Andy Howard Nature Photography | Shetland Photo Tour 2016

Shetland Photo Tour 2016

Saturday 11th June - Saturday 18th June 2016 - FULL

Bookings are now being taken for 2017

10th - 17th June 2017 - Only 3 Spaces available


We fell for the charms of Shetland and its friendly and welcoming people many years ago and have made many return visits. Each and every time have returned from our travels with stories to tell and memory cards full of images. It’s without a shadow of a doubt my second favourite destination to photograph wildlife, outwith my beloved Cairngorms.


Here’s some stunning facts and figures about Shetland and its abundant wildlife.


Shetland lies 600 miles north of London and just 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle. 

In mid-June Shetland enjoys the 'simmer dim' (Mid-Summer) the sun only dips below the northern horizon for a few hours. this results in a staggering 19 hours of daylight!

Shetland has over 1600 miles of spectacular coastline.

The population of Otters in Shetland is approximately 12% of the UK total and is the densest population in Europe!

In the Breeding season bird numbers swell to over a million breeding seabirds - that's more than 10% of the British total!

125,000 or 20% of the U.K's population of Puffins breed in Shetland.

Shetland has its very own species of Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes zetlandicus).

I am delighted to now offer our inaugural Shetland wildlife photography tour. The price is for a fully catered week staying in the spacious and modern Chyean House. The views from the lounges floor to ceiling windows are simply stunning. Otters swim & fish only 50 meters from the house, Arctic Terns flit around and fill the air with their chatter the delicate Ringed plovers scuttle along the beach. The unique Shetland Wren is abundant and nest very nearby in the stone dykes and along the rocky shores. Golden Plover inhabit the nearby hillside and Bonxies patrol the area with a dark menace!


On this tour we aim to share with you the best wildlife photography opportunities Shetland has to offer. With a maximum of six clients we can guarantee time spent with you as individuals. On the two days we have scheduled for Otter photography the group will be split up in to two smaller parties, one will guided by a good friend of mine John Moncrieff. John is a local lad, born and bred in Shetland. His intimate knowledge if ’his’ otters are second to none. Any day spent in his company is an absolute pleasure. One day spent with John in 2015 he showed us no less than five Otters within a one mile stretch of coastline!


We will travel in a well-equipped and spacious vehicle; this will allow lots of room for you and your equipment.


We always try our hardest to support local businesses; wherever possible all Breakfasts, lunches and dinners will be made using only the finest locally sourced produce. Snacks, juice and water will available throughout the day.


Below you will find an example of how the week’s itinerary would be. Like all activities that rely on the weather, the real-time schedule will be decided on a day-to-day basis, therefore maximizing the opportunities available.


Day 1.


You will be picked up at either Sumburgh airport or from the ferry in Lerwick. Depending on the times of the flights/ferries we will try to sneak in a sneaky few hours with my favorite of the Shetland residents, the Tammie Nories (Puffins). For those of you on the Ferry, you will be arriving in the morning so a packed lunch & snacks will be provided. In the evening, over a delicious home cooked dinner, we will have a chat about the week ahead and get to know each other.


Day 2.


As you’ll still be a bit tired after yesterday’s travelling, today we will break you in gently with a day of Otter photography. After a hearty breakfast. We will meet up with John our resident Otter expert and split up into two small groups. One group will be guided by Andy and one by John (the groups will be reversed for the second Otter day) Today you will learn about Otter behavior, you will be become an expert in identifying and spotting sparainting spots (piles of Otter poo!). If you are feeling brave you can also sniff it, it smells faintly of violets! We will also be searching for rolling spots and fresh water pools, where the Otters bathe to wash the salt from there pelage. Once we locate an Otter a very careful and considered approach will be taken, no picture is worth spooking an Otter for. Our principal aim is to have close encounters with Otters; this will only be achieved with good field craft. John and Andy will carefully guide you in the correct approach.  If required the boys will also help you with camera settings and any technical assistance required.


A packed lunch, drinks and snacks will be provided. Home cooked evening meal.


Day 3.


