Best Days with Shetland's Birds


  • Best Days with Shetland's Birds, edited by Andrew Harrop and Rebecca Nason (Shetland Times Limited, Lerwick, 2022).
  • 134 pages, colour illustrations.
  • ISBN 9781910997475. Hbk, £26.99; Pbk, £17.99

Lying 150 km north of the Scottish mainland, Shetland rates as one of the best birding areas in Britain, boasting spectacular seabird colonies and famously hosting an often-unrivalled array of scarce migrants during spring and, especially, autumn.

Best Days with Shetland's Birds contains chapters written by various well-known figures of the local birding scene – 30 in all – with each recounting favourite moments enjoyed inthe archipelago. The first-hand accounts provide a vivid, intimate insight to what birding can be like at its very best across the islands, providing the reader with the sort of gripping, intense experiences that draw hundreds of birders to the archipelago every year.

Far from being a rather dry examination of facts or statistics, each chapter immerses you fully into the days and weeks recounted. Each author manages a sterling job of focusing on the small details of the day – the stone walls crossed, gardens checked, celebratory drams of whisky enjoyed – just as much as the birds.

Nowhere in Britain is held in as high regard for rarities as Shetland and, unsurprisingly, the book provides plenty of interest for the reader on this front. It is clear that many of the authors share a profound interest in all things rare and that these 'best days' should provide plenty of inspiration for others to stick at it in the field when the going is slow.

But it's not all about rarities; for example, the islands' Red-necked Phalaropes are also discussed. The book is narrated by order of the seasons, with chilly spring days gradually morphing into the long daylight hours of summer, migrant-packed days of autumn and cold, dark nights of winter.

Accompanying each chapter are a number of gorgeous images by some of the islands' top photographers, including fine rarity photos alongside more expected species and some of the understated Shetland scenery.

A memorable taste of the archipelago's atmosphere and birding scene is provided for those who haven't yet been, yet this book will equally prove a delight for those birders familiar with the likes of with Baltasound, Fair Isle and Sumburgh Head.

Written by: Sam Viles