12-19 June 2001

Paul Harvey





Tuesday 12th June

Force 2-3 south-west wind with sunny spells.


Despite the best endeavours of the Hire Car company, who insisted that our booking had been cancelled, we managed to leave Lerwick in time to reach the ferry from Toft to Yell. A brief stop at West Sandwick on Yell provided our first views of Lapwings, Redshank and Oystercatchers, all with chicks, and a rather distant Red-throated Diver. A Grey Heron was something of a surprise at Whalefirth. Onward to Unst where we built up an appetite for dinner by enjoying a nice walk around the Keen of Hamar managing to find most of its special arctic-alpine plants in addition to the endemic Edmondston's Chickweed. After supper some of the party headed out to Norwick where we were able to listen to, and glimpse, a singing Marsh Warbler


Wednesday 13th June

Force 4 north-west wind, sunny periods.


With the sun shining we spent the morning walking around Hermaness. Brian's pedometer proved the subject of much debate suggesting that we covered in excess of nine miles. Whatever it had been well worth it for the close encounters with Great Skuas, some amazing views of Puffins and in excess of 30,000 Gannets! We then swapped the sight and smell of 100,000 breeding seabirds for some culture and history, visiting the Unst Heritage Centre and Unst Boat Haven. On route back to the hotel we stopped at the small pool at Haroldswick and were greeted by a fine summer plumage Spotted Redshank and a very late migrant Wood Sandpiper, whilst in the bay opposite a summer plumage Great Northern Diver gave good views.


Thursday 14th June

Force 3-4 north-east wind with sunny periods.


We left the hotel just after 9 a.m. and headed south to the ferry for Fetlar. On route we located several family parties of locally bred Greylag Goose (these coming from the Icelandic breeding population) a few Teal and a stunning Black-tailed Godwit of the more colourful Icelandic race.


We arrived at Fetlar just after 1100 and cameras were soon in overdrive as two superb female Red-necked Phalaropes came to within just a few feet of our party. As we proceeded to the RSPB hide things got even better as a Temminck's Stint flew in calling and landed just a few yards away. This, the first in Shetland in spring in the new Millennium. To ensure that no-one got bored three Red-throated Divers patrolled the loch just 30 yards away!


Finally managing to tear ourselves away from the phalaropes we proceeded to the airstrip where we got stunning views of Arctic Skuas, Whimbrel and Golden Plovers - all coming to within 10 yards of our 'mobile hide'. Then onto the beautiful sandy beach at Tresta where we located three female Common Scoter offshore and a migrant Spotted Flycather ashore.


On route back to the Hotel on Unst we found a nice summer plumage Greenshank at Baltasound and surprises continued after dinner as we enjoyed fine views of a summer plumage Slavonian Grebe at the Loch of Cliff.


Friday 15th June Force 5-6 north-east wind, cold but sunny.


Despite our best efforts a calling Water Rail would not show itself at the Haroldswick pool although we did manage to find a flock of 15 Sanderling at Lund. It was then time to head south to the Mainland and Sumburgh. First stop was near Sullom Voe where participants were again able to practice telling Arctic from Common Terns as well as getting frame-filling photographs of both species at the nest. Further stops yielded a very late female Long-tailed Duck, a super brood of Common Sandpipers all bobbing along after their parents, some spectacular coastal scenery at Esha Ness, 2 Whooper Swans and a pair of Scaup. Many of the party though, particularly enjoyed the visit to Kergord where they were re-acquainted with trees - many in excess of 100 years old and stretching high above our heads - and Goldcrest, Siskin and Rook were added to the trip list. Nearby a quick walk at Sand Water produced a Blue Hare although Brian became more intimate with blanket bog than he had intended!


Saturday 16th June

Force 6 north-east wind, cloudy with occasional rain.


The inclement weather meant that boat trips to both Noss and Mousa had to be suspended. Instead we checked the lochs in the south Mainland and switched to history and culture for the rest of the day, spending a most enjoyable few hours in the County Museum in Lerwick and the Crofthouse Museum at Boddam. Avian highlights included a further Whooper Swan and a Mute Swan, a fine brood of Shelduck, four very late Bar-tailed Godwits, some great views of Twite, and for our American friends - Coot and Moorhen!


