We were amazed to find Shetland Seabird Tours – The Noss Boat  – named & recommended in The Week magazine this summer as part of being recognised as 1 of the top 10 UK boat tours 2021 in The Guardian. Thank you to all the readers for recommending us, it means a huge amount to receive such positive, honest feedback from so many! We remain Shetland’s premier Noss Boat, the only boat run by naturalists & the longest running Noss Boat tour company. We are so delighted to showcase one of Europe’s finest wildlife spectacles with so many tourists & locals alike since we started business in 2016. If you haven’t already, as one of our original business slogans suggest: Come & experience a real gannet’s eye view – with The Noss Boat…… © SST 2016-2021

We look forward to welcoming you aboard……

We were thrilled to find out in July that we were named as 1 of the top 10 best boat tours in the UK published in The Guardian & voted for my readers. Please click on the link below to see the article.

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/jul/08/10-great-uk-boat-trips-scotland-cornall-london-chosen-by-readers

 

 

 

 

Shetland Seabird Tours – Wins 2021 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Award!

Shetland Seabird Tours today announced on Saturday morning that it has again been recognised as a Travellers’ Choice award winner for 2021 The Noss Boat. This achievement celebrates businesses that consistently deliver fantastic experiences to passengers from around the globe, having earned great traveller reviews on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year was, Shetland Seabird Tours stood out by continuously delighting its customers.
Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 Travellers’ Choice Awards,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “I know the past year has been extremely challenging for tourism businesses. What has impressed me is how businesses adapted to these challenges, implementing new cleanliness measures, adding social distancing guidelines, and utilising technology to prioritize guest safety. The Travellers’ Choice Awards highlight the places that are consistently excellent – delivering quality experiences time and time again even while navigating changing customer expectations and new ways of working. Based on a full year of reviews from customers, this award speaks to the great service and experience you provided guests in the midst of a pandemic.”

“We are delighted to be be recognised again for this award. We take trip advisor as a benchmark for good, honest feedback by our valued customers & our consistent No.1 place since we began in 2016 is testimony to our hard work & dedication in giving our passengers a top Shetland wildlife boat experience. Thank you to all our passengers. We hope to continue giving the best boat, the best wildlife experience, the best guides & the best value for money for years to come” …… Quote by ©Rebecca Nason 2021

We are delighted to be up & running with our 2021 Noss Boat Tours. We are operating within the latest covid guidelines for tour operators, so some changes have taken place to ensure the safety of all onboard. One such change is only taking smaller numbers of passengers, rather than the usual full 12 on each tour to enable more space & seating for all whilst allowing a 1 m distance between passengers from different groups. The boat, life jackets & various onboard accessories are cleaned between tours & we ask that hand sanitiser is used by all passengers before boarding our vessel. Luckily our boat is very well ventilated & an outdoor excursion such as ours enables freedom of movement & enjoyment whilst keeping within the current covid guidelines. We ask all passengers to wear face masks when embarking & disembarking our vessel & advise masks to be worn throughout the tour.

Shetland Seabird Tours – The Noss Boat – is working hard to maintain it’s high standards whilst taking operating guidelines during the covid-19 pandemic very seriously. Please note that by booking a tour with us, you are joining us at your own risk & acknowledge that we as a company & individual staff working for our company, will not be held accountable if you should contract Covid-19 following a Noss Boat Tour with us.

If you have any questions relating to our Noss Boat Tours or Covid-19 restrictions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us:

Phil Harris:   +44  (0)7767872260

Covid-19: Latest visitor information

Please see the following as written & shared by Promote Shetland  – May 12th 2021

Updated 12 May 2021

Lockdown restrictions have been eased across Scotland. Here we look at what that means if you’re planning a trip to Shetland this summer.

When can I book a trip to Shetland?

Currently you can travel to Shetland from Scotland and other parts of the UK. This includes travellers from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man.

From 17 May, Shetland, and most other island communities in Scotland, will move down to Level 1, while most of mainland Scotland will move to Level 2. Unrestricted travel will be allowed within Scotland (with the possible exception of Moray) and overnight stays with family and friends will be allowed in line with rules on indoor gatherings.

People must not travel to places in Level 0, 1, or 2 areas if they are from a Level 3 or 4 area, except for essential purposes.

As ever, the situation can change at any time, so for the latest travel updates, please refer to the Scottish Government guidelines.

