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Mike's Autumn Blog

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Autumn in Bonnie Scotland

After the fiery heat of summer starts to subside, many of you turn your thoughts to taking a short break somewhere before the winter chill kicks in – how about Scotland?

You may think that the winter chill never properly leaves the Highlands and Islands, but most years our best weather is through the late-summer and autumn period. Mist lingers over water in the cool early morning air before burning off and giving way to still, calm conditions, with bright blue sky and a wealth of wildlife watching potential… with very few other tourists around!

Near our hotel, Black Grouse are busy lekking in the mornings, raptors are enjoying the thermals over the hills, with juvenile Golden and White-tailed Eagles beginning to feel the sense of freedom having fledged in the summer, and the forest species like Crested Tit and Crossbill chatting again, often in family groups, or, as the season progresses in larger flocks comprised of several different species together.

The coasts around mainland Scotland provide amazing opportunities to witness seabird passage, with all four skua species seen occasionally, amongst the groups of Manx Shearwaters, Great, Cory’s and Sooty also possible, Storm and Leach’s Petrels zip over the waves, and the chance to see a variety of cetaceans ranging from the diminutive Harbour Porpoise or Common Dolphin to Minke, Fin or Humpback Whales.

The Moray Firth begins to entertain rafts of scoter, the first Long-tailed Duck arrive from Scandinavia for the winter, and the numbers of diver species start to increase. Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, and other Arctic breeding waders begin to forage along our shorelines, and on the stormier days, a Grey Phalarope or Little Auk may be blown close to shore offering excellent views as they try to take refuge from the anger of the North Sea.

As it is migration time, trips to Shetland, Orkney, or the Outer Hebrides regularly provide long lists of Asian or American birds that have been blown off course, or encounters with northern or eastern European species that are taking a break before continuing their journey to Africa or beyond. Lanceolated, Blyth’s Reed, Icterine, Radde’s, Greenish, Arctic, Yellow-browed and Barred Warblers are often seen, as are Wryneck, Dotterel, Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers, and Little, Lapland or Rustic Buntings. With extra fortune, the winds may transpire to bring in a mega from the States – recent delights have included Wilson’s, Yellow, Blackburnian, Tennessee and Myrtle Warblers, Hermit Thrush, Ovenbird and Red-eyed Vireo, and that’s not even mentioning the waders!

Lesser Scaup, Green-winged Teal and American Wigeon are among the American ducks that start to arrive in Scotland in the autumn with the vast numbers of incoming wildfowl. Geese are best seen on Islay, where thousands of Greenland White-fronted Geese and Barnacle Geese dominate the goose count, which can often total eight species, including Cackling Goose and the ever-popular Red-breasted Goose. Keep those eyes peeled too for the arrival of white-winged gulls, as the coffee ice-cream colours of young Glaucous and Iceland Gulls start to be found.

To round off those relaxed weeks in the north of Britain, there are good chances of hauled out seals, Otter along rivers and particularly around the rocky, seaweedy coastline of Mull or Skye, and the purple heather-clad moorlands are reverberating to the roar of rutting Red Deer stags.

With a huge range of different itineraries to choose from, Heatherlea is the perfect way to spend your autumn break, and the Mountview Hotel in Nethy Bridge is ready to welcome you with some proper Highland hospitality - the end of a beautiful day outside means a roaring log fire in front of which to enjoy that warming dram of local whisky before bedtime! - Heatherlea Guide, Mike Coleman

About Heatherlea Holidays

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The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248