Sunday 17th June.

Force 5-6 northerly wind, frequent showers.


First stop was Sumburgh Head where we spent much time watching and photographing Puffins as they performed their antics just a few feet away. Nearby a real surprise was a flock of more than 20 Crossbills - feeding on the heads of sea-pinks rather than pine cones. Highlight of a drive along the Nesting coast was a very obliging Otter while a couple of Wigeons were located at Sae Water. By mid-day the wind had switched to the north and it was now or never for Noss. With cool heads and stomachs of iron we headed out around Bressay and were soon enjoying the spectacle of white water rafting under 600 foot cliffs plastered in tens of thousands of seabirds. An awesome, if a little wet, experience! Heading back to more sheltered waters we then took a trip into the underwater world of kelp forests, caves and plankton with latest technology aboard the Dunter II. Fascinating stuff!


Monday 18th June Force 4-5 north-east wind decreasing to force 2-3, occasional sunny periods.


Despite the moderation in the wind the forecast for the evening was not great - south east force 7! Therefore we made the decision to visit Mousa by day. It proved to be a lovely day and large numbers of seals, eiders on the nest just feet away and a flock of Turnstone were all sights that we could not have enjoyed on a night visit. Fortunately we were also able to locate a Storm Petrel in the spectacular Broch, which dates back 2000 years. All enjoyed good views and it took the trouble to sing for some of us. Three Goldeneye and a Cormorant were useful additions to the trip list at Loch of Spiggie during the late afternoon. Finally we took an evening drive to Sumburgh Head to enjoy a beautiful calm evening among the Puffins - departing though before the sunset at 11pm!


Tuesday 20th June.

Force 7 south-east wind with driving rain.


The final morning of the trip was spent saying goodbyes and checking a few spots in the south Mainland. It had been a super week spent with a super group.


Species Lists:



