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HOME Bobby Tulloch Profile
Work of Bobby Tulloch
A Yellow-headed Blackbird on the ground This Eider nested near Out Skerries Lighthouse A flock of gulls on the water and in the air
Birds Photographed in Shetland
Birds photographed in
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Spring Squill growing between some stones St. John's-wort flowers among grass. Monkey Flower growing beside a burn.
Shetland Wildflowers
Wildflowers photographed in Shetland.
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Two Otter on the rocks A Bearded Seal. A Grey Seal Bull.
Mammals Photographed in Shetland
Mammals photographed in and around Shetland.
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 The view from Ronas Hill. Unst The Island of Noss
Shetland Scenery
Scenes of life in and around Shetland.
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Kittiwake Two Barnacle Geese in profile Grey Phalarope
Wild Arctic - Birds
Birds photographed in the 'wild Arctic'.
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Oyster Plant Brook Saxifrage Tufted Saxifrage
Wild Arctic - Flowers
Wildflowers photographed in the 'wild Arctic'
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Arctic Fox Arctic Fox Arctic Fox
Wild Arctic - Mammals
Mammals photographed in the 'wild Arctic'
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The Early Years

The Early Years

‘Bobby’ to all who knew him, Robert John Tulloch was born on a croft at Aywick on the east side of the Shetland island of Yell, on 4th January 1929, the oldest of four children.  It was a significant location that was to influence his entire life, for it sparked an early interest in the natural world, which became not just his consuming passion, but subsequently his livelihood too.  You could say this marked the start of Bobby’s reputation of being in the right place at the right time, as good luck seemed to follow him!  Early childhood with his three sisters and best friend, Danny, allowed much opportunity for exploring his immediate environment, testament to that being the dead puffin he was found clutching one night as he slept peacefully!

School over, national service served both at home and in Hong Kong, Bobby returned to his home island and the baking trade, but this took on a new dimension when he and his brother-in-law bought the local bakery.  Fortunately – in hindsight – this venture lasted only a few years.  Soon after, his luck changed again.  A chance meeting with one George Waterston who looked after the Scottish interests of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, soon saw Bobby offered the job of the RSPB’s Shetland representative.  From here he never looked back as his world widened overnight; he soon turned out to be a natural communicator and his reputation spread rapidly. 

His Working Life

His Working Life

Bobby had become a keen photographer when, in 1967, accompanying a party of Swiss tourists across the island of Fetlar, he noticed one of a recent influx of Snowy Owls behaving suspiciously. Leaving the group on some pretext, he found a clutch of three eggs, the first breeding record for Britain. Once protection measures were put in place and the news was out, Bobby and the Snowy Owls were catapulted onto the world stage.

Another chance meeting, this time with world-renowned bird photographer, Eric Hosking, up to photograph the owls, ended with Bobby becoming proud owner of one of Eric’s professional telephoto lenses! This, together with skills of stalking learnt in childhood, produced memorable pictures, sometimes taken in rather unorthodox ways, such as the time he and his good friend Dennis Coutts donned a pantomime horse outfit to approach the Snowy Owls, which instantly saw through the disguise! Despite that minor setback, Bobby was soon filling venues including London’s Royal Festival Hall with his slide shows, as well as becoming a popular leader and guest lecturer on cruise ships and wildlife tours.

His parting company with the RSPB due to ill health proved only a blip in his career, which soon took a new twist as he became instrumental in setting up Island Holidays a wildlife tour company still based in Comrie, Perthshire, initially formed as a means of getting to the Falkland Islands which he visited on numerous occasions. 

Bobby's travels eventually took him further – north to Iceland, the Faroes, Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land, west to Alaska and the Pribilofs, south to the Seychelles. Naturalists visiting Shetland from all over the world would beat a path to the door of Bobby’s Mid Yell home where, with his wife Betty, hospitality was always generously forthcoming.

As in many Shetland households, music was a natural part of life, and Bobby could often be persuaded to take his fiddle off the wall and perform a tune or two. He also recorded two tape cassettes of songs he had written featuring local stories and characters, some serious, some less so. Not only that, but a tune entitled The Ornithologist was written in Bobby’s honour by a fellow musician.

Bobby's Words

Bobby's WordsBobby also proved to be a skilled writer, authoring several books, the most notable of which was his autobiographical Bobby Tulloch’s Shetland, liberally-illustrated with his photographs, which ran into several reprints. He also wrote a number of illustrated articles for various publications. Television appearances also become a part of life, and Isles of the Simmer Dim was a 50-minute BBC programme based on Bobby and his local wildlife. Hardly surprising after all this that in 1994 he was awarded an MBE in the Queens Birthday Honours List for his efforts on behalf of wildlife and its conservation.

A Proud Shetlander

A Proud ShetlanderFinally, his luck ran out and his untimely death on 21st May 1996 at the age of 67 lost us a multi-talented man who was not only fiercely proud of being a Shetlander, but truly became one of its best ambassadors.   Naturalist, photographer, writer, storyteller, boatman, musician, artist and indeed pioneer, as Bill Oddie said in his obituary in Birdwatch, “He was also one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet – the world needs such people.  It will miss him very much.”

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