Once again, we are delighted to be running this exclusive and truly pioneering holiday for keen birders! Limited to just four lucky travellers, this trip offers you the enviable chance to enjoy some of the best birding in the country - and if any location in Britain could be said to epitomise the occurrence of rare birds during autumn migration, - it would almost certainly have to be Foula. For many years now, the island has continually hosted some of the most sought after birds like Pechora Pipit and Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, along with an impressive cast of other vagrants from east and west: Siberian Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Greater Yellowlegs, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Bobolink and Common Yellowthroat to name a few.

Siberian Thrush





Barred Warbler





Citrine Wagtail





White's Thrush





Pechora Pipit





Lanceolated Warbler

Foula lies 14 miles to the west of mainland Shetland, and although it is only three miles wide by four miles long, it boasts the second highest sea cliffs in Britain, towering at a breathtaking height of 1,220 feet along the north west cliffs. The north and west of the island is dominated by wild, remote and rugged hills and cliffs while the south and east, the area is much flatter and more fertile. With a population of only 21, it is the most remote inhabited island in Britain. Foula has not only become renowned for the quantity and quality of birds found there, but also the weather conditions they arrive in. The island seems to have the magical ability to attract rarities when nowhere else does, and regularly produces vagrants from the east - even after a north-westerly!

DAY 1 Saturday - Arrival in Shetland

Late afternoon / early evening rendezvous at the Sumburgh Hotel. After our orientation dinner we present an illustrated lecture on bird migration in Shetland.

DAY 2 Sunday - South Mainland

After breakfast, we will spend the day in the south mainland of Shetland, where we will keep in contact with other Shetland Wildlife guides in order to maximise our chances of seeing whatever exciting birds are on offer. We will check the hotel garden and surrounding fields for migrants, which at this time of year should include Willow Warbler, Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat and Redstart amongst others, before moving to Sumburgh Head where we will search the roses, thistle patches and quarries. Twite are plentiful here, and with luck we may sight cetaceans out at sea. We'll also visit Pool of Virkie, the largest expanse of inter-tidal mud in Shetland and by far the best place to see waders. Amongst the large numbers of Redshanks, Curlews, Ringed Plovers and Dunlins we may locate Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints, or maybe something rarer - autumn 2007 produced a Killdeer, a Baird's Sandpiper and two White-rumped Sandpipers here! Our itinerary will be kept as flexible as possible, but it is likely that we will visit the nutrient-rich lochs of Gards, Hillwell and Spiggie, where we will see newly-arrived wildfowl including the first returning Whooper Swans. A little further north, one of the regular King Eiders may have already returned; if so, we will endeavour to visit the area, making sure we check other migrant hotspots along the way. At this time of year, scarce migrants such as Yellow-browed Warbler, Barred Warbler, Common Rosefinch and Red-backed Shrike are likely possibilities, with the very real chance of something much rarer thrown in for good measure. Overnight at the Sumburgh Hotel.

DAY 3 Monday - Foula

After breakfast we travel north to Tingwall Airport to board our plane, each of us full of excitement and anticipation at the thought of what rarities await us. After a short fifteen-minute flight - and much to the envy of the rest of the birding nation - we arrive on the remote and magical island of Foula, the edge of the World! We'll check in to our cosy and homely guest house at Ham, which is located halfway along the eastern side of the island and just happens to be one of the best areas of Foula for migrant birds! After familiarising ourselves with the surroundings, we will check the Ham Burn and adjacent gardens for migrants and, depending on news available to us, we may take a stroll to the south of the island to look for a few more new species.

DAYS 4 To 6 Tuesday to Thursday - Foula

Every day is different on Foula, so we will be very much playing it by ear, or in our case playing it by the weather, as regards our birding activities. We would hope to cover as much of the island as possible each day, from the crofting areas and the rarity hot spot of Hametoun in the south, to the more rugged terrain in the north. With luck, we will receive a spell of easterly winds at some time during our week, and in such conditions Foula can be awash with migrant birds. Thrushes, particularly Redwings and Fieldfares, may be present in large numbers, along with species such as Brambling, Siskin, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and a number of warblers. Scarcities such as Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Icterine Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Barred Warbler are all but guaranteed in these conditions and Foula regularly attracts species such as Citrine Wagtail, Bluethroat, Richard’s Pipit, Arctic Warbler, Arctic Redpoll and Little Bunting at this time of year. The list of rarities seen on Foula in September in recent years is truly astonishing, and includes such sought-after vagrants such as Siberian Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, River Warbler, White's Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit and Blyth's Reed Warbler from the east, and Common Yellowthroat, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Bobolink and Greater Yellowlegs from the west. Foula is rivalled only by Fair Isle for its ability to attract the Shetland specialities of Lanceolated Warbler, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Pechora Pipit and Yellow-breasted Bunting, with late September being the peak time to locate one of these eastern gems. A wide variety of other species will also be on the move. In north-westerly winds, large numbers of geese, mainly Pink-footed, pass overhead, at which time Whooper Swans or an early Iceland or Glaucous Gull are possibilities. Foula is a reliable place to see both Lapland and Snow Bunting, and we should encounter small flocks of these delightful birds at various sites around the island. Even when there are few migrants elsewhere in Shetland, Foula has an uncanny knack of producing interesting birds. It is also one of the best places in the whole of Britain to find your own rarities. Who knows - maybe it will be us making the birding headlines this autumn!

DAY 7 Friday

After one last check of Ham Burn, we will leave Foula in the morning and return to mainland Shetland. For the rest of the day 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. Merlins, Sparrowhawks and Long-eared Owls can often be found sheltering at these sites too. We will gradually return south to our accommodation at Sumburgh Hotel, making strategic detours along the way to take in any exciting new migrants we may have learned of. Overnight at the Sumburgh Hotel.

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. You may however wish to consider joining our follow-on Autumn Gold holiday.

Holiday Information 2009 Operating Dates


Sat 19th Sept


Sat 26th Sept





Single Supplement






Sat 10th Oct


Sat 17th Oct


Group Size - maximum 4 travellers


Combine two holidays and receive a 5% discount per person off the total cost!

Foula Autumn Migration

19th - 26th September

+ Autumn Gold

26th September - 3rd October

Autumn Gold

3rd - 10th October

+ Foula Autumn Migration

10th - 17th October


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

Surf Scoter
Rough-legged Buzzard
Spotted Crake
Corn Crake
American Golden Plover
Baird's Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Upland Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Alpine Swift
Short-toed Lark
Shore Lark
Richard's Pipit
Olive-backed Pipit
Pechora Pipit
Citrine Wagtail
Thrush Nightingale
Siberian Rubythroat
White's Thrush
Siberian Thrush
Grey-cheeked Thrush
Black-throated Thrush
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
Lanceolated Warbler
River Warbler
Paddyfield Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Marsh Warbler
Greenish Warbler
Arctic Warbler
Pallas's Leaf Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Radde's Warbler
Dusky Warbler
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Lesser Grey Shrike
Arctic Redpoll
Common Yellowthroat
Lapland Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Rustic Bunting
Little Bunting
Yellow-breasted Bunting


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