Red-throated Diver: Good numbers seen throughout the islands. Some excellent views.
Great Northern Diver: Two individuals in Haroldswick Bay on 13th - a full summer adult and a first-summer bird.
Slavonian Grebe: One in full summer plumage at Loch of Cliff provided a real surprise.
Fulmar: Everywhere - some 500,000 pairs breed in the islands.
European Storm Petrel: One seen well in the broch at Mousa.
Northern Gannet: Two of the four Shetland colonies were visited - Noss and Hermaness - and some super views obtained.
Great Cormorant: One flew over Loch of Spiggie on 18th
European Shag: Seen daily offshore and nesting at seabird colonies
Grey Heron: One at Whalefirth, Yell and another at Loch of Hillwell.
Mute Swan: One at Loch of Brow and a pair with a brood of four at Loch of Benston and 2 at Aith.
Whooper Swan: Two at Loch of Tingwall and one at Loch of Spiggie.
Greylag Goose: Over 20 on Unst.
Common Shelduck: Seen at Boddam and Virkie, with a brood at the former.
Eurasian Wigeon: Two females at Sae water
Common Teal: Four at Uyeasound, 6 Esha Ness, 2 at Loch of Hillwell and 3 at Sae Water.
Mallard: Seen throughout the islands, with several broods observed.
Northern Shoveler: A male at Loch of Hillwell on 18th.
Tufted Duck: Seen daily on Mainland with a maximum of 6 at Loch of Tingwall.
Greater Scaup: A pair at Pool of Virkie were very late.
Common Eider: Seen daily with many broods of ducklings observed.
Long-tailed Duck: A female at Urafirth will probably prove to be the latest spring record for the year.
Common Scoter: Three females at Tresta, Fetlar.
Goldeneye: A male and two females at the Loch of Spiggie. June records are unusual
Red-breasted Merganser: Seen at Uyeasound, Unst, at Urafirth, and on Loch of Benston and Loch of Tingwall.
Water Rail: One heard at Haroldswick
Common Moorhen: Two at Loch of Spiggie, with a brood, one at Sae water and one at Loch of Hillwell.
Common Coot: Four adults and a brood of 4 chicks at Loch of Hillwell.
Eurasian Oystercatcher: Seen in good numbers with chicks of various sizes.
Northern Lapwing: Good numbers recorded and many adults seen with their chicks.
European Golden Plover: Excellent views on Fetlar and Yell.
Ringed Plover: Seen daily in good numbers, occasionally with chicks.
Black-tailed Godwit: One in full summer plumage at Uyeasound
Bar-tailed Godwit: Four at Pool of Virkie - all in winter plumage.
Whimbrel: Excellent views on Fetlar
Eurasian Curlew: Seen daily in good numbers.
Spotted Redshank: A summer plumage individual at Haroldswick pool was a most unexpected surprise.
Common Redshank: Good numbers observed daily, occasionally with chicks
Common Greenshank: One in fine summer plumage at Baltasound, Unst.
Wood Sandpiper: One, a very late migrant, at Haroldswick pool.
Common Sandpiper: A pair with a brood of two, and another single, were seen in the north Mainland
Ruddy Turnstone: Two at Baltasound, 2 at Grutness and 8 on Mousa.
Red-necked Phalarope: Two superb females at Loch of Funzie on Fetlar.
Common Snipe: Seen most days. Excellent views of individuals chipping from fence posts and several views of drumming birds.
Sanderling: A flock of 15 at Lund, Unst.
Dunlin: Good numbers daily, including many singing.
Temminck's Stint: Excellent views of a short staying migrant at Loch of Funzie, Fetlar. A real rarity in Shetland and not previously on the Travelling Naturalist checklist!
Great Skua: Seen daily and almost too close for comfort.
Arctic Skua: Seen most days - both colour phases seen well.
Common Gull: A few daily with many small breeding colonies encountered.
Great Black-backed Gull: Seen daily.
Herring Gull: Seen daily in good numbers.
Lesser Black-backed Gull: Recorded daily in good numbers.
Black-headed Gull: A few daily.
Kittiwake: Recorded at seabird colonies, on ferry crossings, and in good numbers bathing at Scatness.
Common Tern: One or two seen most days including excellent opportunities to study them alongside Arctic Terns at Sullom Voe.
Arctic Tern: Large numbers seen every day.
Guillemot: Common at seabird colonies and on ferry crossings.
Razorbill: The least commonly seen auk but still present in good numbers.
Black Guillemot: Seen regularly close inshore.
Atlantic Puffin: Good numbers ashore at seabird colonies with stunning views at Hermaness and Sumburgh Head.
Rock Dove: Widespread in small numbers.
Wood Pigeon: Up to 8 at Halligarth, 3 at Kergord and 2 at Brow.
Collared Dove: Twelve at Halligarth and several at Kergord.
Common Swift: One at Loch of Hillwell on 18th.
Eurasian Skylark: Seen and heard commonly.
Barn Swallow: Small numbers of migrants most days.
Pied Wagtail: One at Haroldswick and a male at Weisdale.
Meadow Pipit: Seen daily.
Rock Pipit: Recorded in coastal areas.
Winter Wren: One or two recorded most days. Both the appearance and song different to their counterparts on the British Mainland.
Common Blackbird: Recorded daily - breeds in small numbers.
Wheatear: Good numbers daily.
Marsh Warbler: One singing at Norwick, was occasionally glimpsed on 12th.
Blackcap: One singing at Halligarth on 14th.
Goldcrest: Two at Kergord
Spotted Flycatcher: One at Fetlar - a very late migrant
Rook: Present at Kergord and Tingwall.
Hooded Crow: Widespread.
Common Raven: Seen most days.
Starling: Abundant:
European Siskin: Three at Kergord
Twite: Recorded at several sites.
Common Crossbill: A flock of 20 or more at Sumburgh Head - many giving good views.
House Sparrow: Widespread in small numbers. 84 species in all.


Otter: One at Nesting and one at Leebitton.
Common Seal: Seen in reasonable numbers most days.
Grey Seal: Fewer than above but recorded most days.
Rabbit: Common and widespread.
Blue Hare: One above Sand Water


Large White: One at Cunningsburgh on 18th

© The Travelling Naturalist 2001