Bobby Tulloch: Obituary

Bobby Tulloch, the Shetland naturalist, became well known world- wide thanks to the wildlife television films made about him and the books he wrote or illustrated.

Born in 1929, at a croft in North Aywick on the island of Yell, he grew up by the sea; it is therefore hardly surprising that on one occasion his mother found not a teddy bear in the young Bobby's bed but a dead puffin. His old ex-whaler grandfather once had to explain to him that the cat he was worried about swimming in the sea was in fact his first otter. Years later, in the early 1980s, Bobby Tulloch helped the BBC cameraman Hugh Miles in the making of the wonderful documentary The Track of the Wild Otter, which was mostly filmed around Yell.

Yell is the second biggest of the 100 or so islands that make up the Shetland archipelago - it is low-lying, windswept, made of peat and covered in heather. For Bobby Tulloch, with his boat, it was a good central island from which to travel all round Shetland.

Tulloch left East Yell School at the age of 14 without any formal qualifications. He served his time as a baker at Mid Yell. As a young man he was never beaten in a sprint over 100 yards. He was a yachtsman, a volunteer coastguard (until a few years ago - when technological advances in communication and position-finding equipment became common - the coastguard service in Shetland depended to a large extent on local volunteers), and used his motorboat extensively to travel round Shetland in pursuit of wildlife. During National Service in the Army he was a staff sergeant in charge of a bakery in Hong Kong, and years later when a Chinese restaurant opened in Lerwick, Shetland's capital, he would order in Cantonese.

In 1964 he became Shetland's first full-time representative of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and worked for them for the next 21 years. His first claim to ornithological fame was in finding Britain's first nesting snowy owls in 1967. When the late Eric Hosking, then the only full-time bird photographer in Britain, came to take stills for the 16mm film I was making for the RSPB on the snowy owls, Tulloch put up hides for us.

Shetland boasts a list of more than 420 birds and is especially well- known for its vast colonies of cliff-nesting sea birds - about a million of them: puffins, gannets, shags, guillemots, terns, fulmars, kittiwakes and several species of gulls. Shetland is also internationally well known as a landfall for tired migrant species blown off course by easterly winds off the North Sea, while the island of Fetlar is the best colony in Britain for the rare wading bird, the red-necked phalarope and the whimbrel.

Bobby Tulloch became a proficient, self-taught photographer of birds, otters, seals, whales, fish and flowers. His pictures illustrated many books. His Bobby Tulloch's Shetland (1988) also earned him the annual Shetland literary prize. An enthusiastic headmaster commented on the superb illustrations in the book but added that the text was even better. His other books included A Guide to Shetland's Birds (1970, with Fred Hunter), A Guide to Shetland's Breeding Birds (1992), Migrations: travels of a naturalist (1991) and the illustrations for The Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Shetland Islands (1987, by Walter Scott and Richard Palmer).

Tulloch did tours of slide shows of wildlife in Shetland round the country, and even filled the Royal Festival Hall, London, doing wonders for RSPB membership recruitment. The National Trust for Scotland often invited him to lecture on cruise ships which took him to places like Norway, Spitzbergen, Iceland and the Baltic as well as around the outlying islands offshore. Later, with the company Island Holidays, he found himself as far afield as Alaska and the Falkland Islands.

He was a member of the Sullom Voe oil terminal advisory group giving the industry advice and practical help on the monitoring of sea birds and mammals. He also took it on himself to publish annual reports of bird sightings in Shetland, long before the Shetland Bird Club (of which he was later President) formalised records in the early Seventies.

An accomplished writer of poetry, Bobby Tulloch often entertained at local concerts and weddings with hilarious songs of his own writing. Later in the evening he would join in with the band playing guitar, fiddle or accordion.

He was a widower and had no children. His expertise in the natural world, and his ease at communicating with people, gave him a wide circle of friends.

Robert John Tulloch, naturalist, photographer, writer and musician: born North Aywick, Shetland 4 January 1929; married; died Lerwick 21 May 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'