Noss National Nature Reserve in Shetland is a dramatic island, uninhabited for half the year but looked after during spring and summer by two wardens who carry out research & monitoring work and ferry visitors across the sound in their little inflatable boat. Current wardens, Stacey Adlard and Katherine Snell, report on a day like no other in the Noss annual calendar.
“Most days on Noss start quietly: one of us preparing the zodiac boat for visitors, scanning the beautiful sandy beaches for wading birds, perhaps a look across the water for feeding otters; for the other a walk up the hill, through carpets of sea pinks and dive-bombing great skuas, to the spectacular seabird cliffs at the 181-metre-high Noup. This weekend was very different…
“We woke up to sunshine and a stream of people, trucks, trailers, boats, banners, flags and food. Noss Open Day, family fun and excitement, was finally here. Once all 34 staff and volunteers had arrived, the paddocks around the cottage were transformed into ‘stalls’ with marquees and bunting.
“Then the visitors came: from earnest Paramo-clad photographers to families of pirates dressed up for the day. The guided walk was so popular there appeared to be an assault taking place on Papil Hill. Shrieks of excitement at underwater critters, carried by the breeze from the marine-viewing boat; and the scavenger hunt (something pointy, something soft etc.) produced a rabbit! Spinning demonstrations, face painting, badge making and refreshments were all enjoyed by adults and children alike.
“For the wardens, the day passed in a blur of boating – ferrying visitors across the choppy sound. I don’t think we stepped on land for 5 hours! At the end of the day, the hundreds of people leaving with a smile on their face was a measure of another successful open day on Noss!”
Sometimes referred to as a seabird skyscraper, Noss is home to a fantastic array of nesting seabirds. In spring and summer, gannets, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes seem to occupy every available nook and cranny on the cliffs. Marauding great skuas which nest further inland can be seen aggressively chasing their victims. A coastal path meanders through colourful patches of flower-filled grassland and might just give you a view of a passing porpoise or otter.