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Barnacle Geese
Islay, Scotland © Dan Brown

Islay & Jura in Winter — The Quest for Eagles, Otters & Geese

From £450 per adult

Departure days

  • M
  • T
  • W
  • T
  • F
  • S
  • S

January — February

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The wild islands of Islay & Jura are havens for wildlife year-round and even in the depths of winter there are still thousands of birds, Otters and deer present, not to mention several pairs of Golden & White-tailed Eagles.

Tour runs: 23 - 26 Feb 2021

2022 Dates TBC

Highlights

  • We hope that Golden & White-tailed Eagles will be daily encounters
  • With as many as 30,000 Barnacle Geese and 5,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese we will be in for a spectacle
  • The shores of these islands are excellent for Otters
  • Jura is home to as many as 5,000 Red Deer as well as Roe Deer
  • Common & Grey Seals can be found all around the coast
  • As well as the geese there are thousands wildfowl and waders including Purple Sandpiper and many seaducks
  • The expert leadership of husband & wife team, Dan & Rachael
  • Every one of our short tours donates to an exciting, local conservation project
  • To help maintain social distancing this will be a self-drive tour
  • BEST VALUE wildlife experiences on a budget that suits you
What better way to start the year off with a short-break to these southern-most Hebrides in search of their best wildlife. 

Islay and Jura support around 30,000 Barnacle and 5,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese in winter, the latter around 25% of the world population. Spectacular in itself this huge concentration of birds also attracts predators and the islands have some exceptionally high densities of both Golden and White-tailed Eagles and we expect encounters with both, hopefully on a daily basis.

Hen Harriers, Merlin and Peregrine all occur in good numbers alongside a plethora of waders including Grey Plover and Purple Sandpipers, wildfowl such as Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Eiders and Scoters and the sheltered bays hold all three divers and Slavonian Grebes. Along the coast Otters are widely scattered and we stand an excellent chance of encountering them. The moors are home to herds of Red Deer whilst the marshes and woodland have Roe Deer. Grey and Common Seals are common around the coast. 

The dunes and coasts of Islay support a good population of Chough and we plan on enjoying their sublime aerodynamics along with their larger cousin, the Raven. Islay is even home to farmland and woodland birds and we hope to find Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Redpoll, Skylark and more.

Join us for what promises to be a wildlife-filled four days.

Itinerary

Day 1:

The epicentre of activity on Islay revolves around RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve. This hub of activity and mecca for wildlife will enthral us. In winter thousands of Barnacle Geese flood to the grasslands and saltmarsh to feed along with hundreds of Greenland White-fronted Geese and also often rarer species such as Cackling Goose. We will check the fields for Golden Plovers and Lapwing, Roe Deer and Brown Hares; whilst the floods can hold up to 2,000 Teal, Pintail, Wigeon and Shoveler. The woodland walk is a great spot for Treecreepers and Bullfinches and on the edges we may find Yellowhammer and Reed Buntings. 

Out on the mudflats Knot, Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwit and Dunlin will all be actively feeding and we may also find Eider in the estuary too. We will also head to the northwestern tip of Islay at Ardnave where Chough can be found on the dunes and, with luck, Snow Buntings too. The coast here is excellent for Otters and Grey Seal whilst Sanderling chase the breaking waves up and down the beach.

Day 2:

In stark contrast to our day on Islay, we will head to Jura today with its formidable and rugged landscape. Here, large herds of Red Deer graze the moors overseen by Golden and White-tailed Eagles soaring from the Paps of Jura. Wild Goats graze the crags and along the shorelines Otters can be frequently found foraging in the seaweed strewn bays. In fact, today we will be particularly focused on finding this elusive mustelid and we also hope for some good eagle encounters too.

Day 3:

Back on the Isle of Islay, at its southern end lies the mighty Oa Peninsula. An imposing mass battered by the Atlantic and home to species such as Golden Eagle and Twite. We will walk the coast here enjoying the stunning scenery and hoping for an encounter with an eagle.

We will also take time to explore the more sheltered bays around Port Ellen and Kildalton where Common Seals haul out, Otters forage in the shallows and a plethora of farmland and woodland birds can be found from Yellowhammers to Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Our eyes will be peeled for White-tailed Eagles and Peregrines as they cruise overhead.

Day 4:

Our final day will have a wetland bird theme as we head to the west coast and the stunning Machir and Sangimore Bays as well as the sheltered waters of Loch Gorm and Loch Indaal. We hope to encounter Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot, Slavonian Grebe, Red-throated and Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Eider, Common Scoter, Scaup, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Merlin, a suite of geese, as well as a few mammals such as Brown Hare, Common Seal and Otter.

Over the four days we will hope to have multiple eagle encounters (of both species) as well as Otter and up to 100 species of bird.


Wild Discovery Short Tours: Great for your budget, sensitive to your health

To help maintain social distancing this is a self-drive tour and the meeting points and timings will be provided to you in advance. These tours specifically allow you to source accommodation and food to fit your budget and tastes. This makes our short tours the most cost effective way to maximise your wildlife watching whilst being ‘Covid-aware’.

We recommend staying on Islay as we will be exploring the whole of the island (and Jura). We suggest a central location, such as Bowmore, Bridgend or Port Charlotte and can provide more detailed suggestions if you require.

Visit our website for more details about his tour.

Why not recreate this experience with friends on dates that suit you? Build on our existing itinerary to customise your experience.

COVID-19 information

In recognition that this business has confirmed that they have followed government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, ensuring processes are in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social/physical distancing.

Contact details

Wild Discovery
272 Bath Street
Glasgow
Scotland
G2 4JR
Starting
Islay
Length
4
Days
Transport
Self drive
Type
Bespoke Private Small Group (1-16)
Languages
English
Themes
Landscapes Outdoor Activities Walking Walking/Hiking Wildlife

COVID-19 facilities

  • Advance booking essential
  • COVID-19 measures in place
  • COVID-19 risk assessment completed
  • Capacity limit
  • Hand sanitiser available to visitors & staff

Tour prices

From

  • £450 Per Adult
Book now

Prices are subject to change depending on season

Attractions

Tour company information

Wild Discovery

A pioneering wildlife-watching tour company run by experts for wildlife enthusiasts. Conservation and sustainability are at its core; travel with purpose, tread lightly and experience more. Founded by husband and wife team Dan & Rachael Brown, they bring passion and expertise to every expedition. Driven by current biodiversity loss, the climate crisis and the need to reconnect people with nature, they created a company that endeavours to address all these through sustainable conservation-orientated tourism. We offer fully inclusive tours, short breaks or custom-made tours.

Opening times

Open all year.

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