Mid-June means long evenings to increase the prospects for breeding birds, and we enjoy looking for all the special species as the Scottish summer gets into full swing. Join us in the Caledonian pinewoods, the rugged glens and the vast Cairngorm mountain plateau as we seek the birds everyone wants to see. Orkney is a wonderful birding destination at this time, and on this week we explore Mainland Orkney to seek some of the special birds which breed here, including Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Black-tailed Godwit. With auks, skuas terns and gulls too, our three-day adventure north and overnight stays on Orkney are full of excitement.
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up – which will be yours?
- Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owls on Orkney
- Capercaillie with chicks from the safe vantage of our mobile hide
- Skuas, auks, gulls and terns in the far north of Scotland
- Breeding waders on Orkney, perhaps including islandica Black-tailed Godwit
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 Forest 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 hope to admire them at close quarters.
DAYS 3 - 5: Monday - Wednesday MAINLAND ORKNEY, via Sutherland and Caithness
A tremendous couple of days as we head to Mainland Orkney to see waders, raptors and seabirds. On Monday our drive north will take us through tiny fishing villages in Sutherland where a late staying Iceland Gull, Black Guillemot or summering King Eider is a possibility. We take two dffierent ferry crossings on our outward and return journeys to Orkney, giving us as much scenery and time on the water as possible. In previous years we have seen Orca from the ferry too, and this is a great time of year for sightings in the Pentland Firth. We stay 2 nights on Mainland Orkney, the largest of the Orkney Isles. We hope to find beautiful Black-tailed Godwit among as many as eleven breeding wader species, and aim to see both Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl quartering the wetlands and rough pasture. With the sound of Skylark and Meadow Pipit all around, we may be able to add Twite to our lists at coastal spots, with numerous Wheatear, Rock Pipit and Orkney Wren too! We hope to visit at least one seabird colony on our adventure here, with Marwick Head or the Brough of Birsay our popular choices, with scores of Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Puffin, with numerous marauding Great and Arctic Skuas overhead. On Wednesday we have a few hours to target any rarities or missed targets before catching our ferry back to the mainland, making a leisurely return to Nethy Bridge via some of the key birding spots on the Sutherland coast, arriving in time for dinner on Wednesday evening.
DAYS 6 - 7: Thursday – Friday
Capercaillie! We visit exclusive private estate woodlands in our large minibus. In June hen birds are more likely, perhaps with chicks. Later we seek out secluded locations with Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Merlin, Red Kite and Ring Ouzel as our targets to complete a lovely day.
An optional early start to perhaps catch the last Black Grouse at the lek is a great start one day – the birds are more active in May than June though we still have a chance of a few males. At coastal haunts, expect to see a range of breeding birds including Osprey fishing, Common Eider, Goosander, Merganser, Stonechat, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. Sandwich, Common, Arctic and Little Tern, Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill are also likely. We also search for any rarities within reach. Please note, with three days devoted to our adventure on Orkney, we don’t visit the Cairngorm plateau during this itinerary.
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).
This holiday can be combined with:
High Season across the Highlands, Outer Limits in summer.
SCOTTISH ISLAND ADVENTURES
Shetland Island Explorer, Southern Hebrides, Islands on the Edge, Orkney Island Explorer.
More Holiday Information
Accommodation at 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 or wellies.
Walking will be moderate, with a few walks on uneven terrain, with nothing further than 3 miles. We don't visit mountain areas on this holiday.
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing.Even hardened Heatherlea guides will have hat and gloves in their bag whatever the time of year!
Biting insects may be encountered in the evenings or around standing water, though not as a serious problem.
Group size maximum 7 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!
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 on Saturdays 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 Saturdays 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
* Five 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 might be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Two nights comfortable en-suite accommodation in Orkney.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days birdwatching.
* All transport by comfortable minibus during six full days' birding. All access and ferry fees.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
* Saturday courtesy pick-up and return service to Aviemore.
* A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
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.
* Our ‘Mainland Scotland’ holidays based at Mountview Hotel have a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* 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!’