A 7-night trip to watch Puffins, Otters, rare Red-necked Phalaropes, Storm Petrels, seals and a great chance of Orcas. Also rare arctic alpines plus breathtaking scenery. Limited to 8 participants and led throughout by professional naturalist guides.
Late afternoon / early evening rendezvous at the Sumburgh Hotel. After our welcome dinner and orientation, we take a short boat trip to the island of Mousa. Mousa Broch dates back to the Iron Age and is the largest example of its kind in Scotland standing at a staggering 43 ft high. The broch is the summer home to hundreds of European Storm Petrels, which return ashore to their nests as darkness falls. Their bat-like displays as they fly in from the ocean is a truly awesome sight and equally evocative is their incredible churring ‘song’ which fills the air. We depart Mousa just after midnight and return to Sumburgh. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.DAY 2 Sunday - Sumburgh Head & South Mainland
During the morning we visit Sumburgh Head to view multitudes of seabirds, including our first Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Shags and Great Skuas (‘Bonxies’). We'll also be seeking out Shetland's commoner passerines - Wheatears, Rock and Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Twite and the Shetland Wren. If seas are calm enough, we'll spend time looking offshore for cetaceans and if we are lucky, Minke Whale, Risso’s Dolphin or Harbour Porpoise might be seen. In recent years we've also recorded both Orcas and Humpback Whales from here. Then on to the peninsula of Scatness for breeding Arctic Terns - and both Common and Grey Seals - and to the Loch of Hillwell and Loch of Spiggie for an excellent assortment of breeding wildfowl and waders. We end the day at Clumlie observing typical moorland and lochan-breeding species like Red-throated Divers, Whimbrels and Arctic Skuas. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.DAY 3 Monday - Central Mainland & Noss National Nature Reserve
We spend the morning in the crystalline limestone valleys of the central Mainland where we hope to observe Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers and breeding Whooper Swans. Mountain Hare is also a speciality of this region and we would hope to encounter several individuals in the upper reaches of the valley. We’ll also explore a few of our favourite and secluded coastal bays for Otters. After lunch, we board our boat (chartered exclusively for our group) for an unforgettable cruise to Noss National Nature Reserve. The huge cliffs will be alive with the hustle and bustle of one of the largest seabird colonies in Shetland and the sight of nearly 18,000 Gannets nestled on the cliffs or wheeling around our boat along with rafts of Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Black Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Arctic Skuas and Bonxies swimming or flying at arm’s length will be truly awesome. Viewing this seabird colony from sea-level will certainly complement our cliff-top vista from Hermaness later in the week. We'll also visit Common and Grey Seal colonies and look for Harbour Porpoises along the way. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.DAY 4 Tuesday - Fetlar Phalaropes
We travel north, across the island of Yell, to connect with the morning ferry to the island of Fetlar. Our prize here is the delightful and diminutive Red-necked Phalarope – one of our rarest breeding birds with Shetland on the southern edge of their Arctic breeding range. Famous for their reversed sexual roles in which the male is solely responsible for incubating eggs and caring for chicks, Fetlar holds over 80% of the British breeding population, although the birds' stay on the island is brief - they generally arrive during the third week of May and are gone by the end of July. We should also see a wide variety of other breeding birds including Red-throated Diver, Arctic Skua, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Dunlin and, if we're lucky, a summering Great Northern Diver. We'll also search the west shore of the island for Otters. Fetlar's fertile land produces a dazzling display of wildflowers and we should find several species of orchid with ease. Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel.DAY 5 Wednesday - Hermaness & Keen of Hamar Arctic Alpines
