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!
2018 Operating Dates
Sat 12th May
Sat 19th May
Group Size - maximum 8 travellers
Great White Egret
Red-backed Shrikes - 20 on one day!
Collared Flycatcher - wow!
Great Grey Shrike
Otters - lots!
Arctic Hare - lots!