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Scotland: Highlands & Islands

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Join us to enjoy a two week trip to one of the most scenic parts of the world, discovering the birds and wildlife of Scotland’s rugged coastal islands and remote highlands. With seasonally pleasant  climate, June is a wonderful time to experience resident and migratory species breeding in diverse habitats.

An exciting journey through the Inner Hebrides highlights seven beautiful islands, Skye, Eigg, Muck, Mull, Staffa, Lunga and Iona. Multiple ferry rides provide great opportunities to see some outstanding wildlife, such as Minke Whale, Grey and Common Seal, Otter, Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannets, Fulmars and Kittiwake. White-tailed Eagles soar over the western isles, while marauding skuas hunt for puffins, Razorbills, and Black Guillemots. On Iona we will hope to catch a glimpse of the secretive Corncrake.

In the famed Scottish Highlands we’ll explore rugged glens and vast moorlands from our base in the beautiful Spey Valley. The ancient Caledonian pinewoods are home to Britain’s only endemic bird, the Scottish Crossbill, along with Crested Tit, and Capercaillie, the largest grouse in the world.  On the Cairngorms mountain plateau we’ll take an extended walk in search of our targets, Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Secluded lochs harbor stunning breeding plumaged Horned Grebe, Red-throated and Black-throated Loons. Rolling moorlands feature Golden Plover, Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls and Red Grouse, while Red Kites are well-established on the Black Isle.

We will experience spectacular scenery, a wide variation in weather conditions, moderate walking and about 130 species of birds during our wonderful trip to Scotland’s Inner Hebrides and Highlands.

 

Focus: Birds, Mammals, Butterflies, Scenery, Photography

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  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)
    16 days / 15 nights

     

    Dates & Cost

    June 9 - 24, 2018       

    cost $5200.00 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Inverness.  

    Single Supplement $325.  Note: if you do not request as single room, and we are unable to find you a roommate, you will be charged the single supplement 

     

     

    Cost includes: 15 nights accommodation; all meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 16; all transportation by comfortable minibus from Inverness; guidance from professional leader(s); all ferry and boat fees

     

    Cost does not include: Internal travel to Inverness meeting point; travel insurance; tip to local leader; drinks and other items of a personal nature

     

    Single Supplement
    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $325 will be assessed.

     

    Deposit
    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Registration Form

     

    How to Book
    In order to hold your space, you must complete the Registration Form found on-line, and submit it to us on-line, or download a copy and mail it to us, along with a $500.00 deposit per participant.

     

    Final Payment
    Full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date

  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary:

    Day 1: AM arrival at Inverness; transfer to Nethy Bridge, Highlands

    Day 2: Abernethy Forest and lochs

    Day 3: Moorlands and glens

    Day 4: Cairngorm Plateau

    Day 5: Troup Head and East coast

    Day 6: Moray Coast and Black Isle

    Day 7: Transfer to Western isles, Mull, Inner Hebrides

    Day 8: Mull

    Day 9: Treshnish Isles - Lunga and Staffa

    Day 10:  Iona

    Day 11: Ardnamurchan Peninsula

    Day 12: Eigg and Muck

    Day 13: Transfer to Skye

    Day 14: Skye

    Day 15: Transfer to Inverness

    Day 16: AM departure from Inverness

     

     

    Itinerary:

    Day 1 / June 9: AM arrival in Inverness; transfer to Nethy Bridge

    AM arrival (by noon) at Inverness Airport (INV) and transfer to Mountview Hotel, Nethy Bridge, our base in the Highlands for the next six nights.

     

    Days 2 - 6 / June 10-14:  Abernethy Forest and the Scottish Highlands.

    Five days birding the fabulous Scottish mainland. Our itinerary will vary according to weather and our success with birds as we progress, though the following outline gives a good idea;

     

    Day 2

    Today is firmly focused on the birds which make this wonderful part of the country so special. After breakfast we visit local ‘hotspots’ in Caledonian pine forest to see Crested Tit, and we often see adults with fledged young at this time. Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill are nomadic, though present throughout the year. Red Squirrel are seen on our Hotel feeders most days. Later we investigate local lochs and rivers, birchwoods and moorland, where your list may include Osprey, Dipper, Buzzard, Goldeneye, Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver, Lesser Redpoll, Peregrine, breeding waders and Slavonian Grebe. The beauty of divers and grebes in breeding plumage spellbinds many of our participants, and during this holiday we make time to find them at close quarters.

     

    Day 3

    An optional early start to see a Black Grouse lek is a great start, though please note the birds can be unreliable in June, though your chances are good. Later we visit our exclusive private estate woodlands in to search for Capercaillie. In June hen birds are more likely, perhaps with chicks. We have plenty of Capercaillie spots, so we have good chances, though the birds are elusive and rare.

