Summer Holiday Project #2- Make a Wave with Marine Litter

This week will take you back to the beach to do a beach clean, great for helping nature by removing plastic from our seas and coastlines BUT dont throw it away, you’re going to need it for this weeks art project.

We will be using the marine litter to create a piece of wave art. You can get as creative as you like experimenting with different shapes, colours and textures. It is amazing the varity of man-made items that end up on our beaches!

Download our Make a Wave with Marine Litter leaflet to get started.


Why Record?

Paul Harvey- Shetland Biological Records Centre

Kathryn Allan- NAFC Marine Centre UHI

This is a question that we often get asked – why are you bothering to record that? What’s the point? Put simply recording the wildlife around us helps build up our knowledge of the environment – what is where and how might this be changing. Shetland’s socio-economic well-being is tied heavily to its environment – fishing, aquaculture, agriculture and tourism are all dependent on a clean, thriving environment. Recording helps us to monitor the health of this environment and can act as an early warning system if, and when, things start to go wrong. It can often be done relatively cheaply using so called citizen science – as hundreds of folk enjoy getting outside and many of these contribute by sending in their wildlife observations or posting them on social media.

We’ll try and outline a few examples of why recording can be important. Some species are common and widespread and some species are rare and localised. The only way we can ascertain which is which is through recording. The Bog Orchid is a tiny but attractive wee orchid that, as its name suggests, grows in damp, acid bogs. It is a rare plant in Shetland and indeed throughout Scotland and was known from only a handful of sites in the islands. A small group of folk out looking at and recording flowers came across a previously unknown site for the species in the Catfirth area. And what a colony it was, numbering several hundred plants and making it the biggest colony in Scotland. It so happened that this area was earmarked for a housing development but following discussion with the Council the developer changed the plans slightly meaning the site could be saved and Scotland’s largest Bog Orchid colony remains for others to enjoy. Without recording, this site would have been lost.

Bog Orchid (Copyright Jim Nicholson)

The Curlew is a relatively common bird in Shetland. Yet elsewhere in the UK the Curlew population has plummeted such that it is now on the Red List of Birds to watch. Every year since 2002 about 60 Shetland residents head out twice in the spring with maps to record breeding birds in a one kilometre square close to their home. These data are collated and have allowed us to establish population trends for our more common breeding birds. This has told us that the Curlew population in Shetland is holding its own; unlike elsewhere in the UK it is not in sharp decline. This also suggests that existing crofting/farming practices in Shetland are currently well suited to maintaining Curlew (and indeed other breeding wader populations). Many of these waders – Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe, Oystercatcher are present here in nationally important numbers. Now more than ever the taxpayer is looking for greater public benefits from agriculture and it is likely that rewards for farming in an environmentally sensitive manner will increase in the future. So here, volunteer recorders have provided the data that allows environmentalists and farmers to make strong arguments that the existing agriculture in the islands should be supported because it already yields considerable environmental benefits.

Curlew (Copyright Jim Nicholson)

Global warming is on almost everyone’s lips these days. Can we show it is happening here in Shetland? There has been much talk of the adverse impacts of a rise in sea temperature on Shetland’s seabirds and this is likely to impact on fish stocks too but things are very complicated in the marine environment and it’s not always easy to make direct links. A few island residents however have been recording large insects – bumblebees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies for starters – and this has revealed some big changes as a result of climate change. Insects have good powers of dispersal and can reproduce very quickly and in large numbers so are often one of the first groups to respond to environmental change. In the last few years, the recording undertaken by these folk has revealed that two species of bumblebee and several species of moth have, or are in the process of, colonising the islands.

In our marine environment, previously unseen non-native species (NNS) coming from elsewhere in the world can become established in the isles due to the change is sea temperatures. The NAFC Marine Centre UHI has been monitoring ports and marinas for a few years as this is usually where species first enter on the hulls of boats or ballast water. Once established they can be very difficult, if not impossible to eradicate. These non-native species are troublesome as they can compete with our native species for food and space and smother aquaculture structures causing economic impact. To be able to assess if these species have made it into the ‘wild’ (beyond man made structures) we need everyone’s help to submit records of species they find whilst out on our beaches and coastlines.

The many individuals that record wildlife here in Shetland are also helping to put the islands on the map. Thanks to these efforts Shetland is now well represented in new publications about Scotland’s or the UK’s wildlife. This helps establish patterns and trends farther afield than just our islands, and can also illustrate just how important the Shetland’s biodiversity is.

