Sightings and News as it happens!

We are now publishing nearly all of our latest news stories on our Facebook and Twitter pages. As well as updating the page from the office we can also update 'live' sightings from the field - e.g. Orcas, rare or scarce birds, Auroras etc. You don't need to be a Facebook or Twitter member to view but if you are, feel free to follow us. Please click HERE to visit our Facebook page or HERE for our Twitter page.

Autumn Birding 2017 - and our plans for 2018...

We have recently completed our series of 2017 autumn birding trips and Shetland (and Shetland Wildlife!) lived up to what are now very high expectations!

The birding was absolutely fantastic and unrivalled highlights for our groups and custom tours / birding extensions included a North American Black-billed Cuckoo, Siberian Thrush, White-winged Scoter, Steppe Grey Shrike, Buff-bellied Pipit, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Yellow-breasted Bunting, a fantastic arrival of Parrot Crossbills (with multiple sightings), Thrush Nightingale, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Stonechat, Arctic Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warblers, Red-throated Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, three Rustic Buntings, several Hornemann's Redpolls, several Little Buntings, Ring-necked Duck, Corncrake, two Common Cranes, White-tailed Eagle, Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, several Bluethroats, Common Rosefinches, Hawfinches, Black-throated Diver, lots of Yellow-browed Warblers, Barred Warblers, Wryneck. Short-eared and Long-eared Owls, Hen Harriers, Merlins, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Slavonian Grebe, Ring Ouzel, Lapland and Snow Buntings, Black Redstarts, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and lots of Great Northern Divers. Phew! Also regular sightings of Otters, several pods of Harbour Porpoise and some nice displays of the Aurora Borealis.

Shetland continues to be THE place to witness autumn migration in the UK and get to see some truly stunning birds in stunning settings. We have four Autumn Gold departures scheduled for 2018 :

So see the best birds with the most experienced birding guides on Shetland on the widest choice of dates - all organised for you by Shetland's ONLY award-winning wildlife holiday company. Here are a few photographic memories from the Autumn of 2017 by guests and guides...

Great Grey Shrike by Hugh Harrop Yellow-breasted Bunting by Karen Jehan Red-backed Shrike by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop


Slavonian Grebe by Hugh Harrop Curlew Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Siberian Stonechat by Hugh Harrop Black-throated Diver by Karen Jehan


Red-breasted Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Blyth's Reed Warbler by Hugh Harrop Parrot Crossbill by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop


Steppe Grey Shrike by Hugh Harrop Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop White-winged Scoter by Hugh Harrop Thrush Nightingale by Hugh Harrop


Wood Warbler by Hugh Harrop Great Spotted Woodpecker by Karen Jehan Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop Buff-bellied Pipit by Hugh Harrop


Parrot Crossbill  by Hugh Harrop Common Rosefinch by Hugh Harrop Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Black Redstart by Hugh Harrop


Common Cranes by Hugh Harrop Steppe Grey Shrike by Hugh Harrop Black-billed Cuckoo by Hugh Harrop Parrot Crossbill by Hugh Harrop


Thrush Nightingale by Hugh Harrop Hawfinch by Hugh Harrop Wryneck by Hugh Harrop Long-eared Owl by Karen Jehan


Snow Bunting by Karen Jehan Otter by Hugh Harrop Blyth's Reed Warbler by Hugh Harrop Black-billed Cuckoo by Hugh Harrop


Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop Rustic Bunting by Hugh Harrop Otters by Hugh Harrop Black-billed Cuckoo by Hugh Harrop


Shetland Spring and Summer 2017

Where have the last few months gone?! As we head towards another very busy autumn we are happy to report that our 2017 spring and summer season proved to be our busiest to date and once again all of our groups enjoyed the very best of Shetland's amazing wildlife, incredible scenery and hospitality! Our award-winning series of Ultimate Shetland and Shetland Experience trips commenced in mid-May and continued until mid-July. It is hard to choose from so many highlights but we often had incredible close encounters with Red-necked Phalaropes, enjoyed seeing several broods of Whooper Swans and naturally enjoyed all the Shetland breeding specialities like Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Whimbrels, Arctic Terns, Mountain Hares and both Common and Grey Seals. We were fortunate to once again enjoy super weather conditions for all our evening trips to the island of Mousa to see tiny Storm Petrels at the Iron Age broch. Twelve thousand pairs of 'Stormies' breed on Mousa and our night time visits were the highlight for many of our travellers. We also continued our new-style trips to the spectacular Noss seabird 'cities' aboard the wonderfully stable Solan IV with our associates at The Mousa Boat and this allowed guests amazing 'up close and personal' encounters with thousands of Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Guillemots on their breeding ledges.

We also spent plenty of time looking at the ground for a good reason - to appreciate Shetland's amazing flora! Highlights included the endemic Edmonston's Chickweed, Norwegian Sandwort, Bog Orchid (found at only a few sites in Shetland), Frog Orchid, Early Purple Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Greater and Round-leaved Sundew, Autumn Gentian and Field Gentian, Oysterplant, Small Adder's Tongue, Lesser Twayblade, Moonwort, beautiful Grass of Parnassus and the newly-discovered Shetland Monkeyflower.

As usual, a few exciting migrants made landfall and we were lucky enough to find or see Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, White-tailed Eagle, Short-toed Lark, Hoopoe, Green-winged Teal, Ring-billed Gull, several Shore Larks, Dotterels, several Common Cranes, Montagu's Harrier, Surf Scoter, Marsh Warbler, Waxwings, Icterine Warbler, Wryneck, several Red-backed Shrikes, Bluethroat, Common Rosefinches, Lapland Buntings, Osprey, Garganey and Wood Sandpipers.

The spring and summer of 2017 will also go down as yet another brilliant period for cetaceans. We had a total of seventeen (yes,seventeen!) amazing encounters with Orcas and some of the views we enjoyed of these majestic animals were truly incredible. We also saw a fantastic pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales plus White-sided Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, several Minke Whales and almost daily sightings of Harbour Porpoise. Otters - one of the most sought after of our mammals - and the reason why Shetland Wildlife was born as a business back in 1992 - were seen on all trips and by every group.

For making the summer of 2017 so special, a huge 'thank you' to all our guests who not only made each trip possible, but made it so memorable. Thanks also to our friends and business associates for their part in making our trips so hugely popular and successful: Rodney, Darron and Brendon at Mousa Boat Trips, Mark, Martin, Sonja, Leah and the staff at Sumburgh Hotel and Steve and all the staff at the Baltasound Hotel.

Here are a few photographic memories from the spring and summer of 2017 by guests and guides. To read what our guests had to say about their holidays with us, please visit our TripAdvisor page HERE.

Arctic Tern by Karen Jehan Whimbrel by Tim Stenton White-tailed Eagle by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop


Puffin by Hugh Harrop Mousa at Dusk by Tim Stenton Common Crane by Hugh Harrop Osprey by Tim Stenton


Breiwick and The Drongs by Mick Durham Gannet by Hugh Harrop Eider family by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop


Gannets by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Karen Jehan Enjoying the view at Muckle Flugga by Mick Durham Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop


Semi-palmated Sandpiper by Tim Stenton Otters by Tim Stenton Orca by Hugh Harrop Gannets at Noss by Tim Stenton


Eshaness by Hugh Harrop Risso's Dolphins by Hugh Harrop Green-winged Teal by Hugh Harrop Thumbs Up after an Orca encounter by Hugh Harrop


Orca by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Oysterplant by Tim Stenton Orca by Hugh Harrop


Shore Lark by Hugh Harrop Guillemot and chick by Hugh Harrop Gannets by Dave Potter Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop


Gannet by Hugh Harrop Common Crane by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Our group watching Orcas by Hugh Harrop


Orca by Hugh Harrop White-sided Dolphins by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Otters by Tim Stenton


Black Guillemot by Karen Jehan Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Enjoying the views at Muckle Roe by Mick Durham Orcas by Christopher Teague


Hoopoe by Hugh Harrop Orcas by Hugh Harrop Otter by Dave Potter Norweigian-Sandwort by Hugh Harrop


Trip Report Southern France in Winter 17 - 23 February 2017

Read about our superb visit to southern France in February HERE. Highlights included Wallcreepers, Bonelli's Eagles, Alpine Accentors, Eagle Owl, Citril Finches, Booted Eagle, Yelkouan Shearwaters, Slender-billed Gull, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Rock Sparrow, Little Bustard, Steppe Grey Shrike, Calandra Lark, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Moustached Warbler, Penduline Tit, Crested Tit, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Stone Curlew, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo and huge numbers of Common Cranes. Bookings for our trip in February 2018 are now open - all the details are HERE.

Winter 2016 / 2017 Update

After our unrivalled series of Autumn trips we have been very busy with our Winter day trips and Up Helly Aa groups. It has been one of the best winters of late for whale and dolphin encounters and highlights have included seeing several Humpback Whales, a couple of pods of Orcas, Risso's and Common Dolphins and regular sightings of Harbour Porpoise. The birding has also been excellent with a long-staying North American Killdeer, Shetland's second-ever Rufous Turtle Dove, White-billed Diver, Kumlien's Gull, Green-winged Teal, Tundra Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese, Velvet Scoters, a good number of Waxwings, Jack Snipe, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, Hen Harriers, Merlins, Peregrines, Snow Buntings, Slavonian Grebes, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers and masses of Long-tailed Ducks. On the mammal-front we have seen Otters without fail on every single trip and we've been treated to some great views of snowy-white Mountain Hares. In late January our Up Helly Aa and Winter Wildlife groups enjoyed some fantastic wildlife during their five-day stay and were treated to a spectacular day and evening in Lerwick witnessing Up Helly Aa. In 2018 Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 27th January to Wednesday 31st January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2017 departures - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here.

Kumlien's Gull by Hugh Harrop Rainbow at Eshaness by Hugh Harrop Rufous Turtle Dove by Hugh Harrop Winter Scene by Hugh Harrop


Orca by Hugh Harrop Mountain Hare by Hugh Harrop Displaying Long-tailed Ducks by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop


Tundra Bean Geese by Hugh Harrop Killdeer by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Tim Stenton Orca by Hugh Harrop


Autumn Birding 2016 - and our plans for 2017...

We have recently completed our 2016 series of autumn birding trips. And what an autumn it turned out to be with Shetland (and Shetland Wildlife!) living up to what are now very high expectations. Undoubted and unrivalled highlight was the discovery by Judd and Hugh of Britain's first-ever Siberian Accentor) which spent a couple of days in October at Mossy Hill in the south Mainland. This bird was very much the vanguard of an unprecedented arrival into western Europe and had long been predicted as a potential vagrant to our shores. Little did we know that it would be us writing the headlines and documenting its arrival!

Other highlights for our groups included Black-faced Bunting, two Brown Shrikes, a gorgeous male Pine Bunting (found by us), Isabelline Wheatear (also found by us!), Pied Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, two Pallid Harriers, White's Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Great Snipe, Siberian Stonechat, Ortolan Bunting, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Coues's Arctic Redpoll, double figures of Little Buntings, Olive-backed Pipit and a list of warblers that can only be described as monumental: Lanceolated, Paddyfield, Booted, three Blyth's Reed, two Arctic, two Greenish, Radde's, two Dusky, two Pallas's, Barred and treble figure totals of Yellow-browed. Other good birds enjoyed by our guests included Buff-breasted Sandpiper, four Bluethroats, several Waxwings, Common Rosefinch, Hoopoe, Common Crane, several Red-backed Shrikes, Wryneck. a couple of Great Grey Shrikes, Rose-coloured Starling, several Red-breasted Flycatchers, Short-eared and Long-eared Owls, Hen Harriers, Merlins, Velvet Scoter, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Taiga Bean Goose, Osprey, Jack Snipe, Slavonian Grebe, Ring Ouzel, Lapland and Snow Buntngs, Hawfinch, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and Great Northern Divers. Also two pods of Orcas, a fantastic 'nursery' pod of 40+ Long-finned Pilot Whales, two Striped Dolphins (extremely rare in these waters), Common Dolphin, Risso's Dolphins, Minke Whales, Harbour Porpoise, almost daily sightings of Otters and several good displays of the Aurora Borealis. Oh and incredible weather with September and October both proving to be record-breaking for sunshine!

Thanks to all those who joined us - we welcomed many new faces and it was a pleasure to once again welcome back so many repeat travellers. Many of our guests were kind enough to share their experiences of travelling with us and you can read what they had to say by visiting our TripAdvisor page.

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration in the UK and get to see some truly stunning birds in stunning settings. We have four Autumn Gold departures scheduled for 2017 :

So see the best birds with the most experienced birding guides on Shetland on the widest choice of dates - all organised for you by Shetland's ONLY award-winning wildlife holiday company. Here are a few photographic memories from the Autumn of 2016 by guests and guides...

Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop Pallas's Warbler by Hugh Harrop Britain's first ever Siberian Accentor by Hugh Harrop Booted Warbler by Hugh Harrop


Little Stint by Hugh Harrop Lanceolated Warbler by Hugh Harrop Pied Wheatear by Hugh Harrop Short-eared Owl by Hugh Harrop


Desert Wheatear by Hugh Harrop Desert Wheatear watchers by Hugh Harrop Pine Bunting by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop


Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Brown Shrike by Hugh Harrop


Taiga Bean Goose by Hugh Harrop Greenish Warbler by Judd Hunt Isabelline Wheatear by Hugh Harrop Bluethroat by Hugh Harrop


Siberian Accentor by Hugh Harrop Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop Pine Bunting by Hugh Harrop Wryneck by Hugh Harrop


Ortolan Bunting by Hugh Harrop Barnacle Geese by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Pilot Whales by Judd Hunt


Siberian Accentor by Hugh Harrop Pied Wheatear by Hugh Harrop Red-backed Shrike by Hugh Harrop Hoopoe by Hugh Harrop


White's Thrush by Tony Loaring Autumn Scenery by Hugh Harrop Swainson's Thrush by Tony Loaring Red-breasted Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop


Rose-coloured Starling by Hugh Harrop JackSnipe by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Blyth's Reed Warbler by Hugh Harrop


Shetland Spring and Summer 2016

Our 2016 spring and summer season proved to be our busiest to date and once again all our groups enjoyed the very best of Shetland's amazing wildlife, incredible scenery and unique hospitality! We started our series of sell-out Ultimate Shetland and Shetland Experience trips in mid-May and continued weekly until mid-July. We often had wonderful close encounters with Red-necked Phalaropes, enjoyed seeing several broods of Whooper Swans and naturally enjoyed all the Shetland breeding specialities like Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Whimbrels, Arctic Terns, Mountain Hares and both Common and Grey Seals. We were fortunate to once again enjoy excellent weather conditions for all our evening trips to the island of Mousa to see tiny Storm Petrels at the Iron Age broch. 12,000 pairs of 'Stormies' are now thought to breed on Mousa and our night time visits were the highlight for many of our travellers. Our new-style trips to the spectacular Noss seabird 'cities' aboard the wonderfully stable Solan IV were also very popular among our guests, allowing us to get up close and personal with thousands of Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Guillemots on their breeding ledges.

We also spent plenty of time looking at the ground for a good reason - to appreciate Shetland's amazing flora! Highlights included the endemic Edmonston's Chickweed, Norwegian Sandwort, Bog Orchid (found at only three sites in Shetland), Frog Orchid, Early Purple Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Greater and Round-leaved Sundew, Autumn Gentian and Field Gentian, Oysterplant, Small Adder's Tongue, Lesser Twayblade, Moonwort and the beautiful Grass of Parnassus.

As usual, a few exciting migrants made landfall and we were lucky enough to find or see Shetland's first-ever Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Savi's Warbler, Surf Scoter, Little Egret (still very rare here!), Pectoral Sandpiper, Common Cranes, Icterine Warbler, several Red-backed Shrikes, Bluethroat, Common Rosefinch, Osprey, Garganey and a couple of Wood Sandpipers.

The spring and summer of 2016 will go down as one of the best - if not THE best - for cetaceans. We had a total of twelve amazing encounters with pods of Orcas, a magnificent pod of over 250 White-sided Dolphins, a couple of pods of Risso's Dolphins, several Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphin and almost daily sightings of Harbour Porpoise. Otters - one of the most sought after of our mammals - and the reason why Shetland Wildlife was born as a business back in 1992 - were seen on all trips and by every group.

As has become traditional, our last trips of the summer season were the ever-popular series of Walk Shetland holidays. We were the first company to introduce walking holidays to Shetland back in 1999 and they were established so that our guests could explore even more of Shetland's stunning scenery. Guests joined us from as far afield as New Zealand, Canada, The Netherlands and Sweden and one of our groups saw Orcas three times during their week with us!

For making the summer of 2016 so special, a huge 'thank you' to all our guests who not only made each trip possible, but made it so memorable. Thanks also to our friends and business associates for their part in making our trips so hugely popular and successful: Garry, Alan and Jimmy at Mousa Boat Trips, Keith and the staff at Spiggie Hotel and Stephen and Iwana at the Baltasound Hotel.

Here are a few photographic memories from the spring and summer of 2016 by guests and guides. To read what our guests had to say about their holidays with us, please visit our TripAdvisor page HERE.

Arctic Skua by Hugh Harrop Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Otters by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop


Grey Seal underwater by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Divers by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Red-backed Shrike by Hugh Harrop


White-beaked Dolphin by Hugh Harrop Surf Scoter by Tim Stenton Otter by Hugh Harrop Dunlin by Hugh Harrop


Black Guillemots by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Golden Plover by Tim Stenton Mousa by Hugh Harrop


Orca by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Mick Durham Otter by Dave Potter


Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop Orca by Hugh Harrop At Hermaness, Unst by Mick Durham


Orca by Hugh Harrop Gannet underwater by Hugh Harrop Grey Seal by Dave Potter Orca by Hugh Harrop


Otter by Tim Stenton Orca by Hugh Harrop Gannet with chick by Rosalind Gray Orca by Hugh Harrop


Ringed Plover chick by Hugh Harrop Cranes by Hugh Harrop Otter by Dave Smethurst Orca by Hugh Harrop


Noss seabird city by Hugh Harrop Gannets by Frank Sandbach Orca by Hugh Harrop At the Noss cliffs by Hugh Harrop


Shag by Dave Potter Otter by Dave Potter Garganey by Hugh Harrop Oysterplant by Hugh Harrop


Winter 2015 / 2016 Update

The last few months seem to have flown by!

After our unrivalled series of Autumn trips we have been very busy with our Winter day trips and Up Helly Aa groups. It has been one of the best winters of late for birding and collective highlights for our guests have been Shetland's first-ever (and Britain's fifth) Mourning Dove (from North America), second-ever Rufous Turtle Dove (from Asia), Lesser Scaup, Black-bellied Dipper (a vagrant to these parts), Green-winged Teal, a long-staying Rough-legged Buzzard, both Taiga and Tundra Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese, Little Auks, Velvet Scoter, several Waxwings, Long-eared Owls, Jack Snipe, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, several Little Gulls, Hen Harriers, Merlins, Peregrines, Snow Buntings, Slavonian Grebes, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers and masses of Long-tailed Ducks. On the mammal-front we have seen Otters without fail on every single trip and we have been lucky enough to have had three encounters with Humpback Whales and also a pod of Orcas! Harbour Porpoise have also been seen regularly and out on the hills, we've been treated to some great views of dapper white Mountain Hares.

Humpback Whale by Hugh Harrop Bean Goose by Hugh Harrop Little Gull by Hugh Harrop Winter Sunrise by Hugh Harrop


Rough-legged Buzzard by Hugh Harrop Christmas Day Full Moon by Hugh Harrop Rufous Turtle Dove by Hugh Harrop White-fronted Goose by Hugh Harrop


Black-bellied Dipper by Hugh Harrop Long-eared Owl by Hugh Harrop Eshaness by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop


Winter Solstice Sunset by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Mountain Hare by Hugh Harrop Mourning Dove by Hugh Harrop - the first record for Shetland


Whooper Swans by Hugh Harrop Lesser Scaup by Hugh Harrop Humpback Whales by Hugh Harrop Jack Snipe by Hugh Harrop


In late January our Up Helly Aa and Winter Wildlife groups enjoyed some fantastic wildlife during their five-day stay and were treated to a spectacular day and evening in Lerwick witnessing Up Helly Aa. In 2017 Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 28th January to Wednesday 1st February. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2016 departure - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here.

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop


Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop


Autumn Birding 2015 - and our plans for 2016...

We have recently completed our series autumn birding trips. As usual, Shetland (and Shetland Wildlife) lived up to high expectations and the birding was absolutely fantastic. Unrivalled highlights for our groups included Britain's sixth-ever Thick-billed Warbler, Collared Flycatcher, Pied Wheatear (found by us!), Paddyfield Warbler, Pechora Pipit, Pallid Harrier, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Stonechat, five (!) Blyth's Reed Warblers, a flock of five Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret (only the second-ever Shetland record), Booted Warbler, Western Bonelli's Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Dusky Warbler, six Olive-backed Pipits, Long-billed Dowitcher, two American Golden Plovers, six Little Buntings, eight Richard's Pipits, Rough-legged Buzzard, two Great Grey Shrikes, Red-backed Shrike, several Red-breasted Flycatchers, six Bluethroats, Common Rosefinch, several Barred Warblers, record numbers of Yellow-browed Warblers (including over 50 in just one day!), Pomarine Skua, an excellent migration of Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese, Iceland Gull, Little Gull, Garganey, Velvet Scoter, several Jack Snipe, Short-eared Owls, Long-eared Owl, Osprey, Hen Harriers, Merlins, Ring Ouzels, Lapland Buntings and lots of Snow Buntings. Also a pod of Orcas, Risso's Dolphins, Minke Whales, almost daily sightings of Otters and several good displays of the Aurora Borealis. Phew!

Thanks to all those who joined us - we welcomed many new faces and it was a pleasure to once again welcome back so many repeat travellers. Many of our guests were kind enough to share their experiences of travelling with us and you can read what they had to say by visiting our TripAdvisor page.

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration in the UK and get to see some truly stunning birds in stunning settings. We have four Autumn Gold departures scheduled for 2016 :

So see the best birds with the most experienced birding guides on Shetland on the widest choice of dates - all organised for you by Shetland's ONLY award-winning wildlife holiday company. Here are a few photographic memories from the Autumn of 2015 by guests and guides...

Autumn Sunset by Judd Hunt Lesser Grey Shrike by Hugh Harrop Little Gull by Hugh Harrop Booted Warbler by Hugh Harrop


Collared Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Autumn Rainbow by Judd Hunt Curlew Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop


Bluethroat by Hugh Harrop Blyth's Reed Warbler by Karen Jehan Barred Warbler by Hugh Harrop Little Auk by Hugh Harrop


Convolvulus Hawk Moth by Hugh Harrop Cattle Egret by Hugh Harrop Humpback Whale by Hugh Harrop Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop


American Golden Plover by Hugh Harrop Bluethroat by Ian Fulton Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop


Barred Warbler by Tony Temple Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop Bee-eater by Hugh Harrop Mediterannean Gull by Hugh Harrop


Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop Siberian Stonechat by Hugh Harrop Autumn Sky by Judd Hunt Red-breasted Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop


Minke Whale by Hugh Harrop Velvet Scoter by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop Long-billed Dowitcher by Hugh Harrop


Short-eared Owl by Hugh Harrop Western Bonelli's Warbler by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Tony Loaring Pied Wheatear by Karen Jehan


Shetland Spring and Summer 2015

Our 2015 spring and summer season proved to be our busiest to date and all of our groups enjoyed the very best of Shetland's wildlife, scenery and hospitality! We started our series of sell-out Ultimate Shetland and Shetland Experience trips in mid May and continued every week until mid July. We often had superb encounters with Red-necked Phalaropes, enjoyed seeing several broods of Whooper Swans and naturally enjoyed all the Shetland specialities like Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Whimbrels, Arctic Terns, Mountain Hares and both Common and Grey Seals. It was one of the best years of late for Corncrake and we enjoyed seeing and hearing no less than four males in the south Mainland alone! As usual, a few exciting migrants made landfall and we were lucky enough to find or see Dark-eyed Junco, White-billed Diver, King Eider, Bluethroat, Short-toed Lark, two Ring-necked Ducks, Common Cranes, Bee-eater, Wryneck, Nightjar, Little Egret (still very rare here!), Garganey, Wood Sandpipers, Greenish Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and Green-winged Teal.

We were fortunate to enjoy excellent weather conditions for all of our trips to Mousa to see diminutive Storm Petrels at the impressive Iron Age broch. As many as 12,000 pairs of Storm Petrels are now thought to breed on Mousa and our night time visits were the highlight for many of our travellers. Our trips to the spectacular Noss seabird 'cities' aboard the comfortable Dunter III were also very popular among our guests, allowing us to get really up close and personal with thousands of Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Guillemots on their breeding ledges. Under the water proved to be just as full of life - using the onboard underwater cameras the Dunter III crew showed us an array of aquatic marine life and beamed-back incredible images of starfish, sea squirts, sponges and beautiful anemones - plus the odd inquisitive Grey Seal or two!

We also devoted plenty of time to appreciate Shetland's flora and we saw plants such as the endemic Edmonston's Chickweed, Norwegian Sandwort, Frog Orchid, Early Purple Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, Greater and Round-leaved Sundew, Autumn Gentian and Field Gentian, Oysterplant, Small Adder's Tongue, Lesser Twayblade and the beautiful Grass of Parnassus. Shetland also lived up to expectations cetacean-wise with great encounters with Orcas, Risso's Dolphins, Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoise - the latter recorded on every trip. Otters - one of the most sought after of our mammals - and THE reason why Shetland Wildlife was born as a business back in 1992 - were seen on all trips and by every group. We've said it before, but we'll say it again: getting incredible views of adults with cubs, as well as close encounters with feeding animals is something our guides excel at!

As has become traditional, our last trips of the summer season were the ever-popular series of Walk Shetland holidays. We were the first company to introduce walking holidays to Shetland back in 1999 and they were established so that our guests could explore even more of Shetland's stunning scenery. Taking in places of local and historical interest such as the chapel on St. Ninian's Isle, water mills at Huxter and archaeological remains at the Broch of Underhoull, we also made the most of our days enjoying breathtaking views from Sandness Hill and Sumburgh Head.

For making the summer of 2015 so special, a huge 'thank you' to all our guests who not only made each trip possible, but made it memorable. Thanks also to our friends and business associates for their part in making our trips so hugely popular and successful: Jonathan and crew of Dunter III at Seabirds & Seals, Alan and Gary at Mousa Boat Trips, Keith and the staff at Spiggie Hotel, Steven, Sharn and Amie at the Baltasound Hotel, and Tommy from the Auld Haa Guest House, on Fair Isle.

Here are a few photographic memories from the spring and summer of 2015 by guests and guides. To read what our guests had to say about their holidays with us, please visit our TripAdvisor page HERE

Puffin by Hugh Harrop Gannet by Mark Wilson Red-throated Divers by Hugh Harrop Guillemot by Hugh Harrop


Arctic Tern by Hugh Harrop Watching Storm Petrels at Mousa by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Otter by Mick Durham


Wood Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Little Egret by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop


Corncrake by Hugh Harrop Dark-eyed Junco by Hugh Harrop Bathing Bonxies by Hugh Harrop Orcas by Mick Durham


Sanderling by Hugh Harrop Edmonston's Chickweed by Julia Gregory Gannets by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop


White-billed Diver by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Ragged Robin by Hugh Harrop


Risso's Dolphins by Hugh Harrop Orca by Mick Durham Otter by Mick Durham Corncrake by Hugh Harrop


Otter by Mick Durham Black-tailed Godwit by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalaropes by Hugh Harrop Risso's Dolphins by Hugh Harrop


Oysterplant by Dave Potter Red Campion by Hugh Harrop Cranes by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop


Otter by Mick Durham Mousa by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpipers by Hugh Harrop Common Seal by Dave Potter


Up Helly Aa 2015 - another great success! We are now open for 2016 bookings!

