Features / Yell bearded seal makes reappearance

The third sighting of a bearded seal within four years - Photos: Brydon Thomason

Hot on the heels of the remarkable appearance of a walrus just a few weeks ago in Orkney, Shetland too has been blessed with a very rare sighting of an Arctic sea mammal.

This beautiful bearded seal was first spotted and reported just under a week ago by Kevin Tulloch and the rest of the men at TBS Salmon farm in Basta Voe, in Yell.

It wasn’t until Saturday morning however that it reappeared in the same spot on the slipway, where it remained for the rest of the day.

Fortunately when Kevin called with news that it was back again I had just pulled up at the ferry terminal at Gutcher, just five minutes away. With it being such a rarity in Britain and a Saturday (and a particularly nice day too!) I promptly contacted Nature in Shetland with the news and directions and also sent word out through the local birders grapevine.


Interestingly this is the third sighting of this stunning Arctic seal in just four years. Prior to 2010 there had been just eleven records in Shetland, with only half a dozen sightings in the rest of the UK. The individual in Mid Yell Voe in 2010 remained for several weeks but the Baltasound one in 2011 was just a one day sighting.

Shetland deep inlets such as Basta Voe and Mid Yell Voe are ideal habitats for these seals as the sea bed is perfect for their foraging habits and favoured food, mollusks, clams and such like which they find on soft bottomed sea beds.

Any seal hauled out in an unusual place in Shetland is always worth a second look, especially if it’s somewhere you know you are not used to seeing a seal.

There are other seals from the Arctic that can and could again arrive on our shores such as harp, hooded and ringed seal and then of course there is walrus.

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It’s amazing that the stunner that reached Orkney recently had managed to completely circumnavigate us by first appearing in Faroe, then Orkney and then just a matter of days later it was seen on the coast of Norway. Better luck next time we hope…

Read more about Shetland Nature on their facebook page Shetland nature or follow local sightings and news at Nature in Shetland.

Brydon Thomason

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