Spring into the United Kingdom (Scotland & England) 2018: From the King’s Ancient Forest to Caledonia

April 02 - 12, 2018
Tour Length: 11 days Est. Spaces Left: 0


No Tour Extensions Listed.
Future Departures:
No Future Dates Available
Tour Leaders:
Max # Birders:
6 + 1 leader
Birds; Photography; Culture;
Easy to Moderate ; Relaxed with some early mornings
Double Accommodation:
$ 3500
[per person]
Single Supplement:
+ $ 200
$500 [per person]

We’re offering this special tour again in 2018. Late winter and early spring is a glorious time to enjoy the wildlife of the Scottish Highlands. We visit at a time when many of the resident species are beginning their breeding routines and the earliest summer migrants are starting to arrive. In particular, our tour is timed to coincide with the lekking of the forest grouse and aerial acrobatics of displaying raptors. This is also a time when coastal bays are thronged with extensive flocks of migrating wildfowl and secluded bays and lochs resound to the haunting calls of displaying divers. Add to this the magical atmosphere of the tracts of native Caledonian forests, dramatic mountain vistas and wide open skies and the gushing waters of the mighty River Spey and its many tributaries for an unforgettable experience. In addition to the Scottish element of the tour, we are able to include a unique opportunity to visit the ancient woodlands of Gloucestershire’s Forest of Dean and the vast marshes of the Somerset Levels, an area recently benefitting by increased habitat preservation and management which has really put it on the birding map as a top destination. Its network of relatively new reserves will hopefully safeguard large tracts of this important wetland habitat for many generations to come. Numbers of wildfowl here are impressive, and with regular over-wintering Great White and Cattle Egrets and even occasional Glossy Ibis and Eurasian Spoonbills, it is certainly an area worthy of exploration. During March and early April, Great Bitterns are booming everywhere and the reeds hold shouting Cetti’s Warblers, ‘pinging’ Bearded Tits and quartering Marsh Harriers. Freshwater drains support Otter families and at dusk the skies are transformed by swarming Common Starlings coming into roost. Raptors unsurprisingly feature in this watery landscape, and include Peregrine, Hen Harrier and both Barn and Short-eared Owls. Chew Valley Lake in neighbouring Avon is also visited, adding the chance of rarities such as Lesser Scaup or Ring-necked Duck, as well as the first spring migrants that could include Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Green and Common Sandpipers, Garganey, Common Chiffchaff and Blackcap. The Forest of Dean will precede this wetland wilderness, and here in pristine woodland we look for Hawfinch, Common Crossbill, Northern Goshawk, Willow Tit, Mandarin Duck, Eurasian Siskin, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll, while Great Grey Shrike and Firecrest could also be available. The terrain is mostly easy, though the walk for Rock Ptarmigan could be steep and there may well be lying snow; however it is quite likely that we will take the funicular railway for this species. The pace is relaxed and the accommodation charming, cosy and traditional rather than large hotels. You can expect to walk an average of three to four miles per day on mostly good paths. Owing to the nature of some of the species involved, there will be some early starts, though these are purely optional. However, we recommend that you try to participate fully for maximum enjoyment of the tour. Your tour leaders will be Ashley Saunders and Neil Donaghy and you can expect to see approximately 150 species. We may also visit sites not mentioned in the main itinerary.

Photo: Bearded Tit by F. Davis


  • Meeting Location

    Arrive in London (Heathrow); depart from Edinburgh, Scotland


    Very comfortable lodges


    All inclusive from day one dinner through day eleven breakfast. Ten nights lodging, transport, entry fees, guides, tips. (Tips to guides optional)


    Flights; alcoholic beverages; personal calls; laundry; any other items of a personal nature.

  • Top Birds

    Arctic Loon; Little Grebe; Great Crested Grebe; Great Bittern; Common Shelduck; Garganey; Mandarin Duck; Common Pochard; Smew; Red Kite; White-tailed Eagle; Red Grouse; Pied Avocet; Eurasian Curlew; Black-tailed Godwit; Common Redshank; Atlantic puffin; Little Owl; Common Kingfisher; Green Woodpecker; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Rock & Meadow Pipits; Pied & Gray Wagtail; White-throated Dipper; Dunnock; Common Stonechat; Song & Mistle Thrush; Ring Ouzel; Cetti’s warbler; Blackcap; Bearded, Marsh, Blue, Great, Coal, Long-tailed, Crested Tits; Eurasian Jay; Jackdaw; Carrion & Hooded Crow; Rook; Chaffinch; Bullfinch; Scottish Crossbill; Reed Bunting, many more..

    Top Mammals

    Red deer; Roe deer; Mountain & European hare; Hedgehog; Red Fox.

    Habitats Covered

    Coast; Scottish Highlands; Caledonian forests; wetlands; lochs.

    Expected Climate

    Mild with occasional light rain and mist. Morning temps can be in the 40’s.

  • Other Attractions

    England & Scotland culture & architecture; scenery.

    Suggested Clothing & Gear
    • Valid, current passport (w/ 4 blank pages)
    • Credit cards / cash
    • Binoculars
    • Scope and tripod (optional)
    • Sunglasses and sunscreen
    • Water bottle
    • Small umbrella
    • Small day pack / fanny pack
    • Small flashlight
    • Prescription drugs - carry in original packaging to avoid customs problems
    • OTC medicines (antibiotics, cold/sinus, cough drops, eye drops, analgesic (Motrin, aspirin), anti-diarrheal)
    • Toiletries
    • Small alarm clock
    • Field guides
    • Hiking Boots/Shoes
    • Lightweight shoes/sneakers/sandals
    • Medium-weight jacket
    • Medium-weight long pants
    • Medium-weight long-sleeved shirts
    • Warm hat with visor
    • Rain hat
    Recommended Reading
    • Birds of Europe with North Africa & the Middle East

      Lars Jonsson (1992)
      Princeton University Press
    • Birds of Europe

      Killian Mullarney, et al. (1999)
      Princeton University Press
    • A Field Guide to the Rare Birds of Britain & Europe

      Ian Lewington, et al. (1991)
      Domino Books, Ltd.


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