For travel information to the isles, please see the NorthLink and Loganairwebsites for the latest ferry and air travel updates.

Do I need to take a Covid test before I travel?

Those travelling to Shetland and other Scottish islands are being encouraged to take lateral flow tests ahead of their visit – one three days before and one on the day. If a positive result is returned from the initial test people are encouraged to take a more sensitive PCR test before making a final decision on whether to cancel their visit.

Lateral flow tests will be free to order for anyone living in Scotland from 26 April. To find out more about this and how to order, check the Scottish Government website.

Will shops, hospitality and tourist attractions be open?

Yes, many shops, hospitality businesses and tourist attractions are already open. But, please note, some businesses and tourist attractions have decided to remain closed for the 2021 season or to operate at reduced opening hours. Most places are also reviewing their plans on an ongoing basis as the situation progresses. To avoid disappointment, we suggest you research the things you want to do and places you want to see before you get here. We also advise booking restaurants and visitor attractions in advance, where possible.

General guidance for visitors

  • Continue to wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitiser in shops and visitor attractions where it is provided.
  • Wear face coverings in all shops and on public transport. You must also wear face coverings in pubs, cafes and restaurants when not seated at your table.
  • Check notices on the doors and windows of shops, visitor attractions, cafes etc., as they may be limiting the number of people they allow in.
  • Use contactless payment in local shops as much as possible.
  • Maintain the 2 metres social distancing guidelines, although this can be reduced to 1 metre on public transport and in retail outlets and indoor and outdoor hospitality venues, where agreed risk mitigation is in place.

Although the vaccine continues to be successfully rolled out across the UK, it is still vitally important that everyone remain vigilant and follows the latest NHS guidelines.

We look forward to welcoming you back to Shetland.

We are delighted to showcase our smart new logo for the 2021 season and beyond, featuring an additional Orca combined with our original double gannet logo. We think the combo works really well and highlights two very special marine wildlife species associated with our boat tours. We hope you like it! We are of course now open for bookings for the 2021 season (April-October) ……………

We are delighted to shortly be launching a range of Shetland Seabird Tours products. Our online shop will be open soon!

In the meantime we have some stock just in which would make fabulous Christmas presents for anyone who has been on our Noss Boat or plans to take a trip out with us in 2021. Please get in touch if you’d like to place an order.

We now have the following available to purchase:

 

SST01: Dark Navy Beanies (Beechfield) with SST Logo: £15

All one size

 

SST03: Dark Navy Fruit of the Loom Classic Hoodie with SST logo: £40

Available in L , XL

 

SST04: French Navy classic Fruit of the Loom T-Shirts with SST logo: £20

Available in L, XL

 

Postage to UK: £5.       Postage Europe: £7.       Postage rest of world: £10.

Please send an email for orders to: info@shetlandseabirdtours.com

 

More coming soon….

PURPLE PROS  with OLYMPUS

Purple Sandpipers or ‘purps’ as birders affectionately call them, are gorgeous and rather enigmatic waders that are a regular feature of Shetland’s coastline in the autumn and winter months…….

Purple prose, as Wikipedia describes, is often referred to it a literal sense as “text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. Purple prose is characterized by the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors. When limited to certain passages, they may be termed purple patches or purple passages, standing out from the rest of the work. Purple prose is criticised for desaturating the meaning in an author’s text by overusing melodramatic and fanciful descriptions.

Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 1600, 1/800 sec, F5.6. with C-AF (continuous mode).

Ah, okay, my lightbulb moment of naming this post Purple Prose will hopefully not flagship the meaning of the term in a literal sense…and yes, I am the first to admit I can be a little flowery in my writing at times and stray from the point in question. But in this instance, my purple patch is the current arrival of the delightful Purple SandpiperCalidris maritima, a wader that has been migrating to & through the Shetland Islands from their high arctic breeding grounds in the last couple of weeks. The storm battered beaches, strewn with seaweeds ripped from their sandy beds, and peppered with Dunlin & Turnstone, are now joined by subtly mauve-toned birds heading south, many for the first time, to escape the harsh winter ahead – my ‘purple passage’.

Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 1600, 1/250sec, F5.6. with C-AF (continuous mode).

