Our Wild    Life

Nature photography by John Langley ARPS & Tracy Langley ARPS

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Shetland Isles - July 2019

We’ve made several trips to Shetland, usually in June. During our last trip in June 2017 we found a group of confiding black guillemots on a rocky beach. We were able to photograph them over several days and obtained many portraits and behavioural shots. However, we never saw any with fish. Presumably if they are not nesting they eat their catch out at sea. We decided to go a little later in the year for our next trip in the hope that some of the birds would be nesting and might carry fish ashore. It was a bit of a gamble, but we were in for a treat - several pairs were bringing fish of all shapes and sizes back to the rocks. We thought they might shoot straight down their burrows in the rock crevices but many of them stayed on the rocks with the fish dangling in their beaks for ages.

Long, bright red butterfish seemed to be a favourite with many of the birds.


The birds had to be vigilant as arctic skua would chase them, trying to pinch their fish.

There were ringed plover on the rocks too.

Up on the cliffs of Hermaness, Unst, the great skua (known locally as Bonxies) had small chicks to defend.

Shetland is a good place to see the increasingly rare whimbrel.

We paid a couple of visits to the tiny isle of Noss where we found the Shetland wren.

Juvenile wheatears perched on the lichen-covered walls.

Twite were eating the thrift seeds.

This young rabbit almost seemed too small to be above ground.

The island is probably best known for its puffins but they can be quite variable in numbers. One day there were hundreds and a few days later we saw very few.

On this trip we didn’t specifically go looking for otters, but they found us. Whilst photographing other subjects we had several encounters with otters.

On a trip to another of the smaller islands we had several encounters with one of our favourite birds - Snipe. We had so much fun that we spent several days returning to increase our portfolio of these beautiful birds. Once on the ground, snipe tend to move into cover so are very hard to see. However, they have a habit of perching on fence posts which makes it possible to photograph them from the car.

Early in the morning we caught some of the birds napping.

After a nap the birds usually stretched then preened.

Some of the days were pretty wet, and the birds ended up quite soggy. Occasionally they would shake the rain off, casting droplets into the air.

We managed to see a couple of birds on the dew-soaked ground.

We never realised that a snipe’s beak can bend until we saw this one calling.

On the island there were a few fields filled with buttercups. These were our favourite places.