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SEABIRDS-AND-SEALS – BIG 30TH BIRTHDAY – SATURDAY 7TH MAY 2022

 
Seabirds-and-Seals celebrates 30 Years on Saturday 7th May. Anyone already booked or who books that day, will receive a £30 gift voucher to use on a future tour.  Dr Jonathan Wills, Marie, Brian and the rest of the team, would like to say a huge huge thank you to all our customers and to everyone who has supported the business over the past 30 years. If you see us at Victoria Pier on 7th May, hop aboard to join in on the 30th Celebrations!
 
We look forward to many more fabulous years, welcoming many more passengers onboard Seabird and showcasing all Lerwick’s beautiful harbour, Bressay and Noss has to offer 💓.
 
 
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Noss Boat – WiSe Scheme Accreditation March 202

WiSe Scheme Accreditation
Delighted as the NO.1 Noss Boat to receive WiSe Scheme Accreditation.

As the No.1 wildlife boat tour to Noss, we are thrilled to have received accreditation to The WiSe Scheme – the UK’s national training scheme for minimizing disturbance to marine wildlife.

As WiSe members we commit to abide by not only national and local laws on wildlife conservation and disturbance avoidance, but also the WiSe Codes of Conduct.

A few examples of our responsibilities, include slowing down to a speed of 6 knots or less when approaching cetaceans a kilometre away, limiting our encounter time with cetaceans to a maximum of 15 minutes and approaching cetaceans in a pre-determined and responsible manner.

WiSe is not an award as such – it involves attending an online course during March and over a couple of evenings to gain accreditation. We thoroughly enjoyed it, wholeheartedly recommend it and urge all other marine wildlife tour operators to do the same – more information at www.wisescheme.org

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Competition Time – Celebrating 30 Years Of Seabirds-and-Seals

Celebrate Scotland’s Year of Stories & Seabirds-and-Seals 30th Birthday Celebrations by entering our short story COMPETITION!

The competition is open to both adults and children (15 years and under) who have visited and explored Noss National Nature Reserve – on foot or by boat.

We invite you to write a short story about your adventure and potentially WIN some amazing prizes…See further below.

Please send your story (max 2,000 words) along with any pictures you wish to share, via email to: info@seabirds-and-seals.com before 24th April 2022.

Good Luck!

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Winning Stories By Adults

1st Prize:

Seabirds-and-Seals Noss Boat Gift Voucher For 2.

(This could be for 2 adults or 1 adult & 1 under 16 – winner chooses.

2nd Prize:

£50 Fjara Cafe Bar Gift Voucher – Kindly donated by Fjarå Cafe Bar

3rd Prize:

Signed Copy of ‘Seabirds and Seals’ written by founder of the business – Dr Jonathan Wills.

 

Winning Stories By Children (Aged 15rs and under)

Age 5-7:

Free Trip Aboard Seabirds-and-Seals Noss Boat With Accompanying Adult

Age 8-11:

Free Trip Aboard Seabirds-and-Seals Noss Boat With Accompanying Adult

Age 12-15:

Free Trip Aboard Seabirds-and-Seals Noss Boat With Accompanying Adult

 

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Scottish Enterprise Awards Winners 2021 – Scotland’s Best Wildlife Boat Tour Company

 

HIP-HIP-HOORAY… THE AWARDS KEEP COMING!!! 

WE HAVE BEEN VOTED: SCOTLAND’S  BEST WILDLIFE BOAT TOUR COMPANY!!!

It has been an incredibly busy few months for us, with holidays and preparing for a busy season ahead, but now time to announce our great news. The judging panel at SME Scottish Enterprise Awards, got in touch to inform us that we have been awarded winners of ‘Scotland’s Best Wildlife Boat Tour Compay’ as shown clearly in our winning logo. We are both proud to be keeping up the many awards Seabirds-and-Seals has historically received.  

Thank you to all our customers and business associates for making us well and truly the Number One boat tour to Noss as ranked on TripAdvisor. Seabirds and Seals goes from strength to strength having been founded nearly 30 years ago back in 1992. The support we have received since we took over the business back in 2017 has been incredible and we cannot wait to get back out on our Catamaran ‘Seabird’ to share our love of Noss with you – oh and there’s a 30th birthday party to enjoy too.

Given the incredible calibre of wildlife boat tour (and indeed land-based!) operators the length and breadth of Scotland, accepting this award is incredibly humbling for us. We would like to pay testament to how well the adventure and wildlife tourism sector across Scotland has coped with the pandemic, and how it has brought so many businesses together, to help each other. and share their common goals for the benefit of customers.

