Bull Orca, Shetland by Chris Townend

Tour Dates: Friday 27th August – Saturday 4th September 2021 (Sumburgh to Sumburgh) 
Tour Price: £1,750pp
Deposit: £300 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 8 people

Target Species
A good selection of post breeding species including Black Guillemot, Great Skua, Gannet, Arctic Tern, Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver etc.
Plus common migrants and a very good chance of scarce migrants or a rarity.
Regular scarce migrants at this time of year may include:
Red-backed Shrike, Wryneck, Icterine Warbler and Barred Warbler.
Rarities at this time of year may include:
Pallid Harrier, Greenish Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Booted Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Great Snipe, American Golden Plover and more!
Mammals: Excellent chances for Minke Whale, Otter and Common Seals and reasonable chances for Orca and Risso’s Dolphin.

Tour Summary
This new tour is specifically timed as early autumn migration begins, giving us a real chance of finding our own scarce and rare migrants. A good selection of the breeding seabirds are still present and there is an excellent chance of connecting with cetaceans like Minke Whales and a reasonable chance of Orca!
Late Summer on Shetland is a great time for finding scarce migrants and rarities. Compared to later in the autumn, there are few visiting birders and therefore chances of finding your own birds are much higher and so are excitement levels! The discovery of Britain’s first and only Olive-tree Warbler in mid August on Shetland in 2006, highlights the potential!
Having a local guide throughout the tour will also help enormously with their invaluable knowledge of the best migrant “hotspots” and also being well connected with local bird and cetacean news. Although we will be birding every day during the tour, when the weather is suitable, we will also take time out to scan the coast and bays for cetaceans in the hope of finding Orcas! This majestic species is so synonymous with Shetland and the number of sightings has increased in recent years. The end of August is still a good time to see this incredible species as well as Minke Whale and dolphins. We just need some good luck and calm weather!

Late August is also a great time for other wildlife with good chances of Otter and many of the breeding seabirds are still present prior to their departure for the winter. So come and join us on this new and exciting migration adventure!

ACCOMMODATION: 8 nights Shetland Islands
2 nights South Mainland, 1 night North Mainland, 4 nights Unst and 1 night South Mainland
Included Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

DAY 1: Arrival Sumburgh
On arrival at Sumburgh Airport we will take a short five minute transfer to the Sumburgh Hotel. Once settled into our rooms we will have lunch and then head out for our first afternoon birding around Sumburgh Head. We will check the usual birding spots for with good chances of common migrants such as Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Garden Warbler and Tree Pipit as well as something a little more exciting like Red-backed Shrike or Barred Warbler. If the sea conditions are in our favour we will spend some time scanning the sea for cetaceans as this is an area where Orcas have been seen on numerous occasions! We will of course be in close contact with the local news and updates and will be ready to make a dash up the coast if there are any Orca sightings elsewhere within reach! Overnight Sumburgh Hotel

Arctic Warbler by Chris Townend

DAY 2: South Mainland and Noss
This morning we will spend birding the coastal bays and and migrant hotspots around the south mainland, in particular we will search the areas around the Pool of Virkie, Hilwell, Quendale, Boddam and the Loch of Spiggie. Dependent on the weather we should find more common migrants and of course there is always the chance of something unusual. Regular scarce migrants at this time of year include Red-backed Shrike, Common Rosefinch and Wryneck whereas rarer species could include Greenish Warbler or Citrine Wagtail.
After lunch we will take a boat trip to Noss National Nature Reserve. This impressive island with its towering 180-metre sea cliffs is an incredible seabird breeding colony for Gannets, Black Guillemots, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. Although at this time of year many of these seabirds will have finished breeding there will still be plenty of family groups to see in and around the island. In addition to the regular breeding seabirds we should also see Red-throated Diver, Great Skuas and Arctic Terns. Of course, birds will not be our only focus as we will always be looking for cetaceans too! We will have time to get closer to any dolphins or whales that we might encounter and once again we will be in close contact with up to date news of any whale sightings! Once back on shore, dependent on time we will drop in on a few of the better known migrant hotspots en route back to Sumburgh. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.