Finally, it is important to say that watching and recording wildlife should also be about fun. If this can be done as a group then the accompanying banter can certainly add to the atmosphere(!) and learning can become so much easier. It seems that nationwide, the recent pandemic has encouraged a lot of people to get out and reconnect with nature and that can only be of benefit to us as individuals by boosting our mental wellbeing and to society as we struggle to overcome the many environmental challenges that we will face in the future.

Local recorders have ensured that Shetland is properly represented in national atlas’ in recent years helping to complete the national picture.

So, we’d be delighted to receive any records of wildlife and plants that you can make. All we need is an observer name, date, location (preferably a grid reference) and your record will be added to the Shetland database

For a list of current projects that you can get involved in visit our Projects page.



July Highlights

Things are really looking their best this month, with gardens, verges and heather moorland all looking lush and starting to flower. This is a peak time for our pollinators so get spotting those bumblebees and butterflies and if you are up for a bit of a challenge take a closer look at the hoverflies, there are loads of great resources out there such as the British Naturalists’ Association website https://bna-naturalists.org/id-guide-hoverflies/ or why not request to join the Shetland Insect Group on Facebook where there are lots of local experts more than happy to help out.

In Focus- Shetland’s Wildflowers

This month is the perfect time to stop and appreciate Shetland’s diversity of wildflowers: the colours, the variety and the simplistic beauty. There are many wildflowers to spot in Shetland some UK natives, some alien invasives and even some endemics. Here I will touch on just a couple but for more information check out the Shetland Amenity’s post online here www.shetlandamenity.org/what-to-look-for-this-week-wildflowers or nose through a copy of David Malcom’s Shetland Wild Flowers Book.

The humble Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.) is of course not endemic to Shetland it is probably one of the most widespread wildflowers in the UK. It is disliked by most gardeners due to its voracious want to spread pretty much everywhere. But did you know that the Dandelion is one of the most important flowers for pollinators? They are one of the first flowers to appear in the spring providing both pollen and nectar making it a vital flower for our early to appear bees and hoverflies. For this reason, it is helpful to our wildlife to let them grow, at least during the early weeks of spring when there is very little other food around. Did you also know that using weed-killer on your dandelions can fatally poison our pollinators who come to feast on the pollen and nectar of sprayed flowers? So if you are going to use a weed killer please pull the heads off your Dandelions first or go organic and use a bit of good old hard work to pull them out, and the bonus is it’s free!

Copyright Kathryn Allan
Copyright Rob Fray

The next plant I want to showcase is the Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), a UK native and one of only 2 carnivorous plants in Shetland, the other being Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). Common Butterwort is a small plant only a couple of inches across with pale green-yellow leaves in a very distinctive star shape spread flat on the ground and small purple flowers. Its leaves excrete a sticky fluid which attracts insects, once stuck the leaves curl over the insect trapping and digesting it. It can be found in damp and boggy heathland.

Oysterplant (Mertensia maritima) is native to the UK but is nationally rare so the specimens growing in Shetland are of national importance.  It grows on shingly beaches where it grows in a low sprawling manor. It has succulent leaves, flowering June-Aug with small bell-shaped flowers, starting pink then becoming blue. The Oysterplant gets its name from the taste of its leaves and flowers which are edible and taste like oysters. Please however do not pick any parts of wild plants, Oysterplant can be grown in rock gardens and are available to purchase on many nursery sites online. In Shetland they can be found growing in the North Mainland at Ura Firth and Stenness and at Skaw beach in Unst.

Copyright Rob Fray

Moth of the month- Dark Arches

Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) is common in Shetland and if you have ever had a large moth stuck in your house pinging off your light bulb it was most likely a Dark Arches. They are a large species of moth that can be quite variable in colour from a greyish-brown to dark brown or almost black. In Shetland they tend to be slightly smaller than average and a warm brown colour. The distinguishing features of this moth are the kidney shaped marks on each wing and the W-shaped mark near the outer edge of the wing.

They are in flight July-August preferring grassy areas such as gardens, farmland and grassy verges. The larvae of this species feed on Common Couch and Cock’s-foot grasses among others and overwinter in amongst the grass roots.

