the University of Durham between 2002 and 2005. Andy is currently finishing up his PhD on the ecology of killer whales in the Northeast Atlantic at the University of Aberdeen and is the co-founder of the North Atlantic Killer Whale ID project. This work has included cataloguing over 100 individual whales through photo-identification around Scotland. This project was awarded a Shetland Environment Award in 2008. Andy has worked on a number of other marine mammals species such as minke whales, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, grey seals, harbour seals and harbour porpoise and in such diverse locations as the Aleutian and Pribalof Islands, Vancouver Island, Scotland, Norway, Greece and Wales. Andy’s work has been published in several high profile scientific journals including Nature, Biology Letters, Molecular Ecology and Evolutionary Ecology and has been covered by the media on the BBC, CBC, in the Times, New York Times, Telegraph and the Guardian.
Volker was born in Germany and raised in Austria, but has lived most of his life abroad. He started studying biology in Berlin, but soon transferred to Vancouver where he completed a masters degree investigating the evolution of vocal dialects in resident (fish-eating) killer whales. He received his doctorate from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland focused on the vocal behaviour of transient (mammal-eating) killer whales in British Columbia and Alaska and the response of harbour seals to killer whale calls. After post-doctoral research at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Deecke returned to St. Andrews where he is currently a research fellow at the Sea Mammal Research Unit studying the behaviour of killer whales in Scottish waters. Volker’s speciality is underwater acoustics and he has all the technological gadgets tfor eavesdropping on the underwater communications of whales, dolphins and seals. In addition, Volker is interested in all aspects of animal behaviour and even knows a thing or two about plants.