Scotland ***£500 **£570 April  
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Capercaillie

Scotland at anytime of the year is a magical place for birds and birding, even more so the Highlands in spring. This the best time to catch up with the stunning and spectacular species in this magical part of Scotland. Have you longed to see exciting birds like the now endangered but stunning Capercaillie or itís near relative the Ptarmigan? Or perhaps you have wanted to see magnificent Golden Eagles, tiny Crested Tits or maybe summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes, Red-throated and Black-throated Divers. As well as Ospreys on their breeding grounds.

Imagine you are on the fringe of a Caledonian Woodland, it is 6am, itís cool, itís grey and dim. The sun has yet to rise. The ground is wet with heavy dew and in the undulating rolling rough grassland, patches of mist hover over the depressions. A Curlew punctuates the air with an alarming musical trill. Then from the left, and out of the gloom you make out the shape of a female Black Grouse as she flies in low and lands 50m away from you, closely followed by two males who quickly square up to one another. The air quickly becomes filled with the whooshes and bubbles of jousting male Black Grouse. The sun begins to rise and you see more clearly the males confronting one another, back and forth as they thrust and parry, calling distinctively, their breath visible in the cool morning, as they fight for dominance and more importantly the female, who appears nonchalant to the impressive display going on at her side. On a nearby small peaty pool, a pair of Goldeneye swim around, the male tossing his head back in an attempt to impress his female and win her favour.

Loch Garten

Another early morning, itís even earlier, 5:30 am. Weíve traveled the short distance from our very comfortable and warm beds, to a cool, grey RSPB Loch Garten. Weíve parked in the car park and bid a good morning to the poor soul on reception and made our way to the luxurious hide that is the Osprey Centre. Our quarry is the now rare and very elusive Capercaillie. The microphones pick up the distinctive rattle of a male as he displaysĖ tantalisingly just out view of the cameras. The sun begins to rise and then on the camera the striking pose of a huge male Capercailliecan just be made out. The light increases, and the huge tail, and head can clearly be seen. He moves out of camera shot and comes into view of the hide. We move to the forward hide, eager with anticipation at seeing this impressive male. In the distance he comes into view, then another male and a female appear even closer, giving stunning views as the males display, with their tails fanned, and strutting around, in the hope of winning over the female.

You too can witness spectacular scenes and many more like these. In spring Gone Birding will be running a tour to the Highlands of Scotland to experience birding in this superb area. In mid-April, a 5 day trip. For ***£500 **£570 all-inclusive price, you too can enjoy these magical birds in spectacular scenery with an experienced guide, in the friendly company of other birders. (maximum group size of 8 participants).

*A modest amount of fitness is required as the trip entails full days out from (optional) dawn trips for leks, to climbing hills in Cairngorm for Ptarmigan.

Lochindorb

Whatís covered in the ***£500 **£570: All transport costs (pickup probably Sheffield) All accommodation (bed & breakfast). All meals (breakfast inthe b+b)- sandwiches for lunch and full evening meals. All entrance fees. All guiding fees. Accommodation is in Aviemore itself, in comfortable b+bís with en-suite and tea making facilities.

What is not covered: Transport to pickup point. Evening meal for option B during overnight drive to Aviemore. Personal insurance & personal drinks. There are two cost options, ** £570, set off at 08:00, drive all day, arrive at our accommodation that evening. Obviously this will entail an extra nights b+b and extra evening meal, hence the higher cost. Or ***£500, set off at 20:00 in the evening for an overnight drive, with a view to being in Abernethy for first light.

Findhorn Valley

Itinerary The itinerary will be weather dependent. Trips to the hills and valleys may be brought forward or put back as the weather dictates. We will use a modern minibus with ample room. There is a £50 reduction in the tour price for a competent second driver to assist with the driving to and from Aviemore. Each day we will have an (optional) pre-breakfast jaunt, to search for Capercaillie, woodland species, or Black Grouse. We will return for a hearty breakfast, before heading out for the day for an active days birding to different locations to witness Scottish birding at its best. We return each night to Aviemore for a spruce up before enjoying an evening meal at a different local restaurant each night.

