By May, bird migration across Northern Europe is in full swing and Shetland is ideally situated to receive more than its fair share of this avian spectacle. Equally spectacular are the islands' seabird colonies - hosting over 10% of all Britain's seabirds. So join us for some fabulous birding as we island hop across Shetland, from Mainland to Out Skerries, via Unst and Fetlar.


Red-backed Shrike

Red-necked Phalarope

Scops Owl

Arctic Skua

Black Guillemot


Wood Sandpiper


Great Northern Diver


DAY 1  Saturday

Late afternoon / early evening rendezvous at Sumburgh Hotel. The hotel grounds have an enviable reputation for attracting migrants and we will be sure to check the small garden and adjacent fields after our orientation dinner. In the late evening we head north to Sandwick for an evening ferry trip across to Mousa. During the 20 minute crossing we should encounter our first Arctic and Great Skuas and Arctic Terns - all of which will have recently arrived in the islands after wintering off the coast of Africa. We will have to wait to darkness for our ultimate quarry, though, when hundreds of tiny Storm Petrels will come ashore to visit the spectacular Iron Age Broch where they will commence breeding in the next few weeks. If we are very fortunate we might even see an Otter or Harbour Porpoise. We will return to Sumburgh in the early hours of the morning.

DAY 2  Sunday

We spend the day exploring the south Mainland's many migrant hotspots to take advantage of any scarce migrants that might have arrived in the previous few days - at this time of year Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike and Wryneck are all realistic possibilities. Our first port of call will be Sumburgh Head where we will check the scant cover around the lighthouse built by the famous Stevenson family. One of the great advantages of birding in Shetland is the lack of cover - making it that much easier to unearth a skulking warbler or two, and the bushes here have held Subalpine Warbler, an overshoot from the Mediterranean, in more than one recent spring. We'll also check several nutrient rich lochs in the south Mainland. These often hold a good variety of ducks and waders on their way north to their tundra breeding grounds. Garganey and Wood Sandpiper can often be found and we will keep our eyes open for something much rarer - Lesser Yellowlegs, Black Duck and Great White Egret have been just some of the highlights of recent years. We will probably encounter a few flocks of hirundines too, and we should keep a sharp eye out among the Swallows and martins in case a rarer visitor like a Red-rumped Swallow lurks among them. We also explore Shetland's largest expanse of inter-tidal mud at the Pool of Virkie. Here we should find a good variety of Arctic-bound waders stopping off to refuel on their long journey north. Knot and Sanderling should be present in their less familiar - but more colourful - summer plumage and we must check carefully for any rarer visitors. Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 3  Monday

After a quick tour of the hotel garden to assess whether there have been any overnight arrivals we will head north head north to the central Mainland where we will hope for a few remaining winter visitors and maybe a stunning Great Northern Diver in resplendent summer plumage. Then it is on to Kergord where we will walk beneath the trees - something of a unique experience in Shetland - and hope to find a few summer migrants - Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers and Redstarts often feel more at home here than on un-vegetated headlands while Golden Orioles are annual in spring but can be frustratingly elusive. Blyth's Reed Warbler and Thrush Nightingale have also briefly held territory here in recent years. On route back to Lerwick we will check out one or two more spots that may yield an unusual migrant or two, as well as Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers and Britain's only breeding Whooper Swans. In Lerwick we will see if any migrant Iceland or Glaucous Gulls have joined the local gulls. If not we will be amply compensated by the antics of the local Grey Seals! During the afternoon we will take a spectacular cruise around the island of Noss - one of Shetland's largest and most vibrant seabird colonies. Here our skilled local boatman will manoeuvre us right in under the bustling cliffs alive with over 20,000 Gannets and 40,000 Guillemots as well as smaller numbers of Puffins, Razorbills and Kittiwakes. Although it will be hard to avert our gaze from the blur of seabird activity we should keep an eye open for any aerial migrants - both Alpine and Needle-tailed Swift have been seen cruising around the Noup of Noss! Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 4  Tuesday

