This superb new itinerary has been put together by our expert guides to offer excellent autumn birding - this island chain is one of the most overlooked birding destinations, as well as being one of the most scenic! Early September is a great time for migration, with good numbers of commoner and scarcer migrants and an excellent chance of finding our own rarities. Just look at the mouthwatering list of rarities found on these islands in recent times; we hope to find at least one or two to add to this list! Wilson's Warbler, Western Sandpiper, Greater Sandplover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, American Golden Plover, Lapland Bunting, Ring-necked Duck, Snowy Owl, Grey Phalarope, Sooty Shearwater, Pomarine Skua, Yellow-browed Warbler, White-rumped Sandpiper, Green-winged Teal, Olive-backed Pipit, Waxwing, Glaucous Gull, Hawfinch, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Pallas’ Warbler, Baird’s Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Common Rosefinch, Yellow Warbler, Hoopoe, Sabine’s Gull, American Wigeon, Surf Scoter, Barred Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Bonelli’s Warbler, White’s Thrush, Mealy Redpoll, Arctic Redpoll, Solitary Sandpiper, Red-eyed Vireo, Rustic Bunting, Laughing Gull, Pacific Golden Plover, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Swainson’s Thrush, Veery, Marsh Sandpiper, Killdeer and Purple Martin.
Even if migration is a little slow we will target Golden and White-tailed Eagle, Merlin, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, rafts of seabirds, Eider, divers and Hebridean races of Dunnock, Song Thrush and Wren. Not forgetting key species such as Corn Bunting, Twite and Rock Pipit. Our birding will entail searching the thickets around Stornoway or maybe racing down to Barra to catch a rarity in someone’s garden, the thrills should come thick and fast on this exciting birding adventure. Our exact itinerary will be flexible and we will move around (within reason!) according to the best birding.
Day 1: Saturday - Nethy Bridge to Benbecula
Depart Nethybridge and travel across Scotland to the famous Skye Bridge. Our birding starts on Skye, perhaps with a Golden Eagle, or if tide allows a good scan through the many waders in Broadford Bay. We cross Skye to the ferry point at Uig and enjoy birding from the ferry as we cross The Little Minch to Lochmaddy, where Great, Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua are possible. Manx Shearwater and perhaps Sooty, Balearic or even Great Shearwater may be seen. Fulmar, Gannet, Black Guillemot and other auks can be expected too. Overnight Benbecula.
Days 2 – 3 Sunday and Monday - Exploring South Uist, North Uist and Benbecula.
We stay at our first comfortable hotel for three nights, giving us two full days and the morning on Tuesday to travel the length and breadth of the Uists and Benbecula looking for rarities and migrants. If birding demands, we may also take a ferry trip to Barra. During this part of the holiday, we hope to make contact with White-tailed Eagle, Merlin and Peregrine and may also get good views of Otter. We will of course plan our days around the availability of rarities, and collect these desired residents as we travel. Waders will dominate the birding, with this trip being an excellent time for godwits, sandpipers, plovers and a good range of scarce migrants including Pectoral Sandpiper, Little Stint, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Dotterel. Overnights Benbecula.
Days 4 - 7 Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
We take the ferry through the fantastic Sound of Harris where we often connect with divers at close quarters, seals and White-tailed Eagle. Harris is simply stunning, and if weather permits we will visit some of the scenic bays and beaches to look for all manner of birds. We will visit both Tiumpan Head and the Butt of Lewis, where rarities can be spotted offshore and in the lighthouse grounds, and also the network of shallow lochs and lochans on the west of Lewis, areas where American migrants can be spotted on the waterside or in neighbouring boggy fields. Repeats of the 2016 Western Sandpiper, American Golden Plover and Lesser Yellowlegs would be gratefully received! Our itinerary will of course be dictated by both the weather and birding considerations.
This time of year is excellent for rare passerines such as Barred Warbler, Rose-coloured Starling, Greenish Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Lapland Bunting. Vagrants are commonly found in the woods in Stornoway, where we watch and listen carefully. Hebridean Wren and Song Thrush are present here too. We also investigate flocks of ducks off Harris, where Surf Scoter might be hidden amongst the more common species, and residents include Golden Eagle and Raven. Our hotel on Lewis is very popular with Heatherlea groups, a second thoroughly enjoyable birding base for this holiday, with very good food.
At the end of our exploration on Friday we join the ferry at Stornoway to travel back to the mainland at Ullapool. This large ferry is also excellent for birding, and as we cross The Minch we scan for migrating seabirds and cetaceans. This ferry is the best chance to see Storm and Leach’s Petrels too! We return to the Mountview Hotel on Friday evening.
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).
This holiday can be combined with:
Specials and Migration featuring ‘The Burma Bank’, Short Breaks, Autumn Migration and Scottish Specials.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
North Ronaldsay and Orkney in early autumn for Birders.
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 possible but it is the end of the season. Please bring waterproof walking boots or shoes, waterproof clothing and a small rucksack. Hat and gloves are essential! The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace, with fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be optional short to moderate (3 mile) walks some days, over uneven, rocky and at times boggy ground. Please note that planned excursions are on mostly good ground, though rare birds are often found in inconvenient locations that may require climbing stiles and gates, or walks over more challenging ground. All of these excursions are of course optional!
What's included in your 'Outer Hebrides in Early Autumn' 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. We offer a courtesy drop off collection to Aviemore on the final morning.
• Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
What's not included in your 'Outer Hebrides in Early Autumn' 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.
• Transfers from rail links in Aviemore.
• Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA FOR YOUR SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURE?
Heatherlea is THE company for top quality birding holidays in Scotland, chosen by more and more birders each year. Relax and enjoy first-rate birding with Scotland’s best guiding team, as we do all the planning! 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. Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you.
These popular holidays are carefully designed to explore the beautiful and wildlife-rich Scottish islands and far west coast. Many itineraries are unique, designed to give you the best of island wildlife at the best time of year. All are run at a leisurely pace, though we might move a little faster when rare migrants and vagrants are in our sights!
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea Scottish Island Adventures have a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
* Single guests are never expected or invited to share.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance packed lunch and tips to hotels.
* 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!’