Wildlife sightings in Shetland
Swept Away HR46 at anchor Second Wind at anchor Northern Exposure at anchor

A Habitat for Birds and Bird-Watchers

Millions of birds find themselves on Shetland, and more than twenty species of seabirds breed there. The steep cliffs provide countless niches on which to build nests, supporting populations of breeding gannets, guillemots, puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, and razorbills. We got to see most of these birds, and some mammals, too.

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Gannets are beautiful to watch at sea. Their black wing tips decorate their white bodies. They glide low over the water, and then fly high, circle, and plunge into the sea for food. Because they're so good at feeding (for example, they don't have external nostrils), the term "gannet" is used in the UK to describe someone who's kind of a glutton.
The guillemot spends all of its life at sea, coming to shore only to breed. Part of the auk family, it's likely that the name derives from the French word for William (Guillaume).
The oystercatcher is a wading bird, and the one thing it does not do is catch oysters. It eats cockles and worms, and some bivalves, like mussels. They have strong fidelity to mate and site. One pair studied defended the same nest for 20 years.
This nesting eider blended in so well with the ground on Mousa that she would have been easy to miss if we hadn't walked so close to her nest. It's the heaviest and the fastest flying duck in the UK. Remember eiderdown pillows? This is where they come from.
Gannet rescue
Gannets, which have a wingspan of about six feet (2 meters) look quite large when they're on the boat with you. We encountered an adult in some distress. Our captain and nature guide maneuvered the boat, brought this gannet on deck, and freed it from the fishing net it had tried to use as a building supply.
Grey seals
The Scottish population of grey seals is about 140,000, about 40% of the world's total. They pup in October, so they were about the only animal we saw that wasn't romantically inclined. Unlike the human tourists, these seals didn't seem at all interested in the bird debauchery all around them on the cliffs.