In 2016 Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 23rd January - Wednesday 27th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2015 departure - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here. For a stunning selection of images from our January 2015 trip click HERE.

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

Autumn Birding 2014 - and our plans for 2015...

We have just completed our series of six autumn birding trips. As usual, Shetland (and Shetland Wildlife!) lived up to expectations and the birding was truly brilliant. Highlights for our groups included a gorgeous male Siberian Rubythroat, a stunning Myrtle Warbler, three Pallid Harriers, White's Thrush, Pechora Pipit, a putative Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Siberian Stonechat, two Arctic Warblers, Greenish Warbler, two Eastern Subalpine Warblers, Hornemann's Redpoll, , two Olive-backed Pipits, King Eider, Hoopoe, Leach's Petrel, Grey Phalarope, Rustic Bunting, Pectoral Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, at least fifteen(!) Little Buntings, three Bluethroats, Wryneck, Great Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, 'Northern' Treeceeper, at least 20 Barred Warblers, at least 70 Yellow-browed Warblers, several Red-breasted Flycatchers, Lapland Buntings, Snow Buntings, Common Rosefinches, Sooty Shearwaters, Slavonian Grebes, Peregrines, Merlins, Hen Harrier and lots of common migrants! Also several Otters, a pod of Risso's Dolphins and several encounters with Harbour Porpoise.

Thanks to all those who joined us - we welcomed many new faces and it was a pleasure to once again welcome back so many repeat travellers. Many of our guests were kind enough to share their experiences of travelling with us and you can read what they had to say by visiting our TripAdvisor page

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration in the UK and get to see some truly stunning birds in stunning settings. We have added an additional Autumn Gold departure for 2015 so we have seven trips on offer:

Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Autumn Gold

Most of our guests tend to come for two weeks (qualifying for a 5% discount off both trips) and thus the following combinations are possible:

Remember that our trips to Fair Isle are flight-inclusive (we are the only wildlife holiday business in Shetland that holds an ATOL bond) and our group size of a maximum of five guests offers the best guide-to-client ratio possible. So see the best birds with the best birders on the widest choice of dates - all organised for you by Shetland's ONLY award-winning wildlife holiday company!

Here are a few photographic memories from the Autumn of 2014 by guests and guides...

Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop Great Grey Shrike by David Fairhurst Long-eared Owl by Hugh Harrop Yellow-browed Warbler by Tony Temple


Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop Siberian Stonechat by Hugh Harrop Firecrest by Hugh Harrop


Curlew Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop Little Bunting by Ian Fulton Autumn sunset by Hugh Harrop


Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop Myrtle Warbler by Hugh Harrop Red-breasted Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop


Barred Warbler by Ian Fulton Bluethroat by Karen Jeham Common Rosefinch by Hugh Harrop Myrtle Warbler by Hugh Harrop


Pechora Pipit by Ian Fulton Northern Bullfinch by Hugh Harrop Barred Warbler by Tony Temple Siberian Rubythroat by Hugh Harrop


Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop White's Thrush by Hugh Harrop Wryneck by Hugh Harrop


Shetland Spring and Summer 2014

Our 2014 spring and summer season was our busiest and most successful yet, with all groups once again enjoying the best of Shetland's wildlife, scenery and hospitality!

Our new-style Spring migration birding trip to Fair Isle - now limited to just five travellers in order to have the highest guide-to-client ratio in the business - provided some memorable moments! We found Britain's tenth-ever Hermit Thrush from North America and also found the first-ever Glossy Ibis for Fair Isle! We also saw lots of commoner migrants, thousands of seabirds and soaked up the brilliant atmosphere that Fair Isle oozes.

Back over on mainland Shetland, we started our series of Ultimate Shetland and Shetland Experience trips in mid May which would continue every week until mid July. As usual, a few exciting migrants made landfall during the latter part of May and June and we were lucky enough to find or see Blyth's Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warblers, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Crane, Rustic Bunting, Little Bunting, Bluethroat, Garganey, Wryneck, Nightjar, Hobby, Red-backed Shrike, Common Rosefinch, Wood Sandpiper, Black Tern, Slavonian Grebes and several Snow Buntings in their resplendent stunning summer plumage.

But as usual, it was our breeding birds that always steal the show! We often had superb encounters with Red-necked Phalaropes, enjoyed seeing several broods of Whooper Swans and naturally enjoyed all the Shetland specialities like Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Whimbrels, and Arctic Terns.

Otters - one of the most sought after of our mammals - and THE reason why Shetland Wildlife was born as a business back in 1992 - were seen on all trips and by every group. We've said it before, but we'll say it again: getting incredible views of adults with cubs, as well as close encounters with feeding animals is something our guides excel at and they rarely fail! Mountain Hares were also seen on every trip; it's always a great moment to observe such a quiet and unobtrusive mammal.

Alongside our diverse fauna, we devoted plenty of time to appreciate Shetland's flora. Our May trips were dominated by the blues of Spring Squill and the vivid yellows of Marsh Marigolds giving way to a dazzling mass of Sea Pinks (Thrift) through June and into July. By mid July the white of the Bog Cotton, the pink of the Ragged Robins and the golden patches of Bog Asphodel presented us with a wonderful mosaic of colour. Unst - and in particular the Keen of Hamar - was impressive for interesting flowers and through the season we saw plants such as the endemic Edmonston's Chickweed, Norwegian Sandwort, Frog Orchid, Northern Rock-cress and Moonwort. Elsewhere we discovered new colonies of Early Marsh Orchids, Autumn Gentians and Grass of Parnassus, enjoyed seeing the exceptionally rare Bog Orchids on Yell and also paid homage to the only Greater Sundew in Shetland up in the north Mainland! And let's not forget amazing displays of the rare Oysterplant, Small Adder's Tongue and Lesser Twayblade.

Boat trips always add an element of adventure to our tours, especially the night-time (if there is such a thing here in summer!) excursion to the island of Mousa. We were fortunate to enjoy excellent weather conditions for the majority of our trips this year, with calm overcast evenings bringing in large numbers of diminutive Storm Petrels to the boulder beaches and the impressive Iron Age broch. As many as 12,000 pairs of Storm Petrels are now thought to breed on Mousa and our night time visits were the highlight for many of our travellers. Our day trips to Noss were also firm favourites! Aboard the comfortable Dunter III we were taken with skill and precision, right to the base of the spectacular seabird cliffs, allowing us to get really up close and personal with thousands of Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and cackling Guillemots on their breeding ledges. Under the water proved to be just as full of life: using the onboard underwater camera the Dunter III crew showed us an array of aquatic marine life and the camera beamed-back incredible images of starfish, sea squirts, sponges and beautiful anemones.

Cetacean-wise, Shetland also lived up to expectation! We enjoyed a couple of encounters with Orcas and also recorded Minke Whales, White-sided Dolphins, White-beaked Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins and plenty of Harbour Porpoise.

As has become traditional, our last trips of the summer season were the ever-popular series of Walk Shetland holidays. We were the first company to introduce walking holidays to Shetland back in 1999 and they were established so that our guests could explore even more of Shetland's stunning scenery. Taking in places of local and historical interest such as the chapel on St. Ninian's Isle, water mills at Huxter and archaeological remains at the Broch of Underhoull, we also made the most of our days enjoying breathtaking views from Sandness Hill and Sumburgh Head. We managed to incorporate plenty of wildlife-watching too, with excellent close views of a fishing dog Otter, and Gannets and Puffins aplenty at the incredible seabird colony at Hermaness.

For making the summer of 2014 so special, a huge 'thank you' to all our guests who not only made each trip possible, but made it memorable. Thanks also to our friends and business associates for their part in making our trips so hugely popular and successful: Jonathan and Rhuraidh of Dunter III at Seabirds & Seals, Alan and Gary at Mousa Boat Trips, Keith and the staff at Spiggie Hotel, Mark and the staff at the Sumburgh Hotel, Steven, Sharn and Kate at the Baltasound Hotel, the staff and pilots at Direct Flight, the many crew members of the inter-island ferries and the 'host-with-the-most' Tommy from the Auld Haa Guest House, on Fair Isle.

Here are a few photographic memories from the spring and summer of 2014 by guests and guides...

Arctic Terns by Tony Garr Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Karen Jehan Mousa Broch at dusk by Hugh Harrop


Gannet by Vicki Martin Photographing-Gannets at Hermaness by Carolyn Gerrard Great Northern Diver by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop


Grass of Parnassus by Hugh Harrop Puffins by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Otter by Gordon Bell


Minke Whale by Hugh Harrop Gannets by Hugh Harrop Displaying Bonxies by Hugh Harrop Norweigian Sandwort by Hugh Harrop


Gannets at Hermaness by Hugh Harrop Oystercatcher by Hugh Harrop Grey Seal by Hugh Harrop Bluethroat by Hugh Harrop


Knot by Hugh Harrop Wryneck by Hugh Harrop Great Northern Diver with crab by Hugh Harrop Edmonston's Chickweed by David Potter


Otter-by-Gordon-Bell Dahlia Anemone by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Tom Wallis Photographing Frog Orchids by Hugh Harrop


Ultimate Orkney 3 - 10 May 2014

Our 'Ultimate Orkney' week in early May 2014 once again proved fantastic! Highlights included Scottish Primrose, 'sky-dancing' Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls, Corncrake, White-billed Diver, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebes, Velvet and Common Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Garganey, masses of seabirds, Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise and Mountain hare. During the week we had a terrific walk out to the 449 foot high 'Old Man of Hoy' - one of the most iconic and stunning Orcadian landmarks- and also spent a fantastic day on the island of Westray. Plus visits to Skara Brae, Tomb of the Eagles, Standing Stones of Stenness and St. Magnus Cathedral. We'll be running the trip again in 2015 from 2 - 9 May and are now open for bookings - but book early as the trip is restricted to just 8 travellers.

Extremadura Birding: April 26 - May 2 2014

Seven days in Extremadura rewarded us with yet another haul of great birds. The varied habitats of steppe, wetland and sub-alpine habitats hosted an array of species and we were treated to some great weather. On the raptor front we recorded a staggering 18 species with the highlights being Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Bonelli's Eagle, Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Lesser Kestrels and three species of Vulture. The steppes yielded displaying Great and Little Bustards, ultra-colourful Rollers and Bee-eaters, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Short-toed, Calandra, Crested and Thekla Larks, Great Spotted Cuckoos, Spanish Sparrows and Black-eared Wheatear. Monfrague National Park and the surrounding environs offered us great views Eagle Owls, breeding Black Storks, superb views of Black Wheatear, 'gangs' of Alpine and Pallid Swifts and Rock Sparrows. A dusk visit also provided us with good views of singing Red-necked Nightjars. The 'dehesa' and cistus heathland were where we connected with the huge Western Orphean Warbler and we also had great views of its smaller cousins - Subalpine, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler. In the wet spots we found lots of Collared Pratincoles, Purple Gallinules, Little Bitterns, Purple Herons, Gull-billed Terns, Little Ringed Plovers, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Savi's and Great Reed Warblers, Common Waxbills and Red Avadavats. Other highlights included incredible views of singing Nightingales, dapper male Golden Orioles, Scop's Owls, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Tits, singing Ortolan Bunting, Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Buntings, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes and plenty of Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallows.

In 2015 we will run this very popular trip from 25 April - 2 May - all the details are here and we advise early bookings.

Golden Eagle being mobbed by a Red Kite by Judd Hunt Roller by Jeff Smith Alpine Swift by Jeff Smith Pin-tailed Sandgrouse by Jeff Smith


Lesser Kestrel by Judd Hunt title= Pallid Swifts by Judd Hunt title= The class of 2014 by Judd Hunt Black-bellied Sandgrouse by Jeff Smith


Hungary pho-tour April / May 2014 and dates announced for 2015

Our annual week-long pho-tour to eastern Hungary was yet another sell-out! A wide range of exciting species were photographed by our guests from the series of innovative hides we use on this departure.
Highlights included Rollers, Little Crakes, Pygmy Cormorants, Spoonbills, White-tailed Eagles, Red-footed Falcons, Black Storks, Hoopoes, Hawfinches, Collared Flycatchers, Nightingales. White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns, Middle-spotted and Black Woodpeckers and Turtle Dove In 2015 we will run this very popular trip from 25 April - 2 May - all the details are here and we advise early bookings. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few by guests and guides are presented below.

Kestrel by Dave Bartlett Roller by Mick Durham Nightingale by Mick Durham Red-footed Falcons by Dave Barlett


Spoonbill by Dave Bartlett Hawfinch by Dave Bartlett Black Woodpecker by Mick Durham White-tailed Eagle by Dave Bartlett


Kestrels mating by Renaud de Rosa Black-winged Stilts by Mick Durham Roller by Mick Durham Hoopoe by Mick Durham


Black-Stork by Dave Bartlett Night Heron by Mick Durham Little Crake by Robert Cave Spoonbill by Robert Cave


Finland and Norway pho-tour March 2014

Our sell-out winter pho-tour to Lapland and Arctic Norway and exclusive extension to central Finland proved to be a great success with some superb subjects on offer. Our guest house feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities once again with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak along with Arctic Redpolls, Siberian Jays and Siberian Tits. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the two 'rarer' Eiders - Kings and Steller's. Good weather allowed us to take full advantage of the sea conditions and we enjoyed a fantastic session in the new floating hide and undertook a couple of boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Our optional and exclusive extension to central Finland allowed us to photograph Wolverine, Golden Eagles, Hawk Owl, Capercaillie and Dippers. In 2015 we will run this holiday from 7 -14 March - all the details are here. As pioneers of this unique itinerary, the trip has always sold out since its inception so book early. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few are presented below and we have also created an album featuring over 50 images from the 2014 trip HERE.

 

King Eiders by David Devonport Siberian Tit by Ian Fulton Wolverine by David Devonport Capercaillie by Mick Durham

 

Pine Grosbeak by Mick Durham King Eider by Ian Fulton Golden Eagle by David Devonport Steller's Eider by David Devonport

 

King Eider by David Devonport Pine Grosbeak by David Devonport Hawk Owl by David Devonport King Eider by Antero Topp

Southern France in Winter 21 - 27 February 2014

Our annual trip to southern France rewarded us with an awesome diversity of birds including Wallcreepers, Alpine Accentors, Eagle Owl, Snow Finches. Citril Finches, Golden Eagles, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Rock Sparrows, Little Bustards, Calandra Larks, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Moustached Warblers,, Penduline Tits, Crested Tits, Slender-billed Gulls, Stone Curlews, Greater Flamingos, Black Storks, Cranes, Glossy Ibis and Booted Eagles. We'll be running the trip again next year from 20 - 26 February 2015 and are now open for bookings.. All the details are HERE.

Up Helly Aa 2014 - another great success! We are now open for 2015 bookings!

In 2015 Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 24th January - Wednesday 28th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2014 departures - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here. For a stunning selection of images from our January 2014 trip click HERE.

 

Up Helly Aa by David Potter Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

Autumn Birding 2013 - and our plans for 2014...

We have just completed our series of autumn birding trips and once again, what a great time we have had! The best-ever autumn yet? We think so! Our groups got to see Britain's second-ever Cape May Warbler, Britain's fifth-ever Thick-billed Warbler (found on one of trips by SW guides and guests!) plus Hudsonian Whimbrel, Brown Shrike, two Pechora Pipits, White's Thrush, Sykes's Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, two Lanceolated Warblers, Wilson's Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, two Western Bonelli's Warbler, two Arctic Warblers, three Blyth's Reed Warblers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Subalpine Warbler, two Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls, Two-barred Crossbill, three Olive-backed Pipits, Red-throated Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Rustic Bunting, Short-toed Lark, two Little Buntings, American Golden Plover, Dotterel, Ortolan Bunting, Ring-necked Duck, countless Yellow-browed Warblers, Barred Warblers, Bluethroat, Icterine Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Common Crane, several Red-breasted Flycatchers, several Red-backed Shrikes, Hawfinch, several Common Rosefinches plus hundreds of Snow Buntings and Lapland Buntings. Phew! On the non-avian front we found two Humpback Whales and also recorded a fantastic pod of Risso's Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, several Otters and also had incredible views of a Basking Shark - and the Aurora Borealis! Thanks to all those who joined us - we welcomed many new faces and it was a pleasure to welcome back so many repeat travellers. Many of our guests were kind enough to share there experiences of travelling with us and you can read what they had to say by visiting our TripAdvisor page HERE

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration in the UK and get to see some truly stunning birds in stunning settings. We have added an additional Autumn Gold departure for 2014 so we have six trips on offer:

Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Autumn Gold

Most of our guests tend to come for two weeks (qualifying for a 5% discount off both trips) and thus the following combinations are possible:

Remember that our trips to Fair Isle are flight-inclusive (we are the only wildlife holiday business in Shetland that holds an ATOL bond) and our group size of a maximum of five guests offers the best guide-to-client ratio possible. So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's ONLY award-winning wildlife holiday company!

Here are a few photographic memories from the Autumn of 2013 by guests and guides...

White's Thrush by SW traveller Tony Temple Birding on Unst by Judd Hunt Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop Hornemann's Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Lesser Yellowlegs by Hugh Harrop Hawfinch by Judd Hunt

 

Red-breased Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Cape May Warbler by Hugh Harrop Birding on Fair Isle by Judd Hunt White-rumped Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by SW traveller Ian Fulton Cape May Warbler by Hugh Harrop Aurora by Jon Dunn

 

Great Grey Shrike by Hugh Harrop Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop Yellow-browed Warbler by SW traveller Tony Temple

 

Eastern Subalpine Warbler by SW traveller Ian Fulton Wilson's Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Pechora Pipit by Hugh Harrop Sykes's Warbler by SW traveller Tony Temple

 

Common Rosefinch by Judd Hunt Humpback Whale by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop Britain's most northerly birders by Judd Hunt

 

Shetland Spring and Summer 2013

We say this every year but the 2013 spring and summer season was our busiest and most successful yet, with all groups enjoying the best of Shetland's wildlife, scenery and hospitality!

Our new-style Spring migration birding trip to Fair Isle - now limited to just five travellers in order to have the highest guide-to-client ratio in the business - provided some great birds including a dazzling male Collared Flycatcher, Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike, Hawfinch, thousands of seabirds and a fantastic pod of Killer Whales! Back over on mainland Shetland, we started our series of Ultimate Shetland and Shetland Experience trips in mid May which would continue every week until mid July.

As usual, a few exciting migrants made landfall during the latter part of May and June and we were lucky enough to find or see Greenish Warbler, a male Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ring-necked Duck, Marsh Warbler, Short-toed Lark, Little Bunting, American Wigeon, Temminck's Stint, Green-winged Teal, Curlew sandpipers, several Red-backed Shrikes, Icterine Warblers, Golden Orioles, Marsh Warblers, Garganey, Common Crane, Common Rosefinch, Slavonian Grebes and lots of Snow Buntings in their resplendent stunning summer plumage. Another highlight was a fantastic flock of northbound migrant Long-tailed Skuas which flew right over our heads on Unst!

But as usual, it was our breeding birds that always stole the show. We often had incredible encounters with Red-necked Phalaropes, enjoyed several broods of Whooper Swans and of course watched and enjoyed all the Shetland specialities like Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Whimbrels and Arctic Terns.

Otters - one of the most sought after of our mammals - and THE reason why Shetland Wildlife was born as a business back in 1992 - were seen on all trips and by every group. We've said it before, but we'll say it again: getting incredible views of adults with cubs, as well as close encounters with feeding animals is something our guides excel at and they rarely fail! Mountain Hares were also seen on every trip; it's always a great moment to observe such a quiet and unobtrusive mammal. But perhaps THE mammal highlight of our summer was the magnificent Bearded Seal that took up residence on the island of Yell. Most of our groups enjoyed amazing views of this fantastic animal that has been recorded in Britain on less than 20 occasions!

Alongside our diverse fauna, we devoted plenty of time to enjoy Shetland's flora enjoying everything from rare specialities such as Oysterplant and Small Adder's Tongue, to the more common wildflower displays. Unst - and in particular the Keen of Hamar - was impressive for interesting flowers and through the season we saw plants such as the endemic Edmonston's Chickweed, Norwegian Sandwort, Frog Orchid, Northern Rock-cress and Moonwort. As usual, our May trips were dominated by the blues of Spring Squill and the vivid yellows of Marsh Marigolds giving way to a dazzling mass of Sea Pinks (Thrift) through June and into July. By mid July the white of the Bog Cotton, the pink of the Ragged Robins and the golden patches of Bog Asphodel presented us with a wonderful mosaic and a true riot of colour.

Boat trips add an element of adventure to our tours, especially the night-time (if there is such a thing here in summer!) excursion to the island of Mousa. We were fortunate to enjoy excellent weather conditions for the majority of our trips this year, with calm overcast evenings bringing in large numbers of fluttering Storm Petrels to the boulder beaches and the impressive Iron Age broch. As many as 12,000 pairs of Storm Petrels are now thought to breed on Mousa and our night time visits were the highlight for many of our travellers. Our day trip to Noss is another extravaganza! Aboard the comfortable Dunter III we were taken with skill and precision, right to the base of the spectacular seabird cliffs, allowing us to get really up close and personal with thousands of Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and cackling Guillemots on their breeding ledges. Under the water proved to be just as full of life: using the onboard underwater camera the Dunter III crew showed us an array of aquatic marine life and the camera beamed-back incredible images of starfish, sea squirts and sponges - not to mention the antics of some curious seals!

We may be biased but Shetland is THE best places for seeing cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in Britain, and we were certainly not disappointed this year, with numerous sightings of Minke Whales, White-sided Dolphins, White-beaked Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, two sightings of Common Dolphins (rare in these parts) and plenty of Harbour Porpoise. We also enjoyed no less than four encounters with pods of Killer Whales, one of which lasted over six hours!

Our last trips of the summer season were the ever-popular series of Walk Shetland holidays. We were the first company to introduce walking holidays to Shetland back in 1999 and they were established so that our guests could explore even more of Shetland's stunning scenery. Taking in places of local and historical interest such as the chapel on St. Ninian's Isle, water mills at Huxter and archaeological remains at the Broch of Underhoull, we also made the most of our days enjoying breathtaking views from Sandness Hill and Sumburgh Head. We managed to incorporate plenty of wildlife-watching too, with excellent close views of a fishing dog Otter, and Gannets and Puffins aplenty at the incredible seabird colony at Hermaness.

For making the summer of 2013 so special, a huge 'thank you' to all our guests who have not only made each trip possible, but made it memorable. From Vancouver to Venice, our guests came from all corners of the World - and everywhere in between. We certainly look forward to seeing you again in the near future! Many of our guests were kind enough to share there experiences of travelling with us and you can read what they had to say by visiting our TripAdvisor page HERE.

Thanks also to our friends and business associates for their part in making our trips so hugely popular and successful: Jonathan, Tom and Iain of Dunter III at Seabirds & Seals, Alan and Gary at Mousa Boat Trips, Mark & Co at the Sumburgh Hotel, Steven, Sharn and Gabby at the Baltasound Hotel, Keith & Co at the Spiggie Hotel, the staff and pilots at Direct Flight, the many crew members of the inter-island ferries, the hosts-with-the-most Tommy, Liz and young Henry from the Auld Haa Guest House, on Fair Isle.

Here are a few photographic memories from the spring and summer of 2013 by guests and guides...


Fulmars by SW traveller Sofie Larsson Northern Rock Cress by Hugh Harrop Curlew Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop

 

Gannet and chick by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by SW traveller Mark Clay Bonxies by SW traveller Andy Crofts Otter by SW traveller David Potter

 

Grey Seals by Hugh Harrop Puffins by SW traveller Andy Crofts Otter with fish by SW traveller Maurice Lee Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop

 

Slavonian Grebe by Hugh Harrop Great Northern Diver by Hugh Harrop Common Seal by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop

 

Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Stoat by Hugh Harrop Edmonston's-Chickweed by Sofie Larsson Mountain Hare by Hugh Harrop

 

Our present to David Lindo by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop Sanderling by Hugh Harrop Bonxie by Hugh Harrop

 

Otter by SW traveller David Potter Golden Plover by SW traveller Maurice Lee Round-leaved Sundew by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop

 

Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Common Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Dog-Violet by Hugh Harrop Gannets by Hugh Harrop

 

Azure Damselfly by Hugh Harrop Otters by Hugh Harrop Frog Orchid by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop

 

Gannet by Hugh Harrop Grey Seal by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop Collared Flycatcher by Jon Dunn

 

Dusk at Hermaness by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Eider duckling by Hugh Harrop Oysterplant by Hugh Harrop

 

Bearded Seal by Hugh Harrop Garganey by Hugh Harrop Arctic Tern by Hugh Harrop Burrafirth, Unst by Hugh Harrop

 

Hungary pho-tour summary April / May 2013 and dates announced for 2014

Our annual week-long pho-tour to eastern Hungary was another sell-out! A wide range of exciting species were photographed by our guests from the series of innovative hides we use on this departure. Photographic highlights included Rollers, Pygmy Cormorants, Red-footed Falcons, Black Storks, Hoopoes, Hawfinches, Collared Flycatchers, Wryneck, White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns, White-tailed Eagle, Middle-spotted and Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers, Red-backed Shrike, Turtle Dove and Common Nightingale. In 2014 we will run this very popular trip from 25 April - 2 May - all the details are here and we advise early bookings. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few by Hugh are presented below.

 

Black Stork by Hugh Harrop Collared Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Hawfinch by Hugh Harrop Turtle Dove by Hugh Harrop

 

Wryneck by Hugh Harrop White Winged Black Tern by Hugh Harrop Red-footed Falcon by Hugh Harrop Rollers by Hugh Harrop

 

Red-footed Falcons by Hugh Harrop Rollers by Hugh Harrop White Winged Black Terns by Hugh Harrop Collared Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop

 

 

Ultimate Orkney 4 - 11 May 2013

Our 'Ultimate Orkney' week in early May 2013 once again proved fantastic! Highlights included Scottish Primrose, 'sky-dancing' Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls, White-billed Diver, Slavonian Grebes, Velvet Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Garganey and masses of seabirds. During the week we had a terrific walk out to the 449 foot high 'Old Man of Hoy' - one of the most iconic and stunning Orcadian landmarks. We'll be running the trip again in 2014 from 3 - 10 May and are now open for bookings - but book early as the trip is restricted to just 8 travellers. Read a more detailed summary of our 2013 trip and find out which tea-room was voted the best HERE.

Finland and Norway pho-tours March 2013

Our two sell-out, week-long back-to-back winter pho-tours to Finland and Arctic Norway proved yet again to be another huge success with some great subjects on offer. Our guest house feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities once again with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak along with Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Common Redpolls and plenty of Arctic Redpolls. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the two 'rarer' Eiders - Kings and Steller's. Good weather allowed us to take full advantage of the sea conditions and we managed a couple of superb sessions in the new floating hides and undertook several boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Opportunities from the boats, hides and from land allowed our travellers to secure some stunning shots! We were also treated to some great Auroras and we took full advantage of photographing it. In 2014 we will run this holiday from 8 -15 March - all the details are here. As pioneers of this unique itinerary, the trip has always sold out since its inception so book early. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few are presented below and we have also created an album featuring over 60 images from the 2013 trip HERE.