Spring migration is now at its peak and we can expect new migrants to arrive daily if the weather is favourable. We will be sure, therefore, to recheck some of the sites visited in earlier days before we head up to the northern isles. After lunch we will take the short ferry crossing to Yell where we will check a few lochs that occasionally harbour migrant ducks and waders, and sheltered coastlines where Great Northern Divers occasionally spend the summer. Shetland possesses some of the highest densities of breeding waders anywhere in Britain and this will become obvious as Curlew, Snipe, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Ringed Plover seem to be everywhere. We should remain alert, though, as rarities have been found in even the most unlikely places on Shetland - both Black Kite and Terek Sandpiper have appeared in the middle of Yell! Following another short ferry trip we will arrive on Unst. Before heading up to our hotel we will check Easter Loch and Uyeasound. Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits often pause here on their way north and in recent years increasing numbers of Greylag Geese have bred in the area. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel.

DAY 5  Wednesday

Today we will head to Fetlar. Initially we will visit the Loch of Funzie in the hope of finding the superb and confiding Red-necked Phalarope. If we are lucky the first returning breeding birds will be back from their wintering quarters in the Arabian Gulf. The Funzie area can also be good for migrants and both Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Temminck's Stint have been found here in recent years. We should also get some excellent views of Red-throated Divers. We will also visit the breeding grounds of that other Shetland speciality the Whimbrel, where we must take care not to be dive-bombed by Arctic Skuas! The rest of the day will be spent searching bushes, sheltered valleys and sheltered bays here in the 'Garden of Shetland'. Persistence is the buzz word in Shetland - even on apparently quiet days rarities can be found and both Red-flanked Bluetail from Siberia and Common Yellowthroat from North America have put in a spring appearance on Fetlar! Late in the afternoon we will take a ferry back to Unst, where if the weather is favourable, those that wish to will be able to accompany us for some after dinner migrant watching. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel.

DAY 6  Thursday

Unst is the northernmost of the Shetland Islands and as such migrants often collect here in adverse weather - it is, after all, a long way to the next land mass! Red-backed Shrikes and Common Rosefinches often linger here for several days, Ospreys are annual at the trout-rich Loch of Cliff and Spotted Crakes can be heard calling at one or two wet mires. In recent springs Scop's Owl, Pallid Harrier and Tree Swallow have all been found in mid-May so we will spend the morning checking all the migrant haunts in the north of the island. After lunch we will head back down to the south Mainland being sure to keep in touch with other Shetland Wildlife guides so that we can make any detours necessary to find any newly arrived rare migrants. Overnight at Sumburgh.

DAY 7  Friday

Out Skerries is fabled among ornithological circles for its ability to turn up scarce and rare migrants - indeed it is second only to Fair Isle. Very few wildlife-holiday companies have visited 'Skerries' and here we have a genuine chance of finding our own rarities. As with any migrant watching we are somewhat at the mercy of the weather but if we have been fortunate to see some easterly winds during the week then we could be in for a real treat - Whinchats, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Willow and Garden Warblers, Blackcaps and Tree Pipits could all be expected along with typical scarce migrants such as Red-backed Shrike, Bluethroat and Icterine Warbler. The island is rarely visited in spring but even so Dark-eyed Junco, Red-throated Pipit and Subalpine Warbler have been found in recent years. The ferry trip from Vidlin takes about an hour and a quarter and gives us our best chance of finding a Manx Shearwater. 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'll transfer you to Sumburgh airport, or make arrangements for you to travel to your onward destination in Shetland. However, you may like to join one of our follow-on holidays!


Holiday Information 2019 Operating Dates

Sat 11th May


Sat 18th May





Single Supplement





Group Size - maximum 8 travellers


White-billed Divers
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
King Eiders
American Coot
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Common Crane
Upland Sandpiper
Temminck's Stint
Kentish Plover
Red-rumped Swallow
Ring-billed Gulls
Franklin's Gull
Long-tailed Skuas
Pomarine Skuas
Golden Orioles
Paddyfield Warbler
Marsh Warblers
Icertine Warblers
Sardinian Warbler
Subalpine Warblers
Red-backed Shrikes - 20 on one day!
Collared Flycatcher - wow!
Great Grey Shrike
Arctic Redpoll
Rustic Bunting
Common Rosefinches

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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