Nature / Noss warden returns to isles 26 years later: ‘It feels like home’

James Farrell at Noss National Nature Reserve in 1997 and 2023. Photo: James Farrell

A NATURE reserve warden who worked in Shetland during the 1990s is visiting the isles again as he prepares to write a book about his time here.

James Farrell now lives in Brighton, but 26 years ago he took up residence as a warden in Noss.

“I’m here to come back and reconnect with the place really, and meet some old friends and colleagues,” he told Shetland News.

Farrell was interested in nature from a young age. He went on to study animal ecology at university and completed a master’s in nature conservation.

He came to Shetland after working at similar jobs in Borneo and Dumfries and Galloway.

“It’s very much the same as it was…the house itself hasn’t changed at all inside, its literally got the same sofas,” he said.

“The island as a whole is broadly the same, gannet numbers are really good. There are some other things that I’ve noticed change over the years as well.


“I think over 80 per cent of bonxies on Noss were lost to bird flu, so that’s a dramatic change.

“The kittiwakes are really, really suffering, maybe they’ll bounce back a little bit…there’s definitely some ecological changes.”

Farrell eventually left Shetland to become a conservation officer in London. He described the move as a “massive, massive change”.

“[The jobs were] really, really different but still about a love of nature I think, and about the importance of nature to people,” he said.

Farrell lives in Brighton now, at the opposite end of the country from Shetland.

“I think I missed the space, the uncrowded space,” he said of what he misses most about Shetland.

“I missed the variety because the islands are so different from one to another, everything’s incredibly variable.

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“Obviously I miss the birds but I also missed the people.

“The people are fantastic and warm and friendly… I’ve never had anything but warmth from the Shetland people.

“Coming back here in a strange way, it feels like home. I’ll certainly not be leaving it as long before I visit again.”

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