DAY 1 Saturday - Arrival in Shetland
Late afternoon / early evening rendezvous at the Spiggie 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 the Spiggie Hotel and Lodges.
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 Spiggie
Hotel and Lodges.
DAYS 3 To 6 Monday to Thursday - Fair Isle
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 thirty minute flight, we arrive on the remote and magical island of Fair Isle. We'll check in to our cosy and homely guest house, which is located at the southern end of the island
It's hard to define a day on Fair Isle. Our day will typically start with an optional pre-breakfast walk to check for migrant arrivals. After judging the weather prospects for the day ahead we could be heading to the crofting areas in the south or exploring the sheltered 'geos' in the north - in autumn, birds have a habit of turning up anywhere on Fair Isle.
With just a sniff of the fabled east wind we can expect a wide range of common species including Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Brambling, Siskin, Twite, Mealy Redpoll and Snow Bunting. The island can also be awash with thousands of Fieldfares and Redwings. Among the commoner migrants we'll search for Richard's Pipit, Icterine, Yellow-browed and Barred Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed and Great Grey Shrike, Lapland Bunting and Common Rosefinch.
September and October are peak months for Fair Isle's rarities,
and it can be outstanding for vagrants. Specialities like Great
Snipe, Pechora, Red-throated and Olive-backed Pipit, Yellow-breasted
Bunting and Citrine Wagtail are just about annual and we have a
good chance of seeing Lanceolated, Pallas's Grasshopper, Booted,
Radde's, Dusky, Pallas's, Arctic or Greenish Warblers! An outstanding
list of vagrants has been amassed over the years - Harlequin Duck,
Baillon's Crake, Blyth's Pipit, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked
Bluetail, Brown Flycatcher, Siberian, White's, Swainson's, Eye-browed
and Black-throated Thrushes, Blyth's Reed, Paddyfield, Blackburnian
and Tennessee Warblers, Savannah Sparrow and both Pallas's Reed
and Yellow-browed Buntings. Almost anything can - and does - turn
A wide variety of other migrants will be on the move: Jack Snipe, Knot, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Common Greenshank should be encountered and southbound geese will include Pink-footed, White-fronted, Greylag and Barnacle; Glaucous and Iceland Gulls will also be passing through in small numbers and our early morning sea watches may reward us with Great Northern Divers, Storm Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters, Pomarine Skuas and maybe diminutive Little Auks heading south.
Even when there are few migrants elsewhere in Shetland, Fair Isle 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
We leave Fair Isle 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 Spiggie
Hotel, making strategic detours along the way to take in any exciting
new migrants we may have learned of. Overnight at the Spiggie 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.
Those booking the Saturday 17th - 24th September, 24th September
- 1st October, and 1st - 8th October trips may however wish to consider
joining our follow-on Autumn Gold holidays
running from 24th September - 1st October, 1st - 8th October and
8th - 15th October respectively.
2016 Operating Dates
Sat 17th Sept
Sat 24th Sept
Sat 24th Sept
Sat 1st Oct
Sat 1st Oct
Sat 8th Oct
Group Size - maximum 5 travellers
There are just too many autumn migration highlights,
but to name a few...
American Golden Plover
Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Pallas's Leaf Warbler
Lesser Grey Shrike
Chestnut eared Bunting