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Scottish Highlands new birdwatching guide

Best Birdwatching Sites: Scottish Highlands

Findhorn Valley 2

Very excited to get our hands on the new expanded edition of Gordon Hamlett's great book "Best Birdwatching Sites - Scottish Highlands". Alan is co-author of the North Wales edition in the series of Best Birdwatching Sites so he's not entirely neutral but he does know what makes a good birdwatching site guide!

The first edition has travelled with us many times north of the border up to the Highlands and has been very well used indeed. So will the new edition match up and improve the classic first publication?

Well, first impressions are very good. The cover now has a very atmospheric painting of a loch complete with a pair of stunning Black-throated Divers. Flipping over the book there are impressive stats on the back: 27 birding routes are included, 217 maps, up-to-date bird information and a checklist, birding tips to get the most from each site, advice for less mobile visitors, details of the islands of Mull, Skye, Iona and Handa, a month-by-month guide,there's a lot packed in to one compact book! Nonetheless, it is still easily portable and is a must in your glove box as you drive north. Or better still in your passengers hands planning the trip ahead on that long drive! A lot of the fun of any birding trip is the planning and the anticipation of all those great birds to hunt for.

The new guide covers a lot more ground than the first with the inclusion of the islands and north-east Aberdeenshire, right to the east coast. These are a very valuable addition as so many birders include one or other of these on a tour of the Highlands and it is very frustrating to have to carry multiple guide books on one trip.

Tobermorry Mull

Having recently returned from leading a tour on the Isle of Mull, we were keen to see the new information provided in the book. Would it match up to our recent experiences?

Reading Gordon's information about the wonderful Isle of Mull was rather like reading a detailed trip report of our tour! All the places we had visited were covered and clearly explained and the maps were spot on, just as we had found the sites on the ground. The species listed as possible for each location again matched very well with what we had experienced. So a big thumbs up for the Isle of Mull section - a very valuable addition to the guide.

But this book is entitled "Scottish Highlands" so it is the highlands that really need to be the meat of this book. We are very lucky to have enjoyed a lot of time birdwatching in the highlands and led many bird tours to this magical place - so does the book match up with our experiences here as well? Simple answer: yes, and more!

Caper Garten Oct 2

Each site is covered in great detail,and the book sets out suggested tours linking sites together to make a potential day tour. These tours are well planned and will save you a lot of time putting together your trip. Of course the information contained is just as useful as a standalone guide to each location. To give you a good idea of how the book works, we can have a look at one site that many people will know of and just about everyone will include on their visit to the highlands, RSPB Loch Garten.

Loch Garten birders Oct

Loch Garten is, of course famous for its breeding Ospreys but as Gordon explains there is much more to enjoy here. The Loch Garten area has ten pages devoted to eight sub-sites near the famous loch, each with a map and details of birds and wildlife likely to be seen. But still there is much more, a detailed introduction to the area gives a real feel for the habitat and terrain. The "Key Points", which are given for every site, allow an at-a-glance guide to those important facts such as: nearest facilities, location of hides handy on those rare wet days, which Ordnance Survey maps cover the area, guided walks in the area, and disabled access. These "Key Points" vary from site to site, of course, but are really useful and easy to find arranged in a column on the righthand side.

An overview map of the area puts the eight sites in context with the other sites which really helps planning your day. Tips on getting to the area are also very useful if coming in from outside the area. A list of possible birds and wildlife in the area is sub-divided into "All year", "Spring to Autumn", "Autumn to Spring", "Occasional" and "Other Wildlife". In our experience these lists are very accurate and give a true idea of what to expect. Each of the eight sites within the Loch Garten area are dealt with in detail. Each sub-site has a map which is clear and easy to understand; details are given of how to bird the site and what key species to look for, and most importantly, where at each site you should look for which particular bird. Just what you want from a site guide!

Cairngorm view top 3 Oct 1

There is so much more to this book than the detailed site information; it also includes plenty of useful tips such as "Driving in the Highlands", "The Journey North", "Your Birding Year", a checlist of birds for the area, and lots more! This book really is jam-packed with useful information. There is even a whole page devoted to confusing crossbills!

The "Best Birdwatching Sites - Scottish Highlands" will certainly be very well-used on all our visits to this beautiful part of the UK so rich in birds, wildlife and scenery. We highly recommend this guide.

You can order you copy direct from the publishers, £18.95, ISBN number 978-0-9569876-5-5. Please make cheques payable to "Buckingham Press Ltd" and send to Buckingham Press Ltd, 55 Thorpe Park Road, Peterbrough, PE3 6LJ.

If you are looking for a wonderful place to stay during your visit to the Highlands we know you will love The Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey. We have stayed there many times and will be back again in the Autumn. If you would like to join us on one of our bird and wildlife tours of the Highlands do drop us a line at...

We know you will love the birds, wildlife, stunning scenery and the Grant Arms Hotel! Our next set departure tour is 8th - 12th October 2014 - but we also run many custom tours on dates to suit our clients so do drop us a line for details.

Pine Martin Oct 2

Loch Garten view Oct


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