Arctic Skua, Scotland by Chris Townend

Tour Dates: Sunday 4th – Sunday 11th July 2021 (Stornoway to Stornoway) 
Tour Price: £1,399pp
Deposit: £400 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £50 – £100
Minimum Number: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 7 people

Target Species
Birds: Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Storm-Petrel, Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Golden Plover, Great Skua, Arctic Skua,
Mammals: Otter, Grey Seal, Common Seal, Common Dolphin, Risso’s Dolphin, Minke Whale and Basking Shark

Tour Summary
This exciting new tour concentrates on the rich marine wildlife found around the northern part of the Outer Hebrides with 3 nights on the island of Harris and four nights on the island of Lewis.
Harris, though not a true island, is the southern part of the Lewis & Harris Island and the most spectacular for mountain scenery. We will explore the south end of Harris around the Sound of Taransay where we should find Common Scoters , Divers, and Terns. If calm, we should also find Harbour Porpoises and nearby Northton and Rodel are excellent places to find Otters. We will also spend a day exploring the north of Harris where the highest hills in the Outer Hebrides are intersected by long, deep valleys whereas in the far west at Huisinish we will visit the golden sand beaches and views across to the island of Scarp. Harris is renowned for its high density of Golden Eagles which we should find with ease as well as White-tailed Eagle. However, one of the tour highlights of Harris will be the day we take a boat trip to the Shiants. At this time of year, the islands are alive with seabirds with large colonies of Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots whilst the surrounding waters often hold schools of Common Dolphin and Basking Sharks.  Our stay on Lewis has us explore the Butt of Lewis and Tiumpan Head which are very good locations to search for seabirds, whales and dolphins. Lewis also supports good numbers of Eagles and the tiny Merlin too with birds breeding at a higher breeding density than anywhere else in Europe! We should also find a good selection of breeding waders and both Red-throated and Black-throated Divers. Great Skuas are a regular sight in Lewis and other seabirds such as Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gannets will also be seen in good numbers around the coast. A resident pod of Risso’s Dolphin can frequently be seen off the coast and at this time of year there are regular sightings of Minke Whale and Common Dolphin. We need some calm weather for scanning from the coast, but we will also take a boat trip from Stornoway to search for whales and dolphins at closer quarters!

ACCOMMODATION: 7 nights on the Western Isles
3 nights on the island of Harris and 4 nights on the island of Lewis
Included Meals: Half-board

DAY 1: Arrival on Isle of Harris
Our first birding stop will be the Braighe, just to the east of Stornoway where we should find our first Black-throated Divers which are a regular visitor to the bay south of Loch Branahuie. There are always a few seabirds here to keep us interested and a chance of Common Dolphin too. We will then begin our journey south, stopping en route at Bowglas, where Lewis becomes Harris. This is an excellent area to spend some time looking for eagles and there is a very good chance of seeing both White-tailed and Golden Eagles here. Below us is Loch Seaforth and a good place to find our first Red-throated Divers. We will continue to our hotel in Tarbet for the early evening. Overnight Tarbet, Isle of Harris

Common Dolphin by Chris Townend

DAY 2: Harris and The Shiants
Today will be our boat trip to the Shiants and with a bit of luck and calm enough conditions we will be able to land for a couple of hours and enjoy the large numbers of seabirds that make these islands their summer home. Black Rats have now been eradicated and Storm Petrels have also started to recolonise. We may be lucky and see a Storm Petrel during our crossing, but they generally only travel to and from the island under cover of darkness. Puffins are often encountered here in large flocks bobbing on the sea along with the dapper Razorbills and smaller numbers of Common Guillemot. We should also see Black Guillemot from the boat as well as other more common seabirds. Cetaceans are also high on our target list with reasonable chances of Common Dolphins and Minke Whale. The boat trip also gives us another good chance of seeing White-tailed Eagle.
Dependent on our boat trip time, we will travel along the minor road to Husinish at some point during the day. This single track road first passes an old whaling station below the Clisham and the loneliest tennis court in the world! At the end of this road we will take a short walk to the coast here at Huisinish where White-tailed Eagle, Wheatear and Twite are all likely. On the way back we will stop off near Amhuinnsuidhe Castle and take another walk for a couple of miles. The track weaves its way along a valley between some of the highest peaks in the islands and provides us with a good chance of spotting White-tailed Eagle and Golden Eagle as well as Dipper along the small stream. Overnight Tarbet, Isle of Harris

Puffin by Chris Townend

DAY 3: South Harris
Today we start our exploration of southern Harris heading down to the golden sands at Luskentyre which overlook the Sound of Taransay. Here, with a bit of luck, we should be able to locate Common Scoter and possibly even a Surf Scoter. Harbour Porpoise are also a regular sight here although we do need calm conditions to find them. Continuing south we will stop at Northton where a visit to the machair should reveal nesting waders amongst the distinctive flora found in this rare habitat. Nearby in a roadside cutting there is also a small colony of Thyme Broomrape which should be in flower. Onward to Leverburgh, named after Lord Leverhulme, before we stop at Rodel where a look around the 15th Century church and sheltered bay may produce Otters as well as Black Guillemots and terns. We will then travel along the Golden Road back towards Tarbet, stopping at various bays and inlets for seals, otters and any birds that we might find. Overnight Tarbet, Isle of Harris

