Scottish Specials & Autumn Migration
Featuring fabulous migration around the coastline of northern Scotland and all the special resident birds of the Highlands, this is an absorbing and exciting holiday where anything might turn up! Each week we visit the very best spots on the coast and travel across The Minch to the Outer Hebrides to see migrating shearwaters, petrels and skuas. Absorbing birding and a wonderful Hebridean experience! With all speciality birds found in good numbers, and seabird flocks beginning to build, this is one of the best times to come to Scotland.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
- Shearwaters, skuas and more as we cross ‘The Minch’ to Stornoway
- Capercaillie and Black Grouse, perhaps on the same morning!
- Three diver and three scoter species - all in summer plumage
- Golden Eagle above, with roaring stags in the background
DAY 1 (Saturday)
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2 (Sunday)
Purple heather moors, the gold and red of a Highland autumn in the birchwoods, the first snows on the Arctic tops, the deep greens of the ancient pinewoods, this is a lovely time to visit Scotland. Mixed parties in the Caledonian pines contain good numbers of Crested Tit, and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill form their own noisy flocks, often in dozens. Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel are the main upland raptors we seek today, though White-tailed Eagle are often seen at this time. You may also hear Red Deer stags bellowing at the rut - a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
DAY 3 (Monday)
OUTER HEBRIDES MIGRATION SEA TRIP We travel to Ullapool, joining the ferry to the Outer Hebridean Isle of Lewis. The ferry is a large ship, excellent for birding. As we cross The Minch we see the Scottish mainland recede, and as the mountains of the Outer Hebrides loom larger we scan for migrating seabirds. Manx Shearwater, Great and Arctic Skua are likely, and possibles include Sooty and Balearic Shearwater, Storm Petrel, the first Leach’s Petrel and Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua. Other rarities seen at this time in the past have included Cory’s and Great Shearwater. Just to keep us interested, we have a better than average chance of Minke Whale, Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Grey and Common Seal. In both Ullapool and Stornoway we trawl for Glaucous and Iceland Gull, with Raven, Hooded Crow, moulting Black Guillemot and maybe some surprises too before returning home to The Mountview. A great day’s birding!
DAY 4 (Tuesday)
In autumn our private estate woodlands are excellent for both cock and hen Capercaillie, which often show well whilst taking autumn berries. Later we drive to the Moray Firth, to examine the concentrations of seabirds, which make this coastline such a great magnet for birders. Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern, Black- and Red-throated Divers are all possible on this day, but perhaps our key target is Surf Scoter, a regular visitor arriving mid-late September. Ospreys can be found fishing till mid-September.
DAY 5 (Wednesday)
An early (but not too early!) start for Black Grouse returning to the lek. Ptarmigan are our target after breakfast, skulking in mountain corries within walking distance of transport. The birds give good sightings once located as they rely upon camouflage more than flight whilst moulting into white winter plumage. Lingering Snow Bunting may also be seen. Redpoll, Siskin, Redwing, Fieldfare and Red Grouse are also possible on this day.
DAY 6 (Thursday)
Another great coastal experience, we go north to the Moray Coast or east to Aberdeenshire, depending upon the local birding. Amongst the passing terns, auks and Gannet we watch out for Manx and Sooty Shearwater, and we also visit favourite spots where just about anything might drop in! Thousands of Greylag and Pink-footed Goose contain small numbers of Brent, Barnacle and White-fronted, and rarities seen by Heatherlea on this holiday include Bean Goose, Snow Goose and Red-breasted Goose.
DAY 7 (Friday)
Round-up day, meaning a good look around for anything we may have missed, plus another coastal location with great birding. We may look for concentrations of waders, including Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone, Knot and many more, some individuals in summer plumage, or we may take a special trip for one of the rarities which make a Scottish autumn so special – recent holidays have included Mealy Redpoll, Red-footed Falcon and Rough-legged Buzzard.
DAY 8 (Saturday)
Breakfast and departure. Don’t forget our courtesy return service to Aviemore.
Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Sunshine, showers and cold winds are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing. Walking will be easy/moderate, although mountain walking for Ptarmigan can be strenuous. See 'Easy Walking' holidays with less walking. Telescopes will be useful, and you should bring binoculars. A camera would be useful too! You don't need flasks for hot drinks or wellies. Biting insects are not expected.
What's included in your holiday price
- Seven nights comfortable accommodation at The Mountview Hotel, VisitScotland rated 3 Star. All rooms are en-suite, with colour TV and hot drinks facilities.
- Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
- Six full days birdwatching. Return ferry to Stornoway.
- All transport by comfortable PCV minibus. All estate access fees.
- Guidance from a professional Group Leader with extensive up to the minute local knowledge.
What's not included in your holiday price
- Transport to The Mountview Hotel.
- Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
Make the most of your birding time in Scotland by joining another Heatherlea holiday. Combine our 'Scottish Specials and Autumn Migration' holiday with 'North Ronaldsay and mainland Orkney' or 'Shetland for birders'.
Enjoy an excellent wildlife holiday with mainland Scotland's only 5 star Wildlife Experience.
'Exceptional' Visit Scotland