Bearded Seal and Spectacular Sea Cliffs

Shetland has a wonderful social media network and this means that whenever something of interest appears on its shores or islands, there is a place to post the sighting, meaning that there is a good chance for others to also share all the rarities that pass.

About 6 weeks ago, a very special visitor appeared and chose to haul up in the busiest post on the island; Lerwick Harbour. It was thought that, initially, she was looking to find shelter after a pod of orca were patrolling nearby. She obviously liked the spot and has been visiting regularly ever since.

Bearded seals are usually found in the arctic regions and no one really knows how she ended up here. Bearded seals have visited Shetland shores in the past and it is thought, as soon as she has finished her moult, she will head North.

I have seen many images of her on social media and really hoped she would still be here when I returned to Shetland. Our guests were also hopeful that they would be see her. When we got a message that she had appeared on the slipway, we headed straight to Lerwick. It’s not every day you get to see such a creature!

I was not disappointed! Sitting on a slipway below a busy walkway, she looked pretty relaxed. She has become a Shetland celebrity and seems oblivious of the local interest she has generated!
She really is beautiful and those whiskers are truly stunning! It was difficult to tear ourselves away from her!

Doing a little research, I found these interesting facts about this visitor;

  • The scientific name erignathus comes from the Greek words eri and gnathos which mean “heavy jaw”. Barbatus refers to the seal’s whiskers or beard.
  • Bearded Seals belong to the “true seal” or “earless” seal family.
  • Bearded Seals have tougher skin than most other seals. This made them a highly valuable resource for the Inuit who used their skin for a wide variety of items such as shoes, dog harnesses, boat covers, tent covers, and so on.
  • Bearded Seals are the largest of the Arctic seals.
  • A Bearded Seal male’s song can be heard as far as 20 km away.
  • Although they are Arctic animals Bearded Seals avoid venturing above 80°N.
  • Bearded Seals have 4 nipples. This feature is shared only with Monk Seals. 
(source: https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/to-do/wildlife/bearded-seal)

Leaving the beardie, we headed North. The winds were picking up and we knew that Eshaness cliffs would be spectacular! On the way, we stopped to take a look at  some Whooper swans and red throated divers before stopping to take a look at a special plant on Shetland; the Oyster plant.  This pretty little blue-flowered plant survives on the rocky shores here in just a few places.

We reached Eshaness and ensured our hats were on securely … it was a tad blustery up there! These northern cliffs are truly incredible! The dark volcanic rock cliffs, with the surging aquamarine seas crashing against its base left us buzzing!

A welcome stop in the wonderful cafe up there for tea and cake and we were soon heading back after another wonderful day!