Scotland: January 2019

My200BirdYear – get 2019 off to great start!

Give your tick list an early boost on a trip to see some fantastic birds in Scotland in January next year...

Ptarmigan. Pic: Neil McIntyre

Ptarmigan. Pic: Neil McIntyre

PRICE: £1,095pp, no single supplement.

DATES: Sat 5 Jan – Sat 12 Jan, or Sat 12 Jan – Sat 19 Jan 2019.

GUIDES/GROUP SIZE: Your guides will be Scott O’Hara and John Picton, two highly experienced members of the Heatherlea team. Maximum Group size seven per guide.

Contact Heatherlea: Tel: 01479 821248 / Email / Website

Now is the time to begin thinking about your 2019 birding year, and here is a chance to get off to a cracking start! Our #My200BirdYear programme begins with a holiday in conjunction with Heatherlea in Scotland, which offers excellent birding in January. We aim to see as many species as possible, and this exciting holiday is ideal for general birders who want to see Scotland’s birds in winter, as well as those who keep lists.

Crested Tit. Pic: Neil McIntyre

Crested Tit. Pic: Neil McIntyre

Our main priority will be British specialities best sought in the Highlands, and we specifically target Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Black Grouse, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit.

We also seek a host of northern winter visitors and spend a lot of time concentrating on any available rarities: King Eider and Surf Scoter are regular winter visitors, and the unexpected can be expected! We maximise our list during the week and estimate around 120 species, including many ‘difficult’ birds you might otherwise miss without a guide, or struggle to locate further south in the UK. Your personal sightings are important of course, and the Heatherlea guides try to make sure everyone sees everything!

The holiday organiser, Heatherlea, is one of Britain’s leading birding tour companies and is based at its home at Mountview Hotel, in Nethy Bridge. We will spend time in the adjacent Caledonian pinewoods of Abernethy Forest for speciality birds, visit the Cairngorm Mountains to see Ptarmigan, and explore remote glens for eagles and other raptors.

Northern coastal habitats provide great birding in winter, and with the Moray Firth, Aberdeenshire, the West Coast and secluded bays north of Inverness all within reach, our prospects are excellent. Your guides will closely monitor weather, tides and local bird news to make sure we maximise our birding.

We anticipate that the whole hotel will be given over to our holiday, meaning a great birding atmosphere, as the entire week is run by birders for birders, a very enjoyable prospect! Check ‘what’s included’ for more details.

We want you to get your new #My200BirdYear off to a brillant start, so come and join us for a great fun week birding in Scotland with expert guides!

Tour guides:

Scott O’Hara – Scott grew up in Montrose on the Scottish east coast and is an experienced Heatherlea guide. When not guiding groups, Scott is an enthusiastic and avid birder with a particular passion for waders, wildfowl and seabirds.

John Picton – John has been actively watching wildlife in the Highlands for more than 30 years and has been guiding full time in Scotland for more than eight years. A good all-round naturalist, John specialises in birds and has a special interest in raptors.

What’s included?

Seven 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.
Full Scottish breakfast, a substantial packed lunch, and a delicious dinner.
Six full days wildlife watching with Heatherlea, VisitScotland rated 5 stars for ‘Wildlife Experience’.
Guidance from professional group leaders.
All transport by comfortable PCV minibus, including Capercaillie safari in Heatherlea’s private estate grounds (weather permitting).
A checklist specifically prepared for your holiday to record your sightings and notes.
Courtesy bus service to and from Aviemore.

What’s not included

Travel to The Mountview Hotel. Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.

Somerset: May/June 2019

To book this tour: Call 01934 712831 or click here

Somerset is now the best place in Britain to see – and get great views of – some of the country’s most sought-after bird species. The Avalon Marshes are the heron capital of Britain, with up to seven species breeding there.


Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets float over the reedbeds, or fish in the watery ditches known as rhynes. Bitterns, too, are often glimpsed as they fly low over the reeds – they are easiest to see in late spring when they are feeding their young. In May and June, you can watch Hobbies chasing dragonflies, Marsh Harriers performing their sky-dance and Cuckoos calling over the reeds.

In the nearby Quantock and Mendip Hills, we’ll enjoy a chorus of birdsong, while on the coast almost anything can – and does – turn up. At a time when much of Britain’s birdlife is in decline, Somerset offers a truly awesome birding experience.

We at Somerset Birdwatching Holidays pride ourselves on our attention to detail: we take a maximum of seven clients in our special vehicle (christened Thunderbird One), and offer luxury accommodation, splendid food and convivial company. With naturalist and author Stephen Moss and keen birder Graeme Mitchell as your guides, this holiday is ideal for birdwatchers at any level, from complete beginner onwards.

Our unrivalled knowledge of some of Somerset’s best-kept secret sites, and their birds, means you’ll get unforgettable views of some of Britain’s most charismatic species. We love showing people not just the birds and other wildlife of Somerset, but also the history and culture of this unique county and its myriad landscapes: from hills, to coast, to those magical wetlands. So please join us on a relaxing, enjoyable and above all memorable tour.