    Later we drive to the Black Isle, where birding should include Red Kite, ducks, waders, gulls and terns, particularly at Chanonry Point, a spectacular peninsula which juts into the Moray Firth, often giving close access. Depending upon the tides, we have excellent chances of seeing Bottle-nosed Dolphins too.

     

    Day 4

    We spend a full day on the Cairngorm plateau, with unforgettable mountain scenery all around as we head to the right spots for Ptarmigan and Dotterel. Once Dotterel are ‘in’ by early May only bad weather can stop us seeing them. We carefully choose the best day for your comfort and safety, and we also take care not to disturb the birds. Look out also for Snow Bunting (sometimes singing). Brilliant birding in a very special habitat. 

     

    Day 5

    We take an exciting cruise to the foot of Troup Head, mainland Scotland's only Gannetry to see the birds up close! Auks on the sea will include Puffin and Black Guillemot, and the first Great and Arctic Skuas of the season may be seen too. It is an exciting boat trip! Divers may be present, and we should see Rock Pipit, newly arrived Northern Wheatear and more.   We also know quiet and underwatched places on the west coast where waders can be found in bright summer plumage. We also target any available rarities on this day, perhaps including King Eider. Later we plan to visit a Speyside Distillery, and perhaps sample Malt Whisky too!

     

    Day 6

    A complete contrast as we visit the Moray Coast, where birding is excellent at any time of year. In summer we see gulls, terns, waders and duck, perhaps including migrants. We expect to see a range of breeding birds including Osprey fishing, Common Eider, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Stonechat, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill are also likely.

     

    Day 7 / June 15: Transfer to Mull in the Inner Hebrides

    We take our time as we make our way to magical Mull, heading west via Fort William and two ferries. The scenery is outstanding, becoming more rugged as we pass Ben Nevis on our way to the west coast, and we watch out for Hooded Crow, Black Guillemot, a variety of gulls, terns and ducks, and perhaps both Common and Grey Seal. On arrival on Mull we take lunch and begin to explore the island, with our key targets being Golden and White-tailed Eagles and Otter. Overnight Mull for three nights.

     

    Day 8 / June 16: Mull

    Mull is a wildlife paradise, becoming ever more popular with birdwatchers. It’s easy to see why, with more Golden and White-tailed Eagles than anywhere else in Britain, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Raven and a range of northern moorland species. The fields hold lots of waders, including Snipe, Golden Plover, Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher, and we also intend to spend time Otter watching. All this amongst magnificent scenery, featuring towering mountainous cliffs, picturesque shorelines, rocky foreshores and beautiful pristine beaches.

     

    Day 9 / June 17: Treshnish Isles (Staffa and Lunga) and Mull

    The coastal habitat is extra special, and we enjoy a thrilling boat trip, first visiting the Isle of Staffa, where we have enough time to visit Fingal’s Cave and also scan for Great Skua. Next, on to the tiny isle of Lunga, where the ‘Puffin experience’ is one of the best in the British Isles, as we pass right by the burrows (the birds are tolerant, and a careful birder can enjoy views from a few feet). Further along auks, Shag and gulls can be safely appreciated at eye level just yards away. Photographers will love this! A quiet walk away from the main cliffs and we may hear Twite singing. Many Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Shag are present, with Black Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and perhaps tiny Storm Petrel, Great Skua, Arctic Tern and ‘real’ Greylag Goose offshore.

     

    Day 10 / June 18: Iona

    As well as thoroughly exploring Mull itself, including a special place or two rarely visited by birders, we visit the small island of Iona. Any lingering Great Northern Diver will be superb in summer finery, and an absorbing day should once again include both eagle species and Red Deer. On Iona at this time the grassy fields around the ancient Abbey hold Corncrake. There can be up to 20 males calling, and although we can’t guarantee a sighting, we should hear the birds rasping, and are usually rewarded with a glimpse or two! In late afternoon we take the ferry back to the mainland and make the short transfer to Strontian, where we are based for three nights. On this night we hope to spot Pine Marten at a quiet and private place.

     

    Day 11 / June 19: Ardnamurchan Peninsula

    One of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. North of Mull, west of Fort William, often overlooked, yet blessed with wonderful wildlife. Rugged coastline and mountains, vast moorland and lovely sea lochs. We also expect excellent views of Golden Eagle and White-tailed Eagle, Red Deer, both seals, Raven, Hen Harrier...quiet parts of western Scotland hold very special wildlife!

     

    Day 12 / June 20: Eigg and Muck

    Minke Whale is the main target on this unforgettable boat trip. Watching a 30-foot whale swimming alongside and even underneath our boat is one of the truly wonderful wildlife experiences of Scotland. Basking Shark, Grey and Common Seal, Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Raven, and maybe dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, and a tiny darting Storm Petrel ensure a wildlife day to remember! We may also see ‘real’ Rock Dove, Hooded Crow, Red-throated Diver, and perhaps eagles and skuas, plus thousands of Guillemot, Razorbill, a few Puffin, lots of Gannet, Kittiwake... birds all the way! We will call at Eigg in both directions, and stay longer on Muck, where we have time to walk and enjoy views across to Rum, and have another chance at Corncrake.