Copyright Rob Fray

In other news…

July is one of the best months for catching a sight of one of Shetland’s best loved sea mammals, the Orca (Orcinus orca). Sightings of these magnificent cetaceans have been on the increase in the last 5 years with sightings being more regular and pods staying around longer. They can grow up to 8 metres long and weigh 6 tonnes and are a top apex predator. Orca are the largest member of the dolphin family and their black and white colouring helps them to hunt by breaking up their silhouette from above and below making them camouflaged from their prey. Bull (male) Orca have a large dorsal fin which can be up to 2 metres in height, there is usually one large dominant male in a pod of females, calves and youngsters. Individual Orca can be identified using photo-identification techniques as their dorsal fins all have a distinct shape. In Shetland, many individuals have been identified and given distinct numbers and names. Two of the most well-known being a bull Orca called Busta and a female named Mousa.

Copyright Rob Fray
Copyright Rob Fray

The pods that visit Shetland spend their time moving between Norway, Iceland, Faroe, Shetland, Orkney and the Scottish mainland depending on seasonal food availability. Around our coastline they will hunt for seals and porpoises but have also been seen to take sea ducks such as Common Eider (‘Dunters’ as they are known in Shetland) but will move offshore to hunt fish, following the North Sea shoals of Atlantic Herring and are often seen by our pelagic fishing boats. To catch the fish they have seen to work together as a co-ordinated group flashing their white undersides and blowing bubbles to corral the fish into a tight ball where they then tail slap to stun the fish before picking them off one by one.

Further reading can be found here:

uk.whales.org/whales-dolphins/species-guide/orca-killer-whale/

www.mba.ac.uk/killer-whales-north-atlantic

North Atlantic killer whale Orcinus orca populations: a
review of current knowledge and threats to conservation


Become a Skatespotter

As restrictions on water sports continue to be eased, we would like to share the Skatespotter Project, led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Common or Flapper Skate (Dipturus intermedius) are considered critically endangered.  By using unique body markers individuals can be identified from photographs, allowing us to gain new insights into these fascinating fish. Jane Dodd leads the project for SNH and has shared with us how the project was set up and the results from Shetland so far.

In 2016 Steven Benjamins, a researcher at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) received around 400 digital photos of Flapper Skate taken between 2011 and 2016 from Ronnie Campbell a skate charter skipper operating out of Oban. Steven was able to identify around 250 individual skate with several recaptures by recognising the spot patterns on their backs (Benjamins et al 2018). These 250 skate became the foundation for Skatespotter, an online database of flapper skate photos submitted by charter skippers and anglers. Anglers upload their photos to the website and they are checked against the existing catalogue of photos by staff and volunteers at SNH and SAMS. New recaptures are added and if the skate can’t be matched to the catalogue it is added as a new fish. The majority of the data so far is from the Argyll area where both sexes appear to spend most of their time in a small home range, females even more so because they are recaptured more often. We have 2 females who have been captured 17 times, Di000031 was captured 17 times between 2014 and 2020 and Di000369 was captured 17 times between 2016 and 2019.

In January 2020, Skatespotter was updated to include skate captured in the Portpatrick area and in the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland. So far 39 skate have been submitted from Shetland since 2019 and there have been no recaptures but we remain hopeful that as the number of photos in the catalogue grows and time goes by we will edge closer to a recapture. We have noticed that so far Shetland skate are a bit more spotty than Argyll skate. Most Shetland skate have very symmetrical patterns of spots or whorls on the wings made up of small spots on a background of very small spots whereas Argyll skate usually have a simple symmetrical pattern of large spots on a plain background. On a couple of Shetland skate the spots have spread creating a complex pattern of lines and squiggles.

If you are keen to get involved please have a look at our Skate Handling Best Practice Guide before heading out to fish. In addition to the photo, you will be asked to provide the general location where the skate was caught, the date and time it was caught, its gender and size. The best photos for identification are taken from above and include the whole skate including the base of the tail, further advice on taking good photos of skate for photo ID is available in our Guidance. You can upload your photos to Skatespotter here. We are also interested in receiving reports of skate strandings. The vertebrae and measurements from stranded animals will help with work aiming to more accurately age skate and determine at what age they start to breed.


Shetland’s Marine Non-native Species

Can you help spot marine non-native species on your local beaches?