From the bottom of our hearts, thanks everyone!

Marie & Brian

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Highlights from our Winter Ornithological & Seabird Surveys

Winter in Shetland is not for the faint hearted but as a wildlife tour operator who keeps their boat ‘in the water’ we absolutely love it and embrace everything the days from November to February throw at us!

Whilst we offer no public sailings to Noss we are always available for charter and we are proud to provide the boat infrastructure for conducting winter ornithological and seabird surveys for Aberdeen University’s SOTEAG (Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Group) and the boat for Atlantic Grey Seal surveys for the Scottish Government conservation agency NatureScot.

At 60 degrees north our days are admittedly short, but they are action-packed and live long in the memory. The winter of 2021/22 has proved to be one of the best with Orcas, King Eiders, a White-billed Diver and scores of baby seals being the stand out moments for our skipper and crew.

Our Catamaran Seabird is now ‘out the water’ for maintenance as we prepare for an exciting 2022 Noss Boat Tour Season. We cannot wait to get back out there and share with you – our great passion for wildlife, geology, folklore, history and so much more.

Enjoy our mix of photos and keep a look out for more Noss Boat News coming soon!

 

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Bob Our Bonxie Follower

Awesome slow motion footage showing Bob – our hungry Bonxie follower.  Great Skua is known by the name Bonxie – a Shetland name of Norse origin.

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Seabirds-and-Seals Book Review – By Local Guide: Laurie Goodlad Pottinger

Seabirds-and-Seals Book Review

Written by Local Guide Laurie Goodlad Pottinger(Shetland With Lawrie).  Laurie is also one of our very knowledgeable relief crew members.  

The book that I reviewed is very fitting to an audience of would-be Shetland visitors. Recently published, it was written by Jonathan Wills who operated guided boat tours around Lerwick and Noss for over 20 years. He shares his knowledge and recollections from his time as a tour guide in this lavishly illustrated paperback.

For anyone who knows Jonathan Wills, author of Seabirds and Seals, it will come as no surprise that this book is packed with light-hearted humour, witty anecdotes and is written in an easy, conversational manner. Jonathan describes himself as ‘a ‘half-moother*’, born in Oxford to a Lerwick mother, he has chosen to live in Bressay for most of his life, raising his own family on the island. He established his tour company Seabirds-and-Seals in 1992 with his small, 24ft boat Dunter. Over the years the company grew as increasing visitors took to the water to see the wonders of wildlife just a stone’s throw from Lerwick. With growing interest in boat tours, Jonathan expanded, eventually investing in the Dunter III that he ran until 2015 when he hung up his skipper’s cap and passed the reins over to Brian and Marie Leask who now operate this popular summer tour.

Over the years, Jonathan completed over 4,000 circuits of Bressay and Noss, and this book is borne from the ‘spiel’ that he developed during this time as he guided 39,000 visitors around his little patch of home. He describes his career on Dunter as “a 24-year voyage of some 85,000 miles in all – more than three times around the world without ever being more than three miles from Victoria Pier.”

Unsurprisingly there is the odd political nuance, however, could we expect anything other from the author? The only part that almost raised my hackles was the tongue-in-cheek dig at Scalloway as Shetland’s former capital. As a Scalloway lass, rather than a toonie, I am primed to spot and react to these. Still, thankfully, they were restricted to the introduction where Jonathan discusses how Lerwick grew as a town, eventually overtaking Scalloway as the islands’ economic and legislative powerhouse.

Political nuance aside, his observational eye has given him a deep understanding of nature and the complexities of the wildlife around our shores. His observations on the evolution of the Purple Sandpipers’ migration certainly provided plenty of food for thought and offered an insight I would never have considered otherwise. I was interested in his photos and narrative about Stobister. The picture (above) showed rock debris on top of the cliffs, presumably dumped by the sea. This is interesting as we see a similar example of this on the east side of Mousa where the Great Storm of 1900 laid down a cliff-top storm beach. Perhaps Stobister’s cliff-top beach was formed in the same event – or, when “da oliks cam doon da lum” causing the folk of Stobister to pack up and leave. His grasp of the patterns of life, the birds and other wildlife, right down to the microscopic phytoplanktons’ is truly impressive and have been developed over years of close observation on his many trips around Bressay and Noss.

A few of the descriptions and observations within the book had me laugh-out-loud. A personal favourite was: “Otters have more homes than most MPs.”

