Shetland is famed throughout Europe for its large falls of autumn migrants and its ability to attract vagrants from Siberia. This unique trip - the first ever to visit the migrant hotspots of Unst, Fetlar, Whalsay and Out Skerries - offers you the chance to sample the delights and mysteries of bird migration but also the opportunity to find your own birds in some stunning and little known islands.

Red-flanked Bluetail

Lanceolated Warbler

Pechora Pipit

Olive-backed Pipit

Whites Thrush

Yellow-browed Warbler

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Arctic Redpoll

Pallid Harrier

Lesser Yellowlegs

Yellow Warbler

Swainson's Thrush

DAY 1  Saturday

Late afternoon / early evening rendezvous at Sumburgh Hotel. During our orientation dinner we will run through our planned itinerary and enthuse over the exciting prospects the week ahead holds in store. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.

DAY 2  Sunday

We will spend the day birding in the south Mainland. Our first stop will be Sumburgh Head where we will check the rose and thistle patches around the famous lighthouse built by the Stevenson family. A few new migrants here will be a sign that we are in for an exciting day and one of the great advantages of birding in Shetland is the lack of cover. Visitors are often left spellbound by the truly great views we obtain of species that are typically inveterate skulkers. When the tide is right we will visit the Pool of Virkie - the largest expanse of inter-tidal mud in the islands and by far the best spot for waders. We will need to search carefully among the Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Redshank for scarcer species like Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper and in recent Septembers 'the pool' has yielded a host of rarities including Sharp-tailed, White-rumped and Semi-palmated Sandpipers, as well as Britain's first Great Knot. Then to the nutrient-rich lochs of Gards, Hillwell and Spiggie - all of which provide sustenance for migrant wildfowl from farther north and east. If the wind has been north-westerly then geese may be on the move - both Pink-footed and Barnacles can occur in large numbers - and the first wintering Whooper Swans should have arrived. Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 3  Monday

Today we will head north to the island of Whalsay. En route we will check the coast at Nesting where we may find some freshly arrived Great-northern Divers and if we are very lucky, perhaps a King Eider or White-billed Diver, both of which have wintered here in recent years. Ours is the only wildlife company to include Whalsay in its schedule and we hope that it remains something of a well-kept secret. The islanders have a strong interest in migrants and as we check the various crofts and gardens it is likely that one or two local folk will enquire as to what we have seen - and tell us what they have! Whalsay also has Britain's most northerly golf course and we shall be sure to check this too. Among the many migrant Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and waders that frequent the fairways we may be lucky to find a Lapland or Snow Bunting, while in recent years Lanceolated Warbler, Isabelline Wheatear and Buff-breasted Sandpiper have all been found here. The main town of Symbister is always worth a look and played host to Britain's third ever Ruppell's Warbler as well as Spoonbill and Little Egret. Finally we will say goodbye to Whalsay and head back down to the Sumburgh area, making the occasional strategic stop if required to take in any exciting migrants that we may have learned of. Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 4  Tuesday

After a quick check of our favoured south Mainland haunts we will head north to Unst - Shetland's most northerly island. En route we will visit the plantations at Kergord, Voe, Vidlin and Swining. The abundance of food and shelter at these sites often encourages migrants to remain for several days, so whatever the weather, we should find some interesting birds. The commoner thrushes, warblers and finches may all be present while that tiny Siberian sprite the Yellow-browed Warbler is all but guaranteed. We have a good chance of unearthing a scarce migrant or two - perhaps a Red-breasted Flycatcher or a Barred Warbler and we must remain alert because just about anything is possible. In recent years such sought after Siberian vagrants as Arctic, Radde's and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers, and Pechora and Olive-backed Pipit have all been found. We should not just restrict our search image to Siberian vagrants either - a White-throated Sparrow from North America occurred here in late September just a few years ago. Merlins, Sparrowhawks and Long-eared Owls can often be found sheltering at these sites too. During the afternoon we will take the short ferry crossing to Yell and onward to Unst where the Baltasound Hotel will be our base for the next two nights. If time permits we will check one or two of Unst's hotspots prior to our evening meal. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel.