In fact around 7% of Britain’s Purple Sandpipers actually over-winter on Shetland, not that you would realise this when out in the field, with so many areas of suitable habitat for these waders in inaccessible remote rocky islets & geos. Many high arctic breeding waders travel a long way south for the winter, but Purple Sandpipers are not known as long distance migrants, remaining as far north as possible in the winter months. They are very conspicuous on the sandy beaches where they loosely associate with other tideline shorebirds, though less so on their favoured rocks where they become incredibly camouflaged.

When time has allowed & with social distancing not a problem on these wild Shetland beaches in November, I have enthusiastically headed out, camera on shoulder, to face the challenges of finding & then photographing the hardy, tidal zone dependant Purple Sandpipers. In the last two weeks I’ve encountered small groups from just a couple to over 20 on beaches in South mainland Shetland. Weather conditions of late, have not been pleasant to put it mildly; our neutral, overcast skies have been good but the heavy rain & very strong gales really put me off wader photography (actually any kind of photography) as I’m not too keen on sand in my face or my equipment!

Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 1600, 1/400 sec, F5.6. with C-AF (continuous mode).

High winds often put the waders off their usual feeding behaviour & with the birds on extra high alert, the opportunities to get close are minimal too. With favourable conditions however, waders here can be incredibly approachable given time and patience. Of my recent photo sessions, I ended up being no more than a couple of metres away from them as they soon lost interest in the thing on its knees in the seaweed edging towards them. With no shutter noise at all with my Olympus set up, there was a wonderful silence apart from the waders little peeping notes and the tidal flows.

Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 1600, 1/250sec, F5.6. with C-AF + TR (continuous autofocus tracking mode).

As well as being found searching for food amongst seaweed clad rocks or running the sandy tideline with other waders, Purple Sandpipers will readily take to the water as they did when I spent time with them, virtually swimming in the breakwater and effortlessly running through the foamy shallows, occasionally up to their necks. This provided me with some amazing opportunities to take images that reflected a different side to their behaviour.

Taking to the water…..Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 1600, 1/250sec, F5.6. with C-AF +TR.

Although planned photographic projects have taken a back seat this year, photography for me has in some ways been my most enjoyable for years due to changing to the Olympus mirrorless system back in January. Nature photography brings me such happiness, a strong sense of creative achievement and is a welcome mental sanctuary in a particularly anxious, chaotic world. Perhaps too, I’ve had a stronger awakening to appreciate and enjoy the environment and nature closer to home, on my very own doorstep, instead of hankering for far-flung destinations across the globe.

Purple Sandpipers are a regular feature of autumn and winter on Shetland along much of our wave-pounded rocky coastline.  I moved here in 2014, but it is only now I have found time to concentrate on finding their favoured haunts and on working with them photographically. It’s a reminder that we should take the time to appreciate what’s on our own doorstep  – I live in am amazing place and am surrounded by wildlife. I’m fortunate indeed.

Now for more on taking the shots……..

Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens and 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 1600, 1/250sec, F5.6. with C-AF.

The flexibility of the Olympus gear in the field is one of the biggest advantages for me. Walking a couple of miles along the coast to reach shorebirds with the E-M1X,  300mm f4 pro lens & 1.4 converter over my shoulder, I forget I’m even carrying anything. After time stalking through sand & seaweed bent low or on my knees whilst shooting, I feel no discomfort or physical limitations at all. With a rather weak back after years of flogging heavy gear around & with advanced osteoarthritis in my hips & knee, my ‘relatively young’ but worn out body revels in this new gear, allowing me to just keep on going, rather like a duracell battery! The only thing that halted these wader photo sessions was high tide when the birds retreated to offshore roosting spots.

Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, F6.3 with C-AF + TR.

With these wader encounters I had quality time with my subjects constantly passing me with repetitive activities and light conditions.  Subjects like this for prolonged periods enabled me, at last, a chance to try out and compare some of the exciting new modes and set ups that my mirrorless, hi-tech camera system has to offer.

You can read up on as many camera features as you like, but nothing beats getting out in the field and practising to really see what works best for you, your subject matter and style.  For bird photography, much of which is very opportunistic on Shetland outside of summer hide work, I shoot in (M) manual mode, often keeping the speed high whilst maintaining a low depth of field, usually around f5.6 to achieve my favoured out of focus, clean backdrops. Both these of course set against a manual ISO choice, depending on any given situation. I try and stay with low ISO’s but, particularly on Shetland, this is not always possible so anywhere between ISO 500-1600 is standard for me. I use Autofocus, with Continuous C-AF MF mode a favourite. However, these wader sessions gave me a chance to enjoy two other options, that of C-AF + TR tracking mode and Pro Capture.

