This is an exciting early spring holiday ideal for the busy birder. We target the Scottish specialities, including Capercaillie, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill, Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver and Golden Eagle, and also feature some busy coastal sites where a host of waders, wildfowl and farmland birds are found. We will look for any rarities in reach, targeting an ambitious 100 species (including many species best birded in Scotland) on the 4-night break and 70 species on the 3-night break. This holiday is perfect for all levels of birding ability, but will be run at a slightly faster pace than other short-breaks, packing in a lot of birds and lots of sites, all the while having great fun and enjoying superb birding! We are also delighted to welcome Bird Watching Magazine editor Matt Merritt, who will be joining one of the shorter trips this year.
With an expert local guide and all travel and transfers, accommodation and food for the duration of your stay included in the price, this holiday offers an unbeatable way for busy birders to see the Scottish specials! Capacity is strictly limited to eight clients per Guide, so please don't delay, come and join us!
DAY 1: Saturday or Wednesday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday or Thursday – Local Day in Strathspey
We aim high today – exploring Strathspey by vehicle and on foot to look for some of the most elusive and iconic British birds: Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Golden Eagle, Crested Tit, Scottish Crossbill and many more. A mouth-watering list of targets, can we get them all? In early spring anything is possible, so we could be celebrating sightings of those specials plus Hen Harrier, Merlin, Goshawk or White-tailed Eagle at the end of the day too! Depending on the level of the snow in the mountains we may look for Snow Bunting and Ptarmigan too – can we achieve the gripping four grouse species day?
DAY 3: Monday or Friday – The Moray Coast Day
Spring birding along the Moray Coast is particularly enjoyable as newly arriving migrants complement wintering birds. This day can easily include the first of the returning Ospreys, rafts of Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Stonechat, Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot and other auks, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, and spring waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Sanderling and Ringed Plover, many changing into bright summer plumage. Watch out also for farmland birds in the stubble and low crops, with Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Stock Dove, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge all possible. Sandwich Tern arrive late March and are often our first Spring migrant with Sand Martin. Rarities are always possible here, and with Kittiwake, Gannet, gulls and more, this is a rewarding day with a high birdlist. Watch out for Bottle-nosed Dolphin too!
DAY 4: Tuesday – Round-up Day
For those on the three day break we keep birding! We will attempt to fill in any blanks in our birdlist from our Local Day in the morning, heading down to new sites at the coast for the afternoon, adding several new species not seen on the Monday. At this time of year we can expect good numbers of wintering birds, with higher numbers than usual as southern birds begin making thier way north, staging in the Highlands for a few weeks before they complete their journey to their breeding grounds in Iceland or Scandinavia.
DAY 5: Wednesday OR Saturday
Breakfast and departure. Don’t forget our courtesy return service to Aviemore.
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).
More holiday information
Accommodation at the Mountview Hotel can be seen here. www.mountviewhotel.co.uk . All accommodation is en-suite unless otherwise advised before your booking is confirmed.
Food There is a choice of evening meal, and vegetarian, vegan and other diets are welcome. Breakfast may be chosen from a full Scottish menu. You don't need flasks for hot drinks.
Walking will be moderate on the Local Day(s). We may visit mountainous areas for Ptarmigan, depending on weather and sightings. We often scope Ptarmigan, with an optional walk for a closer look.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Cold weather, snow and rain are common during these months, as is blazing sunshine for the entire stay! You will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing.
Biting insects are not expected.
Group size maximum 8 clients per guide.
Optics. Telescopes will be useful, and you should bring binoculars. We have a limited number of top quality Swarovski binoculars, which you may borrow at no charge (subject to availability). A camera would be useful too!
This holiday can be combined with:
Highland Winter Birding, Highlands & the East Coast, Highlands & the West Coast, Spring into Scotland
Getting here is easy!
BY CAR Travel north to Perth. Take A9 signposted Inverness to exit north of Aviemore. Follow signs northeast through Boat of Garten to Nethy Bridge (ten miles). In Nethy Bridge, drive through the village, over the River Nethy, and you will see our sign 200 metres ahead on the right.
BY RAIL Don't forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore at 16:30 and 19:30, but please let us know at least 48 hours in advance! The best train to Aviemore is the ‘Highland Chieftain’ on the East Coast Line. This leaves London Kings Cross at 12.00, arriving Aviemore at 19.28. We recommend you connect with this service if possible. Our pickup also works well with the 16:19 arrival from Edinburgh. In general, rail travel via Edinburgh is easier than via Glasgow, where a trip across the city between stations is needed, often followed by a change at Perth. Return trains leave Aviemore at 07.25, 08.29 (fast train to London –recommended), 09.24. 10:27 and 11.23. However we can only make 2 journeys to Aviemore on Saturday morning, so you may be taken to Aviemore a little earlier. Rail enquiries: 0845 7484950, www.nationalrail.co.uk.
BY AIR Flights to Inverness are becoming available all the time, for latest info call our office. Currently direct flights to Inverness are available from: Belfast, Dublin, Amsterdam, Birmingham, Jersey (all Flybe), London Gatwick, London Luton and Bristol (all Easyjet). A new service has just been launched with daily service to London Heathrow with British Airways. Guests arriving in Inverness airport can then take a taxi to Nethy Bridge, or take the Airport Flyer bus to Inverness, from where they can take the train to Aviemore where we can collect you. Our courtesy collection service is at 16:30 and 19:30, but please let us know which at least 48 hours in advance! We will be able to meet the 15:51 and 18:46 trains departing from Inverness that arrive at 16:34 and 19:24 respectively.
What's included in your holiday price
* Either three or four nights comfortable accommodation at The Mountview Hotel, VisitScotland rated 3 Star. All rooms are en-suite, with TV and hospitality tray. There is no single supplement, and guests are never expected to share. Single guests may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Either two or three full days wildlife watching.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
* All transport by comfortable minibus, access to reserves and private estates.
* A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
* Courtesy bus service to and from transport in Aviemore.
What's not included in your holiday price
* Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Heatherlea is THE place for top quality birding holidays in Scotland, chosen by more and more birders each year. Stay in our own three star Small Hotel, and enjoy first-rate birding with Scotland’s best guiding team. Relax and enjoy yourself, as we do all the planning! Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you. Our fully inclusive guided holidays concentrate on the real experience, and we take time to ensure that each of our guests enjoys everything we do.
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* We are a small company, run BY birders FOR birders. Come and see!
* Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
* There is no single supplement. Single guests are never expected or invited to share.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance loan of Swarovski binoculars, packed lunch and tips to hotels.
* We offer a courtesy transfer between our Hotel and Aviemore rail/bus links on Saturdays.
* Heatherlea hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland. We are also registered to pay VAT, which is included in your holiday price as quoted on this page.
* Once your holiday is confirmed in writing by us, we promise not to surcharge the price for any reason.
Enjoy an excellent birding and wildlife holiday with Heatherlea.
Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’