This summer marks the 20th anniversary of our move to the Mountview Hotel here in Nethy Bridge, and this special holiday is designed to help us celebrate. Join us here to see Scotland’s iconic birds! We have chosen 20 species as our key targets, one for each year Heatherlea have been at Mountview, though of course we will see many more. Your holiday includes an exciting daytrip to Mull, and is available at a very special low price. We hope many of our long-standing friends will be able to join us, though everyone is of course welcome!
We will of course enjoy all the wildlife we encounter, though these will be our 20 targets;
Capercaillie, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Crested Tit, Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill, Red-throated Diver, Ptarmigan, Black-throated Diver, Dotterel, Slavonian Grebe, Black Grouse, Hen Harrier, Ring Ouzel, Snow Bunting, Raven, Osprey, Hooded Crow, Red Grouse, Short-eared Owl and Corn Bunting. We will see a few special mammals too, perhaps including Otter, Red Squirrel, Mountain Hare, Bottle-nosed Dolphin, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Grey Seal and Common Seal.
Your guides will be popular Heatherlea favourites Scott O'hara and Ian Ford. Ian is a particularly suitable Guide for this tour, as he joined Heatherlea at the beginning of the 1999 season, initially guiding tours from the Mountview Hotel, and so is celebrating his own 20th year with the company.
A recent Heatherlea Group on Mull!
DAY 1: Saturday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday
A morning in the Abernethy to look for Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill. We often see adults with fledged young at this time. Later we investigate local lochs and rivers, birchwoods and moorland. Your list may include Osprey, Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye, Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver, Lesser Redpoll, Peregrine, a host of breeding waders and Slavonian Grebe. Often over fifty species are seen on this day. The beauty of divers and grebes in breeding plumage spellbinds many of our guests, and during this holiday we make time to find them at close quarters to admire them. Obviously this will be done in a sensitive and responsible way, and our mobile hide minibuses will be invaluable.
DAY 3: Monday Magical Mull!
Today we travel west to the mountainous Isle of Mull, to look for some of Scotland’s most spectacular birds. As we travel we watch out for Black Grouse, Black Guillemot, Common Seal and Hooded Crow. Once across the Great Glen we take our time - we are in prime raptor and Otter country! We head over to Mull and target iconic wildlife at sites we know well. We immediately look for White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle, found here at their highest densities in the UK. Moorland species may include Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl, and off the rugged shoreline we aim to find Otter and perhaps a late Great Northern Diver in breeding plumage.
White-tailed Eagle – The flying barndoor! Successfully re-introduced and now widespread in the Highlands, White-tailed Eagle are rarely mistaken for anything else, and never forgotten! A massive eight-foot wingspan, with wings almost twice as deep as those of a Golden Eagle.....absolutely breathtaking. We return in time for dinner at The Mountview Hotel.
DAY 4: Tuesday - An optional early start to see Black Grouse at the lek is a great start. After breakfast we may head north to explore coastal haunts, and could expect to see a range of breeding birds including Osprey fishing, Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Stonechat, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer. Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill are also likely. We also search for any rarities within reach.
DAY 5: Wednesday - At this time our private estate woodlands may produce cock Capercaillie or perhaps a hen bird taking food before settling to breed, and frequently seen from Heatherlea mobile hides. Moorland and upland specialities such as Slavonian Grebe, Hen Harrier, Ring Ouzel, Raven, Twite, Stonechat, Common Sandpiper, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, plus Golden Eagle and Osprey... your raptor list for today should be impressive!
DAY 6: Thursday - A full day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan and Dotterel, both perhaps with piping young running behind. Snow Bunting may also be seen. A brilliant day’s birding in a very special habitat. Later we enjoy a Highland summer evening with a leisurely drive to the moors close to The Mountview Hotel. Short-eared Owl breed here, and we frequently see the adults quartering over heather. Red-throated Diver and Red Grouse are also likely, and look out for waders including Dunlin, Redshank and Common Sandpiper in smart summer plumage. A lovely evening!
DAY 7: Friday - Friday is often a round-up day, perhaps at another coastal location with great birding. We may drive north to look for Osprey fishing and the first returning summer waders including Turnstone, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit in brilliant colours. We will also look for Red Kite, Tree Sparrow and other farmland birds such as Grey Partridge and Yellowhammer and also search for any rarities within reach.
DAY 8: 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).
Ian Ford & Scott O'Hara
Heatherlea Guides Ian and Scott will plan your itinerary each day, deciding where to go after considering both weather and wildlife. Both are highly experienced Leaders, who are looking forward to exploring the birdlife of the Highlands with you!
Ian and Scott