DAY 5  Wednesday

Unst is the northernmost of the Shetland Islands and is the first landmass that many migrants on a southerly heading will encounter. Little surprise then that it too has hosted an impressive list of rarities in recent years, including all the Shetland specialities. We shall spend the early morning checking various sheltered burns, gardens and crops in the north of the island before taking the 25 minute ferry crossing to the island of Fetlar. Fetlar is one of the most under-watched islands in the archipelago and our visit gives us another opportunity to find a rarity of our own - Isabelline Wheatear, Isabelline Shrike and Red-flanked Bluetail have been recent highlights, but we will concentrating on more than just passerines as Fetlar hosts large numbers of migrant plovers which are always worth checking for an American visitor. In the late afternoon we will return to Unst. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel.

DAY 6  Thursday

The turnover of migrants is rapid at this time of year so we will be sure to check the tiny pockets of cover in the north of Unst before heading south. On Yell we will pause at one or two sheltered voes to search for early winter visitors including Great Northern Divers, and if we are lucky a glimpse of an Otter. We will be sure to get the latest news from the Shetland Wildlife office before arriving back on Mainland so that we can plot our route back to Sumburgh via any recently arrived avian attractions. We will also visit Tresta - one of the key wintering sites for Slavonian Grebes - where we hope to find the denizens of the wintering population. Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 7  Friday

Today we head to Out Skerries - second only to Fair Isle in its ability to attract scarce migrants and vagrants. As with any migrant watching we are somewhat at the mercy of the weather but if we have been fortunate enough to have had some easterly winds during the week then this promises to be the highlight of our trip. Redwings, Song Thrushes and Fieldfares can occur in their hundreds, even thousands, and we should be sure of a good variety of warblers and chats, among which we might hope to find something a little scarcer perhaps a Common Rosefinch, Little Bunting, Red-backed Shrike or a Barred Warbler. The list of vagrants found here in recent autumns is bewildering and includes Lanceolated Warbler, Great Snipe, Citrine Wagtail and Bobolink so we will keep our fingers crossed and eyes open! The ferry trip from Vidlin takes about an hour and a quarter and sea watching from the vessel provides us with a good opportunity of seeing Great Skuas and maybe a Manx or Sooty Shearwater or a Pomarine Skua. If the sea is calm Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whales are a possibility. After what we hope will be an exhilarating day we will return to the Sumburgh Hotel for our farewell dinner. Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 8  Saturday

After breakfast we will transfer you to Sumburgh Airport or make arrangements for you to travel to your onward destination in Shetland.

Holiday Information 2019 Operating Dates

Sat 14th Sept


Sat 21st Sept





Single Supplement





Sat 21st Sept


Sat 28th Sept

Sat 28th Sept


Sat 5th Oct

Sat 5th Oct


Sat 12th Oct

Group Size - maximum 8 travellers


There are just too many autumn migration highlights, but to name a few...

American Coot - 3rd for UK!
Surf Scoter
Great Snipe
Baird's Sandpiper
American Golden Plover
Pallid Harrier
Richard's Pipits
Olive-backed Pipit
Citrine Wagtails
Red-flanked Bluetail - wow!
Lanceolated Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Paddyfield Warbler
Icterine Warblers
Barred Warblers
Booted Warbler
Arctic Warbler
Pallas's Warblers - lots!
Yellow-broweds - lots!
Woodchat Shrike
Taiga Flycatcher - 2nd for UK!
White's Thrush - wow!
Swainson's Thrush - two!
Grey-cheeked Thrush
Black-throated Thrush
Little Bunting
Rustic Bunting
Pine Bunting
Yellow-breasted Bunting
Arctic Redpoll

Otters - lots!
Killer Whales
Minke Whales
White-beaked Dolphins
White-sided Dolphins
Risso's Dolphins
Harbour Porpoise
Grey Seals
Harbour Seals
Arctic Hare - lots!


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