     

    Days 13 and 14 / June 21 & 22: Skye

    This morning we drive north-west to Mallaig, and take the ferry to Skye. We cross the famous Syke Bridge and explore quiet places in the hope of finding waders, eagles and other birds of prey. We have time to seek out spots away from the main tourist areas, where the scenery is awe-inspiring, and this part of the holiday will be both relaxing and rewarding as we enjoy the beautiful island scenery.

     

    Day 15 / June 23: Transfer to Inverness

    After breakfast we transfer to Inverness birding along the way along with stops at historic picturesque sites, Eileen Donan Castle, and visit Urquhart Castle on the banks of Lock Ness! Mid-afternoon arrival in Inverness.

     

    Day 16 / June 24: Depart from Inverness (INV)

    You may depart anytime this morning.

     

    Please note: The itinerary is given as a guide only. Actual content may vary according to the judgement of your guide(s), and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

  • Accommodations
  • Mountview Hotel

    Mountview Hotel

     

    14 nights at four centers, all ensuite, in comfortable hotels.

     

    In the Highlands we will be based for 6 nights in Nethy Bridge at the Mountview Hotel.

     

    We are in 3 locations for the Inner Hebrides portion of our trip, with 3 night stays at Strontian and on Mull, and 2 nights on Skye.

     

    Our last (15th) night we will near Inverness Airport.

  • Additional Info
  • birds-of-europe-2nd-edition-book-cover

    Recommended Field Guide:

    Birds of Europe

    (2nd Edition, 2010, Princeton University Press)

    by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterstrom

     

     

     

    This trip is for non-smokers only. Smoking is not permitted at any time during our tour.

     

    No Visa is required to visit the United Kingdom.

     

     

     

     

    Weather:

    Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Average June temperature 48-60F.  Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes (we will walk through wet grass and puddles of water) and warm clothing. Strong winds can be a feature on the islands.

    The month of June has about 19 hours of daylight.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     

    Walking:

    Cairngorms Plateau

    Cairngorms

     

    You need a reasonable level of fitness.

     

    Moderate walking at a slow pace, and usually no more than 2-3 miles a day. The terrain is mostly level, though there will be times when we walk distances in soft sand, moist meadows and over stoney ground.

     

     

     

    Walking on the Cairngorms Plateau for Ptarmigan and Dotterel is strenuous, requiring a longer walk as we climb about 2000 ft in elevation, from about 2000 ft to 4000 ft.

     

     

    Ferry and Boat rides:

    Several ferry rides are needed to access Mull and Iona. Boat trips are scheduled Eigg and Muck, as well as to Staffa and Lunga.

     

     

    Transportation:

    All transportation will be by comfortable minibus

     

     

     

     

  • Trip Reports
  •  

    Trip Report Scotland: Highlands and Shetlands,  June-July 2003

     

    Trip Report Scotland: Highlands and Shetlands,  June-July 2005

     

    Trip Report Scotland: Highlands and Inner Hebrides, June 2016 

     

    Trip Report Scotland: Highlands and Inner Hebrides, June 2017

     

    Western Capercaillie

    Western Capercaillie

     

     

     

     

    The Western Capercaillie is a specialty of the old Caledonian pine forest. It is the largest member of the grouse family with males (cocks) at 36 inches in length and weighing over 10 pounds, being almost twice the size of the hens.

     

    The Scottish population of capercaillie became extinct in the mid-18th century and was reintroduced from Scandanavia in the 19th century. It is once again threatened, with about 1000 birds, making this the rarest of the grouse species found in Scotland.

     

    The name capercaillie derives from Scottish Gaelic meaning "horse of the woods."

  • Species Lists
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    Systematic List of Species Seen Scotland: Highlands & Shetlands June/July 2005

     

    Systematic List of Species Seen Scotland : Highlands & Inner Hebrides June 2016

     

    Systematic List of Species Recorded Scotland: Highlands & Inner Hebrides June 2017

     

    List of Species Seen on Previous Trips to Scotland 2002-2017

     

     

    Crested Tit

    Crested Tit

     

    We expect to see 5 species from the Tit family,  Paridae -   Long-tailed, Coal, Blue, Great and Crested Tit.

     

    The Crested Tit is the only member of the tit family in the United Kingdom restricted to the Scottish highlands where it is found in the ancient coniferous Caledonian forest and Scotch Pine plantations.

     

    This energetic bird, with distinctive black-and-white patterned crest and face, prefers to nest in old pine stumps and dead wood. It can often be seen foraging low down in the forest looking for invertebrates and pine seeds. Crested Tits store pine seeds in the spring and moth larvae in the fall to supplement their winter food supply.