An earlier start today as we’re heading to the beautiful wee island of Fetlar. Getting there requires two ferry journeys. One from the mainland of Shetland to Yell, the second from Yell to Fetlar. One of the charms of Shetland is the possibility of surprise encounters. In 2013 whilst on this very journey Andy managed to see and photograph a very migrant to British waters, a Bearded Seal. Today’s main target species will be the rare and dainty wader, The Red Necked Phalarope. Nothing can prepare you for the speed these tiny wee birds wheel about in the margins looking for food. They look a bit like clockwork toys!


Another local delights found on the island include, Snipe. Fingers crossed we get some posers. Who doesn’t want the classic, ‘Snipe on a post shot?’ We will also be on the lookout for Red Throated Divers, Bonxies, Arctic Skua, Whimberel, Golden Plover, Wheatears and Meadow Pipits. Depending on the time constraints we may even have time to look for Otters.

 To maximise the time spent on Photography we will stay on the island until 8pm. This will result in late return to base of about 10pm. Don’t forget that at this time of the year it will still be light at 11pm!

A packed lunch and plenty of snacks and drinks will be provided throughout the day, on our late arrival back at base we’ll have a light supper before bed.


Day 4.


After the late finish of the previous night we will have an easy day today. The target species today will be Tammie Norries (Puffins), Mallie’s (Fulmar) and the unique and delightful Shetland Wren (Trogladites trogladites zetlander) we may even bump into some Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots and Razorbills.


Home for afternoon tea and an early supper.


As a special treat tonight we will be catching the late night boat to the small island of Mousa. This RSPB reserve is world renound for two reasons.  For the best remaining example of a 2000 year old Iron Age broch and the thousands of breeding Storm Petrel. Conveniently these two are intrinsically linked, the Petrels nest on the high stone walls of the broch. I rank the experience of visiting a Storm Petrel colony in the same league as a Black Grouse lek. That is, premier league in wildlife experiences!

As darkens falls the Petrel's start calling for their partners with a weird but wonderful churring call. It has been described by some as sounding like ‘vomiting fairies’. Last year Lyndsey headed to the Stoney beach and sat quietly, it wasn’t long before a Petrel landed no more than a foot away from us, in the soft half-light we could clearly see the detail of its plumage and actually how small they are.


At this time of the year at this latitude the nights are incredibly short, you notice this as we travel back to our base. By the time we arrive back at 2am the skies will be lightening again.


Day 5

For those who don’t fancy a lie in, we’ll have an explore around some of the nearby Otter locations. One such area is renound for Orca sightings, you never know!


After lunch we will again spend the afternoon and evening with our resident otter guru, John.

We will hopefully capture some images in the softer early evening light.

Plenty of snacks and drinks will be provided throughout the day. Home cooked evening meal.


Day 6


I’m delighted to announce that today we will be visiting my favourite place in the world! Getting there involves an early start and late finish. Not to mention a total of four ferry journeys. When in Shetland always expect the unexpected. On one of these trips Lyndsey and I made in 2015 we saw and photographed a pair of Otters, an Arctic Tern and very compliant juvenile Shag. That was whilst we waited for a ferry!


Hermaness is a National Nature Reserve. It has some impressive stats. 25,000 breeding Puffins. Its the third largest Great Skua colony in the world. 12,000 pairs of Gannets, 14,000 pairs of Fulmars, 20,000 Guilemot, need I say more?

The walk across the moors takes about half an hour to an hour. In recent years a boardwalk has been added and makes the trek so much easier. En route we are likely to encounter and be distracted by Dunlin, Golden Plover, Snipe and a personal favourite of mine the Bonxie (Great Skua). Last year we were gifted a wonderful photo opportunity. A Bonxie had a marathon bathing session in a pool of water no more than a few metres from the boardwalk. I’d been hoping for this opportunity many years.


As we reach the end of the path, there are two options. Head left for Gannets & Puffins and turn right for Puffins, Bonxies and Gannets! I’ve sometimes found just staying put and the end of the boardwalk to be most beneficial. (See below). The return journey will be made according to the weather conditions, as we will be at the most northerly point in the UK weather conditions can change rapidly.