Today we head to the island of Unst – Britain’s most northerly inhabited island – and we’ll spend the morning at Hermaness National Nature Reserve. A walk on this stunning reserve is essential to appreciate just why Hermaness is one of Europe's most important wildlife sites. The moorland is home to 800 pairs of Great Skuas - the second largest 'Bonxie' colony in the world - and the cliffs house 25,000 Puffins and over 20,000 Gannets – the largest colony in Shetland. The cacophony of bird cries and stunning coastal views north to Muckle Flugga lighthouse and south to the island of Yell and beyond make it an overwhelming wildlife experience! Amidst the tapestry of Heather, Crowberry, Bog Bilberry and Bog Cotton we'll search for the carnivorous Round-leaved Sundew and Butterwort and should also encounter Golden Plover, Dunlin, Snipe and Red-throated Divers. In the afternoon we visit Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve, one of the most remarkable botanical sites in Shetland. Walking on this barren serpentine fell-field has been likened to walking on the Moon but, as we explore this unique habitat, a diverse eco-system appears. The reserve is home to an array of rare wildflowers, including Norwegian Sandwort, Frog Orchid, Early Purple Orchid, Northern Rock Cress, Moonwort and the star of the show - Shetland Mouse-Ear Chickweed (known locally as Edmonston’s Chickweed) - found here but nowhere else in the world! Overnight at St Magnus Bay Hotel.DAY 6 Thursday - Eshaness & Northmavine
We spend the day in the north Mainland - a beautiful region composed mainly of red granite and diorite. We visit the awe-inspiring cliffs at Eshaness where caves, crags and rocky 'geos' form some of Shetland's most dramatic and iconic coastal scenery. The beautiful walk to the Grind o' da Navir - an incredible amphitheatre formed by the huge seas of violent winter storms - and the Holes of Scraada will reward us with views of passing seabirds, Shetland Wrens, Wheatears, Twites, Rock Pipits, an abundance of coastal wildflowers and there’s always the chance of whales and dolphins offshore. Nearby, the sheltered bay and beach of volcanic shingle at Stenness holds good numbers of Grey Seals and offers us uninterrupted views – not only of the iconic Dore Holm – but also of the sweeping panorama across St Magnus Bay to Papa Stour with the high peaks of Foula in the far distance. Heading east and eventually south from Eshaness, we’ll visit one of our favourite sites for Oysterplant. This beautiful maritime plant – which has pink flowers when in bud, changing to a heavenly blue when they bloom – is a nationally scarce species and now found at just a handful of sites in Shetland. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.DAY 7 Friday - East Mainland
We spend the day exploring the beautiful coastline and secluded bays that form the east shoulder of the Shetland Mainland. Shallow, intertidal bays are home to Otters, Common and Grey Seals, feeding Red-throated Divers, summering Great Northern Divers, Black Guillemots and small flotillas of Red-breasted Mergansers. Further offshore we can often encounter small pods of our smallest cetacean - Harbour Porpoise - known as ‘Neesicks’ here in Shetland. Onshore, large numbers of Arctic Terns nest among the boulder beaches with smaller numbers of Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers joining them. The surrounding heather moorland is home to small numbers of Red Grouse plus Golden Plovers, Whimbrels, Curlews and Mountain Hares and if we are lucky, we may encounter one of Shetland’s rarest breeding raptors – Merlin. Later in the day we will head back south, enjoying the high vista-views of St Ninian’s Isle and Foula to the west and Mousa and Noss to the east before visiting the Puffins and other seabirds at Sumburgh Head – the perfect way to round off our week. Overnight at Sumburgh Hotel.DAY 8 Saturday
After breakfast we'll transfer you to Sumburgh airport, or make arrangements for you to travel to your onward destination in Shetland.
Group Size - 8 - 10 travellers
2021 Operating Dates
Sat 22nd May - Sat 29th May
Sat 29th May - Sat 5th June
Sat 5th June - Sat 12th June
Sat 12th June - Sat 19th June
Sat 19th June - Sat 26th June
Sat 26th June - Sat 3rd July
Sat 3rd July - Sat 10th July
Sat 10th July - Sat 17th July
We are winners of the Tourism & Environment Thistle Award - the highest accolade in Scottish Tourism - and rated as 'Excellent' by our customers on TripAdvisor. ATOL 9151.
Founded in 1993, we are the No.1 choice for birding, mammal, botanical, photographic and walking holidays in Shetland. Choose from over 40 3-day and 7-day wildlife-filled holidays. Day tours plus bespoke packages also arranged. We are the only award-winning eco-tourism holiday business resident in Shetland and rated as 'Excellent' by our customers on TripAdvisor. ATOL 9151. Visit us online at www.shetlandwildlife.co.uk
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