Perhaps the ultimate spring wildlife experience in Scotland! All our resident birds are displaying or breeding, winter birds are still here in good numbers, and summer visitors are arriving daily. For many years we have enjoyed an overnight stay on Mull during this holiday, and in 2017 we extend our stay here to two-nights on the magical Isle of Mull, allowing us more time to enjoy the fabulous birding and unforgettable scenery. Back in Strathspey, many of the Scottish speciality birds can be seen at their best, and we have many lingering winter migrants inland and at the coast. An exciting time to be birding in Scotland!
KEY MOMENTS at our Friday round-up - which will be yours?
- Male and female Capercaillie
- White-tailed and Golden Eagle over the mountains of Mull.
- Ptarmigan in winter moult
- Otters playing on the coastline
DAY 1: Saturday
Arrival, welcome, dinner and briefing. Don’t forget our courtesy collection service from Aviemore.
DAY 2: Sunday
Our award-winning hotel is right in the middle of the best birding habitats, and a local drive should produce Black Grouse popping and cooing at the lek. Red Grouse are present here also. After breakfast we head for the hills to see Ptarmigan and almost always find the birds. These mountains support few other species, though we watch for Snow Bunting, early Ring Ouzel and Raven. We may also see Red-throated Diver, Goldeneye, Peregrine, Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill as we descend, and local birchwoods hold Redpoll and Siskin flocks. Osprey, Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swan and many breeding wader species are likely as we enjoy the best of local birding. Waxwing is often seen till late April.
DAYS 3 - 5 : Monday - Wednesday Magical Mull
We journey west, watching out for Black Grouse, Black Guillemot, Common Seal and Hooded Crow as we travel. We may stop off to see Peregrine at the nest, Whooper Swans wintering on the marshes, or perhaps a Golden Eagle after we cross Loch Linnhe onto the west coast. 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 Great Northern Diver in breeding plumage. We stay overnight for two nights here, giving excellent chances of seeing Otters and tide-dependent birds.
We have a full day around the island on Tuesday, enjoying eagles, Otter, migrating Slavonian Grebe, Goosander and divers, plus Redpoll and Stonechat, with the first arriving Golden Plover and other moorland species heading towards the high interior of the island. We have ample time to enjoy Mull to the full in early spring, a very enjoyable experience. We work our way back to Strathspey on Wednesday, looking for divers and grebes, Common Seals, Twite and Black Guillemot, arriving in Nethy Bridge late afternoon.
DAY 6: Thursday
Capercaillie! We may join the RSPB if birds are showing at the local Capercaillie Watch, or visit our exclusive private estate woodlands. Staying inside our large minibus, we have an excellent chance of seeing both male and female birds. Crested Tit and Scottish (Parrot) Crossbill are also found here, or in nearby stretches of native Caledonian pine forest. Later we search for moorland specialities including Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Merlin and as spring develops, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Slavonian Grebe and warblers. The day finishes with a moorland drive, which may give views of Red Grouse and Black-throated Diver.
CAPERCAILLIE - a responsible and caring attitude, especially in the breeding season! Our private estate access and unbeatable local knowledge are invaluable for seeing Capercaillie, and our success rate on this holiday is excellent. Heatherlea helped to write the RSPB Code of Conduct for Capercaillie watching, and this is a reliable and responsible way to se the wonderful ‘Horse of the Forest’.
DAY 7: Friday
Spring birding along the Moray Coast is particularly enjoyable, as the newly arriving migrants complement remaining winter visitors. This day can easily include Osprey fishing, rafts of Common Eider, Goosander, Merganser, Stonechat, Common and Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern, Black and Red-throated Diver, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, and lots of spring waders including Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover, many in bright summer plumage. Watch out also for farmland specialities including Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge, all still found on this fertile northern coastline. Sandwich Tern have arrived, and Common, Arctic and even Little Tern appear in April. With Auks, Gannet, gulls and more it is a really rewarding day! We will also search for any rarities or unusual sightings within reach. In recent years we have seen White-billed Diver, Little Auk, Little Gull and of course the well documented Belted Kingfisher.
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:
Highlands and the West Coast, Highlands and Skye.
More Holiday Information
Accommodation at Mountview Hotel can be seen here. www.mountviewhotel.co.uk . On Mull we select from a range of comfortable Hotels we have used for many years. All accommodation is en-suite.
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.
Walking will be light, although mountain walking for Ptarmigan is strenuous as birds generally start moving back up the hill with the spring melt, though April can still see a good snow covering up the hill!
Weather Expect a wide variation in weather conditions. Blazing sunshine, snow and rain are equally likely, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Bring waterproofs, walking boots or shoes and warm clothing.
Biting insects are unlikely to be encountered.
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 on 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 may be upgraded to double room accommodation at no extra charge.
* Two nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation on Mull.
* Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
* Six full days wildlife watching.
* Guidance from a professional Group Leader.
* All transport by comfortable minibus.
* All estate access and ferry fees.
* A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
* Courtesy bus service to and from transport in Aviemore.
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!’