Pro Capture (L) Mode ……Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 640, 1/1600 sec, F6.3.
Pro Capture (L) Mode. Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, F5.6.

The C-AF Tracking mode produced many good, fast, sharp hits, particularly with running tideline waders, see this purple sandpiper in action. As long as the backdrops are pretty clean and uncluttered, this feature works very well and stays glued to the subject, tracking it seamlessly without being distracted. This feature takes the pressure off the photographer tracking the subject and makes the camera do most of the work. You can also select a subject to help your autofocus tracking within the cameras customised menu. The subject list is found by navigating through the custom menu to A3 Tracking Subject. (Intelligent Subject Tracking). Up to now I have practised using the airplane mode or having the tracking subject feature turned off. BUT . . . .Olympus has just announced an exciting new ‘bird’ tracking option to be added to the list through upgraded firmware available this coming winter!  There are already options for Trains, Motorsports and Airplanes but a new Bird tracking feature is bound to send professional and amateur nature photographers alike clambering for the upgrade.

Pro Capture (L) Mode. Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 800, 1/2000 sec, F5.6.

I like to think I’m quite quick on the draw with tracking my subjects after years of practise, but there are always times when you just miss that moment, maybe the sudden unprovoked attack of one wader to another as they pass each other on the shoreline, or the sudden perfectly still, raised-head-side profile pose between frantic head-lowered feeding. The Pro Capture mode allows you the ability to capture those moments which has already gone by holding images in a buffer zone whilst you half press the shutter and follow your subjects around. What a feature, a camera that can act faster than my brain can react and take shots I would otherwise have missed!  Fully pressing the shutter from half way to full down as soon as you see the action happening captures those shots from that instant as well as the images held in buffer from before you reacted. A massive bonus, especially with action and behavioural wildlife photography. I use Pro Capture Low which allows for continuous autofocus, a must when photographing birds on the move.

P.S Card Alert: Watch out for your memory cards filling quicker than they ever have before. Is there anything worse than an incredible photographic situation and the ‘card full’ flashing on the monitor? Even with space for two cards in the camera, you are not safe in Pro Capture mode and its whopping 60 images a second capabilities.  I’ll be ordering a couple more cards to add to my day bag ……

By Rebecca Nason – November 2020

Striking a Pose. Pro Capture (L) Mode. Olympus E-M1X with M.Zuiko Digital 300mm F4 Pro Lens & 1.4 converter, hand-held. ISO 640, 1/2000 sec, F5.6.

 

I have not yet had too much opportunity to enjoy or put my new Olympus gear to the test, after switching from Nikon to Olympus at the end of January. With appalling weather in February and the world health coronavirus crisis and lockdown since…time spent behind the camera has been minimal. Plans are afoot to resurrect my garden hide set up before species other than House Sparrow and Starting start to move through as well as concentrate on more macro work in the short term at least. In the meantime, I’ve just been looking back at a couple of pre-lockdown Olympus sessions out into field on Shetland. The first early opportunity was on the westside of mainland Shetland, where, after a couple of failed attempts at approaching a very nervous Mountain Hare, I found another more confiding individual. Mountain Hare in early spring are still white, beacons against the harsh browns and dark peatlands of rural Shetland which rarely has any serious snowfall so little need for white camouflage ( or indeed any camouflage as predators are few and far between here). Given the culls of Mountain Hare on mainland UK, I think Shetland’s populations are probably the luckiest in Britain.

The upright-hoping-she-can’t-see-me approach, before settling a little lower in the heather. My first ever wildlife shot using the Olympus E-M1X with 300mm pro f4 lens & x1.4 converter hand-held. The conditions weren’t great, but I took this at ISO 640 at 1/400sec, f5.6. My initial thoughts I remember were being delighted to be able to take shots with such a lightweight set up which enabled me to nimbly move across boggy peatland to approach my subject. The set up actually felt almost toy like to hold and shoot with after lugging around my Nikon DSLR for so many years.
What a beauty…. The other immediate benefit was that I could so easily feel confident in my manual exposures (I always shoot manual) in a situation which was a little tricky with a white subject on a dark background. The ability to look through the lens and visibly watch my exposure changes and tweaks on the image in front of me – in LIVE exposure meant that when I took a shot – what I saw is exactly what I got – no need to check after or worry about over exposure (EVF).  The resultant image was as I had seen it when I took it. What a benefit.
The level of detail was astounding I thought at ISO 640 and with the 1.4 converter…..here is a similar shot to the image above but at 100%.

