Shetland Notes 6: Birds

Tonight I take my leave of the Shetland Isles with Black Guillemot’s  diving in Garthspool harbour. Stepping onto the deck of the ferry I am able begin to unravel what I have learnt from my extraordinary Shetland expedition.Almost 8 weeks criss-crossing the Isles, examining beaches, collecting Plastiglomerate, filming  animation footage and leading workshops with pupils with 14 schools. On this journey my constant yet ever changing companions have been the wonderful bird life that fills the skies and extensive coastline.

             Drawings above of a Common Gull, Raven and Skua (Bronxie) by Urafirth School Pupils

As the ferry swiftly leaves the dock and makes its passage through the Bressay Sound Arctic Terns dart across the prow of the boat and Fulmars fly down skimming  the seas surface dipping to pick up food.

IMG_1882Steaming down the east coast of the isles I focus hard on the shoreline through the mist trying to recognise some of the beaches I have collected Plastiglomerates from and lead litter investigations on with pupils from 14 schools over the last 7  weeks. The first beaches I spot are effectively the small town beaches (less thean 50m long)  there are many of them tucked in between buildings with a  small tidal range.

We soon pass by the Voxter beaches of stone and shingle then Hoswick  beach were we examined the beaches with local Sandwick School pupils, collected micro-plastics from the beach and considered the disturbing images (below) taken by a scientist Jan Andries van Franeker who carried out an autopsy on a Fulmar found locally on Shetlands south mainland.

130611-IMG_8518-Dove-Lab-SHE-2013-004-stomach-v2  Shetland-HD-Franeker-G00637

The dead Fulmar had over 9oo polystyrene beads plus small pieces of plastic and nurdles. Fulmars  feed on the surface of the sea and understandably mistake the polystyrene and plastic pellets/pieces for fish eggs. The result of eating so many piece of plastic is starvation as the bird thinks its full. Fulmars also feed the plastic to the chicks. The extreme dangers of micro plastics to bird life was central to our Close Examination workshops and was carefully explained by my workshop colleague Jane Outram the environmental officer of the Shetland Amentity & Guide at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (bird observatory). Jane has been a great bird knowledge and has been an invaluable project colleague  who has helped me to facilitate the workshops and help me  differentiate  the numerous type of  waders, gulls and .

IMG_1886

We have both been delighted and impressed by the children’s knowledge of birds while delivering the educational workshops. The Urafirth Primary Schools beautiful  illustrations used here are taken from the schools notice board which names the birds seen around their school and points out the dangers that face specific birds  like the Shag below,  from beach and marine plastic litter.

IMG_1888 (2)

Shetlanders are rightly proud of the vast aray and number  of bird and  wildlife that lives and visits the islands throughout the year. I have delighted in being able to witness this at close hand  as I criss-crossed the islands visiting beaches and schools. I have caught sight of otters cruising along the Grathspool harbour wall (Lerwick) at sunset and Red-throated Divers diving in the afternoon sunlight on Voes out west.

As MV Hrossey ploughs through the North Sea I try in vain to photograph a lone Gannet gliding  fast across the wake of the ship which is broken up by the fresh north easterly.

sea wake

As we pass by  Sumbrugh Head cloaked in cloud after  weeks of continual sunlight. I reflect on the fascinating natural beauty of Shetland and the dangers that wildlife and Birds are facing here and around the world given the increasing volume of plastics in the oceans and on the beaches.

Birdlife: (top) melted plastic rope,  (LHS) Guillemot egg on Yell,  (RHS) waders eggs increasingly exposed as nests change from muted brown to brightly  coloured

With such images in mind  I leave with an even greater determination to make work that envisages this environmental problem  in new and dramatic ways and  to stimulate  discussion and the need to act /change behaviours. I look forward to returning in September to install my work at Da Gadderie  Shetland Museum and Archives

Thanks to Creative Scotland for funding towards my animation and exhibition development work and thanks to Awards for All  and Zero Waste Scotland for funding for the educational workshops and to North Link Ferries  for help towards my travel.

CS logo 1 copy

2 thoughts on “Shetland Notes 6: Birds

  1. Well done babe, fascinating about the poystrene balls….blimey thanks for educating us and being passionate about youre project. Set some time now to make that work girl!!! Much love and speak soon Jilly x

    _____

  2. Great to see the drawings by school students! And what a graphic motivation for your project. Congratulations to all involved. I’m looking forward to the exhibition and further work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s