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
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
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.
2019 Operating Dates
Sat 14th Sept
Sat 21st Sept
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!
American Golden Plover
Red-flanked Bluetail - wow!
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Pallas's Warblers - lots!
Yellow-broweds - lots!
Taiga Flycatcher - 2nd for UK!
White's Thrush - wow!
Swainson's Thrush - two!
Otters - lots!
Arctic Hare - lots!