Autumn in the Outer Hebrides

Dates: 17th - 23rd October 2020

MerlinWhite-rumped SandpiperRed-breasted Flycatcher

This new autumn trip is based in Uist but includes day trips to both Barra and Harris. Taking the ferry across the Sound of Barra allows us the opportunity to catch up with Great Northern, Red-throated and Black-throated Divers; with the latter being quite localised once they retrun to their wintering areas. The Sound of Harris crossing is also good for close views of divers but also for White-tailed Eagle that are a regular site on the many islands found in the shallow waters. On Barra we explore the small patches of woodland and scrub for migrants which regularly include Red-bresated Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Warbler at this time of year; although some years there are much rarer species to be found, like the Northern Oriole featured in the header of this page! Harris by contrast is seldom visited so it's almost an open book and we just don't know what we could find apart from the Sound of Taransay where there's a good chance we'll spot Surf Scoter amongst the flock of Common Scoters that winter here.

We'll also explore Uist and Benbecula which have a good variety of habitats as well as a good population of raptors which include both species of eagle, Merlins and good numbers of Hen Harrier. The first of the Greenland Barnacle Geese often drop in around this time and often involve a large scale movement as they abondon their northerly breeding areas. Cackling Geese are a possibility amongst the Barnacle Geese whilst White-fronted Geese and pale-bellied Brent Geese are also likely to be seen migrating over. Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe will also be returning to various bays and coastlines whilst rare waders such as American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and the occasional White-rumped Sandpiper can be found amongst the regular species. On the machair we'll look for Lapland Buntings amongst the large flocks of Skylarks and Twite. These impressive flocks of smaller birds, in turn attract predators and we're sure to encounter Merlin hunting out in the open fields.

There are a few small patches of trees and shrubs that draw in passerines that are moving through the islands and we're bound to come across a decent variety of warblers, flycatcher and chats. Being a long way from the east coast means that the outer islands don't see large numbers of migrants but some do make it across. The bonus is that there's the chance of finding something for ourselves as there are few birders in the islands which make it a very exciting place to bird in the autumn.

Hen HarrierGreat Northern DiverPectoral Sandpiper

Short list of species: Whooper Swan, Barnacle Goose, White-fronted Goose, pale-bellied Brent Geese, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Surf Scoter, Gadwall, Shoveler, American Golden Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Grey Phalarope, Great Skua, Arctic Tern, Sooty Shearwater, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Divers, Black-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Corn Bunting, Lapland 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.

Full itinerary coming soon

Dates: 17th - 23rd October 2020.

Tour duration: 6 nights / 7 days on the islands.

Cost: £850 per person if 2 sharing / £950 for single room occupancy

Accommodation is provided in some of the best local guesthouses for 6 nights.

Transport is in a 9-seater minibus and is included in the price. Ferry travel to Barra and Harris are also included.

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: steveduffield70@gmail.com

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. Loganair 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.