These light-hearted and informative descriptions demonstrate Jonathan’s unique storytelling skills, carefully honed over many years guiding visitors. For example, he can take the Holm of Gunnista as a start point and guide the reader through an in-depth tale of Shetland’s past, using the small holm as a launch point into a historic journey of discovery. We learn about how Shetland, at one stage, was wooded before the introduction of grazing animals by our Neolithic forefathers stripped the land bare and, how today, it is now an island of grazing sheep, punctuated by Greylag Geese. He also uses the Holm as the star in the show to explain the complex processes of peat formation. This skill of being able to take a small, otherwise insignificant holm and turn it into a story of evolution and change demonstrates his real talent as an engaging storyteller.

Yet his storytelling runs much deeper, his knowledge is evident, rooted in his ability to succinctly explain complex processes such as the geological makeup of our islands’. Injections of humour add to this narrative, for example, a simple description of how ‘tangles’ at the Setter of Noss can be used to make compost explains the complexities of soil science. Jonathan says, “it’s particularly good [seaweed] when mixed in the compost heap with what comes out of the rear end of a Shetland pony.” It’s clear that his many years at sea – albeit in a radius of only a few miles from Victoria Pier – has given him a deep understanding of all the natural processes involved in our complex ecosystem.

Moving away from Bressay and Noss, Jonathan sets Shetland on the world stage, from the crash of the kelp markets following the Napoleonic Wars’ to the growth of the Dutch fishing industry that arguably funded the expansion of Amsterdam as the economic giant of the world’s trading nations.

These words of praise are not to say that I agreed with everything he said. I did raise an eyebrow (or three) when I read his sweeping statement about Viking colonisation in Shetland in the ninth century. Jonathan says: “Viking pirates laid waste to Shetland and killed or drove away most of its inhabitants.” A bold statement, and one that I’m not sure has any historical – or archaeological – basis, but, it did make me chuckle – and I would love to see the archaeological evidence. He rightly continues, and redeems himself, by acknowledging that “we’re a few PhD theses short of an answer to the mystery”. So perhaps we can allow his imagination to reign in this instance (and … until irrefutable evidence is sought!).

The book itself is filled with fantastic colour photos, detailed maps and illustrations, all interspersed with lively and reflective poetry, giving a real ‘full-dimensional’ view of Bressay and Noss, all recorded from the wheelhouse of three generations of Dunters’. And, as a fisherman’s daughter, it was with a certain sigh of relief that Jonathan commented that in an island community where fishing is the mainstay industry, it is wise not to say too much about the effects of fisheries and aquaculture on the environment. So with political feathers left unruffled, the book closed on a high after an evocative and comprehensive tour of Bressay and Noss – all from the comfort and warmth of my sofa.

Seabirds and Seals covers a few miles of Shetland’s 1,700-mile coastline, and yet it is packed with information about the area – the people, the landscape and the wildlife – as well as placing Shetland on a truly world stage. The book asks questions and throws up different ways of thinking. For example, perhaps Shetland didn’t break away from North America all those million years ago? Perhaps, just maybe, North America broke away from us and went awol? Is America the missing part of the Shetland jigsaw? Stranger things have happened – we need only to look at the current Trump-Johnson administrations to see this. I couldn’t help but marvel at Jonathan’s deep knowledge of the area and, could only imagine how vast our local understanding would be if there were 150-page companions to every part of Shetland’s coastline, presented in such detail.

Seabirds and Seals is a fantastic history of both people, place and, most importantly, the wildlife we share our shores with. So, if you want to find out how the USSR and Mikhail Gorbachev are responsible for the demise of the kittiwake in Shetland, then I suggest you buy Jonathan’s book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Seabirds and Seals and admire, and thank, Jonathan for the amount of work that has gone into researching this book to share with us.

* A sooth-moother is a local term sometimes used to describe people who move to Shetland from elsewhere. Reference to ‘sooth-moother’ describes how people get to Shetland, via the Sooth Mooth (south mouth) of Lerwick Harbour.

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Come Diving Without Getting Cold Or Wet

On our 3-hour trips only we stop off at one of our dive sites to launch our ROV mini submarine, the sites vary depending on what the wind speed and direction is.  The video footage shown below was taken a few years back when we launched our ROV mini submarine in the Orkneyman’s Cave – absolutely amazing and you can see just how clear the water is.  The underwater sights are amazing – usually find jellyfish, hydroids, starfish, deadmen’s fingers, crabs, sunstars and much more.  We sometime come across a curious seal, keep watching this short video clip and you just might spot one. 

 

The underwater viewing is most popular with all ages.