Entering British Scandinavia – Part 1

We had high expectations of our first Scottish birdwatching trip as well as the first father-and-son holiday. It was the first holiday for me in 6 years and it was just about time to escape from the daily stress what my private life crisis caused. Scotland seemed to be a reasonably cheap yet a very exciting destination not only from birdwatching point of view. I can only talk in superlatives about our one week. Spectacular landscapes, incredibly kind and tolerant people, motorways with a car a minute, outstanding driving experiences on the single lane roads, crowdless villages and towns, unusually wonderful weather and the reflection of the ancient atmosphere of the British ‘Scandinavia’ made this trip unforgettable.

After collecting my last minute parcel (a very cheap but very good Coleman Pathfinder sleeping bag) from my company, we started our 900+ km long journey up the north-west. Prior to that Dani had his first life bird, a Red Kite, over the M1 motorway just 10 minutes after we left the Luton Airport. After crossing the Scottish border we got really excited by the scenery. Our first birding spot in Scotland was along the River Clyde close to the M74 motorway just south of Glasgow between Elvanfoot and Watermeetings villages. This valley is a mixture of different habitats such as pebble islands of the river, extensive meadow and moorland, pastures surrounded by forests on the eastern side. Songs and territorial calls of Eurasian Oystercatechers, Eurasian Curlews, Common Redshanks and Northern Lapwings with the company of Meadow Pipits and Eurasian Skylarks filled the whole valley. For a shorebird lover this is simply a heaven. These habitats are not exciting by the high variety of waders but the special atmosphere what they create with their characteristic display flight songs. We especially liked the rarely heard bubbling song of the curlews.

River Clyde valley with meadow and surrounding forests. iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly


The Eurasian Curlew is one of the rapidly disappearing moorland waders what deserve full protection. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly


Eurasian Oystercatcher is a rather common off-coast breeder in the Scottish moorland and upland meadows. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V © Gyorgy Szimuly

As we headed towards the north we were caught by the jawdropping scenery and the calmness of the first lochs. After a couple of short stops we finally managed to get close to our destination, the Uig Ferry Port on the Isle of Skye. Well, we thought we were close enough. In fact there was a lot to see what was almost impossible to ignore. As we hoped to get good views of Golden Eagles, I made an emergency stop at a foothill when Dani spotted a raptor. It was a Common Buzzard but the opposite hillside looked really good for Red Grouse. Shortly after the buzzard disappeared I heard a characteristic Red Grouse call from the bottom of the valley. As lights decreased we gave up finding it but I made a record of it in eBird.

Due to the increased night activity of deers along the way, I decided to stop before one of them jumped out of the darkness in front of our car. We had fun sleeping in the car. Well, not really, but it was the only option…

This heather covered hills seemed to be perfect for finding Dani's second life bird, the Red Grouse (Willow Grouse). iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

This heather covered hills seemed to be perfect for finding Dani’s second life bird, the Red Grouse (Willow Grouse). iPhone 6s Plus © Gyorgy Szimuly

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One thought on “Entering British Scandinavia – Part 1

  1. Awesome write-up Gyorgy and the following sentence sums things up nicely from my own viewpoint as an open-minded conservationist who wants to see our moorlands thrive. “Songs and territorial calls of Eurasian Oystercatechers, Eurasian Curlews, Common Redshanks and Northern Lapwings with the company of Meadow Pipits and Eurasian Skylarks filled the whole valley. For a shorebird lover this simply a heaven.” Fantastic stuff.

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