Outer Hebrides in Spring
This cracking holiday celebrates the tremendous birding available here in spring. We stay for six nights on the Outer Hebrides, giving us maximum time to enjoy the very best birding on the islands, including Corncrake, both eagles, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, four Skuas, waders in summer colours, Otter and perhaps Red-necked Phalarope, on the islands of South Uist, Benbecula, and North Uist. We also target any rarities on the southern Hebrides during our visit, and these can be special – Snowy Owl are almost regular, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, American Wigeon and Dotterel have been seen in the last year or two, and we have the option to visit Barra if rarities are there – a great six days!
We cross the famous Skye Bridge, travelling across the island to Uig. Birding as we cross The Little Minch to Lochmaddy might include skuas; Manx Shearwater are usually seen, and Fulmar, Gannet, Black Guillemot and other auks are expected.
Everyone who has ever joined this holiday (and we have been running at least two departures for about twelve years) has seen Corncrake. Corn Bunting, Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipit and Skylark make the machair of North Uist a special habitat - full of song! Summer plumaged Great Northern Diver are likely, as are ‘real’ Rock Dove and Raven. Arctic Skua breed, Great Skua are usually seen, and in rough weather we frequently see the passage of hundreds of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua - an unforgettable experience! Mountainous parts hold both Golden and White-tailed Eagle, and we often watch Otters playing on the coastline whilst an adult Sea Eagle circles above against a stunning mountain backdrop. Rare and delicate Red-necked Phalarope are usually present in small numbers, and other summer-plumaged waders should include good numbers of Whimbrel, both godwits, many Dunlin and Sanderling, and Dotterel if we are lucky. Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl are present, and we usually enjoy very good views.
The Outer Hebrides have recently developed a strong reputation as a good place in spring for rarities. We are sure this is happening because there are more birders visiting the islands, rather than because avian habits are changing! This holiday has been extended in recent yeays by a couple of nights so we could also spend time looking for some of the cracking birds found here every year. Heatherlea clients have seen Gyr Falcon, Snowy Owl, Arctic Redpoll and American Wigeon amongst others in the last couple of years, a welcome addition to what is already a real feast of birds! We stay in comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation.
Day 1 (Saturday)
Depart Nethybridge and cross the famous Skye Bridge, travelling across the island to the ferry point at Uig. We may not have much time for birding en-route, though we may see Corncrake before we board the ferry! Birdwatching as we cross The Little Minch to Lochmaddy, then transfer to our comfortable hotel. Great, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua are worth watching for, Manx Shearwater are usually seen, and Fulmar, Gannet, Black Guillemot and other auks can be (nearly!) guaranteed.
Day 2 (Sunday) - Day 7 (Friday)
Heatherlea have never failed to find Corncrake on this holiday, and you are birding in the right place at the best time to see these beautiful birds. We often achieve sightings on our first day, though in some years the bird can be difficult to find, and some patience is required. Over the years we have seen them crossing the road, jumping up out of the grass, flying short distances and even mating!
Lots of Corn Bunting, Ringed Plover, Meadow Pipit and Skylark make the machair of North Uist a special habitat - full of song! Summer plumaged Great Northern Diver are likely, as are ‘real’ Rock Dove and Raven. Arctic Skua breed, Great Skua are frequently seen, and we sometimes see passage of hundreds of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua. We know the weather conditions favoured by the birds, and this experience can be special! Mountainous parts hold both Golden and White-tailed Eagle, and we often watch Otters playing on the coastline whilst an adult Sea Eagle circles above against a stunning mountain backdrop. Rare and delicate Red-necked Phalarope are seen from mid-May, and other summer-plumaged migrants at the coast should include good numbers of Whimbrel, godwits, many Dunlin and Sanderling, and Dotterel if we are lucky. An absence of persecution means Hen Harrier and particularly Short-eared Owl are present, and rarities including Gyr Falcon, Snowy Owl, Arctic Redpoll and American Wigeon have been seen. A real feast of birds! Our days are governed by the weather and our progress during the week, and your guide will paln each day according to the conditions. Optional early and late birding trips may be offered, gain depending on weather and progress.
Day 7 (Friday)
Our final day’s birding ends by the ferry on North Uist, and we sail back to Uig, enjoying the drive across Skye as we return to Nethybridge early evening on Friday. We may enjoy more views of both White-tailed and Golden Eagle, Arctic Skua harassing terns, Manx Shearwater and Black Guillemot on the return ferry journey.
Most clients join this holiday in Nethy Brdige, and this fabulous island experience is the perfect end to your a week's birding holiday at Heatherlea. You may as an alternative join us at Uig on Skye if travelling the Highlands.
Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be wild and unpredictable, with temperatures perhaps averaging around 15 degrees Celsius. 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 3 mile) walks some days.
What's included in your Outer Hebrides in Spring holiday price
•Six nights comfortable en-suite hotel/guest house accommodation on the Outer Hebrides. 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 Friday morning, packed lunch daily.
•All transfers by comfortable minibus. All ferries and other boat trips. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at The Mountview Hotel.
•Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
What's not included in your Outer Hebrides in Spring 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.
Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).