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Midsummer and Mingulay Special
19th - 24th June
In midsummer the nights are very short out here in the Outer Hebrides with only a couple of hours of darkness. The breeding season is in full swing for many birds whilst the machair and adjacent land is beginning to show some of its true colours. It’s a time of year when the diversity of wildlife is almost at its peak and this trip looks at all aspects of natural history from Otters to eagles, to butterfly orchids and insects. We'll also take a boat trip to Mingulay which with its thriving seabird colonies is likely to the highlight of the week. We first did this trip in 2016 and it was great success with masses of auks including Puffins and a close up of the spectacular cliffs along the western side of the island.
This is an excellent time of year to see Short-eared Owls as they’re busy feeding young and with the demands of supplying enough food for them often means the adults have to hunt well into the day. Other diurnal birds of prey will also feature and we’ll see both Golden and White-tailed Eagles as well as Hen Harrier, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. Black-throated Diver and Red-throated Divers breed whilst one or two Great Northern Divers often hang on into the summer and may be found during the week. Another group of breeding species that the islands are famed for is the waders. Some will have already finished, such as the Lapwing whilst others will also be busy feeding young such as Ringed Plover and Dunlin. One of the most specialist and rarest waders breeding in the UK, the Red-necked Phalarope may also be found with a bit of luck. They arrive at the end of May although once the females have courted the males they soon depart, leaving the male secretively incubating the eggs.
Otters are always a favourite and sure to be seen at some point during a week-long tour. The myriad of freshwater and sea lochs are ideal habitat for them whilst some of these same sea lochs support Harbour Seals which are giving birth at this time year. The larger and more robust Grey Seal will also be seen although these don’t have their young until November. The water’s off the west coast are quite shallow relatively speaking and don’t support many cetaceans although Bottle-nosed Dolphins are resident and may be seen. We may also see Basking Shark if lucky as it really depends on the year and the number that enter Hebridean waters.
South Uist in particular is probably one of the best sites in Scotland for Lesser Butterfly Orchid with colonies numbering over a thousand flower spikes seen in some areas. The Hebridean form of Common Spotted Orchid is also in flower now and we should also see Early and Northern Marsh Orchids. Early flowers such as Bird’s-foot Trefoil create carpets of flowers on the machair which in turn attract pollinating insects including the rare Great Yellow Bumblebee. We shall look for dragonflies and try our hand at moth trapping which can produce such gems as the Ghost Moth, Drinker, Fox Moth and Northern Eggar whilst Six-spot Burnet and the rare Argent and Sable may be found during the day. This is a very diverse tour which will provide a great insight into the islands fascinating natural history.
Short list of species: Whooper Swan, Eider, Gadwall, Shoveler, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Red-necked Phalarope, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Corncrake, Short-eared Owl, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers. Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot, Corn Bunting, Twite, plus many more. Red Deer, Grey and Common Seals, Otters. If the weather’s calm enough we will set a moth trap to have a peek at some of the local night life. We should also find a rich array of flowers including Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Round-leaved and Greater Sundew amongst many others.
Dates: 19th - 24th June
Tour duration: 5 nights / 6 days on the islands.
Cost: £750 per person
Accommodation is provided in some of the best local guesthouses for 5 nights.
All meals are provided with evening meals taken in local hotels. If you have special dietry requirements please let us know when bookng.
Group size: 8 (maximum)
Booking: Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to meet: The tour begins and ends in Uist. If you arrive by plane or as a foot passenger off the ferry we will be there to meet you and take you to your accommodation. If you arrive early and are already in the islands on the first day then you'll be picked up in the morning and we'll explore local habitats and wildlife whilst others arrive during the morning. On the last day we'll continue to search for wildlife until everyone has departed on their various flight / ferry connections.
Getting here: It is possible to reach the islands by both air and ferry. Flybe operate regular flights from Glasgow to Benbecula although the earlier you book the cheaper the fare. Alternatively Calmac operate ferries between Uig, Skye - Lochmaddy, North Uist and from Oban - Lochboisdale, South Uist. Once on the islands I will be there to meet you and take you to your accommodation before we head into the field.