Minke Whale, Fetlar by Chris Townend

DAY 3: South Mainland to North Mainland
After breakfast we will begin tour journey north to Hillswick and The St. Magnus Bay Hotel. The north mainland is one of the most under watched corners of the Shetland Mainland and therefore offers huge potential for finding our own birds. There is plenty of wonderful migrant habitat which often gets neglected at this time of year. We will not only be looking for passerines, but waders will also be on the radar with possibilities of rarer species such as Little Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper or maybe even a Buff-breasted Sandpiper if we are very fortunate! The coastline here is, also very good for cetaceans and we will be watching the sea very closely.
Overnight North Mainland

DAYS 4: North Mainland – Yell – Unst
After breakfast we will tae the ferry onto the island of Yell where we will spend some time looking for Otter and checking the migrant hotspots. Yell is often an island that people simply travel across without stopping but there are many great areas that we can visit to check for migrant birds. The island is also very good for Otter sightings, particularly the ferry ports!
By mid afternoon we will take our final ferry of the day to the island of Unst where we will be based for the next three nights. Overnight Unst

Icterine Warbler, Fetlar by Chris Townend

DAYS 5 & 6: UNST
For the next couple of days we will be based in one of the best possible locations for experiencing great seabird spectacles, finding rarities and the chance of connecting with Otters. Unst is a spectacular island that serves as the first landfall for tired migrants crossing the North Sea and is undoubtedly one of the premier rarity hotspots in Britain. During our time here, we will have the knowledge of our local guide as to where the best migrant hotspots are and the emphasis will certainly be on trying to find something a little out of the ordinary! In previous years during late August and early September common migrants usually include species such as Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Barred Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Common Rosefinch. Rarer species at this time of year that are a distinct possibility would include Pallid Harrier, Greenish Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, Booted Warbler and Arctic Warbler, so there is plenty for us to focus on!

We will also visit Hermaness National Nature Reserve during our stay. This is without doubt one of the most spectacular seabird colonies in Europe and although it is the end of the breeding season, there will still be an impressive number of Gannets and Great Skuas to entertain us! Therugged cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean alone are simply spectacular! Overnight on Unst

Otter, Yell by Chris Townend

DAY 7: Fetlar
Today we leave Unst and take the 25-minute ferry crossing to the neighbouring island of Fetlar. The ferry crossing here is another regular place that Orcas have been seen on numerous occasions, so we will be out on deck scanning the sea for cetaceans as well as seabirds. As we arrive at the tiny port of Hamars Ness we will also be keeping a close eye on the surrounding rocky shores which are often favoured by Otters.
The beautiful island of Fetlar is famous for its breeding Red-necked Phalaropes and although these beautiful birds will have long departed there will still be plenty for us to see!
We have the whole day to explore Fetlar and its mouth-watering history of rarities from Chestnut-sided Warbler to Siberian Rubythroat! Although, such mega rarities have occurred later in the autumn, late August is always full of surprises and we will have plenty of time to cover all the best migrant hotspots! The moorland areas are just perfect for finding Dotterel or American Golden Plover and the wetter spots might reveal a Pectoral Sandpiper. Pallid Harrier has become a more frequent visitor to Shetland too and a distinct possibility to find after breeding populations in Finland have dramatically increased. A visit to the famous migrant spot of The Manse is always worth a visit with its numerous trees and shrubs to hide many a tired migrant and a feeling of great excitement for what might just appear! The island is also one of the best islands for Otter sightings and Orcas have been recorded on numerous occasions. Overnight on Unst

American Golden Plover by Chris Townend

DAY 8: Unst to Sumburgh Head
After breakfast we will re-trace our steps to Sumburgh. Although mostly a travel day, we have the whole day to enjoy the journey and make various detours en route to visit the locations of any rarities that may have been found or to quickly move towards any exciting cetacean sightings! We will aim to return to our hotel by early evening for a final farewell meal and time to review our Shetland adventure! Overnight Sumburgh Hotel

Bonxies, Fetlar by Chris Townend

Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and more importantly, the most up to date bird and cetacean news!

Leader: Resident Shetland Bird Guide plus Wise Birding leader with a group of 8
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, all inter-island ferries, boat trip to Noss and services of leaders.
Not included in cost: Travel to / from Sumburgh, lunches, drinks and travel insurance.
Accommodation: A mix of comfortable hotels / guesthouses
Single Supplement: £175
Transport: Minibus throughout the tour
Difficulty: Moderate
Daily walks of up to 5Km per day and sometime on undulating or steep ground so a reasonable level of fitness is required.
Climate: Be prepared for all weathers! Typical temperatures at this time of year can vary between 10 – 13°C. There is usually always a wind in Shetland, so layers and a hat are standard dress here!
Tour Start Point: Sumburgh Airport, Shetland Islands
Tour End Point: Sumburgh Airport, Shetland Islands

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse by Chris Townend