Kittiwake by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Aurora by Ken Petch Siberian Jay by Hugh Harrop

 

Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop King Eiders by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Siberian Tit by Hugh Harrop

 

Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Maurice Lee King Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

King Eider by Dave Bartlett King Eider flock by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop

 

Southern France in Winter 22 - 28 February 2013

Our annual trip to southern France rewarded us with an awesome diversity of birds including Wallcreeper, Eagle Owl, Citril Finch, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Penduline Tit, Spotted Eagle, Calandra Lark, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Crested Tit and Rock Sparrow. We'll be running the trip again next year from 21 - 27 February 2014 and are now open for bookings.. All the details are HERE and to read our 2013 trip report, click HERE

Up Helly Aa 2013 - another great success! We are now open for 2014 bookings!

In 2014 Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 25th January - Wednesday 29th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2013 departures - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here. For a gallery of pics from the 2013 festival click HERE

Waxwings, Waxwings, Waxwings!

We were blessed with excellent numbers of Waxwings arriving in to Shetland in late October and early November. Around a thousand birds have been recorded in Shetland and as usual, many appeared here in the SW HQ garden attracted to a constant supply of hips from our Rosa rugosa bushes and apples purchased from the local shop! The largest party in the garden was around 40 birds and we have had birds daily since the last week of October. Hopefully they'll stay, but Waxwings are 'irruptive' birds and are always on the move for food. Here are some images we have taken in the garden over the last week or so...

 

Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Waxwings by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop

 

Michelle, Cerys and Waxwings by Hugh Harrop Waxwings by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop

 

Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Waxwings by Hugh Harrop Waxwing by Hugh Harrop Michelle and Waxwing by Hugh Harrop

Autumn Birding 2012 - and our plans for 2013...

What an autumn! We have just completed our series of five sell-out autumn birding trips and what a great time we have had! Once again our travellers got to see an array of superb birds including eastern gems like Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated Warblers, Pechora Pipit, Paddyfield Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, several Olive-backed Pipits. Siberian Stonechat, Isabelline Shrike, Great Reed Warbler and several Little Buntings. From North America came Surf Scoter, Spotted Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and several Pectoral Sandpipers. We also enjoyed a stunning Hornemann's Redpoll plus several Red-breasted Flycatchers, Common Rosefinches, Barred Warblers, Lapland Buntings, Snow Buntings and probably no less than 50 Yellow-browed Warblers! And who can forget the absolutely amazing display of the Aurora Borealis? Thanks to all those who joined us - we welcomed many new faces and it was a pleasure to welcome back so many repeat travellers.

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration in the UK and get to see some truly stunning birds in stunning settings. So join us in 2013. Once again, we have five trips on offer:

NEW STYLE Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Autumn Gold

Most of our guests tend to come for two weeks (qualifying for a 5% discount off both trips) and thus the following combinations are possible:

In addition to the above holidays, should you wish to spend time birding or photographing with our expert guides at any time during the autumn or have a 'DIY' holiday, please e mail us with your requirements and dates. We can source accommodation for all budgets and as we are the ONLY ATOL bonded wildlife holiday company in Shetland, we'll book your flights to and from Shetland - plus any internal flights to Fair Isle, Out Skerries or Foula.

So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one and ONLY full-time professional wildlife holiday company!

Here are a few highlights of the Autumn...

 

Migrant Bramblings by Hugh Harrop Lanceolated Warbler by Tony Temple Pectoral Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Heading to Fair Isle by Hugh Harrop

 

Happy birders by Hugh Harrop Red-breasted Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Buff-bellied Pipit by Hugh Harrop Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop

 

Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop Siberian Stonechat by Hugh Harrop Watching the Lanceolated Warbler by Judd Hunt Spotted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

American Golden Plover by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop Birding in spectacular setting by Hugh Harrop

 

Pechora Pipit by Tony Temple Aurora Borealis over Voe by Brian Gray Hornemann's Redpoll by Jon Dunn Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop

New Civil Aviation Authority Regulations

From 1 October 2012 an ATOL Certificate must be provided to customers as soon as they make payment for an ATOL licensable booking. So any holiday that includes a flight and accommodation booked through a UK-based business MUST issue you with an ATOL certificate. As an ATOL bonded business ourselves, we have now incorporated the ATOL certification scheme in to our booking system and we welcome this mandatory ruling by the Civil Aviation Authority. Please note that ANY holiday offered by a UK operator that includes a flight and any form of accommodation in the inclusive price - whether it be to Fair Isle or Fiji falls in to this category. If the UK-based company involved is including flights and accommodation as part of their holiday cost to you and is not ATOL bonded, they are operating illegally and we are sure we don't have to spell out what that means. For more information please see the CAA web site HERE

Shetland Spring and Summer 2012

The 2012 spring and summer season was our busiest and most successful yet, with all groups enjoying the best of Shetland's wildlife, scenery and hospitality!

Our new-style Spring migration birding trip to Fair Isle - now limited to just five travellers in order to have the highest guide-to-client ratio in the business - was truly memorable. A trip to Fair Isle never disappoints - with a combination of the magical location, bustling seabird colonies, vibrant wildflowers and superb hospitality from friendly island folk, how can it! Fair Isle always throws us a surprise and we saw some brilliant migrant birds including Wryneck, Blue-headed Wagtail and Common Crane.

Back over on mainland Shetland, we started our series of Ultimate Shetland and Shetland Experience trips in mid May which would continue every week until mid July. A few exciting migrants made landfall during the latter part of May and June and our guides and groups were lucky enough to find a Pectoral Sandpiper, Hobby, Short-toed Lark and best of all, a Black Kite! We also saw a fine male Rustic Bunting, Icterine Warblers, several Red-backed Shrikes, Golden Orioles,. Marsh Warblers and a couple of Snow Buntings in stunning summer plumage. Between May and the end of June, we escorted our groups to a small moorland valley to witness a sight rarely seen in the UK - a beautiful adult Long-tailed Skua holding territory. To watch this elegant Arctic species alongside its commoner cousins was a real privilege. But as usual, it was our breeding birds that always stole the show. We often had incredible encounters with Red-necked Phalaropes on Fetlar, we were the first to see a brood of five newly-hatched Whooper Swan cygnets at the Loch of Spiggie and we of course watched and enjoyed all the Shetland specialities like Red-throated Divers, Black Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Whimbrels and Arctic Terns.

Otters - one of the most sought after of our mammals - and the reason why Shetland Wildlife was born as a business back in 1992 - were seen frequently and by every group. Getting incredible views of adults with cubs, as well as close encounters with feeding animals is something our guides all excel at - and they rarely fail! Mountain Hares were also seen on every trip; a rare opportunity to observe such a quiet and sometimes elusive mammal.

Alongside our diverse fauna, Shetland's flora was certainly not overlooked and we devoted plenty of time on all our trips to enjoy everything from rare specialities such as Oysterplant and Small Adder's Tongue, to the more common wildflower displays. Unst - and in particular the Keen of Hamar- was impressive for interesting flowers and through the season we saw plants such as the endemic Edmonston's Chickweed, Norwegian Sandwort, Frog Orchid, Northern Rock -cress and Moonwort. Our May trips were dominated by the blues of Spring Squill and the vivid yellows of Marsh Marigolds. This gave way to a dazzling mass of Sea Pinks (Thrift) through June and into July, the white of the Bog Cotton, the pink of the Ragged Robins and the golden patches of Bog Asphodel presented us with a wonderful mosaic and riot of colour!

Boat trips add an element of adventure to our tours, especially the night-time (if there is such a thing here in summer!) excursion to the island of Mousa. We were fortunate to enjoy excellent weather conditions for the majority of our trips this year, with calm overcast evenings bringing in large numbers of fluttering Storm Petrels to the boulder beaches and the impressive Iron Age broch. As many as 12,000 pairs of Storm Petrels are now thought to breed on Mousa and our night time visits were the highlight for many of our travellers. Our day trip to Noss is another extravaganza! Aboard the comfortable Dunter III we were taken with skill and precision, right to the base of the spectacular seabird cliffs, allowing us to get really up close and personal with thousands of Gannets, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and cackling Guillemots on their breeding ledges. Under the water proved to be just as full of life: using the onboard underwater camera the Dunter III crew showed us an array of aquatic marine life and the camera beamed-back incredible images of starfish, sea squirts and sponges - not to mention the antics of some curious seals!

Shetland is one of the best places for seeing cetaceans (whales and dolphins) in Britain, and we were certainly not disappointed this year, with numerous sightings of Minke Whales, White-sided Dolphins and Harbour Porpoise. Killer Whales were thin on the ground compared to recent years but we found a fantastic pod off Hermaness, Unst in June. We were the only wildlife tour company to see this highly prized species in Shetland waters in the summer of 2012 - but that's not unusual!

Our last trips of the summer season were the ever-popular series of Walk Shetland holidays and we were treated to excellent weather in which to explore more of Shetland's stunning scenery. Taking in places of local and historical interest such as the chapel on St. Ninian's Isle, water mills at Huxter and archaeological remains at the Broch of Underhoull, we also made the most of the clear weather to enjoy breathtaking views from Sandness Hill and Sumburgh Head. We managed to incorporate plenty of wildlife-watching, too, with excellent close views of a fishing dog Otter, and Gannets and Puffins aplenty at the incredible seabird colony at Hermaness.

For making the summer of 2012 so special, a huge 'thank you' to all our guests who have not only made each trip possible, but made it memorable. From Baltimore to Brisbane, our guests came from all corners of the World - and everywhere in between. We certainly look forward to seeing you again in the near future!

Thanks also to our friends and business associates for their part in making our trips so hugely popular and successful: Jonathan and the crew of Dunter III at Seabirds & Seals, Alan and Gary at Mousa Boat Trips, Mark & Co at the Sumburgh Hotel, Steven, Sharn, Eleanor & Gabby at the Baltasound Hotel, the staff and pilots at Direct Flight, Andy, Misa & Deb at Promote Shetland, the many crew members of the inter-island ferries (Brydon in particular) and the hosts-with-the-most Tommy, Liz and young Henry from the Auld Haa Guest House, Fair Isle.

Finally, for the truly amazing behind-the-scenes logistical and trip management support, a huge thank you to the office lasses - Michelle, Anne & Debbie.

Here are a few photographic memories from the spring and summer of 2012, all of which were taken during our tours...

 

Round-leaved Sundew by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Arctic Tern by Hugh Harrop Red Campion by Hugh Harrop

 

Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Rustic Bunting by Hugh Harrop Oysterplant by Hugh Harrop Common Seal by Hugh Harrop

 

Gannet by Hugh Harrop Oystercatcher by Hugh Harrop Arctic Tern by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop

 

Sanderling by Hugh Harrop Photographing Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop Meadow Buttercups by Hugh Harrop

 

Puffin Photography by Hugh Harrop Northern Rock Cress by Robert Cave Curlew and friend by Hugh Harrop Otter by Hugh Harrop

 

Fulmars by Hugh Harrop Hermaness Cliffs by Hugh Harrop Whooper Swans and cygnets by Hugh Harrop Puffin Photography by Hugh Harrop

 

Edmonston's Chickweed by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop Mousa Broch by Hugh Harrop Snow Bunting by Hugh Harrop

Finland & Arctic Norway - March 2012 Winter Pho-tour

Our week-long winter pho-tour to Finland and Arctic Norway proved to be another huge success with some great subjects on offer. Our guest house feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities once again with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak along with Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Common Redpolls and plenty of Arctic Redpolls. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the two 'rarer' Eiders - Kings and Steller's. Good weather allowed us to take full advantage of the sea conditions and we managed several boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Opportunities both from the boats and from land allowed our travellers to secure some stunning shots! we also found several Hawk Owls and did extremely well getting photographs of them! But for most, the highlight was the amazing amount of Auroral activity over the region. This beautiful spectacle illuminated the sky over many nights and we took full advantage of it! In 2013 we will run this holiday from 9 -16 March - all the details are here. As pioneers of this unique itinerary, the trip has always sold out since its inception seven years ago. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so we have also created an album featuring over 120 images from the 2012 trip HERE

Southern France in Winter 10 - 16 February 2012

Read all about our superb visit to southern France by reading our trip report HERE.

We'll be visiting again in 2013 and are open for bookings. Join us for a great trip from 22nd - 28th February 2013.

Up Helly Aa 2012 - another great success! We are now open for 2013 bookings!

In 2013, Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 26th January - Wednesday 30th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2012 departures - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here. For a gallery of pics from the 2012 festival click HERE

Autumn 2011

Phew - what an autumn! We have just completed our Autumn birding trips and what a great time we have had. Our travellers got to see an array of superb birds including a stunning male Siberian Rubythroat, Fair Isle's first-ever Lesser Scaup, four Pallid Harriers, American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Alpine Swift,, two Short-toed Larks, three Citrine Wagtails, Buff-bellied Pipit, Pechora Pipit, three Olive-backed Pipits, Swainson's Thrush, Lanceolated Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Arctic Warbler, at least 50 Yellow-browed Warblers, two Isabelline Shrikes, Lesser Grey Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Black-headed Bunting and Little Bunting. Plus other good birds such as Little Auk, Waxwing, Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrikes, Common Rosefinches, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Barred Warblers, Lapland and Snow Buntings and (start the drum roll.....) an amazing display of the Aurora Borealis! Thanks to all those who joined us - it was great to meet new faces and also great to welcome so many repeat travellers back to Shetland! Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration and get to see some stunning birds - so join us in 2012. Once again, we have five trips on offer:

NEW STYLE Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Autumn Gold

Most of our guests tend to come for two weeks (qualifying for a 5% discount off both trips) and thus the following combinations are possible:

In addition to the above holidays, should you wish to spend time birding or photographing with our expert guides at any time during the autumn or have a 'DIY' holiday, please e mail us with your requirements and dates. We can source accommodation for all budgets and as we are the ONLY ATOL bonded wildlife holiday company in Shetland, we'll book your flights to and from Shetland (plus any internal flights to Fair Isle, Out Skerries or Foula).

So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one and ONLY full-time professional wildlife holiday company!

Alpine Swift by Hugh Harrop Isabelline Shrike by Hugh Harrop Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop Siberian Rubythroat by Hugh Harrop

 

Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Isabelline Shrike by Hugh Harrop Swainson's Thrush by Hugh Harrop Lesser Grey Shrike by Hugh Harrop

 

Siberian Rubythroat by Hugh Harrop Buff-bellied Pipit by Hugh Harrop Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop Olive-backed Pipit by Hugh Harrop

 

101 Killer Whales!

No, it is not the marine sequel to '101 Dalmatians', but a superb collection of Killer Whale photographs taken here in Shetland over the last 15 years by Shetland Wildlife. To view them go to the Shetland Wildlife Facebook page and click on 'photos' on the left hand menu bar.

Keep up to date with Shetland Wildlife sightings as they happen!

Want to know where and when exciting Shetland wildlife like Killer Whales were seen? Want to know which way they were heading or where the best place to go and look for them might be? Want to be kept up to date with all other major wildlife sightings as they happen during your visit to Shetland? If you are a Facebook user go to our page by clicking HERE and join the Shetland Wildlife community by clicking 'like'. Doing so also means that you can configure Facebook to view news on your iphone, Blackberry or Smartphone and even have our updates delivered by SMS text. Not on Facebook? Not a problem - we have also linked our Facebook page via RSS from our Twitter page so all major sightings will still be 'tweeted' and both platforms updated - even when we are 'out-in-the-field' watching the wildlife we want you to see!

Finland & Arctic Norway - March 2011 Winter Pho-tours

Our two week-long back-to-back winter pho-tours to Finland and Arctic Norway proved to be another huge success with some great subjects on offer. Our guest house feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities once again with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak along with Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Common Redpolls and plenty of Arctic Redpolls. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the two 'rarer' Eiders - Kings and Steller's. Good weather allowed us to take full advantage of the sea conditions and we managed several boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Opportunities both from the boats and from land allowed our travellers to secure some stunning shots! But for most, the highlight was the amazing amount of Auroral activity over the region. This beautiful spectacle illuminated the sky over many nights and we took full advantage of it!

In 2012 we will run this holiday from 10 -17 March - all the details are here. As pioneers of this unique itinerary, the trip has always sold out since its inception six years ago and we already have three folk booked for 2012 - so book early. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few are presented below. We have also created a larger album featuring images from the 2011 trip on our Facebook page which contains over 50 images by guests and guides, so please pay us a visit.

Aurora by Gary Wilson Steller's Eider by Steve Rosenberg Pine Grosbeak by David Stimac Aurora by Richard McManus

 

Varanger Photography by Steve Rosenberg Siberian Jay by David Stimac Eider by Steve Rosenberg King Eider by Glenn Overington

 

King Eider by David Stimac Steller's Eider by Renaud de Rosa Steller's Eider by Steve Rosenberg King and Common Eider frenzy by David Stimac

 

2011 Shetland Photo Competition

Promote Shetland and Shetland Wildlife - sponsors of the 1st prize - are pleased to announce the 2011 Shetland Photographic Competition. The competition is open to resident and visiting amateur photographers. We are looking for unique and inspiring images that capture your imagination and record a moment in time. We want you to capture breathtaking and original images which reflect and portray the outstanding wildlife Shetland has to offer. Subjects may include anything that is wild: birds, wild flowers, whales & dolphins, otters, seals etc. Please do not submit images of captive wildlife or livestock (sheep, ponies etc). Landscapes which portray wildlife in a natural setting (eg. Seabird colonies) are acceptable. Photographs must be taken in Shetland between 1st February 2011 and 31st March 2012. All entries will be judged by Hugh Harrop and the Promote Shetland team. The winner will be announced soon after the competition closes on 5 April 2012.

1st Prize - a superb 7-day Focus on Shetland photography holiday donated by Shetland Wildlife to be taken in June 2012 - worth over £1,000 !!!

2nd Prize - A delicious Shetland hamper from the Shetland Fudge Company

3rd Prize - a signed copy of Simon King's new 'Shetland Nature Diaries' book

So cameras at the ready!

For further information click here or please contact Promote Shetland on 01595 98 98 98.To view the 2010 winning entries, click here.

Long-finned Pilot Whales in Shetland

An early morning text alerting us of a pod of 'dolphins' in Bressay Sound could not have been timed better! Shetland Wildlife Guide Jon Dunn takes up the story...

Driving into Lerwick early on Saturday morning to meet up with my guests for a late winter weekend's wildlife safari around Shetland, I found myself wondering what the next two days would have in store for us. My thoughts were interrupted on the outskirts of Lerwick by a text from Hugh - he'd heard from our good friend and associate Jonathan Wills (who was in Prague!) that there was a pod of 'dolphins' reported to be in Lerwick harbour. There was an hour to go before I was due to pick up my guests, so I went straight to the pier to check out the report. I could see dark shapes in the water from the road as I drove onto the pier, so it was with mounting excitement that I jumped out of the car. After some memorable encounters with Risso's Dolphins last year while guiding for Shetland Wildlife, that species was firmly at the top of my list of favourite cetaceans. Not for much longer...

I could immediately see that these animals were no Risso's Dolphins - while they shared that species' bulbous 'melon' shaped forehead, there were striking differences. Their upperparts were black and unmarred by the pale scars so typical of Risso's; their dorsal fins were blunter and less prominent; and the bulk of the adults was very different to the more lithe Risso's. These appeared to be Long-finned Pilot Whales. I called Hugh to alert him that these were something rather special, and in no time he joined me on the pier to confirm the identification. We put out the news of our re-identification out immediately and within minutes, the first of a steady stream of local folk and other wildlife-guides arrived to join us!

The next step was to head to the ferry terminal on time and collect Kim and Ji. Within minutes of collecting them, we were back on the scene and for the next couple of hours we enjoyed incredible views of these animals as they spy-hopped, fluked and lob-tailed before seemingly drifting off south. The pod appeared to be a nursery group comprising mainly females and younger animals, and there were at least two tiny calves. Some of my images are depicted below and for more great pictures and some HD video footage HERE

Pilot Whales by John Dunn Pilot Whales by John Dunn Pilot Whales by John Dunn Pilot Whales by John Dunn

 

'Surfbirder' Brian Small to join Shetland Wildlife in Autumn 2011

We are delighted to announce that 'Surfbirds' co-creator Brian Small will accompany Shetland Wildlife on our Autumn Gold trip operating from 1-8 October 2011 & our follow-on trip to Fair Isle from 8-15 October 2011. As a top-class field birder and bird illustrator, Brian will be a familiar name to anybody interested in birding, having worked on The Birds of the Middle East, The Birds of East Africa; Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW), Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula and Birds of the Horn of Africa. His most recent publication is the monograph on Reed and Bush Warblers of the World and Brian is currently working on the final volume of HBW, a revised Guide to The Birds of East Africa, The Birds of Asia and a new book on The Birds of the United Arab Emirates. Like many other members of our team, Brian has also had many identification articles published including in-depth features on Cyprus Wheatear, Balearic Woodchat Shrike and Ortolan / Cretzschmar's Bunting For his sins, Brian has also served on the British Birds Rarities Committee and is the current museum consultant. We very much look forward to Brian joining us in Autumn!

Shetland Autumn 2010 featured on Surfbirds

Shetland Wildlife guides David & Jon have written a superb summary of the 2010 Shetland Autumn which is now online HERE.

Trip Report: Southern France in Winter 11 - 17 February 2011

Our annual winter visit to southern France proved to be another huge success with some outstanding birding, outstanding food and wine and some pretty good weather! The Camargue region, as always, certainly lived up to its reputation: stunning views of Penduline Tits, lots of Hen and Marsh Harriers, Black-necked Grebes, Bittern, a huge flock of 1000 Red-crested Pochards, a Black Stork, plenty of Greater Flamingos, a staggering flock of 2000 Mediterranean Gulls plus lots of Avocets and Kentish Plovers. we also found a Smew - a real rarity for the region! Nearby, the stony desert of La Crau produced a vagrant Long-legged Buzzard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Bustards, Richard's Pipits, Woodlarks, Southern Grey Shrikes and an incredible assemblage of over 100 Calandra Larks at our usual site - a flock that probably represented a high percentage of the French population! The limestone massif of Les Alpilles yielded us superb views of up to three Wallcreepers which sat out in full view for nearly an hour plus great looks at a pair of Eagle Owls - sat out in the open and flying around - at one of our sites. Nearby we also recorded at least 12 Alpine Accentors and Blue Rock Thrush. Our day trip to a very snowy Mount Ventoux provided us with some very showy Citril Finches, nice views of a Black Woodpecker plus Crested Tits and Short-toed Treecreeper. Download a full trip report by clicking here.

Regular Shetland Wildlife travellers Janet & Cyril Shelly sum up their trip: "Just a note to say how much we enjoyed our trip to France. We saw at least a dozen new birds for us (including 3 sightings of the Wallcreepers, Yeh!!). Dave and Judd were terrific guides, the hotel was fantastic, as was the food - I am now on a diet! We now have to settle down to our local birding - a little tame after all we've seen over the last week."

In 2012 we will once again be running a winter holiday to the region and have set the dates for 11 - 17 February 2012. This will be our 10th consecutive trip to this beautiful part of France and we feel we know it better than anybody else! The trip is very popular so we advise early reservations to be made. More details are here.

David Burleigh has kindly provided us with some of his images from the February 2011 departure:

Alpine Accentor by David Burleigh Greater Flamingos by David Burleigh Hummingbird Hawk Moth by David Burleigh Wallcreeper by David Burleigh

 

STOP PRESS - 2012 Shetland holidays now available for booking!

Bookings for 2011 have once again been overwhelming to say the least! With just a few spaces left on our 2011 departures and an ever-growing enquiry list for next year, we are pleased to announce that all of our 2012 Shetland and Orkney-based holidays are now available for booking. Some of our 2012 overseas trips are also available to book and we expect to have all the overseas departures for 2012 finalised at the end of July 2011. So, see the best wildlife with Shetland's finest and ONLY full-time professional wildlife holiday company and click here to see why we remain the Number One Choice!

Up Helly Aa 2011 - a huge success. We are now open for 2012 bookings!

It just gets better and better and, for us, even more popular! Two full days of the very best wildlife-watching Shetland can offer - with the best guides - produced some memorable moments for our groups. Ornithological highlights included two King Eiders side-by-side, a Rough-legged Buzzard, a 'redhead' Smew, Peregrine, lots of dapper Long-tailed Ducks and Slavonian Grebes. Mammal buffs were rewarded with several Otters, small parties of Harbour Porpoise and lots of brilliant-white Arctic Hares. We were also able to get incredible views of both Grey and Common Seals. As always, the Up Helly Aa festival itself was amazing. It started with the most amazing sunrise and during the morning we enjoyed the procession as 'Guizer Jarl' John Hunter - portraying Johan Sanderrevet of Valsgärde - paraded his squad through Lerwick and exhibited the 2011 galley "Jägere" for the first time. In the evening we all had a grandstand view of the main event - the torch lit procession involving nearly a thousand 'guizers', culminating in the burning of the galley. Fantastic!

In 2012, Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 28th January - Wednesday 1st February. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2011 departures - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here.

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Sunrise on Up Helly Aa morning by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Stew Ellet Up Helly Aa by Stew Ellet Up Helly Aa by Stew Ellet Up Helly Aa by Stew Ellet

 

Mousa Storm Petrels & Shetland Wildlife helping the plight of South Georgia Seabirds

We are delighted to be providing our sound recordings of Mousa Storm Petrels to Professor Tony Martin, who will use them to bring the plight of South Georgia seabirds to the ears of people as part of his lectures. For the full story, click here.

Winter Photour to Finland & Norway 2012

All the arrangements for our exclusive 2012 winter pho-tour to Finland and Arctic Norway are now in place and the trip will run from Saturday 10 - Saturday 17 March 2012. We have just three spaces left as of today, so if you are interested in joining this unique trip, please refer to the itinerary here. We are running two trips in 2011, both of which have sold out, so our advice - book early!

Brighten up your Desktop

New Year, new desktop! By clicking here you can brighten up your computer desktop by choosing one of our stunning, FREE wallpaper designs.

Shetland Bird Report 2009

Lavishly illustrated with lots of great pictures - including over 20 from the Shetland Wildlife team - the 2009 Shetland Bird Report is now available. Copies cost £10 inc p&p and by purchasing a report you'll also receive a complimentary membership of the Shetland Bird Club for a year. Order your copy from: Shetland Bird Club Sales (Dept SWBL), Longhill, Maywick, Bigton, Shetland ZE2 9JF. Please make your cheque payable to 'Shetland Bird Club'.

Walk Shetland 2011 - additional departure added

We have had a huge take up on our 23 - 30 July 2011 Walk Shetland holiday so to meet demand, we have added another departure to run from 30 July - 6 August 2011. Full details and itinerary are here.

Winter Photour to Finland & Norway 2011

Our exclusive photour to the far north from Saturday 12 - Saturday 19 March 2011 sold out within days of it being announced so we added an additional departure to run from Saturday 19 - Saturday 26 March 2011 - which has also sold out! Please email us to register interest for 2012 which is likely to...yes, you guessed it - sell out!

2010 Shetland Photo Competition - RESULTS!

The winners of the Promote Shetland 2010 Photo Competition sponsored by Shetland Wildlife have now been selected and announced:

WINNER - Bonxie & photographer by Juan Sola
2nd Place - Killer Whales by Josie Jamieson
3rd Place - Puffin by Anthony Marston

The competition attracted some stunning and highly creative photographs and selecting winners was not easy! Hearty congratulations from all at Shetland Wildlife to all three and we look forward to welcoming Juan back to Shetland to accept his winning prize - a Focus on Shetland photography holiday with Shetland Wildlife. Josie wins a day out for two Otter-watching and Anthony wins a signed copy of Simon King's 'Shetland Nature Diaries' book.

Autumn 2010

The best ever? We think so, as once again, our series of trips coincided with the best weather and the best birds! Shetland Wildlife staff naturalist guide Dave Fairhurst takes us through the highlights of our autumn season...

