Tour At A Glance


2000.00 (includes single cabin on ferries).



Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

A fair amount of walking is required to get the most from your holiday. The terrain is varied and therefore a reasonable level of physical fitness is required. Expect some early starts and long days in the field.

Group Size:

Seven plus Leaders

Richard's Pipit Little Bunting Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll Olive-backed Pipit Siberian Stonechat American Golden Plover

Shetland - Autumn Migration

Date: 24th September to 5th October 2021 - FULL



The tour meets at Aberdeen ferry terminal at 15.00 for check in for the 17.00 sailing to Lerwick on Shetland. We have cabins for the journey and the ferry is well equipped with restaurants, bars and cinema.

We arrive in Lerwick at 0730 and after breakfast locally we travel south towards our first base at Sumburgh Head. We’ll head straight out into the field, hoping to catch up with any rarities already present in South Mainland before checking into the Sumburgh Hotel in the evening. A quick check of the garden here before dusk could well turn up some interesting migrants!

Overnight Sumburgh Hotel

Sumburgh Head and Grutness area are superb for migrants and of course the Sumburgh Hotel garden itself is renowned as a rarity hotspot. Chats, wheatears, pipits, shrikes and wryneck inhabit the open ground and stone walls during fall conditions while the bushes play host to warblers and flycatchers. Sumburgh Farm is another very interesting area within walking distance of the hotel and the beaches at Grutness can host waders. Pool of Virkie is just minutes away, a great place for waders and often turning up rarities such as the recent Killdeer in 2008. Virkie willows are a regular spot for Yellow-browed Warbler, an expected autumn migrant on the islands often in good numbers. Barred Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Common Rosefinch and Icterine Warbler are other regular passerine migrants encountered. Rarer species noted in the area in recent years include Lanceolated and Arctic Warblers, Red-flanked Bluetail and Great Snipe. While in this part of South Mainland, we will certainly pay a visit to the excellent Quendale Mill. The streamside vegetation and dense bushes around the mill are great for warblers – River Warbler and Syke’s Warbler were both here in 2010 and we saw American Buff-bellied Pipit here in 2011.

Overnights Sumburgh Hotel

After a further mornings birding in South Mainland we make the short journey north to Hoswick where  the fields and gardens can be superb. Rose-coloured Starling sometimes join the flocks and cropped fields are good places to look for pipits and wagtails. Sycamore groves are great for finding Red-breasted Flycatcher and of course the often ubiquitous Yellow-browed Warbler. Swinister Burn can be excellent for migrants too, particularly thrushes, crests and bramblings, while our 2012 group found a Siberian Stonechat here.  In the afternoon we move north again and take two short ferry trips via the island of Yell onto Unst at the northern tip of the British Isles. Our accommodation here for the next three nights is in delightful and well equipped Scandinavian style self-catering lodges, where we will provide our own breakfast and packed lunches for days in the field. A restaurant here will provide evening meals, however. Being self contained means we are not constrained by time in the mornings and early morning walks to look for new arrivals can be more flexible if birds are arriving or we’ve heard of something good that’s turned up.

Overnight Saxa Vord

Baltasound and Norwick, two well known rarity hotspots on the island, are very close at hand and we will enjoy exploring all this island has to offer. Pallas’s Grasshopper, Lanceolated and Syke’s Warblers were all seen here in 2010 and our 2012 group saw Pechora Pipit and Hornemann’s Arctic Redpoll. In fact the hamlet of Norwick must surely be the most reliable site outside Greenland to see the latter species. Again gardens, crops and tiny copses must be carefully checked [and re-checked!] for skulking migrants, as species such as Blyth’s Reed Warbler or the catharus thrushes can often take some finding! Unst is a magical place, right at the Northern tip of the British Isles, and we will feel a real sense of adventure as we explore its habitats. While we are here, we will also visit the nearby island of Fetlar by short ferry crossing, for a days birding away from the crowds! This island is less well watched than its counterparts, but has some lovely pockets of habitat that are more than capable of turning up something really special.

Overnights Saxa Vord


The adjacent island of Yell is a wild and unspoilt place, which many birders simply pass through as quickly as possible in order to reach the connecting ferry to Unst! This is a shame, as Yell has its own character and superb birding spots, just like all these islands. We can spend a full day exploring here, particularly at the northern end of the island. Large flocks of European Golden Plovers often congreagate here and there is a good chance to find an American Golden Plover among them. Over the years the many excellent gardens have added Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Barred Warbler and of course many Yellow-browed Warblers and Siberian Chiffchaffs to our trip list. Secluded bays offer shelter for Otters and on the more exposed coasts, the white-winged gulls sometimes appear among gatherings of Great Black-backs. We are still only a short hop by ferry back to Unst [or even Fetlar] if we receive news of anything particularly exciting there - a Swainson's Thrush had us dashing for the boat on our last trip! The sound between Yell and Unst is great for birds and as well as Great Northern Divers it brings a chance for a European Storm-Petrel, Long-tailed Ducks, Slavonian Grebe and cetaceans. Overnight Saxa Vord.

