The iconic island of Noss in Shetland is once again bustling with activity as up to 30 different bird species vie for a nesting space on this seabird metropolis. To celebrate this fact a series of guided walks have been organised to take place the last Saturday of every month (25 June, 30 July and 27 August). Craig Nisbet, the reserve warden, reveals what visitors can expect.
Each walk will circumnavigate the island, leaving the cottage at 11am and returning around 3pm. The walk will show you the sights and sounds (as well as the smells!) of one of Britain’s premier seabird colonies. Learn more about the history of this remote outpost and the wardens and seabirds that now inhabit it. Watch gannets soaring around the 600ft (181m) Noup. Have a close encounter with the enigmatic puffin. See otters feeding and frolicking around the rocky shores and, if you’re really lucky, spy the fin of a whale or dolphin just offshore.
The breeding season has sprung into action with most species on eggs aside from the late arriving Arctic skuas and terns. Gannets and shags now have chicks so the cliff faces are full of frenetic activity with adults coming in with food to feed hungry youngsters. Waders such as oystercatchers and ringed plovers have had young hatch within the last couple of days. Hopefully these young chicks will run the gauntlet of predators and successfully make it to adulthood.
Wild flowers have recently come into bloom with the cliff tops carpeted with thrift, spring squill and scurvy grass bringing flashes of colour to the rocky surface.
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the season so far (in the literal sense) was the sighting of a basking shark just to the south of Noss. This species is the second largest fish in the ocean, growing up to 12m long, and saunters around hoovering up huge volumes of water to filter for plankton. They are commonly seen in Shetland waters but not usually until much later in the year when the sea is warmer and the plankton is blooming. The individual in question was a juvenile between 4 and 5m and was very approachable, swimming right next to the boat at times affording visitors and wardens alike the experience of a lifetime!
Find out more about Noss and our other NNRs on the NNR website.
Keep up to date with what’s happening on Scotland’s National Nature Reserves on Facebook.
All images by Craig Nisbet.