DAY 4: Isle of Lewis
This morning we head north past the Clisham and on to the island of Lewis. Once again, we will stop at Bowglasto look for both Golden and White-tailed Eagles. We then continue on to the main town of Stornoway before stopping at Loch Branahuie. This gives us another chance of spotting Black-throated Divers off-shore as well as various terns and auks. Once we cross the Braighe the road turns north and we head through several small villages in an area known as Point. At the end of this road we reach a lighthouse and this is Tiumpan Head where we will spend an hour or two scanning for whales and dolphins. Scanning for cetaceans is always unpredictable but Risso’s Dolphins, Common Dolphins and Minke Whales are regular species from this lookout point. There are sure to be good numbers of seabirds passing including Manx Shearwaters, Gannets as well as both Great and Arctic Skuas. After a good session scanning, we will then make our way to our new hotel and we cross the Pentland Road passing through moorland and lochs. A few stops at strategic points will give us an opportunity to see some of the rare nesting birds found here including Red-throated Divers, Black-throated Diver, Golden Eagle and Hen Harrier.
Overnight Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

Great Northern Diver by Chris Townend

DAY 5: North Lewis
This morning we head north to the Butt of Lewis where we explore the cliffs and nearby machair. Whales and dolphins are regular from this most northerly headland and Basking Shark can also seen most summers. Small numbers of seabirds nest on the contorted cliffs, including Black Guillemots and a few Kittiwakes. A scan across the sea may produce Skuas, Gannets, Fulmars and Shearwaters. Nearby Loch Stiapabhat usually holds small numbers of wildfowl and waders such as Snipe and maybe Black-tailed Godwit. After a thorough exploration of this most northerly point we will start making our way back along the west side of Lewis stopping off at a Loch where sometimes we find Red-necked Phalaropes, though they are notoriously elusive. A look at nearby Lochs Shawbost and Ordais are both good areas for Otters and the possibility of a Great Northern Diver over-summering. Overnight, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

DAY 6: Lewis Boat trip and North Tolsta
This morning we take a boat trip out of Stornoway and we will travel to the east side of Tiumpan Head into the Minch. We will be hoping to find some of the marine life in the area and with a bit of luck we will encounter Harbour Porpoise, Risso’s Dolphins and maybe even a Basking Shark. Numbers of these huge fish vary each year so they are always a thrill to see, especially up close. Peregrines are likely to be seen in the area and we are sure to see Black Guillemot, Razorbills, Guillemot, Puffins, Fulmars and Great Skuas amongst others. In the afternoon we make our way to North Tolsta and the stunning beach at Garry. Here, we will take a short walk along the ‘Road to Nowhere’ which was the start of an ambitious project to join the communities of Ness to Tolsta. It will provide us with more opportunities to look for cetaceans as well as a good chance of seeing both Golden and White-tailed Eagles. We will then make our way back towards our hotel stopping off for a short walk at the sheltered beach of Dalbeg. Overnight Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

DAY 7: West coast of Lewis
Today we head out to the remote west side of Lewis and its dramatic cliffs, sea stacks and exposed headlands. We start at Mangersta where an old naval radar station still stands, abandoned on the cliff top. Amongst the crevices we can find some interesting flora such as Roseroot and Moss Campion. It is also a great spot to look for seabirds with good numbers of Fulmars and marauding Great Skuas! Hidden amongst the cliffs are various stunning beaches where we will visit Carnish and Valtos to find Eider, Black-throated Diver and Black Guillemots. Other species we hope to find here include Whimbrel, Merlin and Golden Eagle. We will then stop at Calanais for a wander around the Neolithic standing stones where the surrounding hills and lochs also offer good spots to look for a variety of wildlife including Otters, Red Deer, Harbour Seal, Golden Eagle and Black-throated Diver. Overnight Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

DAY 8: Final Cetacean Morning
On our final morning we should have time to head across the Pentland Road towards Stornoway where we can take another look off the Braighe and Tiumpan Head in the hope of finding cetaceans and passing seabirds before returning to Stornoway where the tour concludes. 

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

Leader: Steve Duffield
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals, entrance fees, 2 boat trips, ground transport, and services of leader.
Not included in cost: Travel to Tarbet and from Stornoway, travel insurance, lunches & alcoholic drinks.
Accommodation: A mix of comfortable hotels / local guesthouses
Single Supplement: £199
Transport: Minibus throughout.
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Most birding will be done within close vicinity of the vehicle. However, we will take daily walks of around 3 – 5Km. Walking is easy going with leisurely walks, mostly on undulating ground.
Climate: Unpredictable! Be prepared for all weather with four seasons often experienced in one day!
Tour Start Point: Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
Tour End Point: Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.

White-tailed Eagle by Chris Townend