An afternoon with the Tysties of Westray

I love our trips out to see the Tysties – the Black Guillemots – on Westray. They seem to enjoy sitting on the cliffs and socialising. We’ll often say, “Look, there’s a Black Guillemot”, only to say, “There are three!” and then realise there are more. Often, we have a recount and we’ll be sitting on the cliffs with nine of them, all calling with their strange flutey whistle and snaking their necks at one another.

When they fly in with a fish they’ll sit on the cliffs with it, rather than going straight into the rocky piles which conceal their nests. When I first saw them I was worried that I was cramping their style and stopping them from going in to their nests, however being there seems to have no effect. They want to wander around and display their fish to every other Black Guillemot around.

The most common fish they return with is a deep red Butterfish or Rock Gunnel, Pholis gunnellus. This time, this Tystie has come back with something else.

Black Guillemot with fish - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The fish looks less pleased than the Tystie.

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