There are I am sure, many wonderful areas of Shetland that we didn't reach on the last trip, but one of the more obvious targets for wildlife was Hermaness. It involves a pretty long walk to reach the cliffs, and as that would have ruled Ian out from getting there, we chose to avoid it. But not this time.
It was quite a long drive from our base on the Mainland, but with fair weather along the way, it was even enjoyable just being sat waiting for the ferries, as the gannets would be diving close to the shore, and if successful, they had to avoid the attention of the bonxies waiting in the wings.
The reserve is on the northern end of Unst, and after driving right over the island, it's a case of parking up and then making the walk across the moors to the cliffs where the majority of the action is. Thankfully there are now boardwalks leading the way over the rather boggy ground and along the way, the route bisects a colony of nesting bonxies, which provides a great excuse for stopping for a rest!
And greeting us as we arrived was a puffin, who had popped up out of a burrow to welcome the new visitors.
With hindsight I should have prodded it with a tripod leg, but I didn't, and stepped on to it. The grass immediately gave way and my foot, and then leg sank into the bog, stopping halfway up my thigh. Desperate not to drop my camera in, as it was balanced on my shoulder, I had to lean back and that put my other leg in too. Great. It was vile, wet and cold.
And there was no-one nearby either. Carefully choosing a soft area to drop my camera and chuck my rucksack on to, I then tried to pull out my right leg. It was stuck. I could move my left, but it felt like I'd lose my boot if I tried any harder. What an utter pillock, I thought.
No service on my phone of course, I realised I'd have to get out without any help. Not that the others would have helped, having admitted later that they'd have taken a photo of my predicament instead!
By twisting myself over, I was able to start to pull my leg out, and by grabbing tufts of grass, I eventually unplugged myself from it, and crawled free, standing to assess the mess I had made. Both boots were full of bog-water and my trousers were covered in mud. Stylish.
This of course made the walk back delightful, having to stop every 15 mins or so to remove my boots and wring out my socks. But the strong wind blowing was now a benefit, as it helped dry out my trousers!
After rejoining the others, and they'd stopped laughing, we strolled (and squelched) back to the boardwalk to photo the bonxies for a while. Most of them seemed to be sat on eggs, but we were fairly sure some had started to hatch, judging by the sounds from the nest sites, and the actions of the parent birds. For such fearful birds, the bonxies were so gentle and tender with each other and with what was going on amongst the cotton grasses at their feet.