Fetlar – the Garden of Shetland
Fetlar is known locally as ‘the garden of Shetland’. Its diversity of habitats with rich fertile soils, serpentine heath and blanket bog, hosts the highest densities of breeding waders in Shetland. It is an island with a fascinating and diverse ornithological history. It was here that in 1967 Britain’s first Snowy Owls were discovered breeding by the legendary Shetland naturalist, the late Bobby Tulloch.
Even before this momentous discovery Fetlar was already a popular destination birdwatchers and naturalists from far and wide, for the island’s Red-necked Phalaropes. For recent generations the island has been well known as the UK stronghold for this charismatic species. It was in fact the only breeding site for this normally Arctic breeding wader for many decades.
Famed for their role reversal in the rearing of chicks and plumage, the phalaropes are one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds and with patience, luck and our local knowledge we hope to see these charismatic little waders.
Although phalaropes are now also being seen elsewhere, (Fetlar still being the British stronghold), and the owls long died off the island’s reputation and amazing wildlife is still attracting even more visitors several decades on.
The island’s rich and diverse habitats are also a stronghold for nationally rare and scarce breeding species such as Whimbrel, Red-throated diver, Arctic Skua as well as popular summer species such as Golden Plover and Dunlin.
As well as a picnic lunch at the beautiful Tresta beach we will enjoy a short leisurely stroll along low headland of the eastern side of the island to see the rare rock type, known as the Funzie conglomerate, which is unique to the island and can be seen exposed the way along eastern cliffs. From here we will also scan the open sea and with a bit of luck catch a glimpse of a Porpoise or Minke whale, which are often seen off shore. There is also the chance of an Otter encounter too along some of the island’s more remote stretches of shoreline.
Along the way we will also learn of Fetlar’s fascinating history by calling in to the Fetlar Interpretive Centre.