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‘Ultimate Shetland’ with WildlifeKate & Hugh Harrop!

I am extremely excited to be able to announce that I will be running  an exclusive and unique departure with Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife in June 2016. Over midsummer’s day, we will be offering a superb holiday to Shetland to experience all the incredible wildlife that these islands have to offer, with the added bonus of being able to use a range of Bushnell trail cams and night vision products!

We believe that this is a pretty unique venture… combining Hugh’s extensive knowledge and experience of leading wildlife tours with my experience and knowledge of trail cams!

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How often does that Otter walk along a certain stretch of coastline?

How many Puffins are using that single burrow entrance?

Is that scrape on a patch of heather being used by a Mountain Hare?

What is nibbling at the leaves of a tiny Frog Orchid?

Is that tiny crevice really used by a Storm Petrel?

All can be answered with a trail cam and in addition to the itinerary published below, we will be exploring unique and highly innovative possibilities during the week, which will include placing cams and then reviewing and uploading footage that all participants will be able to take home with them as a memento of the trip.

Participants will be able to have a go with all the kit I bring with me, but there will also be amazing deals on Bushnell trail cams  and night vision kit for anyone who books onto the trip and would like to purchase their own kit to use. If you already have a trail cam, then bring it along! The holiday will give you the chance to learn how to get the best out of the kit and also allow you to go home with some pretty incredible footage, hopefully!

My trip to Shetland this year allowed me to capture this great clip of a wild Shetland otter in daylight! The otters on these wonderful islands regularly come out in daylight as the coastlines are so untouched and quiet….

The advances in night vision equipment have been phenomenal over the last few years and I have been using the Bushnell Equinox Z night vision monocular, which can record onto an SD card. Visiting the stunning Mousa, I filmed the Storm Petrels in the Broch with this kit. It gives off no visible light, so does not disturb the birds at all, as you can see by this video…

The itinerary for the week will be packed and varied, aiming to give you the chance to see as much of the island’s flora and fauna and full details can be found on the Shetland Wildlife website HERE

DAY 1  Saturday – Welcome Dinner & Mousa Broch Storm Petrels

Late afternoon / early evening rendezvous at the Spiggie Hotel. After our welcome dinner and orientation we take a boat 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 are a truly awesome sight. We depart Mousa after midnight and return to Sumburgh. Overnight at the Spiggie Hotel.

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DAY 2  Sunday – Seabirds & Selkies

During the morning, we visit Sumburgh Head to view multitudes of seabirds, including our first Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Shags. 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 Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises. In recent years we’ve also recorded both Killer and Humpback Whales. 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 Dalsetter, observing typical moorland-breeding species like Curlew, Whimbrel and Arctic Skua. Overnight at the Spiggie Hotel. 

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DAY 3  Monday – A visit to Britain’s best bird cliffs!

This morning we board our boat for an unforgettable cruise around the island of Noss National Nature Reserve for spectacular views of the famous seabird colonies. 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 20,000 Gannets wheeling around our boat along with rafts of Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins swimming at arms length will be truly awesome! Viewing this seabird colony from sea-level will certainly compliment our cliff-top vista from Hermaness later in the week! Our boat also has specially adapted underwater cameras and the trip offers an incredible insight into life beneath the waves and we can expect lots of underwater critters ranging from plankton to Plumose Anemones. In the early afternoon we’ll travel north catching a ferry across the island of Yell and onwards to Britain’s most northerly inhabited island – Unst. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel, Unst. 

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DAY 4  Tuesday – Fetlar – the Garden of Shetland

Being based on Unst for three nights means that we are ideally placed for some ‘island hopping’ and today we will head to Fetlar. The prize here will be the handsome Red-necked Phalarope, famous for its breeding role reversal. Fetlar holds over 90% 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, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Dunlin and, if we’re lucky, a summering Great Northern Diver. We’ll also search the shores for Otters and enjoy the wild flowers as Fetlar’s fertile land produces a dazzling display of flora and we should find several species of Orchid with ease. We head back to Unst late in the afternoon and after dinner there will be an optional excursion to view and photograph an impressive gathering of up to 100 non-breeding Great Skuas (Bonxies) and enjoy spectacular views (and hopefully a nice sunset) of the west coast of Unst. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel, Unst.

