Fair Isle - Oct
Price excludes flight from Aberdeen, which Heatherlea can arrange at cost. Allow £150 – £180. Price includes flight Shetland – Fair Isle and return. This is a small and exclusive tour, so numbers are restricted to maximum nine guests plus leader from our resident team.
Fair Isle lies almost exactly halfway between Sumburgh at the tip of mainland Shetland and North Ronaldsay in Orkney, and is Britain’s most isolated inhabited island. The island’s track record of attracting rare and unusual migrants has no equal in Britain while its seabird colonies are internationally important, and Fair Isle Wren is a unique island sub-species.
With the intense concentration of birders on this tiny island, it is hardly surprising that Fair Isle enjoys such a reputation for vagrants, migrants and rarities. Our days are spent exploring, perhaps with an optional pre-breakfast walk to check for overnight arrivals, as migrants are blown in daily. According to the weather we may head to the crofts of the south, or more sheltered areas in the north. Birds can turn up anywhere, and we find and identify our own, and of course liaise with other birders during five full days.
We stay at the new Observatory Lodge, which has comfortable en-suite accommodation. There is a licensed lounge and the dining room is a convivial place offering large portions of delicious home-cooked meals with freshly-baked bread and home bakes. A comprehensive bird-log is held every evening.
This holiday can easily be combined with Shetland or the Outer Hebrides, or with a week at Mountview Hotel in Nethy Bridge, so visit Fair Isle with Heatherlea and choose the option which suits you best. This is one of the most exciting birding destinations in the UK, and everyone should visit Fair Isle at least once!
Your holiday begins at Sumburgh on Shetland, where your Heatherlea guide will meet you. Our office team will be very happy to arrange any extra services you might need, such as flights from aberdeen - Sumburgh, and food and accommodation before your holiday begins.
Day 1 Sat 5 October
We expect to gather mid-morning, though please consult Heatherlea for exact timings before you travel. It is likely you will need to reach Shetland the previous day, as connecting flights can be delayed by bad weather, and flights on Saturday morning may not be as per timetable. If time allows, we will round-up any migrants in the south Shetland area, before flying to Fair Isle and settling in.
Day 1 Sat 5 October - Day 7 Fri 11 October
A full week on Fair Isle! We will wander around the island, which is about 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. Fair Isle is Britain's most isolated inhabited island, divided geographically into two parts: the higher moorland areas and cliffs in the north, and the flatter, more sheltered and fertile land in the south.
Bird migration has been consistently monitored here since 1948, with very little change in methods. A whole island census is carried out every day by the Warden, Assistant Warden and Seabird Monitoring Officer, who rotate the 3 census areas (north, south-east, south-west) on a daily basis. Your Heatherlea Guide will liaise with staff before deciding which way to strike out each day, though of course the major thrill here lies in finding our own rare birds.
The daily census takes at least three hours to complete every day, and covers all the favoured habitats of migrant birds. Special attention is given to patches of cover, stone dykes, ditches, gardens and cliffs. There are no secrets to finding birds on Fair Isle – common and rare migrants are found EVERYWHERE & ANYWHERE. Any migrant birds that are seen are recorded, and the results discussed at Bird Log in the evening at 9.30pm. This is the official record of migrant birds, with the Warden recording all sightings in the Log book, whilst having the final say on the totals that have been reported, to minimise double counting.
Autumn migration is well underway by the time we visit, and September is the traditional month for seeing good numbers of common migrants and rarities! ‘Fair Isle specials’ seen during this month can include Pechora Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Great Snipe, Yellow-breasted Bunting and Lanceolated Warbler. Fair Isle does rely heavily on the weather to produce large falls of birds, but as many visitors will know, anything can turn up at any time………!
Day 7 Fri 11 October
A last chance to bird the island before our flight back to Shetland, where the holiday officially ends. Heatherlea will be more than happy to organise your flight back to Aberdeen, and if you have left your vehicle at our Hotel in Nethy Bridge, travel from Aberdeen to Nethy is included in your holiday price.
Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be wild and unpredictable. Sunshine, rain and strong winds are all possible, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Biting insects are not expected. Please bring walking boots or shoes, weatherproof clothing and a small rucksack. The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace, with time for photography and botany as well as fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be short to moderate (1 to 5 mile) walks most days.
What's included in your Fair Isle holiday price
•Six nights comfortable en-suite accommodation at Fair Isle Observatory. A limited number of single rooms are available. All rooms are en-suite. Full details with your joining pack.
•Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening till Friday morning, packed lunch daily.
•Return flights Shetland - Fair Isle
•Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
What's not included in your Fair Isle holiday price
•Travel to Shetland
•Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
‘HEATHERLEA EXTRA’ – ask for more details