We begin our journey south today after mornings birding on Unst. We will also have time to pick up anything interesting that might be on Yell on our way back onto Mainland. North Mainland has some excellent areas, from the wild moorlands of Northmavine to the sheltered gardens and harbour at Voe. Surf Scoter and King Eider are sometimes found amongst the mussel farms with rafts of Common Eider and Long-tailed Duck, whilst Red-breasted Merganser and Slavonian Grebe might also be found. Plantations at Vidlin and Voe are well worth checking on our way past, as they can host scarce species such as Red-breasted Flycatcher or perhaps a Long-eared Owl!

Overnight Sumburgh Hotel.

As well as exploring the environs of Sumburgh, we can travel a little North of our base to bird the superb area around Quarff. A copse here is great for finding rare warblers and flycatchers and open fields are good for Eurasian Wryneck and overflying raptors such as Merlin, Peregrine or Hen Harrier. We can also easily reach Tingwall where the loch has often held rarities such as Ring-necked Duck but often Greater Scaup and Whooper Swan. More gardens here are great for migrants and there is often an early returning drake King Eider nearby. Loch Spiggie and surrounds is another productive area where Slavonian Grebe, Common Goldeneye and other interesting ducks and terns can be found, while sandy beaches should always be checked for passing waders. Perhaps a Buff-breasted Sandpiper or American Golden Plover might be found with careful searching.

Overnight Sumburgh Hotel.

Our final day on Shetland allows us to make one final effort to find a good bird before catching the ferry back to the mainland. Perhaps a morning walk at Scatness might produce Snow or Lapland Buntings, a Pectoral Sandpiper might be feeding around one of the small pools or an Olive-backed Pipit might have dropped into one of the gardens! American Buff-bellied Pipit has become regular in the Northern Isles in recent autumns, and checking west facing beaches such as Rerwick could well pay dividends. Whatever we catch up with today, it will surely be a fitting end to a great trip on these amazing islands. We catch the 1900 sailing from Lerwick back to Aberdeen.

We arrive back in Aberdeen at 07.30 where the tour will conclude.

***Please note that travel plans may be disrupted at short notice due to adverse weather conditions and we therefore recommend that your travel insurance adequately covers any additional expenses that may be involved.


*NB - The tour will begin and end in Aberdeen and it is the responsibility of participants to ensure that they arrive in plenty of time for the ferry crossing. We will be only too pleased to assist your journey north with railway station or pre-arranged pick up stops along our route (A17/A1/A66/M6/M74) or alternatively you may join us ffor a free lift from our Norfolk base and park cars there free of charge for the duration of the tour. Contact us for details. 


Additional Information


Nine nights accommodation on Shetland, return overnight  ferry crossings from Aberdeen to Shetland including cabins, all inter-island ferries, all evening meals and breakfasts on Shetland from dinner on day two to breakfast on day eleven, transport on Shetland and services of leader. Also included are return ferry journeys to off islands.

Transport to/from Scotland and any overnight stay that may be required, travel insurance, drinks and any items of a purely personal nature. Meals on board the ferry [dinner and breakfast], lunches days two to seven and day eleven, any additional island trips that the group may decide to do are also not included.



Tour Reports


2012   2012b   2015   2017   2018   2019a   2019b




" Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the trip and hope to go somewhere else with Oriole Birding soon. Paul was an excellent leader and found us all the birds available to us - and was a good cook too!!" S M Kent


" Really wanted to say how much I appreciated the hard work put in by Paul. From out early every day, the driving and making us superb breakfasts on Unst he was a real Trojan and I am greatly grateful to him - nobody could have done more. Please say thanks [in wlesh] to him; or should that be Mancunian... Shetland was beautiful, so pleased to have seen it and it will be much nicer being able to put a view to the names on the pager reports from now on. It was a shame the winds weren't with us overall, but that is the luck of the draw. You get what you get or as they say, " Thats birding for you" It was still a superb break" W B Hertfordshire.


" We enjoyed the tour very much, especially seeing birds that we hadnever seen before at close range. Ashley is very quick at hearing birds and then helping you onto them. As well as the birding, we enjoyed seeing how people live, the weather was kind and the company great" EL & CR Cheshire