Scotland - Shetland and Orkney Islands 2023

      Aberdeen, UK

      72 reviews
      May 31 - Jun 11, 2023
      Group size: 5 - 10
      Scotland - Shetland and Orkney Islands 2023
      Aberdeen, UK

      72 reviews

      May 31 - Jun 11, 2023
      Group size: 5 - 10

      About this trip

      These beautiful archipelagos in Scotland's far north have always been synonymous with history and nature. They are places of open skies, empty beaches and rugged coastlines that enjoy almost twenty-four hour daylight during the summer months. Due to their strategic positions, these islands have been settled since before the Neolithic period, with many important archaeological sites dotting the landscape. Due to the lack of trees and use of durable stone for building, it is believed that there are on average, three archaeological sites per square mile on Orkney alone. We aim to explore many iconic sites including Skara Brae; a Neolithic village uncovered unexpectedly in a storm back in 1850. 

      Both island groups are a birder’s paradise and are often rated as THE best places to birdwatch in the whole of Britain. This title is well deserved with plenty to see, especially in spring and fall. June and July are the best months to visit when the many seabird colonies are busiest with activity. 21 of the 24 true British seabirds nest on the islands with important populations that include Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common Murre, Arctic Tern, Great Skua, Black-legged Kittiwake, Parasitic Jaeger and both European and Leach’s Storm-Petrels. The island’s interior moorlands and wetlands are equally good and support Merlin, Red-throated Loon, Whimbrel, European Golden-plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Common Greenshank, Eurasian Wigeon, Short-eared Owl, and in the cultivated areas, the secretive Corncrake. 

      Another area we’ll focus on are the marine mammals, as diversity and observation rate in the region is high. Species seen regularly around the islands include European Otter, Orca, Minke Whale, White-beaked and Risso’s Dolphins, plus Short-beaked Common Dolphin and Pilot Whale. Diversity that makes a watch from a headland or two an exciting prospect even in bad weather.

      We have chosen the first two weeks in June in order to combine the breeding specialties with the best chance of encountering overshooting migrants and rarities that regularly include Bluethroat, Wryneck, red-backed Shrike, Common Rosefinch, Marsh and Icterine Warbler, Golden Oriole, and Ortolan Bunting. High pressure combined with anticyclonic conditions are best, so as to cause northbound migrants to drift westwards towards the islands. The rarities discovered during this period are legendary with Red-footed Falcon, Red-rumped Swallow, Red-throated Pipit, Rustic Bunting, Thrush Nightingale, Great Reed, Subalpine and Greenish Warblers all making it onto the island’s long bird list.  

      It is with a spirit of adventure we start our trip in Aberdeen with an evening ferry journey to Kirkwall on Orkney. We aim to visit many of the historic sites in the three full day’s allocation, with priority given to Skara Brae, Maes Howe, St Magnus Cathedral, The Standing Stones of Stenness and The Ring of Brodgar. Avian specialties we will search for include Corncrake, Twite, Hen Harrier as well as seabirds and cetaceans. We will be based in the charming historic city of Kirkwall during our stay on Orkney, and it is from here that we commence our onward ferry journey to Shetland.

      It is from Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands, that we start our second and longer leg of the trip. Once landing, we initially journey south to visit the southern mainland for seabirds and migrants, but quickly head back north to Lerwick, and the islands of Bressay, Noss, Yell, Fetlar and finally Unst, the most northerly island in Britain. Seabirds and passage migrants/vagrants will be the focus of this tour, but also the many cetaceans and other mammals encountered around the islands. Highlights will include a night time visit to Mousa Broch and its famous colony of European Storm- petrels, the boat trip around Bressay and Noss for the incredible seabird colonies and the rare privilege to visit Fetlar for a taste of some sub-arctic species such as breeding Whimbrel, Red-necked Phalarope and Parasitic Jaeger.  

      This is a wonderful opportunity to venture to Scotland’s far north, a small piece of land on the edge of the wider Arctic. The wildlife, history and culture of this region are not to be missed. 

      What’s included

      • Food
      • Accommodation
      • Ground transportation
      • Guide services
      • International flights
      • Alcoholic beverages
      • Laundry
      • Gratuities
      • Items of personal nature

      Available Packages

      Double Occupancy


      Deposit: $400
      Single Traveler

      For those wanting their own room

      Deposit: $400

      Your Organizer

      Ventures Birding Tours
      72 reviews
      Small travel company based in Asheville, NC, specializing in birding & nature tours both locally & worldwide.


      I enjoyed having Mike as a guide on my first venture with him. He is extremely knowledgeable and skilled in finding and identifying the many warblers passing through. Mike pointed out a lot of field identification tips that helped me expand my own skills. His depth of experience and his enthusiasm for sharing what he knows made it a great birding day.
      By Charlotte M for Fall Warbler Workshop #1 - '23 on Sep 15, 2023
      This was an awesome experience, my wife and I were the only ones that showed up. Mike Resch was our professional guide. Mike is a master birder, I have never seen anyone with his knowledge and skill. He could identify birds by call and in their fall plumage. We were about done when he received a text about a Limpkin that had been found in his hometown and he invited us to follow him. He treated us as friends, we spent about 8 hours with him and I added so many birds to my life list. What a bargain and great time.
      By Walter F for Spectacular Fall Migration @ Ridge Junction - 2 on Sep 11, 2023
      A slow-paced meandering birdwalk often distracted by conversations with unafilliated random birders in search of local birds.
      By Joseph C for Mills River Migration on Sep 06, 2023
      Washington is a beautiful state. Several considerations to be made: maybe not in August when it's soo hot to go into the arid section. Birds were not active. Also, not to visit a National Park on a weekend day. The lines getting in, difficulty parking, and crowds took away from the experience and we missed the Rosy Finch. :) It was no problem for us, but the tour needs to be given more than a "moderate" level of hiking and exercise. Some attendents were not able to keep up, and slowed us down here and there. The pelagic trip was awesome! We happened to see 59 orcas, along with many of the bird species expected. The town of Westport was a nice little fishing town. Not touristy - perfect. The Olympic National Park had a great trail to a waterfall that took us through gigantic trees and lush vegetation. Definitely what you'd expect in Washington state. Getting to the top of Hurricane Ridge, we had close views of Mt Olympus, but it was unfortunately, a smoky day due to wildfires. So....we were not able to have the view of Puget Sound and other mountains. Our lodgings were good, and majority of meals were fabulous. We were able to find most of the target birds except when it was crowded or too smoky. All in all, we enjoyed this trip. This review is for myself and Leo C.
      By Angela C for Washington - Pacific Northwest Birding 2023 on Sep 03, 2023
      We had a great time, and we learned a lot. Aaron is a superb birder!
      By Kristin M for Rarity Round-Up - Kite Watch 23 on Aug 23, 2023
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