A packed lunch and plenty of snacks and drinks will be provided throughout the day, on our late arrival back at base we’ll have a light supper before bed.


Day 7

Today we will be visiting another National Nature Reserve, this time the small island of Noss. On my first visit to the island I was taken-a-back at the sheer scale of the Noup, with its mightily impressive seabird colony. The Noup is a 181m sheer cliff face literally packed from the sea line at the base to the grassy cliff top. Each species of nesting birds have a favoured height they like to nest at. This makes it a bit of a seabird 'high-rise'.  

45,000 beautiful black and white Guillemots breed here along side their very noisy and smelly Gannet neighbours. Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Puffins, Shags and Razorbills are also found on 'The Noup'. The islands rocky coastline is also home to Otters and Seals. In 2013 I had a fabulous encounter with a group of 'singing' seals. Quite an eerie sound but delightful to listen to, I'm please to report they also posed for the camera!

A packed lunch and plenty of snacks and drinks will be provided throughout the day. Home cooked evening meal.


Day 8


With heavy hearts it’s time to pack and head to the airport or ferry terminal. I’m sure after an action packed week in these wonderful and mesmerizing islands you like us will be hooked on the charms of Shetland, its wildlife, scenery and its friendly people. If flight times permit there will be time to stock up on gifts for your family, or for the cat sitter!

If you’re super lucky and have an afternoon flight to catch, it would be wrong not to have one last session with the Puffins at Sumburgh Head, wouldn’t it?


I’m sure like us you will fall head-over-heals in love with Shetland. The Islands have an infectious charm and when the weather is against you the wildlife still delivers. I’d be delighted to talk to you in person over the telephone if you want to be sold the virtues of this trip. Be warned, if you do call be prepared for a very long phone call, I can go on a bit, especially when it comes to Shetland!

Primary Species:

These are the species we will be concentrating on as our main photographic subjects.

Otters, Puffins, Red Neck Phalarope, Golden Plover, Arctic & Great Skua's, Red Throated Divers, Whimbrel, Snipe, Gannets. Storm Petrel - Non Photographic boat trip.

Secondary Species:

Common & Grey Seals, Shetland Wren, Gannet, Shag, Razorbill, Guillemot, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Fulmar, Arctic Tern, Eider, Shell duck, plus much more. Wherever and whenever an opportunity arises we shall make full use of it. Shetland has a wonderful habit of throwing up surprises!

What’s Included:

A full week fully of catered Photography Days including accommodation & travel from your arrival in Shetland.

Travel: All Travel from your arrival in Shetland in a comfortable and modern people carrier.

Guiding/Tuition: The full attention of the guide, patient and courteous help and advice when and where it’s required.

Giving back to nature: For each client on this trip I will be donating £50 to the Hillswick animal sanctuary in Shetland - I've chosen this great cause as they do wonderful work looking after sick or stranded Otters, seals and even the occasional Turtle! Details of their website can be found here A well deserving cause, I'm sure you'll agree?

Fun & Humour: Photographing wildlife should be an enjoyable experience. Although we’re serious about helping to obtain the best possible images, this will be done in a fun and relaxed way.


I've chosen Cheyne House for very good reason. Firstly for its location, not only is the outlook and scenery just 'Shetland on-a-plate'. It is also very centrally positioned on the Shetland mainland, very handy for most of the day trips we will be enjoying. 

The house warm and modern and is very well appointed. It recently went through a major refurbishment. There are washing and drying facilities, these can come in rather handy with Shetlands unpredictable weather! Other facilities include, Underfloor Heating, wood burning stove, Wi-Fi, Table Tennis table, Books and games.

All linen and towels are provided.

I'd recommend a minimum lens of 300mm on a crop sensor body. Preferably longer would be ideal. Please feel free to call me to discuss camera equipment in more detail.

Your fitness level will need to be moderate. There will be walking involved on most days. Again, feel free to contact me to discuss this further.   

Maximum Group size: 5

Cost £1299

A non-refundable deposit of £299 will be required at the time of booking.

The Balance will be due six weeks before the first day of the tour.