Puffins at Hermanesse Reserve

2023 was also a busy year, packed with activity and not much time off to update the website — so here is a summary.

The first part of the year continued with a high demand for group tours with seven one-week tours run up until May. Visitors requesting private tours also kept me busy, with more people wanting a tailored day or half-day tour to explore and hear about their special interest, or have a concise overview of the flora, fauna and geology. March Bird week was a success, and the Annual Sea Slug Census as well.

In June and July I took a break and went to England and Scotland for 6 weeks.

I flew into London, and had a few days staying at Imperial College Silwood Park, and presented an update on conservation to those on campus. Also I attended an extremely interesting conference at The Royal Society — Recovering Nature: Building on Georgina Mace’s work.

Then it was up to Inverness and a visit to the Alladale Wilderness Reserve as guest of owner Paul Lister. It was an eye opener to see what Paul is trying to achieve on a grand scale, replanting Scots pines, introducing Red Squirrel and Scottish cats.

The next point was Oban and a ferry to the Island of Tiree where I was able to stay at a small, old style stone cottage. Tiree is quite a flat island compared to most of the Scottish islands, and has only about 400 residents. There was stunning scenery, birdlife and 5,000-year-old stone age village remnants. A highlight was a day trip zodiac type by boat to the small uninhabited island of Lunga, where I saw my first Puffins.

Then the ferry back to Oban and a few days driving up the west coast stopping at villages such as Torridon, Gairloch and Applecross. Wonderful scenery to explore, and great museums.

Back to Inverness and train up to Scrabster to take the ferry to Orkney’s capital Kirkwall. Friends had kindly allowed me to stay in a small bothy on Hoy at the picturesque Rackwick Beach. A few days exploring the island, and a highlight was a walk to see The Old Man of Hoy.

Back to Orkney and exploring the stone age locations including Skara Brae and Maeshowe.

We were due to fly to Shetland; but weather cancelled the flight, so we flew to Aberdeen and had a day to look around then a night ferry up to Lerwick, capital of Shetland.

For me the highlight of the whole trip was the week on Shetland — exploring several of the islands, enjoying stunning scenery, beaches, birds and archaeology. Highlights included: the best Puffin experience on the island of Noss, sitting metres away from them; a night visit to the island of Mousa to see the Storm petrels come in at midnight; and a walk to Hermaness Reserve on Unst to see the gannet colonies, and more Puffins.

Returning to Scotland we had a week around Cairngorms, enjoying villages and walks, before returning to Sydney.

Back to Lord Howe Island in August and carry on with tours, lectures, museum, photography and research.

In September I collaborated with researchers from Wellington, New Zealand, and Melbourne Herbarium on a project to collect the island ferns to assess their taxonomic status, and carry out DNA work on these as well. We covered a lot of the island from the North Hills to Mount Gower summit.

In November I took part in more palm surveys on the summit of Mount Gower.

Bird week in November was a great success with 18 people along to enjoy the best of the birds.