"August saw the summering drake Surf Scoter lingering around Burra and Trondra on and off throughout the month. During the month two different Paddyfield Warblers were seen on Unst, and an adult Greenish Warbler was in the Sumburgh Hotel garden for a couple of days - at times it was heard singing! The undoubted highlight of the month was a Sykes's Warbler up on Unst along the Burrafirth Burn The early September highlight from the East was the discovery of Britain's 15th-ever Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in Ireland near Bigton by Hugh & Alan and from the west came two North American Buff Bellied Pipits, both of which gave great views for our travellers! The first bird associated with Meadow Pipits around the North Light on Fair Isle during our first trip of the autumn, and as we watched the bird it was joined firstly by a Yellow Browed Warbler and then incredibly by a male Bluethroat: it could only happen on Fair Isle!! The second bird out at Eshaness was also particularly obliging. Nearby, also from the Canadian Arctic, were up to three Buff Breasted Sandpipers which were completely oblivious to their admirers, often passing within a few metres of us!

As well as the Buff Bellied Pipit our first Fair Isle trip had many memorable birds including: Citrine Wagtail, Barred Warbler, Yellow Browed Warblers, Ortolan Bunting, Common Rosefinches, large numbers of Lapland Buntings, Buff Breasted Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, and a classic Fair Isle bird which we discovered early one morning - a Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler. On our return to the mainland we were also able to catch up with a rather showy Arctic Warbler in the roses at Sumburgh Head.

Still a true rarity, Red Flanked Bluetail must be one of the most mythical birds to see. With a recent westward range expansion, this autumn has been the best ever for seeing them and our Shetland Wildlife groups didn't miss out. Our groups managed to see three of these enigmatic Robin-like birds which breed in the Siberian Taiga - perhaps the best one being one that we found ourselves up on Unst! Britain's most northerly island was also the place where we caught up with another stunning Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll. Breeding in Northern Greenland and Canada, these ‘snowballs' are much larger and paler than their Scandinavian cousins and as seems to be typical of this species, can be very approachable, this bird being no exception. Being particularly skulky and tricky to identify, Blyth's Reed Warblers are another sought-after rarity and we were lucky this year with our groups seeing three different individuals. This species breeds in Central Asia and winters on the Indian Subcontinent making it all the more incredible that they turn up in Shetland at all. Western Bonelli's Warblers are one of the smartest looking ‘leaf' warblers from Southern Europe and we managed to catch up with two different individuals this autumn including one bird feeding in sycamores at Seafield in Lerwick. Equally as confiding was the Radde's Warbler at Sumburgh Farm.

Now treated as a full species, the Sykes's Warbler is a very rare vagrant from north east Arabia and Iran, and we were fortunate enough this autumn to see two individuals: the first was a long staying bird at Channerwick, and the second a far more confiding bird on Fetlar. In early October we were very lucky to connect with another Shetland speciality, this time a Lanceolated Warbler. This bird was favouring the walls and garden at Britain's most northerly house on Unst. ‘Lanceys' can show very well at times, and this bird was no exception with us watching it down to just a couple of metres! Despite the lack of westerly winds (a good thing as far as we are concerned!), a Swainson's Thrush was found in Levenwick in early October and several of our groups enjoyed views of this diminutive North American thrush. Also hailing from America, a Spotted Sandpiper was seen on Strand Loch for just one day in mid October.

We did very well for shrikes this autumn with both Red Backed and Great Greys seen on several occasions but it was the superb Isabelline Shrike at Spiggie that stands out. Present for five days in October the antics of this bird were arguably the highlight of the autumn for many. At times the bird could be watched devouring small birds and tearing rodents apart from one of its several larders! Nature at its best!

Our final trip of the season was to Fair Isle and we weren't disappointed! We were able to get some of our newly arrived guests onto both Pallas's and Sykes's Warblers within an hour of their arrival here on Shetland! Our highlights on the island included Blyth's Reed Warbler, Olive Backed Pipit, Radde's Warbler, Little Bunting, several Barred Warblers (including one bird feeding on the window ledge of our guest house!), Short Eared Owl, Red Kite (a very rare bird up here on Shetland), Jack Snipe and an excellent number of Lapland Buntings. It might not be the rarest of birds for the trip list, but the sight of a Long Eared Owl perched at 'the shop' will last long in the memory."

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration and get to see some stunning birds - so join us in 2011. Once again, we have five trips on offer:

NEW STYLE Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Autumn Gold

Most of our guests tend to come for two weeks (qualifying for a 5% discount off both trips) and thus the following combinations are possible:

In addition to the above holidays, should you wish to spend time birding or photographing with our expert guides at any time during the autumn or have a 'DIY' holiday, please e mail us with your requirements and dates. We can source accommodation for all budgets and as we are the only ATOL bonded wildlife holiday company in Shetland, we'll book your flights to and from Shetland (plus any internal flights to Fair Isle, Out Skerries or Foula) and we'll also pass on rarity news as it reaches us.

So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one and ONLY full-time professional wildlife holiday company!

Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Isabelline Shrike by Hugh Harrop Pallass's Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Booted Warbler by Hugh Harrop Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

Pallas's Grasshoppper Warbler by Tony Temple Barred Warbler by Tony Temple Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop

 

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler by Hugh Harrop Isabelline Shrike by Hugh Harrop Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Raddes Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Bluethroat by Tony Temple Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop Buff-bellied Pipit by Hugh Harrop Greenish Warbler by Hugh Harrop

STOP PRESS - Additional Winter Pho-tour to Finland & Arctic Norway 19 - 26 March 2011

It remains as popular as ever, so it was no surprise that our exclusive winter pho-tour to Finland and Arctic Norway with Hugh Harrop from 12 - 19 March sold out! We have therefore arranged an additional week to meet demand and we are now taking bookings for 19 - 26 March 2011. Read all about this awesome trip here. Please e mail us or call our office on 01950 460939 if you require any further information.

STOP PRESS - ANOTHER SUPERB ENCOUNTER WITH RISSO'S DOLPHINS by Jon Dunn

A sunny morning in Shetland was abruptly interrupted with a phone call from Hugh - he'd just had a call informing him that there were cetaceans - either Killer Whales or Risso's Dolphins - in Mousa Sound. Right now! Hugh had called me as he left the Wood and Green Sandpipers he'd been watching; I had no such avian distractions to tear myself away from, and hastened to Cunningsburgh to meet Hugh onboard Tom Jamieson's boat, Solan IV. Before arriving, Hugh had stopped for a quick scan of Mousa Sound to locate the animals and had identified the animals in question as Risso's Dolphins. We soon set sail and after about five minutes, Hugh picked them up off in the distance. We've enjoyed many cetacean encounters aboard Solan IV over the last fifteen years or so (including the Killer Whales we filmed for the famous 'Nature in Britain' series) and once again, Tom did a brilliant job manoeuvring the vessel so that we could enjoy stunning views from a respectful distance. There appeared to be about 20 animals in total, including a sub-pod which appeared to be a nursery group; there were at least 3 calves visible at any one time on the surface. One of the animals was very young indeed and still exhibited foetal creases - a sign that the animal was probably just only a few weeks old. Fortunately this animal surfaced with its mother right next to us and we both captured the moment with our cameras! After a mesmerising thirty minutes with these wonderful creatures, we regretfully headed back to shore. A few pictures from the encounter are presented below. For more images click here.

Risso's Dolphin by Hugh Harrop Risso's Dolphin by Hugh Harrop Risso's Dolphin by Hugh Harrop Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn

 

Shetland Spring and Summer 2010

A few photographic memories from the our 2010 Spring and Summer season...

Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Great Skua by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Skua by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop

 

Mousa Storm Petrel Experience by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Trevor Coleman Gannet by Hugh Harrop Storm Petrel by Hugh Harrop

 

Whooper Swan by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop Arctic Tern by Hugh Harrop Otter by Hugh Harrop

 

Otter by Hugh Harrop Paddyfield Warbler by Hugh Harrop Risso's Dolphins by Jon Dunn Dotterel by Hugh Harrop

STOP PRESS - SUPERB ENCOUNTERS WITH RISSO'S DOLPHINS by Jon Dunn

Thursday morning and I was on Unst for the second day of a photographic tour around Shetland with top Spanish photographer Jose Menéndez Guerra. We had headed north to spend the day making the most of the fine weather and take some portraits of the teeming seabirds at Hermaness NNR, and it was just as we were parking there that my phone rang. Fellow Shetland Wildlife leader David Fairhurst was calling to let me know he’d just found a pod of 8 Risso's Dolphins at the other end of the island. "They're at Uyeasound - right next to the pier!"

We turned straight round, and headed at haste back the way we'd just come, stopping only to flag down another party of Spanish wildlife tourists and their guide who also happened to be on the isle that day - but were oblivious to the news. Being first with the news, I felt responsible for making sure all interested parties got to share what sounded like a uniquely close encounter with a normally elusive species of cetacean.

We arrived at Uyeasound to find an elated David and his group of Ultimate Shetland guests gathered at the end of the pier watching the Risso's Dolphins a mere 15 metres away. The dolphins gave us a fantastic display of social behaviour - spy-hopping, breaching, rolling, and tail-slapping. They even appeared to be playing with pieces of seaweed, as they occasionally spy-hopped with seaweed held in their mouths, or lifted seaweed from the water on their tails before flicking it into the air!

There appeared to be 8 individual animals, including an older animal so white with scars it was almost Beluga-like. We spent a very happy hour watching and photographing them while more and more local folk and tourists arrived to see them - this was a social occasion for humans and dolphins alike! Eventually we had to tear ourselves away - there were seabirds still needing to be photographed, and even in Shetland's long summer daylight, time was pressing on...

Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn

 

Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn Risso's Dolphin by Jon Dunn

STOP PRESS - MORE ENCOUNTERS WITH KILLER WHALES By Jon Dunn

We've had some awesome encounters with Killer Whales this summer - Shetland Wildlife naturalist guide Jon Dunn re-lives the ups and downs of being a professional naturalist guide as he re-lives one very special Sunday afternoon...

"It had been an otherwise unremarkable Sunday for us on Fetlar - despite the weather and our best efforts from the available vantage points, we had not been fortunate enough to see any Red-necked Phalaropes; but there had been plenty of compensation with a host of Arctic Terns, flyover Great and Arctic Skuas, the constant drumming of territorial Snipe, and seemingly a Redshank on every fence post. Fetlar was also vibrant with wildflowers, and all in all it had been a very pleasant place to not see a phalarope! Inevitably though, I felt a little jaded as we boarded the ferry to Unst. Everything changed with a phone call from Hugh - Killer Whales in Yell Sound!

The ferry crossing from Fetlar to Unst, and then the subsequent short ferry from Unst to Yell has never felt longer than it did that afternoon. Hugh and other friends of Shetland Wildlife were keeping track of the whales for us from land on the Mainland side of Yell Sound, and the constant updates were encouraging, if a little frustrating - by the time we landed on the opposite side of Yell, the whales were right off the south coast of the island at Ulsta. We hurried across the island - would they still be there? Or would they have moved on? Killer Whales can move extremely fast when they want to, and our motto of 'drop everything' when they are reported stands testament to the need for our guides to react quickly and professionally if we are to connect with them. I had an unspoken feeling of déjà vu - I had done this very trip from Fetlar to Ulsta only a few days before following another sighting, only for the whales to have moved on before we got there. Surely lightning wouldn't strike twice?

I needn't have worried. By the time we arrived at Ulsta the whales had moved but with detailed phone directions from Hugh and Co., I was able to relocate them in the open sea, and soon we had them in view as they headed slowly north past the island of Bigga. What an exhilarating moment for our group! The pod didn't appear to be hunting, just merely moving through their new territory, providing all with a 'majestic moment' every time they surfaced. We lost sight of them after around thirty minutes of great views, exchanged high-fives and headed back to our hotel on Unst for dinner and a celebratory drink. Magic!"

Two of our travellers - Trevor Coleman & Helen Brown - sent us these stunning pictures of the animals. From our own observations here at Shetland Wildlife and correspondence with colleagues at the North Atlantic Killer Whale ID project, these would appear to be 'new' and previously undocumented animals in Shetland waters.

Killer Whale by Trevor Coleman Killer Whale by Trevor Coleman Killer Whale by Trevor Coleman Killer Whale by Trevor Coleman

Shetland Wildlife accepts Leica Wildlife Professional Scheme Invitation!

Leica binoculars, telescopes and cameras are synonymous with quality and their binoculars and telescopes have been used here in Shetland - and beyond - by our guides, for over twenty years. In fact all of our Shetland Wildlife team use the Leica brand and thus as the only true Shetland full-time eco-operator in the isles, we were Michelle Harroptruly thrilled to be invited by Leica Camera Ltd to join their Wildlife Professional Scheme. Alan Davies of Leica said "Leica and Shetland Wildlife share common passions - for observing nature, for uncompromising quality and for service. Shetland Wildlife is an outstanding eco-tour operator with an enviable reputation for not only amazing wildlife spectacles but also the very best in customer care. Add to this their exceptional team of wildlife guides and their genuine eco-tourism credentials and you have a truly impressive combination. Leica Sports Optics is delighted to be a part of this winning team." Shetland Wildlife manager Michelle Harrop said "We are thrilled that the World's finest optical manufacturer has provided us with their new range of binoculars and has recognised the pioneering work that Shetland Wildlife has undertaken in Shetland during the fifteen years our business has been operating. Our guides work tirelessly year-round to show our guests our internationally important wildlife and being able to watch it through the finest glass in the World is very, very special." Feel free to discuss Leica binoculars and telescopes with any of our naturalist guides on any of our tours. As an added bonus, Shetland Wildlife can also authorise a free upgrade over and above the existing Leica Passport scheme which offers an additional year of accidental damage cover. Just ask our guides about the 'Elite Birder Only' card.

Davide D'AcuntoWe were delighted to welcome Italian photographer Davide D'Acunto back to Shetland in late June. With his superb image of Golden Plover in a rain storm, Davide won first prize in the 2009 Shetland Wildlife photo-competition run by Visit Scotland, with a 3-day Shetland Experience trip courtesy of Shetland Wildlife being the top prize! We asked Davide to sum up his trip to Shetland: "There are few places in Europe where you can feel very small compared to the immensity of nature, where you can become part of a colony of gannets or puffins, where you come across an otter hunting or remain paralysed by the power of the ocean and the wind. All these things can be found on Shetland, where you can afford to leave your life behind and become part of a magnificent dream. If you love nature and the wildlife that populates these places, then Shetland is ideal. Everything becomes perfect when you have the passion of photography. Shetland is a place where once you arrive, you no longer want to leave; too many photos to take, endless shots to create. Being accompanied by my new friends and outstanding guides at Shetland Wildlife meant that I had the fortune of being able to discover the hidden corners and secrets of these islands which made my experience even more special. The emotions that I have since visiting Shetland will never cease to live inside me!".

STOP PRESS: Hungary 15 - 22 May 2010

Jon has just arrived back in Shetland after our superb trip to Hungary. He writes...

It seems a little strange to be back in Shetland after 2 weeks away in Hungary - waking up this morning to the sound of breeding waders in the fields outside my house rather than the morning chorus I have become accustomed to in Hungary - Nightingales, Golden Orioles and Serins singing from the trees outside my hotel room window. The contrast could hardly be greater. The past week in Hungary was superb, despite the best efforts of the weather to put a dampener on some incredible birding. Hungary's experiencing the wettest May in living memory, a statistic borne out by the many swollen rivers, flooded fields, landslides, and White-winged Black Terns we saw! The rain couldn't take anything away from the birds though, and while I've a full trip report to write this week, here are a few encounters that are fresh in my memory and too good to keep to myself for now... The enormous numbers of Whiskered, Black and White-winged Black Terns hawking over the roadside ditches and flooded fields beside us; the diversity of raptors - the chatter and clamour of a Red-footed Falcon colony, and the sight of Long-legged Buzzards hunting Souslik over the fields; and the remarkable variety of woodpeckers - Syrians on the roadside verges in the villages, White-backed in a sun-dappled beech-wood, and the unforgettable moment when watching Middle Spotted in an ancient oak-wood when a Wild Boar stepped out onto the track some 10 metres away from us. There's so much more to tell, but that'll have to keep for now. I can't wait to get back out there!

We'll publish a full trip report soon but a few of Jon's amazing pictures, fresh out of the Canon, are presented below:

Collared Flycatcher by Jon Dunn Hawfinch by Jon Dunn Nightingale by Jon Dunn Pygmy Cormorants by Jon Dunn

 

Red-footed Falcon by Jon Dunn Red-footed Falcon  by Jon Dunn Roller by Jon Dunn Ural Owl by Jon Dunn

2010 Shetland Photography Competition

Promote Shetland and Shetland Wildlife - sponsors of the 1st prize - are pleased to announce the 2010 Shetland Photographic Competition. The competition is open to resident and visiting amateur photographers. We are looking for unique and inspiring images that capture your imagination and record a moment in time. We want you to capture breathtaking and original images which reflect and portray the outstanding wildlife Shetland has to offer. Subjects may include anything that is wild: birds, wild flowers, whales & dolphins, otters, seals etc. Please do not submit images of captive wildlife or livestock (sheep, ponies etc). Landscapes which portray wildlife in a natural setting (eg. Seabird colonies) are acceptable. Photographs must be taken in Shetland between 15 May and 30th October 2010. All entries will be judged by Shetland Wildlife Field Director Hugh Harrop and the Promote Shetland team. The winner will be announced soon after the competition closes on 5 November 2010.

1st Prize - a superb 7-day Focus on Shetland photography holiday donated by Shetland Wildlife to be taken in June 2011 - worth over £1,000 !!!

2nd Prize - Full day otter watching experience in Shetland for 2 people, donated by our colleagues at Shetland Otters

3rd Prize - a signed copy of Simon King's new 'Shetland Nature Diaries' book

So cameras at the ready!

For further information click here or please contact Promote Shetland on 01595 98 98 98.

2011 Shetland holidays now available for booking!

Bookings for 2010 have been overwhelming to say the least! With just a few spaces left on our departures and an ever-growing enquiry list for next year, we are pleased to announce that all of our 2011 Shetland and Orkney-based holidays are now available for booking. Some of our 2011 overseas trips are also available to book and we expect to have all the overseas departures for 2011 finalised at the end of July 2010. So, see the best wildlife with Shetland's finest and ONLY full-time professional wildlife holiday company and click here to see why we remain the Number One Choice!

Autumn 2010 holidays selling like hot cakes!

Shetland's track record for attracting rare and scarce migrant birds every Autumn is second to none. Our track record for getting you to see them, is unrivalled. We are already extremely busy for Autumn 2010 with a total of five trips running. All of our three 'new-style Fair Isle' holidays have sold out and to meet demand, we've created a second Autumn Gold trip to run from 25 September - 2 October. We currently have just one vacancy on this trip and two vacancies on the 2 - 9 October departure, so book early! To whet your appetite, Hugh, David & Jon sum up our 2009 trips:

We had another superb autumn and once again our series of trips coincided with the best weather and the best birds! Although Fair Isle Bird Observatory was closed for re-building, we operated two trips to Fair Isle (staying in the fantastic guest houses at the Auld Haa and South Lighthouse) and also ran two weeks based here in Shetland. So, four magical bird-filled weeks! Heading the cast was Britain's third-ever Taiga Flycatcher which turned up on Fetlar. Originally identified by the finder as a Red-breasted Flycatcher, the bird was fortunately re-identified by others and hung around long enough for both Autumn Gold groups to see this eastern gem. Hot on the flycatcher's heels for sheer rarity value was a stunning Veery that graced Whalsay. This diminutive North American thrush was a real skulker, but thanks to the friendliness of the local residents - and Shetland Wildlife guides getting the news first - we were rewarded with superb views. Like the flycatcher, it also hung around to allow both Autumn Gold groups to see this very special bird. Other great birds included Blackpoll Warbler, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Western Bonelli's Warbler, three Arctic Warblers, two Olive-backed Pipits, two Pechora Pipits, a couple of Short-toed Larks, a Siberian Stonechat, three Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls, Rustic Bunting, three Little Buntings, Spotted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Surf Scoter, American Golden Plover and Ring-necked Duck! We hardly needed a supporting cast but other goodies included a couple of Richard's Pipits, Bluethroat, Barred, Yellow-browed and Marsh Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, plenty of Snow and Lapland Buntings plus several Common Rosefinches.

So, join us in 2010 and discover the reason why we have run more Shetland-based holidays for birders since 1992 than any other company & why we remain their No. 1 Choice.

Islay - Queen of the Hebrides

David is just back from a recce to Islay (before dashing out on another recce to the Ebro Delta!). Islay is a superb destination for winter birding with thousands of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese, Choughs and Golden Eagles to tempt us there for the winter. The dates are to be finalised in the next couple of months and this new departure is likely to sell out quickly - so e mail us in order to be the first to find out more about this trip!

News from The Company of Whales: Last Call for Sailings on 2010 Bay of Biscay Holidays!

As you may have read in the press, heard in the news or seen in our special e mail, P&O Portsmouth are withdrawing their sailings between Portsmouth and Bilbao at the end of September 2010. Thus, our exceptionally popular series of summer and autumn trips operated by our sister business, The Company of Whales will sadly come to an end. Naturally, after 15 years of fantastic wildlife-watching in Biscay, we are saddened at this news, but our 'COW' team is already busy investigating possibilities for 2011 - and also busy creating some superb new itineraries here in Shetland and beyond for our parent business, Shetland Wildlife!

One thing we do know for sure is that the superb route schedule is unlikely to be matched. The real beauty of utilising the Portsmouth to Bilbao route is the considerable amount of time we get to spend in the most productive waters of the Bay, in particular along the continental shelf, which is currently crossed twice by other operators in complete darkness. In short, our route currently offers more daylight hours at sea and this means more opportunities to see whales, dolphins and seabirds!

Our last scheduled trip onboard Pride of Bilbao will sail out of Portsmouth on Friday 10th September 2010 BUT the good news is that we have a choice of over 20 guaranteed departures still on offer in June, July, August and early September 2010. We therefore invite you to join us on one of our sailings and witness the magical whale, dolphin and bird-watching that the Bay offers. And remember - when booking your holiday with the Company of Whales you will have: privileged and exclusive access to our dedicated whale-watching platform, exclusive check-in and pre-boarding facilities at Portsmouth and exclusive access to our on-board lectures on whale and dolphin identification and ecology. These privileges have been awarded to us under special contract from P&O Ferries and have not been afforded to any company other than The Company of Whales. The itinerary for all June, July, August and September departures can be found by clicking here and further information about The Company of Whales can be found here.

Keep an eye out for Shetland Otters on UK and European roads...

Otters are very much our signature subject. Back in 1992 when we first started running day tours to watch, study and photograph these magical critters, they became the reason why Shetland Wildlife developed and indeed blossomed to become Shetland's largest inbound and only full-time genuine eco-operator. It is therefore testament to us as a business and highly fitting that an image by Shetland Wildlife founder and Field Director, Hugh Harrop, was selected to market the Shetland brand to a wider audience by being displayed as a huge awning on Shetland Transport lorries, which travel the length and breadth of the UK and across Europe. Keep an eye out for this giant Otter which will be appearing somewhere near you!

Shetland Transport Lorry

Finland & Arctic Norway - March 2010 Winter Pho-tours

Hugh is just back from guiding our two week back-to-back winter pho-tours in Finland and Arctic Norway. They proved to be another huge success with some great subjects on offer and some pretty amazing weather - really cold but sunny! Our guest house feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities once again with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak - at least twenty birds were coming to the station along with Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Common Redpolls and plenty of Arctic Redpolls. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the two 'rarer' Eiders - Kings and Steller's. Good weather (and plenty of waffles at breakfast and on the road!) allowed us to take full advantage of the sea conditions and we managed a total of six boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Opportunities from both the boats and from land really were outstanding and the group pretty much all secured stunning shots of King, Steller's and Common Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, Common and Brunnich's Guillemots, Shags, Cormorant, Kittiwakes, Purple Sandpipers and Glaucous Gull. As in previous years, lady-luck was certainly on our side and we had a couple of good displays of the Northern Lights. In 2011 we will run this holiday from 12 -19 March - all the details are here. As pioneers of this unique itinerary, this trip has sold out since its inception five years ago and we already have a few folk booked for 2011 - so book early. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few of Hugh's are presented below. We are also busy receiving images from the folks on the two trips in 2010 and will be presenting an online slide-show of their work very soon.

Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Duck by Hugh Harrop Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Duck by Hugh Harrop

 

Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Glaucous Gull by Hugh Harrop King & Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

White-tailed Eagle by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Siberian Jay by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop

 

Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Nesseby Church by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

Siberian Tit by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Brunnich's & Common Guillemots by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

Photographers by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop

Shetland Red-necked Phalarope Breaks Longevity Record

The sight of a Red-necked Phalarope feeding along the shoreline of Loch of Funzie, Fetlar is one of the many highlights of our spring and summer tours, so we were delighted to hear of a record-breaking bird from the island! A phalarope bearing ring number NT14343 was ringed as a chick on the island in July 1996, and then photographed at Loch of Funzie in both June 2008 and June 2009. So, when last seen it was a month short of being 13 years old, which is a fantastic age for a long-distant migrant and a bird that spends a great deal of its winter out at sea. This is also a European longevity record, beating an Icelandic bird aged 9 years. Amazingly, the previous longevity record was held by NT14346 - a bird of the same brood of four as this one, which was last seen on Fetlar in 2003!

Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop

STOP PRESS - one single place for Focus on Shetland 12 - 19 June 2010

Due to a cancellation we have one space for a single traveller on our Focus on Shetland holiday running from 12 - 19 June 2010. Please e mail us for further information or refer to the 2010 trips for itinerary and prices.

Southern France in Winter 12 - 18 February 2010

Our annual winter visit to southern France proved to be another huge success with some outstanding birding, outstanding food and wine and some pretty good weather! The Camargue region, as always, certainly lived up to its reputation: stunning views of Penduline Tits plus Booted Eagles, lots of Hen and Marsh Harriers, Black-necked Grebes, a huge flock of 250 Red-crested Pochards, a gathering of over 100 Cranes, Night Herons, White Storks, plenty of Greater Flamingos, a flock of 96 Mediterranean Gulls plus lots of Avocets and Kentish Plovers. Nearby, the stony desert of La Crau produced Pin-tailed Sandgrouse plus a good number Little Bustards, at least 10 Richard's Pipits, several Woodlarks, Southern Grey Shrikes and an incredible assemblage of over 250 Calandra Larks at our usual site - a flock that probably represented the whole French population! The limestone massif of Les Alpilles yielded us with superb views of two Wallcreepers which sat out in full view for nearly an hour plus great looks at a pair of Eagle Owls - sat out in the open and flying around - at one of our sites. Nearby we also recorded at least 15 Alpine Accentors and Blue Rock Thrush. Our day trip to a very snowy Mount Ventoux yielded us with lots of showy Citril Finches, prolonged views of a male Black Woodpecker as it fed on the ground in front of us plus plenty of Crested Tits and Common Crossbills. In 2011 we will once again be running a winter holiday to the region and have set the dates for 11 - 17 February. More details are here.

Robert Kettel has kindly provided us with some of his images from the February 12 - 18 February 2010 departure:

Alpine Accentor by Robert Kettel Alpine Accentor by Robert Kettel Greater Flamingo by Robert Kettel Great White Egret by Robert Kettel

STOP PRESS - BEARDED SEAL on Shetland

Shetland has been graced with the presence of a superb Bearded Seal. Hailing from the high Arctic, it is only the 12th record for the isles. Shetland Wildlife guide Jon Dunn describes his encounter with this stunning animal:

Saturday 20th February 2010 morning dawned bright and clear in Shetland - a fresh covering of snow lay on the ground, and looking across the water to Yell conditions looked ideal for wildlife watching and photography. I was heading to Yell to look for a flock of Bean Geese that had been seen there the day before, and would be making the most of the exceptional weather conditions to see what else I could find while out in the field.

