NEW! Solway Firth - November
Maximum seven guests plus leader from our resident team.
A vast, desolate and internationally important area for wildfowl, the Solway Forth offers great birding. Flocks of Barnacle, Pink-footed and Greenland White-fronted Geese, great raptor watching particularly Hen Harrier and Red Kite, waders, ducks and much more including good numbers of wintering Whooper Swan and a local population of Willow Tit make this an absorbing short holiday. Travel with us from Nethy Bridge or meet us at our comfortable hotel near Castle Douglas, and we will take you to Caerlaverock, Loch Ken and Ken Dee Marshes to see geese in tens of thousands, as numbers peak in mid-November. Rarities may include Red-breasted or Snow Goose, and Whooper Swan, Pintail, Gadwall, Golden Plover, Merlin and Peregrine are all regular visitors.
The local Red Kite feeding station has viewing areas and a hide, and birds can be seen soaring, perched and flying in to be fed. Elsewhere we will search for Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle and perhaps Barn Owl. Waders and seaduck are present on large numbers at the coast, and we visit key places such as Luce Bay, Loch Ryan, the Nith estuary and the Wig to collect Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Purple Sandpiper, and many more. Four nights in a very comfortable country house hotel, all travel, access fees, and the services of your Heatherlea guide make this a perfect late-autumn break.
Day 1: Sat 16 November Arrival and first birding
The holiday begins at lunchtime at Castle Douglas. You can travel here with us in the morning from Nethy Bridge, or join under your own steam. After we assemble, it's off to Caerlaverlock for an initial look at the vast flocks of geese. We might have time to walk into the reserve and get our list off to a good start, though in any event we should see thousands of Barnacle Geese and many Whooper Swans. One night we hope to visit a Hen Harrier roost and catch up with any local breeding Barn Owls, and may do this tonight.
Day 2: Sun 17 November Caerlaverock
The most northerly and remote reserve of the WWT, Caerlaverock should be alive in November with tens of thousands of geese. The entire breeding Barnacle Goose population of Svalbard winters here, and as we wander around the four observatories, four towers and about twenty hides on the reserve, we scour these flocks for rarities including Red-breasted Goose and Snow Goose. We will attend at least one of the daily wild swan feeds, when the spectacle of hundreds of Whooper Swan flying in to feed is something to both see and hear! Other wildfowl should include Pintail, Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck and Garganey, and waders should include Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwit. Rare ducks and waders are perfectly possible! We may also visit the saltmarsh or 'merse' habitat at RSPB Mersehead and the rocks of Southerness Point.
Day 3: Mon 18 November Birding the Solway coastline and open sea
A day travelling westwards, where our early destinations may include the coast around Wigtown to see Pinkfeet, Snipe and Rock Pipit, Mochrum Loch, where Goosander might be found, and Stairhaven via Luce Bay. Raven, Hooded Crow and Black Guillemot may be at Loch Ryan, and on the open sea we hope to find flocks of Scaup, Common Scoter and Common Eider, with Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and maybe the odd rarity mingled in. Waders today should include Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover. On the open sea, all three diver species might be seen, and Slavonian Grebe can be expected. At 'The Wig', Whooper Swans and Brent Geese might be seen.
Day 4: Tues 19 November Birds of the Solway Firth
The Ken-Dee Marshes offer expansive views across the River Dee and loch Ken, and are host to many exciting winter visitors, including Grennland White-fronted and Greylag Geese. Local trails hold resident Willow Tit and Tree Sparrow to interest us, and other open country passerines might include Tree Sparrow, Linnet and Stonechat. Later we visit the local Red Kite feeding station, where you can expect a very close first-hand experience of these beautiful and gregarious birds as they come in to feed. Later, we head into the hills in the area around Laurieston and Creetown, where perhaps the major prize is Golden Eagle, though Merlin and Peregrine might be found. At lower altitudes, Siskin, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Common Crossbill might be found.
Day 5: Wed 20 November Round-up
A round-up of anything we might have missed, which may see us return to Caerlaverock or the coast, depending on luck with the weather or any known rarities. The holiday concludes around lunchtime, with those joining from Nethy Bridge accompanying us back north, while others head homewards directly.
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 fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be short to moderate (1 to 3 mile) walks some days.
What's included in your 'Solway Firth' holiday price
•Four nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation. We choose from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Guests are never expected to share. All rooms are en-suite. Full details with your joining pack.
•Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening til Wednesday morning, packed lunch daily.
•All transfers by comfortable minibus. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel.
•Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
What's not included in your 'Solway Firth' holiday price
•Extra night in Nethybridge area at beginning and end of holiday. This can be arranged for you if requested at time of holiday booking. Price £45 per person B&B.
•Transfers from/to rail links in Aviemore.
•Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
‘HEATHERLEA EXTRA’ – ask for more details