Flying with the birds of Noss

If you’ve made it all the way up to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands at the northern end of Scotland odds are you’re there to see a bit of nature, particularly the thousands upon thousands of birds that call the islands home. Just off the coast of Lerwick are two small islands, Bressay and Noss. The latter is a national park and bird sanctuary and is accessible via ferry for folks looking to hike about as part of the bird spotting experience. The other option for birding is to take one of the boat tours around the islands. We ended up on the boat version of the tour with Seabirds and Seals.

The eastern side of Noss is essentially shear cliff faces. It is virtually impossible to reach over ground and incredibly inhospitable for most land-based animals. This makes is particularly attractive for the birds as there are very few predators. In fact, the only real threats we saw were a few bird-on-bird attacks but even those are rare. Given a space with reasonable few threats, great winds and plenty of food supplies – the ocean below is quite accommodating in that regard – the birds set up camp in force. There were thousands upon thousands of them nesting on the cliff faces.

The tour was truly a five sense experience. Sitting on top of the boat there was the taste and feel of the salt air blowing in my face. Add on the noise and smell of the birds – not necessarily wonderful, but certainly noticed –  and the awe of seeing so many in one place and it was, well, wonderful.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.