After arriving and unpacking at The Spiggie Hotel we couldn’t wait to explore the area! The vast array of birds was overwhelming we had Skylarks
displaying, Starling, a Great Skua, Arctic Tern, Sanderlings in full
summer plumage, Wheatears and Oystercatchers in abundance, the sweet song of the Shetland Wren, Curlew, Lapwing, Twite, Great Northern Diver close to the sea shore, Fulmars,
Kittiwakes, Black- headed Gulls, Turnstones, Sparrows, Blackbird, Raven, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gull, Blackbird, Hooded Crow, Chiffchaff and
numerous Common and Grey Seals, We thought we had gone to heaven and that was after only two hours!
During our stay we visited Sumburgh Head and we saw our first Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Guillemots, Shags, Cormorant, Rock and Meadow Pipits.
Plus an Orca (of the plastic variety), much to our guides amusement!!
We went to the Loch of Hillwell and Loch of Spiggie where we saw Britain’s only breeding Whooper Swans, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Moorhen, Shelduck, Teal, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Divers,
Pintail, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Mallard, Rock Dove, Redshank, Knot, Little Gull and Eiders.
There was great excitement too as an Egret had been spotted around this area and we found it perched on a cliff with the Fulmars.
During one evening we took a boat to the Island of Mousa and climbed the 43ft high Iron Age Broch which is home to hundreds of European Storm Petrels. We
also saw Purple Sandpipers displaying around the rocks.
We slowly worked our way across Shetland visiting Tingwall Valley where we saw the Arctic Hare, Red-throated Divers, Golden Plover, Greylag Goose, and Dunlin who were displaying and trilling. We made our way to Lerwick for a
cruise around the Island of Noss and saw ‘Britain’s best bird cliff’ It was teeming with sea birds including Common Tern and thousands of gannets. We also saw an
otter and cub and we videoed a ‘Bonxie’ swooping down at the side of the boat for food. Shetland ponies could
be seen everywhere even on the beach!
There was excitement yet again with a rare bird alert as two North American Ring-necked Ducks had been spotted and our guide located them at a
loch where we had the added pleasure of finding a Red-necked Phalarope.
The next stop was Britain’s most northerly island, Unst, where we visited Haroldswick and where we saw our first Arctic Skuas, Lapwing, Whimbrel,
Iceland Gull, Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits in full summer plumage, Swift, House Martin, Swallow, Sedge Warbler, Pied, White and Yellow Wagtail, Blackcap, Merlin, Rook
and Common Sandpiper displaying. Snipe were a common sight and it was wonderful to see and hear them drumming.
On Britain’s most northerly beach we found a Ringed Plover’s nest containing four eggs. A hoopoe had been seen on Unst and we spent a frustrating
hour or so looking for it, but to no avail! During our visit to Unst we visited Hermaness National Reserve 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. They were constantly displaying and claiming their territory. The cliffs house 50,000
puffins, 40,000 Guillemots, 20,000 Fulmars and over 20,000 Gannets.
We spent an afternoon on the Keen of Hamar where we encountered rare plants including the Frog Orchid, Shetland Mouse-eared Chickweed and carnivorous Sundew.
We encountered a Lesser Whitethroat while having lunch on the beach with fleeting views of Harbour Porpoise.
Our last morning was spent searching for elusive red grouse, none were seen but we found a rare and declining Oyster Plant. The cliffs at Eshaness were
breathtaking and form some of Shetland’s most dramatic and iconic scenery.
The species of the trip, according to our guide, was the elusive corncrake. It could be heard but decided only to show itself to some of our party one of
which was Sue! However Sue and I agreed that the birds of the trip were the gannets and close views of the Red-throated
Diver will stay with us for a long time.