A stop at one of "our" regular Otter sites on Mainland was immediately fruitful, with an adult female fishing just offshore. The water was so flat I could track her progress underwater by the trail of bubbles rising to the surface, and I stayed watching her from the shore for an hour. Sadly my camera was not ready for the moment she surfaced beneath a breeding-plumaged Black Guillemot - the bird realised she was coming at the last possible moment and flung itself into the air just before she breached. I couldn't tell whether she was really trying to take the guillemot or was just playing, but the bird was taking no chances. A great photo opportunity missed though!

By the time I arrived on Yell I had watched 3 different Otters, so the day was already a success. I could find no sign of the Bean Geese, so decided to head to Mid Yell for a speculative look for a Bearded Seal that had been seen for one day in early January, and again on one day just a week ago. The tide was high, and I hoped the seal, if still in the area, would be hauled out basking in the sunshine.

My luck was in - no sooner had I arrived at the head of the voe than I saw a large dark seal with luxuriant whiskers on the shore not far away. I took my time to work my way closer to it, and then spent two hours revelling in prolonged views of a new mammal species for me. The Bearded Seal spent this time dozing in the sun, periodically waking up to stretch, look around, and then fall back to sleep once more.

I left as quietly as I had come, delighted that once again Shetland had produced the goods in terms of a spectacular wildlife encounter!

Bearded Seal by Jon Dunn Bearded Seal by Jon Dunn Bearded Seal by Jon Dunn Bearded Seal by Jon Dunn

Up Helly Aa 2011 - we are now open for 2011 bookings!

In 2011, Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 22nd - Wednesday 26th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2010 departure - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here. Michelle Harrop summarises our 2010 holiday:

Once again, our groups recorded a superb array of wildlife. The weather was reasonably kind to us and ornithological highlights for our groups included several Tundra Bean Geese, Merlin, lots of Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebes, a couple of Great Crested Grebes (rare here!), displaying Red Grouse, lots of Long-tailed Ducks and Purple Sandpipers. Mammal buffs were rewarded with awesome views of at least five Otters at our 'stake outs', including one that hauled itself out and ate its prey in full view! Also several brilliant-white Arctic Hares and lots of Grey and Common Seals. The Up Helly Aa festival itself was amazing. During the morning we witnessed the procession as 'Guizer Jarl' Rae Simpson - portraying Sigurd 'Snake-Eye' Ragnarsson - led his squad through Lerwick and exhibited the 2010 galley 'Avie-Jane' for the first time. In the evening we all had a grandstand view of the main event - the torch lit procession involving nearly a thousand 'guizers', culminating in the burning of the galley. Fantastic!

Eider by Hugh Harrop Grey Seal by Hugh Harrop Otter by Jon Dunn Otter by Jon Dunn

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Arctic Hare by Richard Parker Common Seal by Richard Parker Up Helly Aa by Richard Parker Up Helly Aa by Richard Parker

Focus on Shetland 2011

Our three scheduled 2010 Focus on Shetland departures sold like hot cakes but that's probably not what you wanted to read if you are hoping to book! BUT...the good news is we have now opened up our 2011 dates and they are available for booking. The dates are:

Given the demand for 2010 trips, we would advise bookings to be made as soon as possible. If you still wish to travel to Shetland in 2010, remember that we also offer bespoke photographic solutions for the amateur and pro-photographer. Many photographers often have 'gaps' in their collection so why not take advantage of our expert local knowledge and let us assist you in getting the images YOU want! Some of the best photographic opportunities are right here on our own doorstep, in the south Mainland and we can also arrange packages to the north isles of Fetlar, Yell and Unst. So photograph the best birds with the best RESIDENT photographic guides - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company. For more information on our bespoke photographic trips please click here.

Visit Shetland 2009 Photo Competition

The winners of the Visit Shetland 2009 Photo Competition, sponsored by Shetland Wildlife are now online and can be viewed here. The winning prize is a 3-day trip with Shetland Wildlife worth £425.00! Congratulations to Davide D’acunto for his stunning portrait of a summer-plumage Golden Plover and well done to Alexandre Boudet and Andrew Thompson for their second and third placings. The 2010 competition will be announced soon!

Autumn 2009

We have had another superb autumn and once again our series of trips coincided with the best weather and the best birds! Although Fair Isle Bird Observatory was closed for re-building, we operated two trips to Fair Isle (staying in the fantastic guest houses at the Auld Haa and South Lighthouse) and also ran two weeks based here in Shetland. So four magical bird-filled weeks! Heading the cast was Britain's third-ever Taiga Flycatcher which turned up on Fetlar. Originally identified as a Red-breasted Flycatcher (no shame in that), the bird was fortunately re-identified and hung around long enough for both Autumn Gold groups to see this eastern gem. Hot on the flycatcher's heels for sheer rarity value was a stunning Veery that graced Whalsay . This diminutive North American thrush was a real skulker, but thanks to the friendliness of the local residents - and our guides getting the news first - we were rewarded with superb views. Like the flycatcher, it also hung around to allow both Autumn Gold groups to see this very special bird. Other great birds included Blackpoll Warbler, River Warbler, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Western Bonelli's Warbler, three Arctic Warblers, two Olive-backed Pipits, two Pechora Pipits, a couple of Short-toed Larks, a Siberian Stonechat, three Hornemann's Arctic Redpolls, Rustic Bunting, three Little Buntings, Spotted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Surf Scoter, American Golden Plover and Ring-necked Duck! We hardly needed a supporting cast but other goodies included a couple of Richard's Pipits, Bluethroat , Barred, Yellow-browed and Marsh Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, plenty of Snow and Lapland Buntings plus several Common Rosefinches. Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration and get to see some stunning birds - so join us in 2010. We have five trips on offer:

NEW STYLE Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Autumn Gold

Most of our guests tend to come for two weeks (qualifying for a 5% discount off both trips) and thus the following combinations are possible:

In addition to the above holidays, should you wish to spend time birding or photographing with our expert guides at any time during the autumn or have a 'DIY' holiday, please e mail us with your requirements and dates. We can source accommodation for all budgets and as we are the only ATOL bonded wildlife holiday company in Shetland, we'll book your flights to and from Shetland (plus any internal flights to Fair Isle, Out Skerries or Foula) and we'll also pass on rarity news as it reaches us. So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one and ONLY full-time professional wildlife holiday company!

Hornemann's Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Western Bonnelli's Warbler by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Taiga Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop Veery by Hugh Harrop Spotted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Veery by Hugh Harrop Pechora Pipit by Hugh Harrop Blackpoll Warbler by Heather Gerrard

Fair Isle Autumn 2010

Our new-look trip to Fair Isle has proved so popular that we have added another autumn trip in 2010 to run from 2nd - 9th October. Click here for itinerary and prices. We currently have just a few places left on the 18th September - 25th September departure but the 9th - 16th October has now sold out. Our additional departure also means that you can combine our Autumn Gold holiday running from 25th September - 2nd October with the Fair Isle trip - and get a 5% discount off the total cost. Remember our trips to this magical island are now limited to just five travellers to ensure the ultimate Fair Isle experience! Incidentally, our 2010 Spring trip to Fair Isle has also sold out and we'd be happy to take provisional reservations for 2011.

STOP PRESS - Additional Winter Pho-tour to Finland & Arctic Norway 20 - 27 March 2010

It remains as popular as ever, so it was no surprise that our exclusive winter pho-tour to Finland and Arctic Norway with Hugh Harrop from 13 - 20 March sold out! We have therefore arranged an additional week to meet demand and we are now taking bookings for 20 - 27 March 2010. Read all about this awesome trip here. Please e mail us or call our office on 01950 460939 if you require any further information.

Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Siberian Jay by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

STOP PRESS - one single place for Fair Isle Autumn Migration 10 - 17 October 2009

Due to a cancellation we have one space for a single traveller on our Fair Isle Autumn Migration holiday running from10 - 17 October 2009. Please e mail us for further information or refer to the 2010 trip for itinerary and prices.

Sounds of Shetland

Hugh has been busy since April recording some of the sounds of Shetland birds for a new CD and multimedia guide. Click here and navigate down the page to listen to some truly beautiful sounds.

STOP PRESS - AMAZING ENCOUNTER WITH KILLER WHALES!

Our last 3-day Shetland Experience trip of the summer season started on an absolute high, with an awesome encounter with Killer Whales. Shetland Wildlife staff naturalist guide Jon Dunn takes up the story:

9.30am - we've arrived in Lerwick to get ready for our boat trip to Noss onboard Dunter III which begins at 10am. My mobile is in a temporary black-spot, so I am blissfully unaware that Hugh is frantically trying to call and text me to say there is a pod of Killers off Bressay! While my mobile may be incommunicado, others are not and Hugh reaches the crew of Dunter III. Within minutes the crew have found me, broken the exciting news, and we are all onboard and motoring out into Bressay Sound.

Almost immediately I pick up the unmistakeable profile of four Killer Whale fins working their way south along the Bressay shore. Dunter's skipper, Alan Longmuir, is an expert at watching cetaceans at sea unobtrusively, and we head down the Sound before cutting into the Bressay shore some way ahead of the Killer Whales, at a known Common Seal haul-out - now we can wait quietly for the whales to to come to us, with the chance of some high drama as they hunt.

We don't have to wait long. In no time, we pick them up coming towards us, just a few metres from where the waves lap the rocks of the shore. Three Common Seals watch nervously as the whales pass close by, but overcome their instinct to take to the water at the first sign of danger and remain safely out of reach. With the whales past us, we repeat our flanking manoeuvre and get ahead of them once more. Time and again we watch them pass us, cruising slowly south, and hunting seals in 'stealth mode'. They are close enough for us to hear the 'whoosh' as they exhale through their blowholes.

We watch them ambush a Grey Seal bobbing in the water oblivious to the danger coming around the corner behind it. A pair of Killer Whales surface alongside the seal, surge forwards at it… the seal dives, followed closely by them… long seconds pass… and they resurface some way away. A lucky escape for the seal.

Our final moment with them is one to cherish - they finally seem to notice the boat, and swim directly at us, diving right in front of the port side. From up on top of the boat I can see them underwater, circling us slowly. Every now and again they roll on their sides, looking up at the boat above them. Curiosity seemingly satisfied, they finally breach on our starboard side, and continue their slow passage along the south shore of Bressay. Stunned silence for a moment onboard Dunter III, and broad smiles of disbelief - Killer Whale encounters come no better or more intimate than this.

A few pictures below, courtesy of trip participants Graham Mouat & Christophe Pasquier.

We have had many spectacular encounters with Killer Whales this summer thanks to our network of colleagues and friends. Although they are far from guaranteed, our series of three and seven-day trips offer the best opportunities by far to see these incredible animals.

Killer Whale by Christophe Pasquier Killer Whale by Graham Mouat Killer Whale by Christophe Pasquier Killer Whale by Graham Mouat

 

Killer Whale by Christophe Pasquier Killer Whale by Christophe Pasquier Killer Whale by Christophe Pasquier Killer Whale by Christophe Pasquier

 

Shetland Spring & Summer 2009 - the story thus far...

What a superb Spring and Summer thus far! All appears to be going extremely well for our internationally important populations of seabirds and we've had countless sunny days with flat-calm seas. Magic! May and June have proved to be outstanding for wildlife observations. We've had awesome encounters with several pods of Killer Whales and from photo identification work currently being undertaken, its nice to see that some of the animals are returning year-after-year to our shores. We've also seen several pods of White-sided Dolphins on our boat trips along with Harbour Porpoise, Risso's Dolphins a handful of Minke Whales. Otters are also putting on a fine show for us at our 'stake-outs' and are providing us with great views of these highly prized animals - we have maintained a 100% success rate for every group thus far in 2009! All of our breeding seabirds are here in magnificent numbers - Puffins, Black Guillemots, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic and Common Terns, Shags and Gannets to name a few and the Mousa Broch Storm Petrels never cease to delight and inspire. We are also enjoying Red-throated Divers in their breeding dress and we've also found several summer-plumaged Great Northern Divers. Red-necked Phalaropes are proving a little trickier than usual on Fetlar but our patience has been rewarded with some fine shows. Other breeding waders such as Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshanks and Curlew have been seen on all trips and the sound of a 'rasping' male Corncrake has kept us up late to hear him 'sing' - as has a 'whipping' male Spotted Crake. As always, we connected with all the major rarities and scarcities and our spring birding holidays here in Shetland and Fair Isle hauled a bag-load of great sightings. Black Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Franklin's Gull, Laughing Gull, White-tailed Eagle, several subalpine Warblers (one of which proved to be a Moltonis - the second-ever for Britain!) and a Red-throated Pipit were highlights. We've also seen lots of Bluethroats, Red-backed Shrikes, several Wrynecks, a couple of Golden Orioles, a Honey Buzzard, a Nightjar (rare here!), several Marsh and Icterine Warblers, a handsome male Common Rosefinch and a superb summer-plumaged Curlew Sandpiper. So once again, more species of birds, mammals and wild flowers than any other operator. And with 16 years of experience, it's little wonder that we remain the NUMBER ONE CHOICE!

Arctic Tern by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Gannet by Hugh Harrop

 

Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Moltonis Subalpine Warbler by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop

 

Bonxie by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Black-tailed Godwit by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop

 

Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Otter by Hugh Harrop Grey Seal by Hugh Harrop Storm Petrel by Hugh Harrop

 

Poland in Spring 9 - 16 May 2009

Another superb week with some superb birds! In Bialowieza Forest we once again recorded all nine species of woodpecker including White-backed, Three-toed, Middle-spotted, Black, Grey-headed, Lesser Spotted and Wryneck. We also saw lots of Icterine and Barred Warblers, Thrush Nightingales, Collared Flycatchers, Hawfinches, plenty of Lesser spotted Eagles, Hobbies, Honey Buzzards and Black Storks. Nearby at Siemianwka Lake we had superb views of a pair of Citrine Wagtails and also found a pale morph Arctic Skua! Great Snipes were seen at our usual lek site and what a superb show they put on for us at dusk. Once again we also managed to find a superb Roller, which is now a critically endangered breeding species in Poland. Biebrza marshes yielded us with great looks at Aquatic, River and Savi's Warblers, Greater spotted, Lesser spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Montagu's Harriers, singing Spotted Crakes and Corncrakes, masses of Ruff, Wood Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks, Temminck's Stint, White-spotted Bluethroats, Ortolan Buntings and truly staggering numbers of White-winged Black, Black and Whiskered Terns. In 2010, we will run this holiday from 8 - 15 May and will also run an additional week from 15 - 22 May if demand warrants - which it almost certainly will! As always, we advise early reservations so please e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details.

Hungary 2010

We have just secured two spring and two autumn weeks with our ground agents in Hungary. In both periods we will be offering a dedicated photo-week plus a follow on general birding / wildlife week. More details will follow soon.

Finland & Norway - March 2009 Winter Pho-tour

Our now legendary photography trip to Lapland and Arctic Norway proved to be another huge success. Our guest house feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities once again with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak - at least a dozen birds were coming to the station along with Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Willow Tits, Common and Arctic Redpolls. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the two 'rarer' Eiders. In fact, we found something even rarer in the shape of an adult Kumlien's Gull - only the 16th-ever record for Norway! Excellent weather allowed us to take full advantage of the sea conditions and we managed no less than four boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Opportunities from land were also outstanding and the group pretty much all secured stunning shots of King, Steller's and Common Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, Black, Common and Brunnich's Guillemots, Shags, Cormorant, Kittiwakes, Purple Sandpipers and both Iceland and Glaucous Gull. As in previous years, lady-luck was certainly on our side and during our quest to find a flock of several thousand King Eiders, we encountered a stunning pod of 6 - 8 Killer Whales! One of the animals was a calf estimated to be just a few feet in length and thus probably only around a month old! Four of the group took our extension to photograph Golden Eagles in Kuusamo region but despite two long days in the hides, the birds just didn't cooperate as well as we'd have wished. This was probably due to roaming birds being present in the territory of the 'usual' pair - that's wildlife photography for you! On the flip-side we had truly awesome opportunities to photograph a hunting Great Grey Owl near Tornio. To witness this giant owl of the North was a real treat and a memory that we will all savour for a very long time!

In 2010 we will run this holiday from 13 -20 March and we will also offer a 4 - 5 day post-tour trip to photograph Golden Eagles, Dippers and Black Grouse in Eastern Finland. This trip has sold out since its inception four years ago and we already have a couple of folk booked for 2010. As always, e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details. A pho-tour wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few of Hugh's are presented below and you can click here for an online slide show to show the work of all our photographers. Hugh also managed a nice selection of sound recordings and has produced a compilation mp3 that features (in play order) Golden Eagle, Pine Grosbeak, Dipper, Common Redpoll, Northern Bullfinch and Siberian Tit, Raven and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Click here to listen.

King Eider by Hugh Harrop Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Duck by Hugh Harrop Golden Eagle by Hugh Harrop

 

Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Duck by Hugh Harrop

 

Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop Siberian Tit by Hugh Harrop Kumlien's Gull by Hugh Harrop Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop

 

Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Siberian Jay by Hugh Harrop

 

Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop

 

Dipper by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Siberian Jay by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop

 

Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

King Eider by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop

Southern France in Winter 14 - 20 February 2009

Our annual winter visit to southern France provided another spectacular haul of birds, some superb sunny weather, a stiff 'mistral' and of course, outstanding food and wine! The Camargue region, as always, certainly lived up to its reputation: once again we saw France's second-ever Green Heron (the returning bird from 2006/2007), we had good looks at a singing Moustached Warbler, stunning views of Penduline Tits plus Booted Eagles, lots of Hen and Marsh Harriers, Night Herons, White Storks, Mediterranean Gull, Avocets and a couple of male White-spotted Bluethroats. Nearby, La Crau produced incredible views of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse plus Little Bustards, Southern Grey Shrike, Little Owls and Dartford Warbler. Perhaps the most noteworthy observation here was an incredible assemblage of over 150 Calandra Larks at our usual site. The limestone massif of Les Alpilles yielded us with superb views of a Wallcreeper which sat out in full view for over 30 minutes plus displaying Bonelli's Eagles, Alpine Accentors and Blue Rock Thrush. Our day trip to a very snowy Mount Ventoux yielded us with lots of showy Citril Finches, incredible views of a male Black Woodpecker, plenty of Crested Tits plus Marsh Tits, Common Crossbills and Bramblings. In 2010 we will once again be running a winter holiday to the region and have set the dates for 12 - 18 February. More details are here.

Green Heron by Hugh Harrop Little Bustards by Hugh Harrop Pin-tailed Sandgrouse by Hugh Harrop Wallcreeper by Judd Hunt

Fair Isle Spring & Autumn 2009

Well, OK, we said we wouldn't be going but try keeping us away! We are delighted to have secured a small amount of accommodation to run three trips to Fair Isle in Spring and Autumn 2009. All will be combined with a few days on Shetland Mainland. We have a Spring Migration trip operating from Saturday 16th May - Saturday 23rd May and two Autumn Migration trips running from Saturday 19th September - Saturday 26th September and from Saturday 10th October - Saturday 17th October. The Spring trip can be combined with Spring into Shetland the week before, or Ultimate Shetland the week after. To allow maximum flexibility during September and October, one can also join our legendary Autumn Gold holidays either side of our Fair Isle trips. Our Fair Isle holidays are limited to just 4 or 5 travellers so we would advise bookings to be made as soon as possible. Remember that by booking a combined holiday you automatically qualify for a 5% discount! So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company.

Up Helly Aa 2009 - a huge success. We are now open for 2010 bookings!

Once again, our groups recorded a superb array of wildlife. The weather was kind to us and highlights included an adult drake King Eider, a Tundra Bean Goose, 3 European White-fronted Geese, Hen Harrier, Merlin, lots of Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebes, displaying Red Grouse, good numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, lots of Long-tailed Ducks, and Purple Sandpipers. Mammal buffs were rewarded with awesome views of at least five Otters at our 'stake outs', including one that we watched for 30 minutes taking 11 fish! Also several brilliant-white Arctic Hares and lots of Grey and Common Seals. The weather was brilliant for the Up Helly Aa festival itself and we all had a grandstand view of the procession. In 2010, Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 23rd - Wednesday 27th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2009 departure - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place call us on 01950 460939 or book here.

Eider by Hugh Harrop Grey Seal by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Duck by Hugh Harrop Tundra Bean Goose by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa by Hugh Harrop

Winter Pho-tours in Shetland

New and exclusive to Shetland Wildlife! We are delighted to bring you the option of a tailor-made winter break to complement our successful and busy summer photographic holidays. Led by award-winning photographer and Shetland Wildlife boss Hugh Harrop (who is also the most widely published wildlife photographer in Shetland by a mile!), we use a unique combination of local knowledge and Hugh's camera skills to help you get the very best winter images from this northern land.

There is no set itinerary as such, and we'll create the trip around your specific requirements and chosen subjects. We would recommend a four or five day trip anytime from mid November - early April and over the course of these days we would expect to photograph a wide variety of subjects including:

Interested? Please provide us with an idea of what subjects you'd like to tackle and we'll provide a guideline itinerary and a price. You can e mail this to us or give Hugh a call direct on 01950 460939. So photograph the best wildlife with the best photographic guide - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife photography company!

STOP PRESS - 2008 Shetland Autumn Migration trips produce a bagful of goodies!

Local knowledge is everything and we excelled in September 2008! In planning our series of autumn migration trips, we always try to choose what we regard as the best period - and we tend to get it right every year! Highlights of a truly incredible period at the end of September, with our three groups based on Fair Isle, Foula and Shetland Mainland produced a mouth-watering selection of birds that included:

Plus Thrush Nightingale, Red-throated Pipit. Wryneck, Little Bunting, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Honey Buzzard, Bluethroat, Rose-coloured Starling, Osprey, Common Rosefinch, Red-backed Shrike, Marsh Warbler, Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers, Siberian Stonechat and Lapland Bunting!

It is hardly surprising that we are already getting busy for Autumn 2009 and with Fair Isle Lodge & Bird Observatory closing for complete rebuild in 2009 (you can contribute by way of a donation here) we will be running two trips to Foula and also two Autumn Gold weeks. Our Foula holidays are limited to just 4 travellers so we would advise bookings to be made as soon as possible and remember that if you also book an Autumn Gold trip, you automatically qualify for a 5% discount off the total cost!

So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company.

Siberian Thrush by Deryk Shaw Brown Flycatcher by Deryk Shaw Siberian Thrush by Deryk Shaw American Golden Plover by Hugh Harrop

 

Arctic Warbler by Hugh Harrop Sykes's Warbler  by Hugh Harrop Western Bonelli's Warbler by Hugh Harrop Paddyfield Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Lanceolated Warbler by Andrew Jordan Arctic Redpoll by Andrew Jordan Rose-coloured Starling by Hugh Harrop Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Autumn 2008 Gets Off to a Great Start!

Autumn has once again kicked off with some superb wildlife. Heading the bill was a pod of 4 Killer Whales which the Shetland Wildlife team photographed as they cruised from Gulberwick to Mousa Sound. It was very much a case of déjà vu as this was a pod we photographed several times during the glorious summer of 2006 doing pretty much the same thing - hunting seals incredibly close to shore. They are also the same pod that are featured on our 2008 brochure! Late July to mid August saw a truly impressive arrival - at least 45 Two-barred Crossbills on Shetland and Fair Isle, with a 'flock' of 18 birds at Sumburgh head mid month! Hugh has written a paper on this notable event and will be published in 'Birding World' in mid September. A trickle of rarities from mid August to early September was headed by Paddyfield, Booted and Melodious Warblers, Citrine Wagtail, Ortolan Bunting. A nice 'fall' in early September brought lots of common migrants and quite a few Wrynecks and Barred Warblers. Good numbers of migrant waders were also at the usual hotspots and the moth traps yielded some nice surprises, including a stunning Convolvulus Hawkmoth.

Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale  by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop

 

Booted Warbler by Hugh Harrop Convolvulus Hawkmoth by Hugh Harrop Two-barred Crossbill by Hugh Harrop Wryneck by Hugh Harrop

Autumn Birding in Shetland 2008

Our Autumn Gold and Fair Isle Autumn Migration holidays are filling rapidly but if our dates don't fit in with your plans or if you prefer a more independent approach to your birding and rare bird photography prospects, we are also offering tailor-made packages for birders and photographers wishing to sample the delights of autumn birding here in Shetland. As an ATOL bonded business we can book your inter-island flights to Foula, Fair Isle and Out Skerries and also book your accommodation and hire car. Should you wish us to provide a guide - no problem! Whether it's for a few hours in between flights, for a day before you head off to or return from Fair Isle, or for a week, our crack team of expert staff birders will all be on hand in September and October to guide you to all the migrant hotspots and the latest rarities. So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company.

A new era for Fair Isle Bird Observatory

We were informed by Fair Isle Bird Observatory trustees on 11 July 2008 that the observatory would not be accepting bookings for 2009. It is extremely likely that work on the new observatory will commence next year and the decision has been a long-time coming for one reason or another. With a high degree of uncertainty still in the air above Fair Isle, Shetland Wildlife will now switch its Fair Isle-based birdwatching holidays to Foula.

Shetland Wildlife has run more holidays and taken more people to Fair Isle since 1996 than any other eco-business and our input currently equates to around 6.5% of annual observatory turnover. In 2008 our input will rise to nearly 9% of turnover based on figures published on the Shetland Islands Council web site. This also means that in 2008, Shetland Wildlife is estimated to account for nearly 5% of the total island input. If there was ever a case for how eco-tourism can impact a remote community, this is it!

For those of you with an interest in how the new build project will be administered, Shetland Islands Council have made a feasibility study and a funding proposal document available for public viewing.

Sounds from Extremadura

We were delighted to receive a fantastic CD of bird song that was recorded on our recent April trip to Extremadura by Shetland Wildlife regulars Fred and Win Bridges. We have uploaded a few of our favourites in MP3 format - we just love the dawn chorus recording - so click here to have a listen to each species individually. We have also stitched all the songs together so for five minutes of truly evocative listening click here. Remember we are running another trip to this beautiful region from April 18 - 25 2009 so if you enjoy these sounds, you'll certainly enjoy the sights! Thanks Fred and Win!

Shetland Spring & Summer 2008 - the story thus far...

What a superb Spring and Summer we are having. As we enter July, the months of May and June proved to be outstanding once again. Topping the bill were several awesome encounters with at least two pods of Killer Whales. From photo identification work undertaken by Shetland Wildlife, we have determined that one of the pods is the same as that recorded in August 2007 - which we watched chasing and eating Eider ducks! Other cetaceans have been thin on the ground, which is quite normal for May and June, but we've managed a few sightings of Minke Whale and continue to see Harbour Porpoise almost daily. No doubt July and August will prove fruitful for White-beaked, White-sided and Risso's Dolphins. Otters are putting on a fine show and our 'stake-outs' are providing us with great views of these highly prized animals - on two separate occasions we saw no less than seven Otters in a week and have maintained a 100% success rate for every group! All of our breeding seabirds are here - Puffins, Black Guillemots, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic and Common Terns, Shags and Gannets to name a few and the Mousa Broch Storm Petrels continue to delight. We also enjoying Red-throated Divers in their breeding dress and we've also found several summer-plumaged Great Northern Divers. Red-necked Phalaropes are performing well on Fetlar along with other breeding waders such as Whimbrel, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshanks and Curlew. As a bonus, three Corncrakes were present in the south Mainland in the first half of June. As always, we connected with all the major rarities and scarcities and our birding groups here in Shetland and Fair Isle have had a bag-load of great sightings. Britain's first-ever Citril Finch graced Fair Isle in early June and other notable birds included King Eider, Surf Scoter, White-billed Diver, Common Crane, Temminck's Stint, Red-footed Falcon, Tawny Pipit, several Wrynecks and Bluethroats, a couple of Thrush Nightingales, both Marsh and Icterine Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Golden Orioles, lots of Red-backed Shrikes and both Rustic and Black-headed Bunting. Phew! So once again, more species of birds, mammals and wild flowers than any other operator. And with 15 years of experience, its little wonder that we remain the NUMBER ONE CHOICE!

