Tour Dates: Sunday 13th – Sunday 20th June 2021 (Glasgow to Inverness)
Tour Price: £1,399pp
Deposit: £350 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 6 people
Birds: Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe, Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Red Grouse, Black Guillemot, Dotterel, Osprey, Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Ring Ouzel, Crested Tit, Twite, Snow Bunting and much more!
Mammals: Otter, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Badger, Red Deer, Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin, Common Seal, Grey Seal and more!
This two base tour is perfect for anyone interested in seeing the vast majority of Scottish breeding speciality birds and some great mammals, in particular both Pine Marten and Otter!
For the first three nights we will stay in Argyll & Bute on the Cowal Peninsula with its spectacular views across to the Isle of Arran. Here, we will explore this relatively undiscovered part of Scotland for tourists but it is certainly packed full of wildlife! We have an excellent chance of finding Golden Eagle, Osprey and Otter close to our accommodation and we will make a couple of night excursions to a site where we have exclusive access to a Pine Marten hide.
We then head north east and spend four nights on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park where we have three full days to explore a number of very different habitats and allow us plenty of time to target a number of speciality species. Our highlights here will be searching for Dotterels and Ptarmigans in the Cairngorm mountains and a good selection of Spey Valley specialties like Crested Tit and Slavonian Grebe.
We will also spend a day on the spectacular west coast where we will look for the hugely impressive White-tailed Eagle as well as more chances of Otters and Divers and of course some fabulous scenery. So Come and join us!
ACCOMMODATION: 7 nights in Argyll and the Highlands
3 nights Cowal Peninsula and 4 nights near Grantown-on-Spey
Included Meals: Breakfast only
DAY 1: Arrival Glasgow and travel to Cowal Peninsula
After meeting at Glasgow railway station at midday we will travel west out of the city and take the ferry across the mighty River Clyde where very quickly we will find ourselves in some of Scotland’s most scenic countryside as we arrive on the Cowal Peninsula. This wonderful part of Scotland is relatively quiet compared to the more frequently visited areas further north and west but the wildlife and scenery are plentiful!
We will check in to our accommodation and then head straight out to explore the area. We will be looking in particular for Hen Harriers and Golden Eagles and dependent on the tide, we might try for Otters too.
After dinner we will head out for our first visit to a nearby property where we have exclusive access to their purpose-built Pine Marten hide. A number of animals regularly visit the site and we also have a good chance of seeing Badger too! Overnight near Dunoon
DAYS 2 & 3: Full days exploring the Cowal Peninsula
Cowal forms a penisula between Loch Fyne to the north-west and Loch Long to the south-east. It has an extensive coast line as well as important mudflats and salt marsh vegetation at the head of the sea lochs, Loch Riddon, Loch Striven and Holy Loch. Freshwater lochs are also present including Loch Eck, Loch Long and Loch Fyne. In these areas we will be looking for Red-throated and Black-throated Divers as well as commoner species such as Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and waders like Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and Curlew. We will also visit the more mountainous areas towards the north and east where the summits are around 3,000 feet and where with patience, time spent scanning these tops may reveal hunting Golden Eagles. In contrast, the landscape towards the south and west has more rolling hills, conifer forests and moorland where Hen Harrier are more likely to be found. Finally, we will also visit native broad- leaved woodland, principally of oak, birch and hazel, where a good selection of woodland species like Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Wood Warbler, Tree Pipit and Common Cuckoo on the edge should be found.
During the rising tides we will focus some time to look for Otters. With patience and scanning the loch sides, there are a number of different spots where we can see this fabulous species fishing. During the evenings, we will be able to visit the Pine Marten hide again to maximise our chance of success! Overnight near Dunoon
DAY 4: Cowal Peninsual to Grantown-on- Spey
After some optional pre-breakfast local birding, we will make our way into the Highlands. Although mostly a travel day, we will be seeing some spectacular scenery today and we will make plenty of stops en route. As we head up the sea loch of Loch Fyne we will be keeping an eye open for Otters and Divers. We then continue north passing Loch Lomond where there is always a good chance of Osprey and then up past Loch Tay and into the Cairngorms. We will aim to arrive at our very comfortable accommodation by late afternoon and after some refreshments we will head out locally and look for Ospreys and the stunning Slavonian Grebes that often nest not far from our accommodation. Overnight Grantown-on-Spey
DAYS 5 & 6: Cairngorm NP and Black Isle
During the next two days we are perfectly located to explore the Cairngorms and the coast. We will choose the best weather day for a full day exploring the Cairngorms and a long hike onto the Cairngorm plateau. Our primary focus will be to get good views of both Ptarmigan and Dotterel as well as a good selection of other species that may include Ring Ouzel, Red Grouse and possibly Snow Bunting too. Mid June is a great time to see the Cairngorms in all its glory and the views alone are impressive! It will be a long but worthwhile day and we have the whole day to enjoy this fantastic area. For those not too exhausted at the end of the day, we will take an optional evening drive to look for Short-eared Owls and Black-throated Divers.
On another day, we will venture north to the coast and explore the very different habitat and birds of the Black Isle. Here we should easily find Red Kites that are now thriving since the various re-introduction projects. The Black Isle also has a good selection of farmland species that are sadly declining elsewhere in England. In particular, we will be looking for Tree Sparrow, Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge. We will also ensure that we visit the coastal bays of the Moray Firth during perfect tide conditions when we have the best chance of seeing the resident Bottlenose Dolphin population and another great opportunity to see Otter. Overnight Grantown-on-Spey
DAY 7: West Coast
From our base in Grantown-on-Spey we are only a couple of hours from the spectacular scenery of the west coast, so after an early breakfast we will venture west! The scenery today will most definitely be one of the highlights as we venture out towards the beautiful Torridon Mountains around Upper Loch Torridon. Of course, the wildlife will also be a highlight because for much of the day we will be in true Eagle country and we have a very good chance of finding both Golden and the mighty White-tailed Eagle. Other species we will be looking for include Twite, Black Guillemot, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and mammals too! We have some excellent chances for Otter today and if the sea conditions are good, Harour Porpoise or even Minke Whale! Overnight Grantown-on-Spey
DAY 8: Flexible Day
Today, though our last day, we still have a full morning and part of the afternoon to enjoy some final birding! We will use this time to focus on any key target species that we are missing and try for them again. Alternatively, we may head to the north coast for some different species around the rocky coasts near Burghead and then work our way back west along the coast where we can also check out Findhorn Bay. Although these sites tend to be more interesting during the winter months due to large congregations of wintering sea ducks, there are always surprises to be found out of season!
We will then return to Inverness railway station/airport where the tour concludes during the mid afternoon.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Chris Townend or other Wise Birding Leader
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, breakfasts, ground transport, ferry crossings, use of Pine Marten hide and services of leader.
Not included in cost: Travel to Glasgow and from Inverness, travel insurance, lunches, dinners & drinks.
Single Supplement: £150
Transport: Minibus or People Carrier throughout.
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Most birding will be done within close vicinity of the vehicle. However, when visiting the Cairngorms we will take a return walk of around 12Km and an increase in altitude of around 500 metres. This is necessary when searching for Ptarmigan and Dotterel.
Climate: Unpredictable! Be prepared for all weather with four seasons often experienced in one day!
Tour Start Point: Glasgow railway station.
Tour End Point: Inverness railway station/airport.