Scottish Specials and the Outer Limits Adventure - September 2008
“This was my first Heatherlea holiday and it lived up to all my expectations. Jonny and Joseph were fantastic leaders putting in a lot of hard work to make sure that we saw the best of the birds. Tremendous knowledge of birds, added to a great sense of humour and the odd history lesson thrown in as well……fantastic…” KH, Surrey Sept 08
Highlands & Mull - August 2008
"Thanks to you and your staff for a very enjoyable week, one that I will not easily forget, also to Jonny Pott for his excellent field craft that ensured we wsaw all the birds we hoped to see". DM
The Top 30 - July 2008
"We would like to thank everyone at Heatherlea for a great time on the Top 30 holiday last week. The week was superbly organised to make sure we saw as many species as possible". JS
“Yours really is the type of holiday which gives life long memories” MT, Sheffield March 08
Walking and Wildlife
"I loved the history and scenery of Tulloch and Kincardine Moor, best of all your singing of "Ode to Tulloch". PS
(This group would burst spontaneously into song in the bus at the beginning of the day,- usually pantomime numbers!)
"Really impressed with the Red Kite and its brilliant colours, and the excitement of discovering Snow Bunting on the beach at Findhorn." JS
"The Ptarmigan was my highlight, because I spotted it first!" JF
"I liked the overall impact of the holiday, including the fungi, birds and trees, the laughter, - the CAKE! But the sight of that eagle still takes the breath away! You just know that this time it isn't a buzzard. It appears to carry an awesome presence with it that makes it unmistakeable." TF
"For me the wild Highland deciduous woodlands of Tulloch were the most special and unique. Also the human history that was provided alongside it." JP
"I came primarily for the walking. I am not as fit as I would like to be, but I think you got the length of the walks just right, and they were so varied. I enjoyed the Cairngorm Mountains the most, but Tulloch was the best day. I do love the wide open moorlands and appreciated all the natural history, most especially the geology." JM
"I really enjoyed the 'action days',- the scramble up to John Roy's Cave and the mountain day, and the views were stunning, most especially along the Moray Coast. I also appreciated there being no sense of rush." JP
"I enjoyed the varied scenery we passed through and learning about fungi, simply explained. The bird highlights were the Red Kite, and the Merlin perched so close on a bale of straw. It was so nice not to have to think about anything, but just to have everything provided for you." GT
"Usually we have to plan where to go and what we are doing. It was so good not to have to be concerned about what to do. All the planning was done for us by the guide. And there was an excellent atmosphere in the group." BT
"I enjoyed the walk around your garden in Tulloch, and the intriguing intertwined pines at the centre." JB
A day in the life - Mike Coleman gives an extract from his notes during our Specials and the Outer Limits holiday.
As part of the new look autumn migration holiday, we set sail from Ullapool in fantastically still conditions towards the Outer Hebrides for a two-day jaunt to the ‘outer limits’ of the British Isles. Any thoughts about the lack of wind keeping the wildlife at bay were quickly quashed when we immediately started seeing good numbers of Great Skua over the sea and the first few of hundreds of Harbour Porpoise in the mirror calm waters. The three-hour journey resulted in a constant stream of birds in perfect visibility. This extravaganza ranged from the winter-plumaged white Black Guillemots, alongside their Common Guillemot and Razorbill cousins, Gannet, Shag, rafts of resting Manx Shearwater, and a whole range of gulls including the abundant Kittiwake. The delightful, tiny, darting Storm Petrel was seen at regular intervals throughout the crossing, but even they were unusually outnumbered by their more robust relative, Leach’s Petrel.
The remarkable trip was set off even more by a Minke Whale surfacing for all to see in mid-channel.
Once on Lewis, we tracked down a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper playing on a rocky beach, before visiting the end of one of the peninsulas for a spot more seawatching which produced Sooty Shearwater alongside the commoner seabird species, and at least two Basking Sharks feeding just offshore. En route to our hotel on Harris, we had close views of Black-tailed Godwit, Red Grouse, a couple of Great Northern Divers, hundreds of Golden Plover and ‘real’ Rock Doves in the fields.
Before breakfast the next day, we had the Hebridean race of Wren in some bushes near the hotel, and after breakfast we started off with an unsuccessful hunt for Golden Eagle over the picturesque peaks. The disappointment of this was soon forgotten when we discovered the winter’s first drake Surf Scoter amongst groups of Common Scoter in one of the sandy shored bays, with a Slavonian Grebe and several Red-throated Divers in various plumages.
We took the ferry over to Skye on our way back to Nethybridge, and no sooner had we landed than we were watching a family of Peregrines dashing about in the blue sky above us. We took lunch overlooking a glen hoping for a glimpse of White-tailed Eagle, when a cry went up and behind us there was an eagle sailing across the road just in time for all of us to witness the fly-by. We needn’t have worried though, within seconds another eagle followed the same route, and we finished eating in a very relaxed style.
To end the perfect road-trip, we were approaching Nethy ready for dinner when alongside the road we saw first one male, then two female Capercaillie! Believe me, dinner was good that night!
Another Heatherlea day with Mike, this time our seawatching day during one of our Scottish Specials and Autumn Migration weeks.
We left the hotel on a breezy day, expecting the sea crossing to Stornoway to be a little rough, and worried birds may be hard to come by. No sooner had we left the hotel than we had a close Roe Deer buck, and then a male Capercaillie by the road – our second in three days – and both unexpected. Not a bad start!
Over the Black Isle, we stopped in the perfect place for a Red Kite to come sailing over our heads, close enough to pick out the details on each feather, before making our way to Ullapool for the ferry.
We missed a Ring-billed Gull en route, but did catch up with a local rarity - Moorhen!
The ferry journey was slightly choppy, but after Twite, Great Skua, Gannet, Shag and Kittiwake before boarding, we were encouraged.
As well as the above species, the usual suspects were also seen on the journey – Black and Common Guillemot, Razorbill, and even Puffin for some in the group.
Shearwaters took time to appear, but eventually we saw not only Manx, but all got good views of the differences between Manx and the larger Sooty Shearwater. The surprises were thin on the ground, but one lucky group member described a small bird he saw fly past at speed – Grey Phalarope!
Almost at the end of the journey, following and feeding around a fishing boat alongside the gulls, Gannets and Skuas were some Storm Petrels and a few Leach’s Petrels. There weren’t many birds, but there were all the species we had hoped to see!
Despite the waves, some managed to get onto Harbour Porpoises, occasionally breaking the surface, but the overall highlight of the trip was a pod of Common Dolphins jumping out of the water at high speed next to the boat. Truly amazing, and not a common sight at all in The Minch!
As the boat came in to dock, we saw Red Deer stags on the craggy hillsides, and thought about cake and coffee to set us up for the way home!
Whilst eating the homemade shortbread and fine banana loaf, we spotted a colourful drake Mandarin Duck in the estuary swimming with the Mallards, a hybrid Glaucous x Herring Gull, and more small finches and seabirds.
As if the day could get any better, on the road back a distant Golden Eagle was spotted, and eventually we chased it down the road until we could get telescopes on it, and all the guests enjoyed prolonged views, until it vanished behind the vegetation.
With all the Scottish specialities already seen, the remainder of the week will be spent attempting to obtain better views of crossbills and Black Grouse, and searching out any rarities within a reasonable distance. Autumn is an incredible time of year in the Highlands!
Check regularly for more updates!