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DAY 5  Wednesday – Unst – The end of Britain!

We spend the morning walking on Hermaness National Nature Reserve. A walk on this 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 50,000 Puffins, 40,000 Guillemots, 28,000 Fulmars and over 20,000 Gannets! The cacophony of bird cries and the smell of guano make this 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. In the afternoon we visit the Keen of Hamar National Nature Reserve. Hiking 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 wild flowers, including Arctic Sandwort, Frog Orchid and Shetland Mouse-Ear (or Edmonston’s) Chickweed – found here but nowhere else in the world! After dinner we will head out to look for Otters or visit a small marsh and listen for one of Britain’s rarest breeders – Spotted Crake. Our chances of seeing this Starling-sized skulker are probably nil but we should hopefully hear its weird, whip-whistling song. Overnight at the Baltasound Hotel.

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DAY 6  Thursday – from Unst back to south Mainland

We’ll continue to explore more of our favourite sites on Unst. Britain’s most northerly settlement at Skaw may hold a few late migrants (or even a few early returning ones!) and we search the lush flower-rich meadows of Norwick for breeding Redshank, Snipe and Curlew. In the afternoon we explore the sheltered bays and wetlands of southern Unst. Otters and seals will be our prime targets along with handsome brick-red Black-tailed Godwits. Only a handful of Black-tailed Godwits breed in Shetland and they belong to the race islandica, which is more widely distributed in the Faeroes and Iceland. We should also encounter Dunlins on breeding territory giving their trilling display song. We will leave Unst in the afternoon stopping off on the island of Yell on our way south to see an impressive gathering of tiny Round-leaved Sundew. Continuing south we head across Yell Sound by ferry and arrive back at in the south Mainland, home for the next two nights. Overnight at the Spiggie Hotel.

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DAY 7  Friday – Northmavine 

We spend the day in the north Mainland – a beautiful region composed mainly of red granite and diorite. We will spend the morning at one of our favourite patches of coastal moorland, looking for Otters, Mountain Hares, Red Grouse and an array of breeding waders such as Dunlin, Snipe and Curlew. Continuing north towards the picturesque village of Hillswick, we make a stop to find the rare and declining Oysterplant – now found at just a handful of sites in Shetland. We lunch at the awe-inspiring Eshaness Cliffs, where caves, crags and rocky ‘geos’ form some of Shetland’s most dramatic and iconic scenery. We visit the Grind o’ da Navir – an incredible amphitheatre formed by the huge seas of violent winter storms and on our return, we will stop to admire the Holes of Scraada – a 132-yard collapsed cave with Fulmars as residents! On our return to the lighthouse we will keep an eye offshore for plunge-diving Gannets and terns, and with luck we may sight whales and dolphins. After another exhilarating day we’ll head back south for our farewell dinner. Overnight at the Spiggie Hotel.

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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.

If you would like to chat to me about the trip and what it has to offer, then do come and see me at Bird Fair this weekend, where I will be on the Bushnell stand in the Optics Marquee.

I am popping this last photo on, as it sums up Shetland experiences for me! My close friend, Pete Walkden captured this amazing shot as I lay watching a Red-necked Phalarope just a metre in front of me this summer! All the other photos on this blog post were captured on my wonderful visit to Shetland this June.

You can read more about my trip in my blog posts HERE

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Places are limited and the holiday is to be launched at BirdFair… my followers and those who follow Shetland Wildlife are getting a few days advanced notice!! I can guarantee it is going to be enthusiasm and excitement driven trip! :o)


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