GREAT WHITE EGRET Our star species – and the proud logo of Somerset Birdwatching Holidays – is one of Britain’s greatest conservation success stories. Having arrived on the Avalon Marshes less than a decade ago, these stately white herons now breed in large numbers, and sightings are absolutely guaranteed.

BITTERN Or ‘toasted heron’, as one local schoolboy named it. One of Britain’s most elusive species, the Bittern has made an extraordinary comeback, from just 11 booming males in the 1990s to more than 50 now on the Avalon Marshes alone! We’ll keep a sharp eye out for these charismatic birds as they appear momentarily on the edge of a reedbed, or fly overhead.

CRANE Europe’s tallest bird – and one of its most spectacular – can be surprisingly hard to track down in this huge wetland, but we’ll check out the latest reports and hope to connect with flocks of these stately waterbirds in the fields around West Sedgemoor.

HOBBY This elegant falcon returns from Africa in late April, when flocks gather over the marshes on fine spring days. We’ll keep a constant eye out for these speed merchants as they hawk acrobatically for insects in the skies above.

CATTLE EGRET Europe’s smallest egret first bred in the UK on 2009 – guess where? Yes, Somerset! Since then flocks of more than 50 birds have been seen, lending a touch of Africa to the West Country. We’ll visit a local heronry where the birds breed, and hope to see them as they fly in and ou


Spring Spectacular Choose from two dates, each with two-and-a-half days birding and three nights DBB – • Fri 10 May to Mon 13 May • Mon 3 June to Thu 6 June

DETAILS: All accommodation is en suite in luxury converted cottages or an adjacent B&B, and the holiday price includes dinner and drinks, self-service breakfast, pub lunch, all transport during your stay, and the services of our guides Stephen and Graeme. Group size maximum 7 clients. PRICE: £565pp (deposit £100) Single room supplement £75pp


Stephen Moss

Stephen Moss

Tour Leader Stephen is one of Britain’s best-known naturalists, authors and wildlife TV producers. His TV credits include Springwatch, The Nature of Britain and Birds Britannia, while his many books include Wild Hares and Hummingbirds, The Robin: A Biography, and Mrs Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names. Stephen moved to Somerset 12 years ago with his young family, and loves showing people the bird and wildlife wonders of his adopted home.

Graeme Mitchell

Graeme Mitchell

Your Hosts Graeme and Kay Mitchell ran a specialist holiday company for 25 years, taking thousands of people around Britain and the wider world to visit gardens and historical attractions. Having settled down with their family in Somerset two decades ago, they founded Somerset Birdwatching Holidays in 2017. Graeme’s guiding skills and Kay’s wonderful cooking make them the perfect hosts for your stay.


DAY 1: Arrive mid-afternoon at Walls Farm, near Wedmore. After settling in, you can use the heated swimming pool or spot the birds in the garden, orchard and around the pond, before enjoying a Welcome Dinner and looking ahead to our planned excursions.

DAY 2: Optional pre-breakfast walk, in a mixed woodland on the nearby Mendip Hills. After breakfast we’ll head down to the Avalon Marshes, and spend the morning exploring this wetland wonderland. In May or June this will be heaving with birds: we’ll look for Hobbies hawking for insects, Bitterns flying over the vast reedbeds, Marsh Harriers displaying and hunting, and up to three species of egret.

Great White Egrets now outnumber their smaller cousin the Little Egret, and we also hope to see the latest colonist, the Cattle Egret. RSPB Ham Wall is also alive with songbirds – up to nine species of warbler can be seen in a single visit – while the marshes are also excellent for insects, notably a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies. After lunch at a local hostelry, we’ll explore some of the hidden corners of the Somerset Levels, including Stephen and Graeme’s local patch, before returning to Walls Farm for a convivial supper.

DAY 3: Today we’ll head for the ‘wild west’ – the Quantock Hills and the Somerset coast. The beautiful oakwoods of the Quantocks are home to a trio of summer songsters – Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher – while we’ll also look for Dipper and Grey Wagtail on the rivers and streams. We’ll time the tides to get the best of the exciting new WWT reserve at Steart Marshes, home to breeding Avocets and a wide range of waders and wildfowl. We’ll return to Walls Farm for our final dinner.

DAY 4: After breakfast in the cottage, we’ll spend our last morning visiting any sites we haven’t managed to get to already, or searching for target species we may have missed. Options include heading to the southern half of the levels to look for Cranes, visiting Stephen and Graeme’s coastal patch for migrants and waders, or simply returning to the wetland wonderland that is the Avalon Marshes.

Please note: itineraries are given only as a guide. The locations visited may vary, according to the weather and tide times, and the species we are hoping to see.

To book this tour: Call 01934 712831 or click here