Red-backed Shrike by Hugh Harrop Corncrake  by Hugh Harrop Puffin by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop

 

Puffin by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop

 

Gannet by Hugh Harrop Otter by Hugh Harrop Otter by Hugh Harrop Whimbrel by Hugh Harrop

Autumn Rare & Scarce Bird Photography: Fair Isle & Shetland

Ace, award-winning photographer and Shetland Wildlife boss Hugh Harrop is currently in the process of devising and operating dedicated rare and scarce bird photographic holidays in autumn. Although still at the planning stage, the trip would entail time spent on Fair Isle and Shetland (mainland and outlying islands). Many of you will be familiar with the plethora of stunning images Hugh creates every autumn for top journals like Birding World, British Birds, Dutch Birding and Bird Watching, so if you fancy a week or two learning the tricks of the trade and fancy bumping up your stock with a good selection of scarce migrants, please e mail us with your expression of interest and we'll send you details when they are finalised. As a taster, please refer to Hugh's 2007 rare and scarce gallery by clicking here.

UPDATED Shetland Bird Checklist as of 15 June 2008

The most up to date checklist of Shetland birds is available for download by clicking here. Lets hope we have another addition in the near future!

'British Birds' Bird Photograph of the Year 2008

We were delighted to learn that Shetland Wildlife field director Hugh Harrop and our guide for all trips to Finland and Norway, Harri Tavetti, have been awarded 9th, 7th and 2nd places respectively in the 'BB' Bird Photograph of the Year 2008 competition. Their entries of Little Stints, Arctic Seaduck and Red-necked Phalarope in flight obviously grabbed the judges' attention in this increasingly tough competition which, in 2008, attracted more entries than ever before. This is the fourth short-listed finish in four consecutive years for Hugh, who came fifth in 2007 and third in 2006. Well done Hugh and Harri and here's hoping for a win in 2009!

Finland & Arctic Norway: 24th May - 6th June 2008

Another completely full holiday for us and another bag load of goodies! The birding in May and June 2008 was truly awesome - and so was the weather! Highlights in the forests included some wonderful encounters with the 'big five' owls - we saw two Great Grey Owls at the nest and also found a superb male out in the open which posed for photographs just a few metres above our heads! We were fortunate enough to visit a recently found Hawk Owl nest site and were privileged to watch chicks being ringed as the adults perched above us. A midnight vigil provided stunning views of a Tengmalm's Owl as it brought a vole to the nest and a Pygmy Owl sat out in the open for nearly twenty minutes as it announced its territory. A delightful pair of Ural Owls also gave us great views as they tended to their chicks in the loft of a disused barn. Other deep forest and forest-fringe highlights included Hazel Hen, rogue male Capercaillie, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Wryneck, Black Grouse, Ortolan, Little and Rustic Buntings, Honey Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Great Grey Shrike, Goshawk, Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers and Waxwings. Waders were plentiful and we found a super flock of 13 Broad-billed Sandpipers just outside our hotel in Oulu and we were also rewarded with amazing views of a very rare Finnish breeder displaying over our heads - Marsh Sandpiper. The myriad of lakes supported Smews, Velvet Scoters, Black-throated Divers, Taiga Bean Geese, breeding Cranes, Red-necked Grebes and Little Gulls seemed to be everywhere! As we headed north into Lapland the diversity of birds just got better and better - singing Jack Snipe, velvety Spotted Redshanks, a couple of Pine Grosbeaks giving views down to a few metres, Arctic Redpoll, dapper male Red-spotted Bluethroats and several Dotterels running around our feet. Up in the barren but beautiful tundra zones of Arctic Norway we watched a superb Gyrfalcon cruising along its cliff top domain as a male Ring Ouzel vied for attention. We watched Long-tailed Skuas displaying in the air at a million miles an hour, we compared Rock and Willow Ptarmigan, piebald Snow Buntings sang from the boulder screes, Temminck's Stints trilled all around us, Ruff lekked everywhere and we had Lapland Buntings, Red-necked Phalaropes, Red-throated Pipits and Shore Larks sometimes running around our feet. Offshore we located stunning drake Steller's Eiders and 'battleships' of birds in the form of many White-billed Divers. We marvelled at a passage of nearly 100 Pomarine Skuas heading east to Siberia, we enjoyed awesome views of waders such as Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Little Stint and Sanderling in their resplendent summer plumage and had great views of 'tundra' Bean Geese. White-tailed Eagles seemed to be everywhere along the coast and a visit to Hornoya provided us with thousands of seabirds including excellent views of another special arctic denizen - Brunnich's Guillemot. Mammals also featured and we enjoyed great views of Moose, Arctic Hare, Stoat, Harbour Porpoise and we got so close to a male Barded Seal, we could smell its breath! We will run this trip in 2009 from 23 May - 5 June 2009. As always we advise early reservations to be made so please e mail us for further information. Shetland Wildlife certainly offers the best itinerary in this region and we consistently see the best birds - and have done to the last five years - so book early and see the best birds, with the best guides, at the best price!

 

Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop Marsh Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Skua by Hugh Harrop Temminck's Stint by Hugh Harrop

 

White-tailed Eagle by Hugh Harrop Wood Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Brunnich's Guillemot by Hugh Harrop

 

Bearded Seal by Hugh Harrop Pygmy Owl by Hugh Harrop Dotterel by Hugh Harrop White-billed Diver by Hugh Harrop

 

Hawk Owl by Hugh Harrop Arctic Hare by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Capercaillie by Hugh Harrop

 

White-billed Diver by Hugh Harrop Tengmalm's Owl by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop

 

Dotterel by Hugh Harrop Three-toed Woodpecker by Hugh Harrop Black Woodpeckers by Hugh Harrop Great Grey Owl by Hugh Harrop

 

Tundra Bean Goose by Hugh Harrop Shore Lark by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Pipit by Hugh Harrop Little Bunting by Hugh Harrop

Poland in Spring 3 - 10 May & 10 - 17 May 2008

Our annual visit to Poland in May sold out so quickly that we were delighted to offer an additional week - which also sold out! Birding in this country is always full of superlatives and highlights were many. In Bialowieza Forest we recorded nine species of woodpecker including White-backed, Three-toed, Middle-spotted, Black, Grey-headed, Lesser Spotted and Wryneck. We discovered no less than five nest sites for White-backed and had stunning views as they fed chicks! Pygmy Owls and Tengmalm's Owls also gave us superb views at our 'stake outs' and other forest gems included Hazel Grouse, Red-breasted Flycatchers, Golden Orioles, Icterine and Barred Warblers, Collared Flycatchers, Hawfinches, dapper male White-spotted Bluethroats, plenty of Lesser spotted Eagles, Hobbies, Honey Buzzards and Black Storks. Nearby at Siemianwka Lake we enjoyed a dazzling singing male Citrine Wagtail and crippling views of a dog Otter. Lekking Great Snipes were seen at our usual site and a handsome Red-necked Grebe entertained us at the Bialystok fish ponds. We were also fortunate to see a superb Roller on the second week which is now a critically endangered species in Poland. Biebrza marshes yielded us with great looks at Aquatic, River and Savi's Warblers, Corncrakes, Greater spotted and White-tailed Eagles, masses of Ruff, Wood Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks, a single Marsh Sandpiper and truly staggering numbers of White-winged Black, Black and Whiskered Terns. For many the highlight here was a beautiful male Pallid Harrier - a vagrant to Poland and even though we found one in 2007, nothing could prepare us for this bird! Both groups had the pleasure to watch this superb singleton display to a female Montagu's Harrier. Words cannot describe the sky-dancing antics of this pint-sized harrier but if birds were Olympians, this bird would have scored 9.9 from everybody! Other critters also featured and we recorded Pine Marten, Otter, Polecat, Elk, Northern Birch Mouse and several species of amphibian. In 2009, we will run this holiday from 9 - 16 May and will also run an additional week from 2 - 9 May if demand warrants - which it almost certainly will! As always, we advise early reservations so please e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details.

Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop Honey Buzzard by Hugh Harrop White-winged Black Tern by Hugh Harrop River Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop Wryneck by Hugh Harrop Ruffs by Hugh Harrop Biebrza Marshes by Hugh Harrop

 

Bluethroat by Hugh Harrop Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop White-winged Black Tern by Hugh Harrop Red-necked Grebe by Hugh Harrop

 

White-backed Woodpecker by Hugh Harrop Barred Warbler by Hugh Harrop Bialowieza Forest by Hugh Harrop Grey-headed Woodpecker by Hugh Harrop

 

Tengmalm's Owl by Hugh Harrop White-winged Black Tern by Hugh Harrop White-backed Woodpecker by Hugh Harrop Whiskered Tern by Hugh Harrop

Extremadura 19 - 26 April 2008

Seven days in Extremadura rewarded us with a haul of great birds. The varied habitats of steppe, wetland and sub-alpine habitats hosted an array of species and we were treated to some great weather. On the raptor front we recorded a staggering 20 species with the highlights being Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu's Harriers, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle and Lesser Kestrels. The steppes yielded displaying Great and Little Bustards, ultra-colourful Rollers and Bee-eaters, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Short-toed, Calandra, Crested and Thekla Larks, Great Spotted Cuckoos, Spanish Sparrows and Black-eared Wheatear. Monfrague National Park and the surrounding environs offered us great views of an adult Eagle Owl with her chicks, breeding Black Storks, superb views of Black Wheatear, 'gangs' of Alpine Swifts and a large roost of Rock Sparrows. A dusk visit also provided us with good views of singing Red-necked Nightjars. The 'dehesa' and cistus heathland were where we connected with the huge Western Orphean Warbler and we also had great views of its smaller cousins - Subalpine, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler. In the wet spots we found lots of Collared Pratincoles, Purple Gallinules, Little Bitterns, Purple Herons, Gull-billed Terns, Little Ringed Plovers, Savi's and Great Reed Warblers, Common Waxbills and Red Avadavats. Other highlights included incredible views of singing Nightingales, Melodious Warblers, dapper male Golden Orioles, a pair of very cooperative Scop's Owls, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in full view just a few metres away, Crested Tits, singing Ortolan Bunting, Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Buntings, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes and plenty of Crag Martins and Red-rumped Swallows. As is the case with all our trips, 2008 was a complete sell out. We already have a few folk booked for 2009 so, as always, e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details.

Bee-eater by Hugh Harrop Bonelli's Eagle by Hugh Harrop Calandra Lark by Hugh Harrop Collared Pratincole by Hugh Harrop

 

Crag Martin by Hugh Harrop Bee-eater by Hugh Harrop Eagle Owl by Hugh Harrop Great Bustard by Hugh Harrop

 

Collared Pratincole by Hugh Harrop Great-Spotted Cuckoo by Hugh Harrop Griffon-Vulture by Hugh Harrop Gull-billed Tern by Hugh Harrop

 

Lesser Kestrel by Hugh Harrop Montagu's-Harrier by Hugh Harrop Nightingale by Hugh Harrop Rock Bunting by Hugh Harrop

 

Roller by Hugh Harrop Short-toed Eagle by Hugh Harrop Lesser-Kestrel by Hugh Harrop Subalpine Warbler by Hugh Harrop

Shetland Life launches photography competition

Shetland Life magazine has launched its first Shetland Wildlife Photography Competition, and is inviting entries from photographers of all ages. The competition is open to pictures depicting any aspect of Shetland wildlife - birds, animals, plants or wild landscapes - and will be judged by Hugh Harrop, Shetland's most widely-published wildlife photographer. Many of his pictures can be viewed online at www.hughharrop.com, and a gallery of his photographs from the Arctic are featured in the latest edition of the magazine..There will be three prizewinners and five runners-up in the competition, and all eight winning photographs will be published in the June edition of Shetland Life. The first prize is a £60 voucher from The Camera Shop, Lerwick, and the winner will also receive a framed copy of their photograph. Entries for the competition should be posted as prints or on CD to: Shetland Life Photography Competition, The Shetland Times Ltd, Gremista, Lerwick. They can also be sent by email to the magazine's editor Malachy Tallack at m.tallack@shetland-times.co.uk (please do not send very large files by email). Digital pictures must be at least 300dpi, and major digital alterations and enhancements should be avoided. Photographers can enter up to four photographs each. The closing date for entries is 10th May. More information on the competition and prizes can be found in the most recent edition of Shetland Life.

Finland & Norway - March 2008 Winter Photo Holiday

Our annual week-long photography trip guided by Hugh Harrop and Harri Taavetti to Lapland and Arctic Norway was another huge success. Our feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities with the normally secretive Pine Grosbeak - at least fifteen birds were coming to the station along with Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits, Willow Tits, Mealy and Arctic Redpolls plus Red Squirrels. Continuing into northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varanger region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and sea duck, with an emphasis on capturing the 'rarer' Eiders. Gloriously calm and sunny days allowed us to take full advantage of the weather and we managed no less than three boat trips to get in amongst the birds. Opportunities from land were also outstanding and the group pretty much all secured stunning shots of King, Steller's and Common Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, Black, Common and Brunnich's Guillemots, Shags, Cormorant, Kittiwakes, Purple Sandpipers and both Iceland and Glaucous Gull. Lady luck was certainly on our side as we also found two Hawk Owls in the Varanger region and on our last evening, we were treated to a great display of the Aurora Borealis in Lapland. What an experience! In 2009 we will run this holiday from 14 -21 March and we are also looking at offering a pre or post tour trip to photograph Golden Eagles in Eastern Finland. As is the case with all our trips, 2008 was a complete sell out. We already have a couple of folk booked for 2009 so, as always, e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details. A photo-holiday wouldn't be complete without some photographs so a few of Hugh's are presented below and you can also view an online slide show of our highlights by clicking here.

Siberian Tit by Hugh Harrop Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop

 

Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Long-tailed Duck by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop

 

King Eider by Hugh Harrop Pine Grosbeak by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop Purple Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

King Eider by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop Steller's Eider by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

Southern France in Winter - yet another great trip!

Our now legendary annual winter visit to southern France provided a spectacular haul of birds, some superb sunny weather and of course, outstanding food and wine! The Camargue region, as always, certainly lived up to its reputation - we recorded France's second-ever Green Heron (the returning bird from last year), lots of Penduline and Bearded Tits, an adult Spotted Eagle, an immature Bonelli's Eagle, Booted Eagle, Purple Gallinule, White Stork, Mediterranean Gulls, Spoonbills, Avocets, a couple of Bluethroats, and a magnificent gathering of over 100 Cranes. As always there were a few surprises - a flock of 10 Glossy Ibis and 4 Bewick's Swans were certainly of note and we also discovered a new roosting site for the very localised Night Heron. Nearby the stony desert of La Crau produced a flock of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Bustards, Southern Grey Shrike and a solitary Richard's Pipit. However, for most, the highlight here with the assemblage of 20 Calandra Larks which were singing and establishing territories at exactly the same site we saw them last year! Calandra Larks are incredibly localised in France so we'll certainly be keeping this location quiet! The limestone massif of Les Alpilles yielded us with superb views of Wallcreepers, hunting Bonelli's Eagles, Alpine Accentors, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Crag Martins, Firecrest and a large flock of Woodlarks. We were also treated to great views of a very vocal male Eagle Owl at one of our stake outs. Our day trip to the towering Mount Ventoux (on Rob's birthday!) was, like the Calandra Larks - a déjà vu - we had superb views of a male Black Woodpecker at virtually the same place as in 2007 as it drummed to announce its territory and gave everybody a spectacular fly by. Citril Finches were thinner on the ground than usual but a small party of six birds made their way in to the log. Crested Tits were recorded in good numbers along with Marsh Tit, Common Crossbill, Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest. In 2009 we will once again be running a winter holiday to the region and have set the dates for 14 - 20 February. As always, we advise early reservations so please email us to book or for further details. We are also in the process of creating a stunning itinerary for a spring visit in May 2009 - details to be announced soon. As always, we managed to take a few nice memoirs of the trip, so click here for an online slide show of our highlights.

Alpine Accentor by Hugh Harrop Calendra Lark by Hugh Harrop Night Heron by Hugh Harrop Wallcreeper by Hugh Harrop

ONE VACANCY on Finland & Arctic Norway: 24 May - 6 June 2008

Due to a cancellation on our Finland & Arctic Norway: 24 May - 6 June 2008, one space has recently become available. You can read full details here. Please contact our office on 01950 460939 if you would like to book, or book online by clicking here. As a taster, here's a summary from our 2007 trip...

"Our first week saw us seeking out the 'big five' owls and we were treated to superb views of Great Grey, Ural, Hawk, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owls. We were fortunate to find a male Great Grey away from the nest as well as watching two different families of Hawk Owls with young! Other highlights included stunning views of an adult male Red-flanked Bluetail, equally stunning views of Broad-billed Sandpiper, awesome encounters with Hazel Hens, a rogue male Capercaillie, displaying Terek and Marsh (exceptionally rare) Sandpipers, a summer plumaged Grey Phalarope, Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, an out of range singing River Warbler, plus Rustic, Little and Ortolan Buntings. Our second week saw us birding the fringes of the boreal forests to the edge of the tundra and the Barents Sea. Highlights were plentiful - Dotterels, Pine Grosbeaks, four Gyrfalcons including a pair with 3 chicks at the nest, Bluethroats, several White-billed Divers, a vagrant Pectoral Sandpiper, awesome encounters with Long-tailed Skuas, Rough-legged Buzzards, lekking Ruffs and Temminck's Stints everywhere, Brunnich's Guillemots, stunning male King Eider, White-tailed Eagles, Red-throated Pipits, Lapland and Snow Buntings, Shore Larks, Arctic Redpolls and masses of summer plumaged waders. The list is endless! We also accrued a great mammal list with highlights including a very tame and friendly Norwegian Lemming, Elk, Stoat and Arctic Hare. As always, we managed to take a few nice memoirs of the trip, so click here for an online slide show of our highlights."

Shetland Wildlife & birdguide.pl join forces to help Tengmalm's Owls!

Shetland Wildlife Field Director and birdguide.pl owner Waldemar Krasowski are delighted to announce that they have co-sponsored the building of ten nest boxes to attract breeding Tengmalm's Owls in Bialowieza Forest, Poland. The nest boxes were erected in mid February by Waldy in regions where the species has been heard calling in the last few years. Hopefully we'll be able to meet the new occupants during our two trips to the region in May 2008!

Tengmalm's Nestbox Erecting nestbox Erecting nestbox Tengmalm's Owl by Hugh Harrop

Poland 2008 - only TWO spaces left on ADDITIONAL 3 - 10 MAY 2008 departure!

Our 10 - 17 May 2008 Poland In Spring holiday sold out in just two days after release so we have added an additional departure to run from 3 - 10 May 2008. We currently have just TWO spaces left as of 27 February 2008. So if you a fancy a superb week with Hugh Harrop and Waldemar Krasowski, exploring some of Europe's premier habitats with Great Snipes at the lek, rare Aquatic Warblers, Spotted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, 10 species of Woodpecker, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owls, masses of migrant waders and marsh terns, rasping Corncrakes and a chance to see the endangered and elusive European Bison, then Poland is for you. To book your place click here.

Foula Autumn Migration

NEW FOR 2008: Foula Autumn Migration 20 - 27 September 2008

We are delighted to announce this new, 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. Click Here for more details.

Hugh Harrop ensures Olive-tree Warbler is added to the British List!

It's every birdwatchers dream to find a new bird for Britain! The British list is now one bigger thanks to Hugh Harrop's photos of a hippolais warbler at Boddam, Shetland in August 2006. The bird was originally thought by to be an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (which is itself a gross rarity), but Hugh's follow up work on the sighting cast nagging doubts in his mind and with the help of colleagues here in Shetland, Israel, Ireland and Sweden, the bird was re-identified as Britain's first-ever Olive-tree Warbler. For this, Hugh has been be announced as the winner of the 2007 Carl Zeiss Award and received a brand new spanking pair of the superb 7 x 42 'Victory' series binoculars - not that he needs another pair!! Read the official press release in British Birds here and read the full account of the observation as published in the February 2008 edition of British Birds here.

Up Helly Aa 2008 - a huge success. We are now open for 2009 bookings!

Once again, our groups recorded a superb array of wildlife. Ornithological highlights included an adult drake King Eider, our semi-resident White-billed Diver with stacks of Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, a drake American Wigeon, Little Auk, Slavonian Grebes, Smew, Velvet &Common Scoters, pale-bellied Brent Goose, Red Grouse, good numbers of Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, lots of Long-tailed Ducks, Purple Sandpipers and Shetland's largest ever flock of Jackdaws! Mammal buffs were rewarded with awesome views of an Otter as it fished for nearly an hour at one of our stake-outs. Also lots of brilliant-white Arctic Hares, a couple of pods of Harbour Porpoise and lots of Grey and Common Seals. The weather was brilliant for the Up Helly Aa festival itself and we all had a grandstand view of the procession. In 2009, Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from Saturday 24th - Wednesday 28th January. As this holiday is extremely popular - and we already have bookings from folk who could not join us for our sell-out 2008 departure - we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible. To guarantee your place book here.

American Wigeon by Hugh Harrop Arctic Hare by Hugh Harrop Iceland Gull by Hugh Harrop King Eider by Hugh Harrop

 

Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa

 

Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa

 

Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa

Focus on Shetland - both trips sold out 10 months ahead of departure. Now booking for 2009!

Well that's probably not what you wanted to read if you are hoping to book! To meet demand, we have now finalised 2009 dates and will once again run two departures: 6 - 13 June &13 - 20 June 2009. We would therefore advise reservations to be made as soon as possible. If you cannot make these dates or still wish to travel to Shetland in 2008, remember that we also offer bespoke photographic solutions for the amateur and pro-photographer. Many photographers often have 'gaps' in their collection so why not take advantage of our expert local knowledge and let us assist you in getting the images YOU want! Some of the best photographic opportunities are right here on our own doorstep, in the south Mainland and we can also arrange packages to the north isles of Fetlar, Yell and Unst. So photograph the best birds with the best photographic guides - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company. For more information on our bespoke photographic trips please click here.

Finland &Norway Winter Photo Holiday 2009

A similar story to our Shetland photo holidays - it sold out months before departure! We are just putting the finishing touches to our 2009 departure and will have dates finalised in late March 2008 though they are likely to be mid / late March once again. We have three folks already provisionally booked and as this trip is limited to just six, early reservations are once again recommended. You can express your interest and request notification of finalised dates by e mailing us.

Autumn Gold 29 September - 6 October 2007

Like our previous week on Fair Isle, we probably also had the best period of the autumn here in Shetland. How do we do it?! Highlights from a haul of first-class rarities included Killdeer, two Spotted Sandpiper, Sardinian Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Swainson's Thrush, Blyth's Reed Warbler, King Eider, Grey Phalarope, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Melodious Warbler and a Ring-necked Duck! A supporting cast of scarcities included lots of Yellow-browed Warblers, Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinches, Lapland and Snow Buntings and plenty of common migrants. Several of the group extended their stay with us beyond the 6th and we were also delighted to guide a group from the Scottish Ornithologists Club. Needless to say, we hauled-in another bag full of incredible birds. Topping the bill were White's Thrush, Pechora Pipit, Red-flanked Bluetail, Paddyfield Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Rustic Bunting, Pallas's Warbler, another Melodious Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit, Short-toed Lark and White-rumped Sandpiper. Phew! Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration - so join us in 2008. Autumn Gold will run from 27th September to 4th October but why not enjoy a week on Fair Isle before this trip from 20th - 27th September and take advantage of a combined 5% discount off both trips! Click here for further information. Having so many first-class birders and rarity finders working for us means that we are also able to offer a suite of exclusive tailor made packages for independent birders or groups. So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company.

Arctic Redpoll by Hugh Harrop Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop Grey Phalarope by Hugh Harrop Lapland Bunting by Hugh Harrop

 

Olive-backed Pipit by Hugh Harrop Pallas's Warbler by Hugh Harrop Pechora Pipit by Hugh Harrop Red-flanked Bluetail by Hugh Harrop

 

Spotted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Swainson's Thrush by Hugh Harrop White's Thrush by Hugh Harrop Yellow-browed Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Fair Isle Autumn Migration 22 - 29 September 2007

To say that we picked the best week of the autumn would be understatement of the year! A cool north westerly airflow at the start of our trip produced Shetland's second-ever Buff-bellied Pipit and a nice smattering of scarce migrants such as Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinches, and Lapland Buntings. The wind then drifted in from the east mid week and produced spectacular results! Two Lanceolated Warblers (one of which vied for attention with a passing pod of 5 Killer Whales!) and two Citrine Wagtails were discovered within hours of each other and a nice supporting cast of Yellow-browed Warblers, no less than 5 Barred Warblers and Bluethroat set the scene. The saying 'save the best until last' could not have been more appropriate - our last full day on the island produced and Icterine Warbler on the morning trap-round and a showy Thrush Nightingale was found in the south, just next to a Lanceolated Warbler! In true Fair Isle fashion, a stunning Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler was found late in the afternoon - which, for most, was bird of the trip! Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration - so join us in 2008. Fair Isle Autumn Migration will run from 20th - 27th September and our follow-on Autumn Gold week will run from 27th September to 4th October - click here for further information.

Focus on Shetland - trips almost sold out 10 months ahead of departure!

We are now completely full on our Focus on Shetland photography holiday from 7 - 14 June 2008 and have JUST ONE space left for the 14 - 21 June 2008 departure. We would therefore advise reservations to be made as soon as possible! If you cannot make these dates, remember that we also offer bespoke photographic solutions for the amateur and pro-photographer. Many photographers often have 'gaps' in their collection so why not take advantage of our expert local knowledge and let us assist you in getting the images YOU want! Some of the best photographic opportunities are right here on our own doorstep, in the south Mainland and we can also arrange packages to the north isles of Fetlar, Yell and Unst. For more information on our photographic departures please click here

Carbon Offsetting

The Shetland Wildlife team have been looking into various 'carbon offsetting' schemes with a view to recommending one or more to our travellers. In view of the increasing negative publicity that many of these schemes are receiving, we are wondering if there are any schemes out there which are really TRULY effective - in a recent national newspaper article, carbon offsetting was described as the modern equivalent of "purveying 'Snake Oil' to gullible customers". So if there are any schemes that our travellers truly belive are worthy of contribution, we'd be delighted to hear about them.

Autumn Gets Off to a Great Start!

Autumn has kicked off with some superb wildlife - heading the bill was a pod of 5 Killer Whales which the Shetland Wildlife team photographed just south of Lerwick. This is a 'new' pod to Shetland waters and we have already 'matched' the pod from photographs taken of the bull of Orkney in July. They gave us superb views as they hunted just a few metres from the shoreline and at one stage, three of the pod started attacking a flock of moulting Common Eiders - we estimated that nearly 30 birds were taken. This is only the second time this feeding behaviour has been witnessed in Shetland. A trickle of rarities in the latter part of August was headed by a stunning juvenile Pallid Harrier and we also recorded Greenish Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, Rose-coloured Starling, Pectoral Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpiper. Fair Isle has also yielded a few goodies including Citrine Wagtail and both Greenish and Icterine Warblers. September yielded a haul of American waders and by the middle of the month 2 Baird's Sandpipers, 6 Buff-breasted Sandpipers and at least 3 more Pectoral Sandpipers were found! The juvenile Pallid Harrier put in a couple of appearances in the Spiggie area, an adult Rose-coloured Starling was on Unst along with a Melodious Warbler and a Citrine Wagtail was discovered on Foula. Strong winds meant good seawatching conditions but we daren't mention the 5 Great Shearwaters off Unst to Hugh as he still needs it for his massive 358 Shetland list! The few calm nights have yielded some nice moths in the traps highlights have included Shetland's second-ever The Snout, third-ever Straw Dot plus a Bedstraw Hawk Moth in the garden!

Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Pectoral Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Bedstraw Hawkmoth by Hugh Harrop White-rimped Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

Greenish Warbler by Hugh Harrop Ortolan Bunting by Hugh Harrop Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop Greenish Warbler by Hugh Harrop

 

Baird's Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop Rose-colured Starling by Hugh Harrop

 

 

Autumn Birding in Shetland 2007

Our Autumn Gold and Fair Isle Autumn Migration holidays are now fully booked, so to cope with such high demand, we are now able to offer a suite of exclusive tailor made packages for independent birders wishing to sample the delights of autumn birding here in Shetland. As an ATOL bonded business we can book your inter-island flights to Foula, Fair Isle and Out Skerries and also book your accommodations and hire car. We are also investigating establishing an SMS service to keep visiting birders up to date with all the latest sightings as they happen. Should you wish us to provide a guide - no problem! Whether its for a few hours in between flights, for a day before you head off to or return from Fair Isle, or for a week, our crack team of expert staff birders will all be on hand in September and October to guide you to all the migrant hotspots and the latest rarities. So see the best birds with the best birders - all organised for you by Shetland's number one wildlife holiday company.

Shetland Wildlife featured in September 07 BBC Wildlife

Shetland Wildlife takes lead presence in a superb feature on the islands in the September 2007 edition of BBC Wildlife. The article is accompanied by some truly stunning photographs of Killer Whales, taken by our very own Hugh Harrop, which were commissioned by the magazine especially for this feature - and taken whilst Hugh was working for a BBC film crew for the new Alan Titchmarsh 'Nature of Britain' series to be screened in Autumn 2007! Pick up a copy of this must-read edition at your newsagents or subscribe online at www.bbcwildlifemagazine.com

'British Birds' Bird Photographer of the Year 2007

We were delighted to learn that Shetland Wildlife field director Hugh Harrop has been awarded 5th place in the 'BB' Bird Photographer of the Year 2007 competition. His entry of a Siberian Jay in flight obviously grabbed the judges' attention in this increasingly tough competition! This is the third short-listed finish in consecutive years for Hugh, who came third in the 2006 competition with his incredible photograph of a Firecrest singing. In 2005 his shot of a Pygmy Owl with a vole also made the final listings. Well done Hugh!

Killer Whale Photo ID Project

We've seen more Killer Whales in Shetland waters than any other operator - FACT! So it's little surprise that we have been requested to assist in a photo identification project to analyse movement and residency patterns of individual Killer Whales in the north east Atlantic region. In 2006 and 2007 alone we have managed to capture nearly six hundred high quality images of Killer Whales around the Shetland coastline!

Last Few Spaces on Our Biscay Pelagics

Our sister business, The Company of Whales has had another record year with over 700 travellers booked on our series of 25 whale, dolphin and birdwatching holidays across the Bay of Biscay. We have just a few remaining spaces on our Wednesday 15th August - Saturday 18th August, Sunday 2nd September - Wednesday 5th September and Wednesday 5th September - Saturday 8th September departures. For further information click here and to catch up with our latest sightings click here.

Shetland Spring & Summer 2007 - the story thus far...

What a superb Spring and Summer we are having. As we enter the August, the months of May, June and July proved to be outstanding once again. Topping the bill were three awesome encounters with Killer Whales off Fair Isle and off the north and south Mainland coasts. One pod is almost certainly 'new' and previously unrecorded in our waters. We've also managed regular sightings of Minke Whales, Risso's Dolphins, White-beaked Dolphins, White-sided Dolphins (including a huge pod of 100 animals) and Harbour Porpoise. Our Otter stake-outs are providing us with great views of these highly prized animals - one two separate occasions we saw no less than nine Otters in a week and maintained a 100% success rate for every group! All of our breeding seabirds are putting on a fine show - Puffins, Black Guillemots, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic and Common Terns, Shags and Gannets to name a few and the Mousa Broch Storm Petrels continue to delight. We also enjoying Red-throated Divers in their breeding dress and we've also found several summer-plumaged Great Northern Divers. Red-necked Phalaropes are performing well on Fetlar along with other breeding waders such as Whimbrel, Dunlin, Snipe, Redshanks and Curlew. We also discovered a new Merlin breeding site on our Walk Shetland holiday and had fantastic views of four recently fledged chicks taking to the air. As always, we connected with all the major rarities and scarcities. A North American Killdeer and a superb male Little Crake take the honours for the rarest birds and our groups have also seen Pectoral Sandpiper, Surf Scoter (a first for Fair Isle), a couple of White-billed Divers, Lesser Grey Shrike, Common Cranes, Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Warblers, Icterine Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes, Ortolan Bunting and Common Rosefinches. Phew! So more species of birds, mammals and wild flowers than any other operator. And with 14 years of experience, its little wonder that we remain the NUMBER ONE CHOICE!

Bonxie by David Tipling Common Crane by Hugh Harrop Killdeer by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop

 

Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Red-throated Diver by Hugh Harrop Little Crake by Hugh Harrop Pectoral Sandpiper by Hugh Harrop

 

Puffin By Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Puffin by David Tipling Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop

 

Finland & Arctic Norway: 26th May - 8th June 2007

A truly fantastic two weeks with some outstanding birding! Our first week saw us seeking out the 'big five' owls and we were treated to superb views of Great Grey, Ural, Hawk, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owls. We were fortunate to find a male Great Grey away from the nest as well as watching two different families of Hawk Owls with young! Other highlights included stunning views of an adult male Red-flanked Bluetail, equally stunning views of Broad-billed Sandpiper, awesome encounters with Hazel Hens, a rogue male Capercaillie, displaying Terek and Marsh (exceptionally rare) Sandpipers, a summer plumaged Grey Phalarope, Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, an out of range singing River Warbler, plus Rustic, Little and Ortolan Buntings. Our second week saw us birding the fringes of the boreal forests to the edge of the tundra and the Barents Sea. Highlights were plentiful - Dotterels, Pine Grosbeaks, four Gyrfalcons including a pair with 3 chicks at the nest, Bluethroats, several White-billed Divers, a vagrant Pectoral Sandpiper, awesome encounters with Long-tailed Skuas, Rough-legged Buzzards, lekking Ruffs and Temminck's Stints everywhere, Brunnich's Guillemots, stunning male King Eider, White-tailed Eagles, Red-throated Pipits, Lapland and Snow Buntings, Shore Larks, Arctic Redpolls and masses of summer plumaged waders. The list is endless! We also accrued a great mammal list with highlights including a very tame and friendly Norwegian Lemming, Elk, Stoat and Arctic Hare. We will run this trip in 2008 from 24 May - 6 June 2008. As always we advise early reservations to be made so please e mail us for further information. As always, we managed to take a few nice memoirs of the trip, so click here for an online slide show of our highlights.

Poland in Spring

Two groups and two individual weeks of superb birding in eastern Poland. Highlights were plentiful - Great Snipes at the lek, incredible views of Aquatic Warblers, a male Pallid Harrier, scores of Corncrakes, eight species of woodpecker, hundreds - if not thousands - of White-winged Black Terns, handsome Citrine Wagtails, Black Storks, Lesser Spotted and Greater Spotted Eagles, Honey Buzzards, impressive numbers of Cranes, Collared Flycatchers, Icterine, Great Reed and Barred Warblers, Hawfinches, Bluethroats, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owl plus Little and Spotted Crakes. Thousands of migrant waders were on the move and on one day alone we recorded over 2000 Ruff and 300 Wood Sandpipers! Also Pine Marten, European Beaver, Bison, Elk and several species of amphibian. In 2008, we will be running this holiday from 10 - 17 May. As always, we advise early reservations so please e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details. We are also planning a long 'woodpecker-weekend' to Bialowieza in late March 2008 - e mail us for further information. As always, we managed to take a few nice memoirs of the trip, so click here for an online slide show of our highlights.

Finland & Norway - Winter Photo Holiday

Our 8-day photography trip to central Finland, Lapland and Arctic Norway was another huge success. Led by Hugh Harrop and David Tipling, our prize during the early stages of the trip was a very photogenic Hawk Owl that had taken up residence at Vaala since mid January. Here we were able to gain some truly stunning images of this beautiful bird, which for many, was THE highlight of the trip. Our feeding station in Lapland provided us with outstanding opportunities for that secretive forest denizen, Pine Grosbeak. At least 20 birds were coming to the feeding station along with Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Arctic Redpoll, Great spotted Woodpecker and Red Squirrels. Continuing in to northern Norway and basing ourselves in the Varangar region we concentrated primarily on seabirds and seaduck. A boat trip to Hornoya provided us with great pictures of in-flight Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Brunnich's Guillemots and Shags. But the main quarries here were handsome Long-tailed Ducks and the 'rare' eiders. On a beautiful cloudless days with calm seas we edged our boat amongst an enormous flock of 1500 King Eiders and many hundreds of Steller's Eiders. What an experience! In 2008, we will run this holiday from 15 - 22 March. As always, we advise early reservations so please e mail us to provisionally book or ask for further details. A photo-holiday wouldn't be complete without some photographs so click here for an online slide show of our highlights. Remember YOU could be taking images like this with us in 2008! NOTE that you will need Java installed on your computer to view these images.

Southern France in Winter

Our two trips to the beautiful region of Provence in southern France in February were hugely successful. Highlights in the Camargue marshes and wetlands included impressive numbers of herons, egrets, waterfowl and the obligatory Greater Flamingos. The vast expanse of reedbeds yielded Penduline and Bearded Tits, white-spotted Bluethroat, Moustached and Cetti's Warblers and Purple Gallinule and their fringes attracted Black and White Storks, a huge flock of Common Cranes, lots of Water Pipits, a superb mixed flock of 1000 Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, a few hundred Avocets, a vagrant Lesser Flamingo plus a stunning vagrant Long-legged Buzzard and the second-ever Green heron for France! The brackish 'Etangs' hosted scores of Black-necked Grebes and a solitary Red-necked Grebe and gulls included an impressive flock of 125 'Meds'. The huge ancient river delta that is La Crau was brimming with birds - excellent encounters with Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Bustards, wintering Richard's Pipits, Booted Eagles, Red Kites, Southern Grey Shrikes and perhaps best of all, a local density of around 20 singing Calandra Larks. The limestone massif of Les Alpilles provided us with incredible views of at least 3 wintering Wallcreepers, plus Alpine Accentors sharing our lunch, Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrush, Firecrest, Cirl Bunting, Dartford Warblers, Woodlarks and at least three pairs of mighty Eagle Owls. A day trip to the 5000 ft high Mount Ventoux brought us incredible views of a male Black Woodpecker, Citril Finches nest-building, Crossbills cone-crunching, Short-toed Treecreepers in song and lots of Crested Tits. And lets certainly not forget incredible local cuisine, fine local wines and our truly beautiful hotel situated in the heart of the region! In 2008 we will once again be running two holidays to the region: 16 - 22 February and 22 - 28 February. As always, we advise early reservations so please e mail us to book or for further details. As always, we managed to take a few nice memoirs of the trip, so click here for an online slide show of our highlights.

Autumn 2006

We have had another superb autumn! Our Fair Isle Autumn Migration holiday from 9 - 16 September proved to be the best week of the whole period and we actually found the best birds! A superb Lanceolated Warbler was one of two discovered on our last full day and a few hours later we discovered a Yellow-breasted Bunting! Other great birds during the week included a superb Pechora Pipit, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes, Citrine Wagtail, Wryneck, Icterine, Barred, Yellow-browed and & Marsh Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Ortolan Bunting and Common Rosefinch. Our follow-on Autumn Gold trip saw us birding the length and breadth of Shetland in glorious weather bagging goodies like Arctic Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, Siberian Stonechat, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-breasted Flycatcher, lots of Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers and lots of common migrants. Many of our guests decided to extend their stay further and we welcomed several independent birders who took advantage of our local knowledge and expertise - paramount when birding in Shetland! Again we covered the length and breadth of Shetland clocking up a stunning array of rarities: Blyth's Pipit, Upland Sandpiper, American Golden Plover, Rustic, Little and Ortolan Buntings, two Red-flanked Bluetails, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Arctic, Radde's and Pallas's Warblers, another Pechora Pipit, Arctic Redpoll and a couple of Short-toed Larks. Click here for some mouthwatering images taken by the boss!

Shetland really is THE place to witness autumn migration - so join us in 2007. Fair Isle Autumn Migration will run from 22nd - 29th September and our follow-on Autumn Gold week will run from 29th September to 6th October - click here for further information. Should you wish to spend time birding with our expert guides at any time during the autumn or have a 'DIY' holiday, please e mail us with your requirements and dates. Remember we can source accommodation for all budgets, book your flights to and from Shetland and we'll also pass on rarity news as it reaches us - long before any birdline or pager!

Spring & Summer 2006

What a superb Spring and Summer we've had! As July comes to an end and we enter our famous autumn migration period we think THE highlights thus far have to be the awesome encounters we had with Killer Whales. One lucky group managed no less than three encounters on one of our Ultimate Shetland holidays! And the encounters have been truly amazing - several pods watched from land as close as a couple of metres as they hunted for seals and views from our boat down to a few inches as a pod of six animals swam underneath us! Awesome! We've also managed regular sightings of Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphins, White-sided Dolphins and we had a superb afternoon with a pod of Risso's Dolphins. To add to the marine highlights, one of our guides found a superb Basking Shark which is still a rare visitor to these parts. All of our seabirds put on a fine show - Puffins, Black Guillemots, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic and Common Terns, Shags and Gannets to name a few and we had some great displays of Storm Petrels on our famous night-trips to Mousa Broch. We also enjoyed cracking views of a family of Merlins, beautiful Red-throated Divers and one or two summer-plumaged Great Northern Divers. Red-necked Phalaropes, as ever, gave us incredible views at one of their feeding sites and handsome brick-red Black-tailed Godwits also grabbed our attention. As always, we connected with all the rarities and scarcities. We'll blow our own trumpet a bit here as our guides found a North American White-throated Sparrow, two White-rumped Sandpipers, Red-footed Falcon, two Bee-eaters and a Laughing Gull! We also had our groups watching other goodies such as Scop's Owl, Ortolan Bunting, Bluethroats, Red-backed Shrikes and Wrynecks.

Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop

 

Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whale by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop

 

Basking Shark by Brydon Thomason Bee-eater by Hugh Harrop Otter by Brydon Thomason Red-necked Phalarope and chick by Brydon Thomason

 

Finland May 2006

Migrating seaduck and raptors, a host of displaying waders, some superb woodland species, or the 'big five' owls - it is difficult to choose a highlight from our recent tour to Finland. Little wonder then that the group comprised some 'old hands' returning for their second or even third visit as well as a few newcomers to Finland. The feast of owls commenced with superb views of a male Great Grey Owl bringing food to its incubating female and it was not long before Tengmalm's, Hawk, Pygmy and Ural were also keeping the photographers happy. Both Black and Three-toed Woodpeckers performed at length while Siberian Tits and Siberian Jays seemed almost as interested in us as we were in them. Each of our coastal stops produced hoards of migrating wildfowl with 1,600 scoter flying north in one half-hour period! A flock of 220 Cranes, 13 species of raptor, Red and Black-throated Divers and a superb Long-tailed Skua were also on the move. Waders featured prominently with Terek and Broad-billed Sandpipers causing the biggest stir. And gamebirds too provided some awesome spectacles - babbling Black Grouse at their lek, feather by feather detail of several Hazelhens frozen within feet of the vehicle, Capercaillie blundering through the forest and the stunning snow white and brown Willow Grouse. The action continued to the last with an Eagle Owl hunting - a perfect end to a simply stunning trip. We are running an awesome 14-day trip to Finland and Arctic Norway from 26 May - 8 June 2007. For those who cannot make the whole trip we're offering a flexible option by splitting it in to two parts: Oulu and Kuusamo from 26 May - 1 June and northern Finland Arctic Norway (inc. Varanger) from 1 June - 8 June 2007. Please e mail us for a holiday dossier and prices - but don't delay - we're likely to sell out very quickly once again!

Great Grey Owl by Glenn Overington Hawk Owl by Glenn Overington Willow Grouse by Glenn Overington Tengmalm's Owl by Glenn Overington


Up Helly Aa 2006

We recorded a superb array of birds and highlights included an adult White-billed Diver with stacks of Great Northern Divers, a dapper drake Green-winged Teal, Smew and Glaucous Gull,. Mammal buffs were rewarded with superb views of an Otter as it fed in the bay at one of our stake-outs. Also glorious white Arctic Hares, Harbour Porpoise and lots of Grey and Common Seals. The weather was superb for Up Helly Aa itself and we had a grandstand view of the procession. Up Helly Aa participant Valerie writes "this is just to thank you for such a super trip & wonderful Up Helly Aa experience - Pauline & I enjoyed ourselves immensely, it just all went too quickly!". Fellow traveller Sarah writes "Just thought we'd drop you a quick note to say a big, big thank you! for looking after us so well while we were up in Shetland. We both had a great time and I think mum's already been flicking through the brochure to see what other trips you do, so maybe see you again soon".

In 2007, Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from 27th - 31st January. As this holiday is extremely popular, we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible.

Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa Up Helly Aa

 

Autumn 2005

What an autumn is turning out to be! Once again, we proved that THE place to be in September is Shetland. Our Fair Isle Autumn Migration group had the best week of the autumn thus far because we like to think we know what will turn up - and when! Highlights included Western Bonelli's Warbler, American Golden Plover, Dotterel, Barred Warblers, Common Rosefinches, Red-breasted Flycatcher and a trio of Ortolan, Lapland and Snow Buntings! Our follow on Autumn Gold week saw us scouring the length and breadth of Shetland for migrants. Although strong westerlies prevailed for the week we were determined to find some quality birds and we managed two drake King Eiders, Bee-eater, Barred and Marsh Warbler and Lapland Buntings. Those who extended their stay with us for a few days were delighted with the arrival of American Coot, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pechora Pipit, Greenish Warbler, Little Bunting, lots of Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatchers and Common Rosefinches. October is also proving to be a superb month thus far with the best bird found by the boss - a superb female Black-throated Thrush just down the road from the office! Tempted for 2006? Book soon as spaces are filling quickly!

Bee-eater American Coot Greenish Warbler American Golden Plover


Summer 2005

We're proud to report another fantastic summer season. All of our seabirds put on a fine show - Puffins, Black Guillemots, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic and Common Terns, Shags and Gannets to name a few and we had some brilliant displays of Storm Petrels on our famous night-trips to Mousa Broch. We also enjoyed views of beautiful Red-throated Divers, the odd summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver and Britain's only Whooper Swans with their cygnets. Breeding waders are a feature of our summers - Red-necked Phalaropes gave us incredible views down to just a few feet, Black-tailed Godwits looked as good as ever and we had plenty of sites for all out other breeding waders. As always, we managed to see a few rarities and scarcities. The highlight had to be the Paddyfield Warbler grovelling around the spearmint at Skaw, Unst. We've also saw a superb drake King Eider, a summering Common Crane and a one-day Great White Egret. Other scarce migrants that we had great looks at include several Red-backed Shrikes, a couple of Golden Orioles, summering Iceland and Glaucous Gull, Quail, Bluethroats and Marsh Warblers. On the mammal front, we have been treated to some awesome views of Otters at our well-researched sites. Killer Whales put on amazing shows for several of our groups. We've also recorded small groups of White-sided and White-beaked Dolphins, several Minke Whales and every Ultimate Shetland group caught up with the diminutive Harbour Porpoise as well as both Harbour and Grey Seals and Arctic Hare.

Paddyfield Warbler by Hugh Harrop Killer Whales by Hugh Harrop Common Crane by Hugh Harrop White-sided Dolphin by Hugh Harrop


Extremadura & Sierra de Gredos 2 - 9 April 2005

Seven great days in Extremadura and the Sierra de Gredos rewarded us with a haul of great birds. The varied habitats of steppe, wetland and sub-alpine habitats rewarded us with nearly 150 species including Spanish Imperial Eagles, Black-shouldered Kites, Montagu's Harriers, Black Vultures, Eagle Owls, Black Storks, displaying Great & Little Bustards, Bonelli's Eagles, Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Hawfinches, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Bee-eaters, Roller, Calandra Larks, Spanish Sparrows. We also managed to connect with Spain's third-ever Bald Ibis at Trujillo! We plan to repeat the trip once again in April 2006 so e-mail us for further information. For a trip report from one of guests click here and a trip checklist, click here.

Black-eared Wheatear Black-shouldered Kite Firecrest Subalpine Warbler

 

Lesser Kestrel Motagu's Harrier Little Bustard Spanish Imperial Eagle

 

Where to Watch Birds in ShetlandWhere to Watch Birds in Shetland

The fully revised second edition of Where to Watch Birds in Shetland details over 70 birding locations, covering the famous and not-so-famous migrant and rarity sites, the best seabird colonies, the best haunts for breeding waders and the best sites for watching Otters, cetaceans and wild flowers. The book also includes a checklist of the birds of Shetland along with advice on travel, accommodation and transportation. Quite simply, the essential guide to birdwatching in Shetland. And who better to write Where to Watch Birds in Shetland than Hugh Harrop? An avid birder for 28 years and a professional naturalist guide, Hugh probably spends more time in the field than anyone else we know. He is also one of the dedicated few that have managed to see over 340 species in Shetland!

Copies cost £7 inc. postage and packing (£8 for overseas). Order direct from shop@shetlandwildlife.co.uk We accept Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Delta and Switch cards and you can also pay by personal cheque drawn from a UK bank account.

 

The Whales & Dolphins of the Bay of Biscay with The Company of Whales

With over 200 crossings of the Bay of Biscay undertaken since 1996, our sister-company knows the Bay better than any other operator. Every August and September, we can encounter huge numbers of seabirds including Great, Cory's and Sooty Shearwaters, Sabine's Gulls, Storm and Leach's Petrels, Grey Phalaropes and four species of skua. We see Little Shearwater on most departures and it was our company who discovered Europe's third-ever Masked Booby. As well as seabirds, our route is superb for whales and dolphins. In fact, we average around 500 animals of seven different species on every trip. Highlights have included Orcas, Blue, Fin, Minke & Sperm Whale, the elusive Cuvier's beaked Whale and four species of dolphin. In 2001 and 2003 we recorded True's-beaked Whales - only the first and second-ever confirmed sightings in the World! Travelling onboard the Pride of Bilbao, our company has privileged and exclusive access to the 'monkey island' platform, that gives us superb panoramic view of the ocean - and bow-riding dolphins! We also hold exclusive onboard lectures on seabirds and marine mammals and we're proud to offer the widest choice of departure dates - we don't go out there just three or four times a year! So if you're tired of watching distant 'dots' from windswept headlands and want to experience a pelagic trip in comfort and with the very best naturalist guides, look no further than The Company of Whales. Click here to visit their website.

Up Helly Aa 2005

As in previous years, we were once again blessed with some good weather for our annual Up Helly Aa and Shetland Winter wildlife trip. Our groups were rewarded with some truly stunning views of our wildlife. We recorded 78 species of birds and highlights included a superb adult Ross's Gull, an American Coot (the fifth for Britain), a Kumlien's Gull, no less than 30 Iceland Gulls, several Glaucous Gulls, Snow Buntings, Hen Harriers, Merlins and Peregrines. Mammal buffs were rewarded with no less than seven Otters, Arctic Hares and lots of Grey and Common Seals. The weather was superb for Up Helly Aa itself and we had a grandstand view of the procession. In 2006 Up Helly Aa and Shetland's Winter Wildlife will run from 28th January - 1st February 2006. As this holiday is extremely popular, we advise advance reservations to be made as soon as possible.

Otter by Hugh Harrop Ross's Gull by Hugh Harrop Up Helly Aa Procession by Hugh Harrop Burning the Galley by Hugh Harrop

 

Autumn 2004

Phew, what an autumn! Once again, we proved that THE place to be in September and October is Shetland. This autumn our guides were blessed with an incredible diversity of rare and scarce birds and we witnessed some truly magical 'falls' of commoner migrants. Cream of the crop rarities included two firsts for Britain - Rufous-tailed Robin and Chestnut-eared Bunting on Fair Isle. Two Common Yellowthroats, two Pied Wheatears, an Isabelline Wheatear, Brown Shrike, Isabelline Shrike, Pallid Harrier, Citrine Wagtails, Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers, Lanceolated Warblers, Blyth's Reed Warblers, Booted Warbler, Pallas's Warblers and no less than four White's Thrushes were just some of the other highlights. And lets not forget wonderful 'back-up birds' like Bluethroats, Wrynecks, Yellow-browed Warblers, Common Rosefinches, Richard's Pipits and Red-breasted Flycatchers plus an 'invasion' of Waxwings and Northern Bullfinches. Wow! With Shetland in autumn now on every birdwatcher's agenda, our series of birding holidays includes the choice of spending a week with us based on the Shetland mainland and the island of Unst or you can join our long-running annual autumnal trip to Fair Isle. Or do both - and receive a 5% discount!

Pallid Harrier by Hugh Harrop Rufous-tailed Robin by Hugh Harrop Chestnut-eared Bunting by Hugh Harrop Brown Shrike by Hugh Harrop

 

The Spring and Summer so far...

As we head into July we've had a fantastic season thus far. All of our seabirds are on show - Puffins, Black Guillemots, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas, Arctic and Common Terns, Shags and Gannets to name a few and we've had some brilliant displays of Storm Petrels on our famous night-trips to Mousa Broch. We're also enjoying views of beautiful Red-throated Divers, Britain's only Whooper Swans with their cygnets and we've even watched Spotted Crakes singing! Breeding waders are also a feature of our summers - Red-necked Phalaropes are giving us incredible views down to just a few feet, Black-tailed Godwits look as resplendent as ever and we've got plenty of sites for Whimbrel, Dunlin, Redshank, Snipe and Common Sandpipers. As ever, we've managed to bag a few rarities and scarcities. The highlight has to be the absolutely gorgeous adult male Collared Flycatcher, which we saw at Muness, Unst. A close contender would be the striking White-winged Black Tern in the south Mainland. Other scarce migrants that we've had great looks at include several Red-backed Shrikes, a couple of Golden Orioles, Rose-coloured Starling, Temminck's Stint, Iceland Gull, Quail, Bluethroat, Wryneck, Icterine Warbler, Marsh Warblers and Subalpine Warbler.

Red-necked Phalarope by Hugh Harrop
Storm Petrel by Hugh Harrop
Collared Flycatcher by Hugh Harrop

On the mammal front, we have been treated to some wonderful views of Otters. Unlike the companies that visit Shetland for just one-week-a year, our guides put in an awful lot of research and legwork, every spring, to find sites occupied by mothers and cubs - we currently have two sites that are giving us wonderful encounters with these very special critters. Killer Whales have been relatively thin on the ground this year but seven sightings were made in May and June of at least three individual pods. We have also clocked up small groups of White-sided and White-beaked Dolphins and every Ultimate Shetland group has caught up with the diminutive Harbour Porpoise. Both Harbour and Grey Seals are as ubiquitous as ever and on the hills we're seeing small numbers of Arctic Hares.