For a few years, the NAFC Marine Centre UHI has been keeping check of the number of marine non-native species arriving in Shetland. Non-native species are those which come from elsewhere in the world and have become established here, usually transported on hulls of boats or ballast water. In the past, species were also transported with shellfish aquaculture when novel species were brought into and trialled across Europe (back in the 1960-1980s). The NAFC has been monitoring ports and marinas, as this is usually where species enter first.

Download our NNS ID Guide here…

The NAFC has found that compared to elsewhere in the UK, Shetland has relatively few non-native species, perhaps reflecting Shetland’s cooler waters, making it harder for some species to colonise. However, non-native species can compete with native wildlife and smother aquaculture structures which have caused economic impacts elsewhere in the UK.

Very few non-native species make it into the ‘wild’ (beyond man made structures such as pontoons), but there are some exceptions that establish there first. That is why we need your help, we are keen to hear from anybody who spots anything odd. The NAFC has produced a leaflet to help you to spot non-native species but the two we’d really like people to watch out for are the Orange-tipped Sea Squirt (Corella eumyota) and Wireweed (Sargassum muticum), both originally from Japan.


Copyright Lisa Humphray

Lisa Humphray recently spotted an Orange-Tipped Sea Squirt in Scalloway harbour, while turning over rocks on the beach. This is only the second time it has been found in the wild in Shetland and indicates it is spreading beyond marinas and harbours. We’d be really interested to hear if anybody else finds it, as it would help us to understand how fast it is spreading around Shetland. It loves living right at the bottom of the shore and under rocks. At marinas it’s found under floats and buoys.

JDD Bishop (c) JDD Bishop

The second species we’d like you to look out for is Wireweed. It has been spotted twice in Orkney but hasn’t yet managed to become established. It can drift long distances in the current, so could easily make it to Shetland too. In Orkney it was found in the ‘wild’ rather than at a marina. Once established it can grow rapidly, clogging boat propellers and smothering our native animals.

GBNNSS © Crown Copyright 2009
Paul Brazier (CCW) © Crown Copyright 2009

We also don’t know if either the Orange-tipped Sea Squirt or Wireweed can survive Shetland’s wet ,windy and cold winters, so year round and year-to-year data is really important to understand how a species is establishing and spreading, particularly as the climate changes.  

For more information have a look on the NAFC Marine Centre’s webpage on non-native species here.


June Highlights

The Simmer Dim is here, days are at their longest and Shetland’s wildlife is at its busiest, feeding and looking after their young.

Keep your eyes on the sea as you may well get a view of cetaceans such as Orca and Harbour Porpoises. Harbour Seals are pupping in June and may be spotted along the coastline.

In Focus- Red-necked Phalarope

The Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) is the last breeding migrant to return to Shetland, coming back in mid-May. In a recent study by Malcolm Smith et al published in British Birds, it was found that Shetland birds along with populations in Iceland and Greenland overwinter off the coast of Ecuador and Peru and not the Arabian Sea along with the Scandinavian population as was previously thought. They are rare in the British Isles with Shetland having the vast majority of the UK population, although they are much more common in Iceland and Scandinavia.

Red-necked Phalaropes nest amongst vegetation on the shores of fresh-water lochs and are unusual in that it is the male who solely incubates the eggs and looks after the young. It is a complete role reversal with the female having the bright colours and the male looking more drab. She doesn’t bother to hang around to help, she will mate, lay the eggs and then leave the male to it whilst she goes off to find another male.

Moth of the Month- Ghost Moth

Ghost moths (Hepialus humuli) start to fly during June and July and are a common species in Britain. They are so named due to the completely white males, females however are a yellow with orange marks.

The Ghost moth is a type of swift moth which have elongated wings which they hold almost vertically against the body when at rest. The adults have no functioning mouth parts so are unable to feed. They only live a for a short time (June to early Aug) where they will mate and lay eggs. The life-cycle takes two years to complete with the larvae overwintering twice before emerging as adults.


In other news….

As they days get sunnier you are likely to spot a few butterflies flitting around the garden. Our most common species in Shetland are the Large White (Pieris brassicae), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

The Large White is currently the only resident butterfly in Shetland and are notorious for their caterpillars munching their way through your cabbages.

Both the Red Admiral and the Painted Lady are annual immigrants to the isles, sometimes seen in large numbers. They can be attracted to gardens with insect friendly planting, my chive plant seemed to be very good at attracting Painted Lady’s last year.