Day 1 A)**Pick up at 08:00 for drive to Aviemore o/night in b+b (extra night b+b). B)*** Pick up at 20:00 for o/night drive to Abernethy (cheaper option). Stopping several times, for birding, rest breaks. If we arrive in good time we can visit a local loch for Red-throated Diver. Wigeon and Goldeneye, and possibly Osprey. We then go into Aviemore for a meal.

Day 2 Be in Abernethy for first light to witness a Black Grouse lek and hopefully catch up with Capercaillie, Crossbills and Crested Tit. Return and have a hearty & deserved breakfast. We will spend the late morning and early afternoon in the Findhorn Valley looking for raptors and upland species. These should include Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Buzzard, Dipper, Ring Ouzel and Raven. In the past we have also had Red Kite and White-tailed Eagle. If we are feeling fit we will spend the remaining time at the RSPB reserve at Loch Garten (bring RSPB membership cards if you have them), to observe the world famous Ospreys (if they have returned) as well as try for Crested Tit and the Crossbills.

Day 3 Optional early morning venture looking for woodland species. Return for breakfast. If the weather is fine we will visit Cairngorm to locate Ptarmigan, possibly Snow Bunting, stopping at Loch Morlich to search for breeding Wigeon and Goldeneye. We have also had Red and Black-throated Divers here. Depending how easy Ptarmigan are, we will go north to a large loch to find breeding plumaged Black-throated Diver on territory, and hopefully hear their eerie calls or return to Abernethy for woodland species.

Day 4 Optional early morning venture looking for woodland species, which will hopefully include Parrot Crossbills in the unique Caledonian Pine woods. Return for breakfast. After breakfast we head north to the cost and Spey Bay. Here we will make several stops to witness 1000's of seaduck. Long-tailed Duck should number their 1000's, as should Common Scoter. Also look out for Velvet Scoter, plus possibly all 3 diver species, as well as grebes. Not to mention the seabirds, including Gannet, Fulmar and a variety of Gulls. In the harbours we should pick up Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone. We may return to Loch Garten or a fish farm to hopefully enjoy the Ospreys.

Day 5 Optional early morning venture looking for woodland species. Return for breakfast and check out of b+b. Spend the morning cleaning up on anything we want better views of, or a walk around Loch-en-Eileen for Crested Tit, before heading south at lunchtime, with several stops (inc. possibly Loch of the Lowes for more Ospreys). And near Stirling for Red Kites. Arriving Sheffield early evening.

Cairngorm

Previous & current trip reports available in our Tour Report Archive.

Bookings are now being taken for our next Scotland tour click here

Summary

Cost: £500***- £570**,4 days & 4 nights or 5 days & 4 nights (see notes on left). £100 deposit required at time of booking.

Duration: 4-5 days,***4** nights (see notes on left).

Group Size: Min: 3 Max: 8

No. of Prev. Tours Here: 10

Average Trip List: 110

Included/ Not Included: Included- All ground transport, accommodation, meals, guiding, entrance fees. Not Included- Insurance, transport to pick-up point, drinks of a personal nature, laundry.

Depart From: Probably a pick up point in Sheffield.

Accommodation: Well appointed bed & breakfast accommodation in Aviemore. All rooms en-suite- excellent breakfasts, all tastes catered for. Rooms- double/ twin. Single travelers can share a twin or single room supplement at £60.

Ground Transport: Luxury 7 seater MPV, lots of room for birders & bags, with air conditioning and passenger heating system.

Leader: Andy Hirst

Target: Speciality Caledonian Woodland, Alpine mountain & moorland species, plus coastal seabirds.

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Special Notice: The weather can vary hour from hour, so full winter/ waterproof gear and good boots are required.