On Saturday, a glorious, sunny day, we went for a walk up Sandness Hill – Westside’s high summit – which was teeming with life. There were bonxies getting ready to nest, and though they’re nowhere near the aggressive protective stage yet, they still made a point of coming and checking us out.
I’ve been on the receiving end of great skuas’ unwanted attention on quite a few occasions – having a husband who actively seeks out their chicks in order to ring them has something to do with it – and I’ve been swooped at, thumped on the head and even shat on – which was a pretty disgusting experience, resulting in a long, damp walk home across the moorland, reeking to high heaven.
Higher up Sandness hill, golden plover were already raising their chicks. Although the young were invisible to us, they were clearly there, as the parents were peeping away like crazy and doing the broken-wing thing to try to lure us away from whichever hidey-hole their incredibly well-camouflaged babies were in.
On the way back down the other side of the hill, the whimbrel have arrived, and are clearly setting up home and thinking about making babies. I’d never knowingly seen a whimbrel and been able to definitively say it wasn’t a curlew before, so I was pretty chuffed to see them at such close quarters. Shetland is a breeding stronghold for this lovely, elegant bird.
As we walked back along the lane to the car, a pair of redshanks took exception to our presence – clearly they also have some young around.
And further along the road, we spotted a lapwing, glowing iridescent in the sunshine, and clearly very blase about our taking a photo of her on her nest.
We were very aware, though, that there was an arctic skua hanging about, so we didn’t stay around too long. But skuas also have a living to make, and will soon have babies of their own to feed…