The changing topography of my approach to the hare meant that actually I ended up a little closer than I had intended to achieve a clean shot. In hindsight I’d have removed the 1.4 converter and given my fury subject a little more space – but in this instance I took what I could in the given opportunity. Mountain Hare are numerous and often approachable on Shetland. I can’t wait to go to a few of my hare hotspots after the lockdown finishes.

One of my first trips out with my new Olympus set up, I enthusiastically headed to the harbour in probably the worst weather conditions for some time, constant half light & drizzle. Well what better way than to dive straight into difficult photographic conditions with totaly new gear – it’s going to be a steep learning curve but I’ll start at the deep end. The seabirds I had been hoping to see weren’t around, but opportunistically, a trawler had just come into shelter from the stormy weather and a number of seals gathered around the boat, heads straining above the choppy waters….my first photo victims.

Atlantic Grey Seal  – Olympus 300mm prime f.4 pro lens. ISO 800, f5.6, 160/sec

First impressions were good, the auto-focus was fast & locked on to the seals quickly considering the movement of the water. I found ISO 800 my preferable limit before noise began to show too much and quality possibly began to be compromised. At this early session I was hesitant to hand-hold with low speeds, settling for  1/160 sec to try and freeze the seal in the relatively fluid, wild weather  – most shots of the seals at 100% did seem surprisingly sharp given the low shutter speed and low depth of field.

A regular Lerwick scene but gulls are a great way of practising various exposures and modes with new gear. If there is a sniff of bread, gulls often flock around the car and ‘hang out’ giving plenty of stationary subjects to practise on. ISO 800 f/5.6 1/100sec Olympus E-M1X with 300mm hand held.
Atlantic Grey Seal in choppy waters and low light – good results though a little grainy at 100%. ISO 1600, 1/250sec, f5.6.
ISO 1600, 1/320sec, f5.0. I love birds against ships, for the urban wildlife/natural abstract quality. Here the deep red ship worked well though at ISO 1600 there was notable grain with such a dark, one coloured, saturated background.
Taking an exposure reading from the bow of the ship. I was so impressed with the quality of the initial bright, pin sharp shots. Here an easy subject which didn’t move. ISO 1600, 1/400sec, f/5.6.

Most of my images are taken using continuous autofocus (C-AF) mode as a lot of the time I am working with birds, which are notoriously difficult to photograph as so often on the move, so a good, fast continuous AF is a real advantage to the bird photographer. Also, with so many of my images now take from a boat in the summer months and from the shore (or car!) of birds on the sea in the winter months, even slow birds are continuously moving on water, so also cry out for a good C-AF mode. Although early days, I have so far found the Olympus E-M1X coupled with 300mm f4 pro lens to be incredibly fast both with the initial lock on the subject and the subsequent tracking and focusing, getting a much higher hit rate than I had previously been used to with my DSLR.

A few days later whilst experimenting in the harbour, photographing swimming tysties (black guillemots) and dunters (Common Eider) flocks feeding close to shore, I started using a new mode which immediately grabbed by attention = the continuous autofocus tracking or CAF+TR. I was perhaps reluctant at first, having been dabbling and gaining confidence with fine results in the basic C-AF mode alongside enjoying the little AF joysticks to quickly alter my focal point and position of the bird in each frame. However I was really pleasantly surprised at the fast focus and continued tracking obtained in this new mode and the high percentage of good, sharp imagery.

Common Eider, a flock of males moving briskly through harbour waters 1/500 sec, f/7.1, ISO 800 C-AF mode hand-held.
A smart male Common Eider taken using the CAF+TR mode.. ISO 500, f/6.3 1/400sec. This mode was quick to hit onto the subject and continually track it in focus (for 80% + of the 10 shots taken) as it moved across the water at some speed.
This black guillemot was busy feeding close to shore. 1/320 sec, f/7.1, ISO1600 C-AF mode, hand-held.
Good detail obtained with fine droplet of water on the black guillemots back and tail even at ISO 1600. Image enlarged to 200%.
Poor weather conditions, a little wing blur but perfectly sharp head and body. Olympus E-M1X, 300mm ISO 800, 1/320 sec f/7.1