The Red Admirals in our garden congregated around the compost heap to eat the fruit waste so we spiked apple, orange and banana onto tree branches and were delighted with the number of Red Admirals that stopped by for a snack.


June is also the month where there are increased sightings of jellyfish. Moon jellies (Aurelia aurita) are the most commonly spotted, as they grow bigger and sometimes wind driven currents can cause them to accumulate in voes.

Copyright Kathryn Allan

Moon jellies have an interesting two-phase life cycle, alternating between living on the seabed and swimming in the water column. When in the water column these jellyfish spawn (there are male and female moon jellies) and their fertilised eggs fall to  the seabed. Once on the seabed they grow into small (1cm) polyps (which look a little like very small white sea anemones), which in January start to bud  into new jellyfish which are less than 1cm in size. Between January and June, the jellyfish continue to grow before starting to reproduce, completing their life cycle.

There are around 100 species of jellyfish living either permanently or temporarily in Shetland waters and we would love to hear from you about any jellyfish sightings you have. As ocean temperatures change it has been suggested that jellyfish may become more common. Feel free to post any pictures you may have on our Facebook page or send us as email or Facebook message.


Harbour Seals
Copyright Rob Fray

June is pupping season for our Harbour Seals, the smaller of the two seal species we have in Shetland. The Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) is known in old Shetland as ‘tang fish’ which translates to ‘seaweed fish’.

Harbour Seals give birth to a single pup which is able to swim and dive within a few hours of birth. They are suckled by the mother who produces a very fatty and nutrient rich milk which enables the pups to double their weight in the three/four weeks before weening.

Seals have been the subject of persecution in the past, especially the young Harbour Seal pups whose skins were highly priced. For this reason, seals are protected under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. This Act allowed Scottish Ministers powers to designate seal haul-out sites and protect them under the Protection of Seals (Designation of Haul-Out Sites) (Scotland) Order 2014. There are currently 47 designated seal haul-out sites in Shetland where it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturbed or harass seals.


May Highlights

There is certainly a lot more life around in Shetland at the moment, lambing is in full swing and I’ve been seeing a lot more migrant birds on the feeders and flitting around amongst the bushes in my garden. The House Sparrows and Common Starlings are singing and calling and busy building nests and I was also delighted to see four different types of bumblebee species in one day.

Around the rest of Shetland, the last of the breeding migrants such as the Arctic Terns and Red-necked Phalaropes are returning and passage migrants such as the Red-backed Shrikes and the spectacularly coloured Bluethroats will be passing through this month.

In Focus- Arctic Skuas

The Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) is a scarce relative of the more common ‘Bonxie’ (Great Skua). It is known in Shetland as ‘Skooty Alin’. They are a migrant species starting to appear in late April and into May.

They are a sleeker looking bird than the Bonxie, almost falcon like with long, dark pointed wings and a long point in the centre of their tail. They can come in two colour phases, the more common dark colour morph and scarce pale colour morph.

They are often seen swooping and diving over the sea, attacking smaller seabirds such as terns forcing them to drop their meal allowing them to steal it.

Dark Arctic Skua
Copyright Rob Fray
Pale Arctic Skua
Copyright Rob Fray

In Britain they nest only in the north and west of Scotland, normally on moorland areas close to other seabirds such as tern colonies. The most recent data for Shetland in 2017 showed there were 58 pairs recorded nesting but only 4 chicks fledged. Unfortunately, this has been the trend for many years throughout the Arctic Skua’s UK breeding range resulting in them being added to the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Moth of the Month- Silver Y

The Silver Y (Autographa gamma) is one of the few day flying moths. They are an immigrant species, starting to appear in May and seen up until October. On sunny days during southerly winds, they are sometimes seen in large numbers visiting flowers and gardens.

They get their name from the conspicuous metallic silver Y shape on the forewing.

Silver Y
Copyright Rob Fray

In other news…

The Northern Raven (Corvus corax) is the UKs largest member of the Corvid family. In Shetland dialect it is known as the ‘Corbie’. They are completely black with a metallic sheen to the feathers and a large thick bill. They are resident in Shetland where they can be seen most commonly on farmland but can also be seen in areas of Lerwick.