Otter by Hugh Harrop
Otter by Hugh Harrop
Otter by Hugh Harrop

Wild flowers are out in profusion. Our endemic Mouse-ear Chickweed is easy to find on the Keen of Hamar along with the two other specialities - Northern Rock Cress and Arctic Sandwort. We're also clocking up interesting species like Frog and Northern Marsh Orchid, Moonwort, Mountain Everlasting, Marsh Cinquefoil, Common and Marsh Lousewort, Butterwort, Eyebright and the now very rare - in Shetland terms - Oysterplant.

Ultimate Orkney May 2004

Long-tailed Ducks by Hugh Harrop Grey seals by Hugh Harrop

We like to think we know Orkney as well as we know Shetland, so when we were asked by so many travellers to create a holiday akin to our 'Ultimate Shetland' holiday, we jumped at the chance! Based at the wonderful lodges in Finstown (with the most AMAZING sea views in Orkney!) Hugh Harrop and ten of our regulars spent a week exploring the very best wildlife and archaeological sites in Orkney. The moorland provided us with excellent views of Merlin, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Peregrine, Red-throated Divers, Great and Arctic Skuas whilst the coast provided us with an array of seabirds and waders - including Black Guillemots, Puffins, summer plumaged Purple Sandpipers, Knot and Dunlin. An array of ducks on freshwater lakes included Pintail, Gadwall and Wigeon and Scaup whilst sheltered bays rewarded us with Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Ducks and scores of handsome summer-plumaged Great Northern Divers. Brick-red islandica race Black-tailed Godwits were recorded displaying at one of known sites along with lots of other 'fresh' waders like Redshank, Common Sandpiper and Snipe. Most unexpected were three star birds that we found ourselves - a Common Crane that drifted north over us at Cottascarth, a first-summer Ring-billed Gull among Common Gulls on Shapinsay and a vagrant Long-tailed Tit in the woods at Balfour Castle! Wild flowers were in full bloom and we had little difficulty finding an absolutely superb display of Scottish Primrose - Primula scotica - found here, in Caithness and in Sutherland - but nowhere else in the World! Mammal buffs were entertained by lots of Common and Grey Seals, Arctic Hare, Brown Hares, Harbour Porpoise, a solitary Otter and Orkney Voles. We will run Ultimate Orkney from the 7th - 14th May 2005 and would advise early reservations to be made. It is, after all, the best itinerary on offer and likely to fill very quickly! Click here for further information.

Black Guillemot by Hugh Harrop Kittiwake by Jim Lucas Curlew by Matt Barr
     
Purple Sandpipers by Jim Lucas Primula scotica by Hugh Harrop Redshank by Hugh Harrop

Up Helly Aa & Shetland's Winter Wildlife January 2004

With a polar low not too far away from us it was fingers crossed that the snow didn't hamper the highlight of our winter. And we are pleased to say it didn't! A wonderful three days with beautiful - but bitterly cold - weather had us out exploring our favourite winter sites. Superb views of several Otters - including a mother and two cubs - plus Arctic Hares, Grey and Common Seals and small numbers of Harbour Porpoises were the mammal highlights. Ornithological highlights included a long-staying American Coot, American Wigeon, Little Egret (in the snow!), Little Auk, Iceland Gull and lots of Snow Buntings. In 2005 we will be running the trip from Saturday 22nd - Wednesday 26th January. As the trip is always extremely popular, we advise early reservations to be made. Click here for our 2005 itinerary.

The run up to Up Helly Aa...

It seems as though autumn is never going to end! We've recorded some excellent birds since our Fair Isle trips including a Hume's Warbler (second for Shetland), a party of 19 Bewick's Swans (first record since 1997), scores of truly handsome Waxwings, a couple of Firecrests (very rare in these parts) and a super juvenile Spoonbill. Otters are frequenting our favourite sites and small numbers of Harbour Porpoise are appearing at traditional sites close inshore. Plenty of Great Northern Divers and Long-tailed Ducks are in sheltered voes and we have an abundance of freshwater waterfowl. Even more exciting is the amount of auroral activity we are witnessing over Shetland at present - we're keeping our fingers crossed for all our travellers joining us for Up Helly Aa 2004! You can see more pictures of the aurora and the birds mentioned above by visiting Hugh Harrop's photographic web site.

Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop Aurora Borealis by Hugh Harrop

 

Autumn 2003

Our trip to Fair Isle in September and October to witness autumn bird migration was simply superb. We were blessed with some classic drift migration weather early on and it produced an array of star birds including Lanceolated Warblers, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Pechora Pipit, Arctic Redpoll, Little Bunting and Savi's Warbler - only the 9th Scottish record. We also recorded many Yellow-browed Warblers, at least three Barred Warblers, a couple of Common Rosefinches, Wryneck, Bean Goose, lots of Jack Snipe, Iceland Gull, Slavonian Grebe and good numbers of both Lapland and Snow Buntings. With stronger winds from the north we spent time seawatching and were rewarded with an early Little Auk. On the cetacean front we spent a couple of hours watching at least 8 Risso's Dolphins feeding with an acrobatic pod of 15 White-beaked Dolphins. A fantastic sight! Once again we'd all like to say "thanks" to Deryk, Hollie and all the 'obs' staff for making our stay so enjoyable!

Citrine Wagtail by Hugh Harrop Common Rosefinch by Hugh Harrop Lanceolated Warbler by Hugh Harrop Pechora Pipit by Hugh Harrop

Summer 2003

Our Ultimate Shetland trips throughout June and July continued to produce all of our resident breeding bird species. Phalaropes entertained all and Storm Petrels put on tremendous shows at Mousa Broch. Mammal buffs were entertained with good sightings of Otters, Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoise and one lucky group encountered a magnificent pod of Killer Whales. Wild flowers were in full bloom and we encountered all the local specialities. Highlight for some - including our guides - was a superb Hummingbird Hawk Moth which came aboard Dunter III as we sailed around the Noss seabird colonies at the latter end of June. Both of our Focus on Shetland weeks with David Tipling proved a huge success, with our photographers capturing a wide variety of 'classic' Shetland subjects on film. David and Betty Donald set the scene: "We would both like to thank you and your team for a fantastic week of bird photography, never did we expect to see, far less photograph, Red Necked Phalarope and so near. The organisation was superb and David Tipling is a treasure, so helpful and yet so gentle and laid back and so generous".

Hummingbird Hawk Moth by Hugh Harrop Otter by Emma Perry Red Necked Phalarope by Emma Perry Red-throated Divers by Hugh Harrop


Apart from one day we were blessed with some pretty glorious weather for our second Ultimate Shetland trip! All of the breeding specialities were seen and trip highlights included no less than 10 Arctic Hares in the South Mainland, 5 Otters around the north isles, excellent views of Harbour Porpoise, a Common Crane, summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwits, Whooper Swans with cygnets and a migrant Hobby - a rare passage migrant for us here in the north. The day around Muckle Flugga and Hermaness was hailed as one of the best ever and the Fetlar Red-necked Phalaropes once again performed exceptionally well!

Common Crane Eyebright Storm Petrel Whooper Swans

 

Our first Ultimate Shetland trip of the year will be a hard act to follow - bird wise at least! All of the regular breeding species were encountered and highlights in the south Mainland included scores of Storm Petrels on Mousa, a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver, a Wood Sandpiper and a male Ortolan. Fetlar provided us with absolutely amazing views of Red-necked Phalarope, a migrant Nightjar (only the 21st record since 1970), a handsome male Bluethroat in song and a female Red-backed Shrike. We found a handsome sub adult male Marsh Harrier on Unst and for the botanists, the Keen of Hamar of Hamar was 'alive'! We recorded all the Shetland specialities plus Arctic Bearberry, Moonwort and Mountain Everlasting. Add Otters, incredible encounters with Seals and some typical Shetland summer weather - a week to remember!

Nightjar Great Northern Diver Mountain Everlasting Red-necked Phalarope

Our Fair Isle Spring Migration holiday once again coincided with a spell of the fabled south-east wind. The previous day, Hugh had flown in for Shetland's fourth and Europe's fifth-ever Thick-billed Warbler which stayed for two days. Our group enjoyed superb views of a male Rustic Bunting, a female Subalpine Warbler, a Common Rosefinch, a Quail, a couple of Bluethroats, several Red-backed Shrikes, a Wryneck and lots of common migrants including Lesser and Common Whitethroats, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers. Seabirds were also a big part of our week and we enjoyed close views of all resident species. Thanks to Deryk, Hollie, Alan, Becca, Torcuil and the rest of the "obs" staff for making our stay - as always - so enjoyable!

Arctic Tern Fair Isle Wren Red-backed Shrike Thick-billed Warbler

Our follow-on Shetland Experience holiday was just as memorable! We were rewarded with Shetland's tenth-ever Scops Owl on Unst, Red-necked Phalaropes swimming around our feet on Fetlar, stunning views of Otters near Noss, Arctic Hares on Dalsetter, a female Bluethroat at Sumburgh Head, summer plumaged Red-throated AND Great Northern Divers.Wow! Also lots of wildflowers in bloom and superb weather!

Up Helly Aa 2003

As in 2001 and 2002 we were once again blessed with some relatively good weather for our now annual Up Helly Aa and Shetland Winter wildlife trip. Our two groups of 7 travellers, who made the journey north were rewarded with great views of Otter, Arctic Hare and both Common and Grey Seals. A mass of ornithological highlights included three drake American Wigeons, Little Auks, Long-eared Owls, Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Merlins, Goosanders, Long-tailed Ducks, Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swans, Purple Sandpipers, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Mealy Redpolls and Snow Buntings. It goes without saying that we witnessed a truly stunning Up Helly Aa festival!

Galley Procession Fireworks Galley Burning

The Winter So Far...

We've managed to escape the office over the weekends and recce our favourite spots for the forthcoming Up Helly Aa and Winter Wildlife trip in late January 2003. Five handsome Long-eared Owls have taken up residence at a small plantation in the central mainland and 2 Short-eared Owls appear to be wintering in Brow Marsh. Nearby, two drake American Wigeons, a drake Green-winged Teal and 6 Tundra Bean Geese are at Lochs of Hillwell and Spiggie along with an excellent assortment of other wildfowl. Seawatching off Sumburgh Head has produced huge numbers of Little Auks with Hugh and Paul recording 63 on 25 December and a record total of 732 birds heading south on 26 December. Sheltered voes are holding excellent numbers of Slavonian Grebes and Long-tailed Ducks, Otters are frequenting our favourite sites and small numbers of Harbour Porpoise are appearing at traditional sites close inshore.

American Wigeon Whooper Swan Tundra Bean Goose Tystie

 

Fair Isle Autumn Migration

Our week on Fair Isle coincided with a spell of fine weather and those fabled south easterly winds - ensuring there were always plenty of birds to see! Highlights included a superb White's Thrush, a stunning Alpine Swift, two Pechora Pipits (one of which we found!), a Rose-coloured Starling and a very confiding Lanceolated Warbler. Hundreds of migrants filtered through the isle and among them we recorded Taiga Bean Goose, large flocks of Pink-footed Geese, Barnacle Geese, good numbers of Jack Snipe, Corncrake, Short-eared Owl, Red-backed Shrike, Yellow-browed Warbler, several Barred Warblers, Lapland Buntings and a Hawfinch. Once again we'd all like to say "thanks" to Deryk, Hollie and all the 'obs' staff for making our stay so enjoyable! Our 2003 trip will run from 27th September - 4th October.

Lanceolated Warbler Alpine Swift Jack Snipe White's Thrush

 

Summer 2002

Our Fair Isle Spring Migration holiday coincided with a spell of the fabled south-east wind. Heading the cast was the third-ever Montagu's Harrier for Shetland, a Spotted Crake, a singing male Corncrake, several stunning male Bluethroats, Red-backed Shrikes, Grey-headed Wagtails, a superb selection of commoner passage migrants and 250,000 seabirds (well nearly!). On return from Fair Isle, we successfully "twitched" a handsome Ross's Gull and a drake Black Duck. Thanks to Deryk, Hollie and all the "obs" staff for making our stay so enjoyable!

Bluethroat Watching the Montagu's Harrier Male Wheatear Red-backed Shrike

Our follow-on Shetland Experience holiday was just as memorable! A superb adult Great White Egret, a singing Icterine Warbler and super looks at Arctic Skuas and Whimbrels made an enjoyable day in the south Mainland. On Sunday we headed north to Yell where two Otters and a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver preceded two handsome Red-necked Phalaropes on Fetlar. The latter island also offered stunning views of two Black-tailed Godwits, an assortment of breeding waders and two more summer plumaged Great Northern Divers! Our full day on Unst on Monday saw us on Hermaness where Puffins posed for ultra-close photographs, Dunlins ran at out feet and the Gannetry amazed all! The afternoon visit to Keen of Hamar was "alive" with flowers in bloom - our endemic Mouse-ear Chickweed was abundant and we also logged Arctic Sandwort, Moss Campion, Northern Rock Cress and Early Purple Orchid.

Great White Egret Arctic Sandwort Early Purple Orchid Mouse-ear Chickweed

Our first Shetland Experience trip of June got the month off to a wonderful start. Strong easterly winds didn't stop us heading to the Noss seabird colonies and we were rewarded with stunning close up views of all our seabirds. Grey and Common Seals swam around the boat and we also glimpsed a Harbour Porpoise. At Sumburgh Head we enjoyed close views of a male Subalpine Warbler (Hugh went and found another a few days later!) and on Fetlar we once again enjoyed incredible views of Red-necked Phalaropes and found a small flock of Common Scoter. The Unst weather was kind and we had arms-length views of Puffins at Hermaness, a Marsh Warbler at Haroldswick and an array of wild flowers once again on Keen of Hamar before celebrating Jubilee Monday with Earl Grey tea and cucumber sandwiches at the Unst Bus Shelter!

Keen of Hamar Northern Rock Cress Puffin Frog Orchid

The first Ultimate Shetland trip of the year could well be hard to beat! Ornithological highlights included a stunning summer plumaged White-billed Diver, two singing male Spotted Crakes, a couple of migrant Crossbills, a summering Glaucous Gull and superb looks at both Storm Petrels and Red-necked Phalaropes. Mammal highlights included no less than six Otters on our Top of Britain cruise and a couple of confiding Arctic Hares on Dalsetter. One thing that doesn't happen very often is to see our guides being whisked away in a helicopter! In this instance, the coast guard performed an at-sea winching exercise off Bressay, with Hugh as the guinea pig - he dangled proudly from a huge Sikorsky over the North Sea for five minutes before we agreed to have him back on board our boat!

At the Top of Britain Arctic Hare Moonwort Skua watching at a safe distance

We couldn't have asked for better weather on our Focus on Shetland holiday. We were blessed with sunny skies - and ultimately awesome sunsets - for most of the week! Our mustard-keen group were treated with photographic opportunities of Storm Petrels, displaying Black Guillemots, Red-necked Phalaropes, foraging Bonxies and both Common and Arctic Terns. Wild flowers also featured on the agenda as did Grey Seals, Common Seals, Hedgehog and Shetland Ponies! We also found a couple of Killer Whales off Sumburgh Head and had good sightings of both White-sided and White-beaked Dolphins! Quite a week!

Hermaness sunset Black Guillemot Storm Petrel Puffin at sunset

Our second Ultimate Shetland week was timed to enjoy some of the best seabird colonies in Europe! With tens of thousands of Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Gannets and Puffins crammed into the immense seabird cities of Noss, Hermaness and Sumburgh, we were able to view them at all altitudes - from the sea to the clifftops. Add to this some spectacular views of the aerial predators attempting to grab a free meal from the law-abiding birds and we were in for some fascinating showdowns! Great Skuas dragged Gannets by the wing until they released their catch and Arctic Skuas engaged in dog-fights with Arctic Terns for a sandeel supper. June is also a fabulous month to enjoy Shetland - a blaze of colour with meadows strewn with the yellows, purples of Ragged Robin, Meadow Buttercup and five species of orchid!

The last Shetland Experience holiday of June came up trumps with excellent mammal sightings - Otter, White-beaked Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and both Grey and Common Seals were all seen well. Along with all the regular breeding species, a female Red-backed Shrike on Unst was a surprise although a few commoner migrants such as Blackcap and Whitethroat were also seen.

Killer Whale Arctic Tern Red necked Phalarope

Both our Fair Isle Island Insights holidays were described as truly magical by our travellers! At the end of our first trip we were rewarded with superb views of a pod of Killer Whales which Hugh and Dylan had found off Sumburgh Head earlier in the morning. A quick phone call to the coastguard ensured the message was relayed directly to The Good Shepherd in order for all to enjoy! Traveller Richard Mayall writes "It was one of the best holidays we have ever had. The week on Fair Isle was an enormous success - Hollie is a real gem - she made us so welcome and despite all her other duties nothing was ever too much trouble. Alan was a very caring leader, made certain that everyone had seen everything and that we were happy and enlightened. He made a massive contribution to the enjoyment of our holiday. The food, as you predicted, was excellent and the most memorable aspect was the reception we got from the islanders - everyone was so friendly and welcoming and allowed us to be part of the scene". Richard also describes our Ultimate Shetland 6 - 13 July trip. He writes "during our second week on Shetland we were blessed with an outstanding guide in Laughton. His knowledge of every subject is prodigious - he helped us to understand about every aspect of every venue. Coupled with his pleasant personality the week could not help but be a success".

Crane Crane Knot Wild Thyme

It's hard to believe that we witnessed the first signs of autumn during Ultimate Shetland 13 - 20 July. Migrant shorebirds were in evidence at Pool of Virkie with summer plumaged Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Sanderling on view. We found a superb adult Crane at Burrafirth whilst watching Arctic Hare and incredibly we saw another Crane on Fetlar whilst watching Red-necked Phalaropes! Storm Petrels put on an awesome show at Mousa Broch, Harbour Porpoise swam a few feet from our boat at Noss and our day at Hermaness and Muckle Flugga aboard Dunter II was described by Jonathan as probably the best ever!

Grey Seal Boardastubble Standing Stone Common Snipe Puffin at Hermaness

Our last Shetland Experience holiday of the year was a highly enjoyable way to finish off our summer wildlife season! We were treated to excellent views of a feeding Otter on Yell, a plethora of migrant waders at Baltasound and a glorious morning at Hermaness. We also had awesome views of Puffin chicks at Sumburgh, close up Storm Petrels at Mousa Broch and simply outstanding views of Grey Seals off Bressay!

Extremadura & Coto Doñana April 30 - May 11 2002

Five glorious days in Extremadura had us studying an array of species including Great & Little Bustards, Spanish Imperial & Bonelli's Eagles, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-shouldered Kite, Roller, Calandra Larks, Spanish Sparrows. In the Coto Doñana we enjoyed Red-necked Nightjars, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Little Bitterns, 2 superb Black-shouldered Kites, thousands of north-bound waders (including flocks of Curlew Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks), Ferruginous Ducks and a family party of Crested Coots (at one of Hugh's stake-outs!). We plan to repeat the trip once again in April / May 2003 so e-mail us for further information.

Black-eared Wheatear Small Copper Crested Coot Lesser Kestrel

 

Up Helly Aa 2002

As in 2001 we were once again blessed with good weather for our annual Up Helly Aa and Shetland Winter wildlife trip - though with wind chill equivalent temperatures down to as low minus 10, it did feel a bit on the cool side! Our two groups of 8 travellers, who made the journey north were rewarded with stunning views of a mother Otter with two cubs, three handsome Arctic Hares and masses of Atlantic Grey and Common Seals. Ornithological highlights included a fine drake American Wigeon, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls, Slavonian Grebes, Long-tailed Ducks, Whooper Swans, Purple Sandpipers, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Snow Buntings and Merlin. Needless to say, we witnessed a truly stunning Up Helly Aa festival, headed by Guizer Jarl Bruce Leask.

Guizer Jarl Bruce Leask Up Helly Aa Group Guizer Jarl Bruce Leask Galley

Our 2003 holiday will operate from 25 - 29 January and we would strongly advise advance reservations to be made to us at reservations@shetlandwildlife.co.uk. The price will remain unchanged at £395 per person with a single supplement of £40.00.

Up Helly Aa 2002 Galley Burning Junior Procession Galley Burning

 

Whales & Dolphins of the European Atlantic - the Bay of Biscay & the English Channel by Dylan Walker & Graeme Creswell

Whales & DolphinsThis is the first comprehensive guide to the identification of whales, dolphins and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans) in the European Atlantic. Until very recently, most researchers and whale-watchers were unaware of the great variety of cetaceans that can be seen so close to the shores of western Europe. Indeed, it is only during the last decade, when detailed cetacean surveys have been carried out in earnest, that we have discovered how important this area is for cetacean biodiversity. This field guide describes all of the 27 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise that have occurred in the European Atlantic. Knowledge of the identification of cetaceans at sea is developing rapidly and this book aims to provide an easy-to-use, detailed guide for both the ocean-going and land-based whale-watcher. For every species there is a description of the key identification features, notes on how to separate it from similar species, a brief natural history, and a map showing its known distribution and likelihood of occurrence. Facing each species account is a colour plate which has been created, using the latest digital image technology, from up to four separate surface photographs. These photographs have been carefully selected to illustrate the key identification features. Whilst photographs of cetaceans at sea usually only reveal a part of the animal, be it the back, the dorsal fin, a raised tail or merely a blow, such images are considered to be the most informative way of aiding identification, since they show the animal from the whale-watcher's perspective. Because whales and dolphins often only show a small proportion of their bodies at the surface, and may only be seen briefly, observers have in the past often considered definite identification to be too difficult. Although some species are rarely seen at sea, either because they avoid boats, live far from shore or remain submerged for long periods of time, and their identification is still poorly known, in most cases identifying cetaceans at sea is not always as difficult as it may first appear. There are many features to look for and, with experience, it is often easy to identify a whale or dolphin at a considerable distance. Whilst little is known of the biology and identification of some species within the European Atlantic, our understanding of these mysterious animals is increasing all the time. For example, this is the first publication ever to show photographs taken at sea of the four species of Mesoplodon beaked whale currently known to occur in the North Atlantic. These photographs have provided some new pointers to the identification of this particularly difficult group.

"This is an excellent practical, pocket-sized photographic guide to the 27 species of cetaceans that are known to have occurred in European waters (excluding the far north). Based on experiences gained by regularly travelling the ferry runs across the channel and Biscay, the authors have produced a very useful review of the field id of cetaceans at sea, backed up by a comprehensive set of colour photographs and line drawings (the latter by Phil Coles). At times several photos have been merged to make field comparison between species clearer, and where photographs are unavailable (i.e. Pygmy Sperm Whale and True's Beaked Whale) these have been tastefully computer-generated by Rob Still - it is amazing what can be achieved these days! An encounter with a cetacean or two livens up the dullest sea watch, but can be frustrating if you are not prepared for the features to watch out for. Although precise identifications are not always possible, now, with this excellent guide there need be few excuses - any birder worth their salt should get a copy, digest its contents, and be ready for that big event". Steve Madge.

To order your copy call us on 01950 460939 or e mail our shop. Copies cost £9.00 inc p&p within the UK, £10.00 for Europe / Rest of World. We accept Visa, Mastercard, JCB, Delta and Switch cards and you can also pay by personal cheque drawn from a UK bank account.

Are Shetland Swallows on the increase?

Many folk look forward to seeing their first Swallow of the year, although the old addage that "one Swallow doesn't make a summer" is certainly true in Shetland! Despite its familiarity there is still much that goes unrecorded about Swallows in Shetland. Most visiting the islands are of Scandinavian origin, migrating to, and from, their wintering grounds in southern Africa. They occur between April and October, sometimes in huge numbers - 350 were seen on Fair Isle on 15th May 1997! Very few remain to breed although there is evidence to suggest that the breeding population has increased in recent years. Henry Saxby first confirmed breeding in Shetland in 1867, when a pair laid eggs at Petester on Unst. The Venables', who recorded much about the natural history of these islands, knew of only 16 nests in the first half of the twentieth century with records from Unst, Yell, Fetlar, Mainland, Whalsay, Out Skerries, Foula and Vementry. Sporadic breeding continued around the islands through the 1960s and Swallows bred on Fair Isle for the first time in 1962.Since 1970 breeding has been reported annually with a maximum of nine pairs in 1978, 1993, 1998 and 2000. Unfortunately, not all nesting attempts have been reported in recent years and it is likely that the breeding population is now well into double figures. Almost a third of the reports have been in Dunrossness, especially in the Sumburgh, Quendale and Hillwell area, although breeding has been reported from all parishes and all the islands, except Bressay and Papa Stour. It is also unclear how often, if at all, a pair of Swallows raises two broods of chicks in a season in Shetland. This is commonplace further south where longer summers and better weather mean that conditions for breeding and feeding young remain favourable for several months. There have certainly been cases where it appears that two broods have successfully been raised in Shetland, although these may refer to cases where the first breeding attempt failed, or a clutch of eggs was laid very late in the season. Swallows have been observed feeding chicks on Unst as late as October! Shetland Biological Records Centre (SBRC) would be delighted to hear from anyone who can provide information about breeding Swallows in the islands this year. As well as helping us establish an accurate estimate of the breeding population we may be able to confirm that Shetland's Swallows can raise two broods of chicks in a year. With increasing evidence of Global warming it will be interesting to see whether the population of Swallows in the islands continues to increase. An accurate assessment of the population in 2001 will help us determine this. SBRC would also be delighted to hear of any breeding pairs of House Martins. This close cousin of the Swallow is a rare breeder in Shetland, with just one or two pairs having bred in ten years since 1970. Again there is a question mark over whether two broods can ever be raised in a season. A pair on Foula in 1994 nested in a small cavity in a cliff face - presumably such breeding sites would have been commonplace before the advent of modern houses and their associated eaves. Shetland Biological Records Centre can be contacted by telephone on 01595 694688 or by e-mail, sbrc@zetnet.co.uk. Otherwise, call by the office at 22-24 North Road, Lerwick.

Shetland Frog Watch

This important survey, launched in 1999 by Shetland Biological Records Centre is designed to find out more about the distribution and spread of Shetland's amphibians. There are no naturally-occurring amphibians in Shetland. The Common Frog and the Common Toad are the only species to have been recorded, and both have been brought here by man, primarily in the past 100 years. Toads have been introduced in small numbers a few times, but have never managed to gain a proper foothold in Shetland. Indeed, there have been only five sightings of Toads in the past 50 years, and no confirmed records of breeding. The first record of a Common Frog in Shetland was at Brough Lodge in Fetlar, in 1895. This probably arrived in Shetland safe in a bundle of hay, from mainland Scotland. Since then there have been further introductions, and these have led to a widespread distribution of Frogs on many islands. For example, it is thought that most Frogs on the Mainland originate largely from two introductions, at Berry in Scalloway, in 1922, and at Seafield in Lerwick, in the late 1920s. We know that Frogs were introduced to Unst in 1931 and at Walls in the 1930s. Frogs have been at the Bridge of Walls and North Roe since the 1940s and at West Burrafirth since the 1950s, and they were also recorded in Foula in the 1950s. As well as Mainland, Frogs were known from Unst, Yell, Fetlar, Foula and Burra in 1982, when the last survey of Frogs in Shetland was carried out, and possibly from Whalsay and the Scalloway Islands too. We believe there may have been significant changes in distribution since then. For a free pack (together with survey forms), e mail SBRC

Free Cetacean Identification Charts

As part of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's Sail to Save project, a laminated field guide has been produced to help you identify any whales or dolphins that you might see around the UK coast. To order your free copy (UK residents only), please send an A4 SAE to: Sightings, WDCS, Alexander House, James St. West, Bath BA1 2BT. Tel. 01225 334511 or email: sightings@wdcs.org

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