Northern Raven
Copyright Mike Pennington

They pair for life, nesting on sea cliffs and rocky crags. They are unusual in that they nest very early in comparison to other species with nest construction from January until early April. In 2017 the first recorded fledglings were seen on Foula on 15th May. It is assumed they nest early to coincide with food abundance which in some part may be linked with lambing season. Ravens will take live and scavenge on dead lambs making them unpopular with crofters and for which they were historically persecuted. As with all birds they are now protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which states it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird.


April Highlights

In April the days are getting longer, and signs of spring are starting to show. Spring bulbs are flowering, birds are starting to sing, and the early migrants are returning. This being Shetland however, there is still the chance of freezing weather bringing snow and winter winds ready to give our poor daffodils a battering!

In Focus- Skylark

My favourite sound of the summer is the Skylark (Alauda arvensis) singing and it is in late March into April that they really get going. We are lucky here in Shetland as they are still a very common bird but in many parts of the UK they are in decline and it is now rare to hear their song. The Shetland name for a Skylark is ‘Laverek’

Skylarks have an amazing song-flight. It can be really difficult to pick out one singing against the sky as they fly so high. This song-flight may well have evolved to attract females. The higher, longer and more spectacular the song, the more a female might be attracted. If he can sing that well for that long and avoid predators, then he should make a good dad for my chicks!

Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Rob Fray

Moth of the Month- Brindled Ochre

The Brindled Ochre (Dasypolia templi) is common in north and northeast Scotland including Shetland and Orkney.

Adult females overwinter in drystone walls and outbuildings before laying their eggs in the spring on Wild Angelica and Hogweed. Once the eggs are laid the females do not survive much past May.

Larva hatches in April-July where they stay in the host plant until pupating. Mating occurs in autumn after which the males die and the females find a spot to hide for the winter.

Due to their lifecycle, they are one of few moths in Shetland that are likely to be seen in both spring and then again in autumn.

Brindled Ochre (Dasypolia templi)
Paul Harvey

In other news…

Other highlights this month include some of our most favourite returning migrant birds.

The first Atlantic Puffin was spotted on the cliffs at Sumburgh Head on 5th April this year (2020) via the cliff cam. Webcams can be viewed here. The Puffin is one of Shetland’s most iconic birds and loved by both residents and visitors alike. The Shetland name for the Puffin is ‘Tammie Norie’.

The Great Skua is another of the early returning migrants with the first few being spotted in late March and early April. The Shetland name for the Great Skua is ‘Bonxie’ and is one of the most commonly used Shetland bird names.

Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica)
Rob Fray
Great skua (Stercorarius skua)
Rob Fray


March Highlights

It feels like we are starting to emerge out of the winter, the days are getting longer, the clocks spring forward and nature seems to be waking up. Bulbs are poking their heads above the soil and the first buds are on appearing on the bushes.

In Focus- Common frog

Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) are the only amphibian found in Shetland; they were introduced to the islands in 1895 at Brough Lodge in Fetlar with further introductions in the 1920s in Scalloway and Lerwick. Common Frogs are now present throughout the isles including Foula and Fair Isle.

March is a great time to see Common Frogs as they wake uo from their winter hibernation and start aggregating in large numbers at ponds to breed and lay their spawn. One of the best places to see them is at ‘Da Gairdens’ in Sand on the west side of Shetland mainland. The gardens are open to the public all year round and have areas of woodland, gardens and three large ponds.

Common Frogs (Rana temporaria)
at Da Gairdens

Moth of the Month- Hebrew Character

The Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothic) is a common and widespread species over the whole of the UK, and is typically the earliest moth to emerge in Shetland, being recorded in March and April. It has a distinctive black mark on the forewing which is unique amongst spring-flying moths, and it is this mark which gives the moth its name as it is shaped like the Hebrew letter ‘nun’.

In other news…..

Other highlights this month include the first Goldcrests (Regulus regulus) pausing in Shetland during their migration from further South to Scandinavia. The Goldcrest is Europe’s smallest bird, is easily recognised by its distinctive gold stripe over its crown. They are a common migrant and garden visitor where they can be seen flitting around bushes and shrubs catching small insects.

If you are lucky you may spot another of Shetland’s early passing migrants, the European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola). This scarce migrant may be seen in open areas perched on fence posts and dry stone walls. The stonechat gets its name from the noise it makes which sounds like two stones being chipped together.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
Rob Fray
Male European Stonechat
Rob Fray
Female European Stonechat
Rob Fray