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Coll Bird Festival
18th/19th/20th May 2018

Is the corncrake your nemesis?   Has your best sighting just been a fleeting glance and you didn’t get that photo?   Did you know that the best place to see the corncrake, along with a host of other fantastic and often rare wildlife, is the Isle of Coll?   And, the best time of year is late April to mid-May which is why we host Coll Bird Festival at this time of year.

Over the course of a 3-day weekend, Coll Bird Festival (in partnership with the local RSPB reserve) offers a variety of guided walks, boat trips, and talks. The ever popular puffin trips to Lunga are back and new, for 2018, is a boat trip to Tiree, a hunt for sand lizards and/or short-necked oil beetles, and an opportunity to listen to the enchanting night-time song of Coll at our dusk-watch.   We also host a ceilidh and organise a beach clean with BBQ to finish off the weekend.   Visitors can book a package deal or pick and choose individual events.

For 2018 we are pleased to be offering the following:

  • New ‘Off the Beaten Track’ walk led by 2 local RSPB staff (Friday) – 2 walk tokens, or £10 – for 2018 the RSPB team have created an exciting new walk which will showcase more of the Coll bird life than has been seen in previous years and let you see parts of Coll that the average visitor will never see.   This is a longer walk, estimated at 4 hours, although not difficult and you will not be walking for 4 hours.   Guests should plan to take a packed lunch with them.
  • Walk Arinagour (Saturday) – 1 x walk token, or £5 – is back and lets you explore Coll’s only village, where the different landscape, from the bay to the trees, offers habitat for birds not commonly seen elsewhere on the island.
  • Dusk-watch (Friday) – 1 x walk token, or £5 – come and hear the enchanting night-time song of Coll.   Spend time on the RSPB reserve enhancing your identification skills by listening to the magnificent dusk chorus, a true rival (on Coll at least) to the better known dawn chorus.
  • Boat trips (Saturday/Sunday) – £45 (Tiree trip requires a small additional sum for the tour bus) – our popular guided boat trips are back again, and the firm favourite, the puffin, is on the programme again with our trips to Lunga.   For 2018, we are also visiting Tiree, our neighbouring island.   It may surprise you, but Tiree and Coll are very different and you’ll enjoy the variety if you choose this trip, which will be led by Tiree’s RSPB warden.
  • The Hunt (Saturday)  – 1 x walk token, or £5 – included in the programme as one of the walks, weather permitting there will be an RSPB-led hunt to find the sand lizard and short-necked oil beetle.   The short-necked oil beetle was thought to be extinct until it was discovered by the local RSPB manager on Coll (and also at a site in South Devon).
  • Talks (Friday/Saturday) – £5 (includes all 3 talks) – over the course of the weekend there will be 3 talks on a variety of bird-life and wildlife-based topics.
  • Ceilidh (Saturday) – £10 – offering a chance to unwind and enjoy some traditional Scottish music  (and dancing)
  • Beach Clean (Sunday) – the beach clean is a great way to wind up the weekend and make a contribution to Coll which, being on the Atlantic, naturally ‘collects’ debris from all over the world.   You never know what interesting items you might find.

To receive a full copy of the programme please email info@collbunkhouse.co.uk

As part of the Bird Festival there will be a substantial buffet (with bar)  prior to the Saturday evening talk (booking required).   Tickets are £12.

Both the Island Cafe and Coll Hotel serve lunches and evening meals and both use a variety of local produce as part of their menu.   If your events take place over lunchtime you have the option of an early lunch at the Island Cafe, or you can book a packed lunch from the Coll Hotel and Tigh na Mara Guesthouse.

In 2018 we are delighted to be able to support a new and local business venture, Isle GO.

You will travel to Lunga and/or Tiree in their brand new Redbay Stormforce 8.4 Rib, ‘Stormbringer II’.

Please note that guests on our boat trips should be comfortable with walking over rough terrain and prepared to access the vessel via a series of steps or a ladder, depending on tide conditions. Please contact us if you have any concerns over accessibility and we will be happy to help.

For 2018 we have added a trip to Tiree which will be guided by Tiree’s RSPB warden.   Our IsleGO RIB will whisk us west across the wildlife-rich waters between Coll and Tiree, watching out for seabirds and cetaceans as we go. A minibus will take us from the pier at Scarinish across the fertile croftlands of Tiree to Loch a’ Phuill. This rich shallow machair loch is home to large numbers of breeding ducks, swans, waders, terns and gulls, many of which do not breed on Coll. The loch is also a magnet for spring migrants, often including scarcer birds, whilst otters can sometimes be seen. We will check the loch thoroughly from the public bird hide and then walk to the nearby beach of Traigh Bhi to look for more shorebirds and seabirds.

Lunga is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its abundant plant life. Many rare and endangered plants are native to the island. The flora includes Primroses, Birdsfoot Trefoil, orchids, Sea Campion, Thrift and Tormentil. Atlantic Grey seals inhabit the waters surrounding the island while birdlife includes Storm Petrels, Kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters. Guillemot, Puffin, Corncrake and Razorbills breed on Lunga and on the Harp Rock, a sea stack separated by a narrow gut, which you can walk to on your visit. A trip through the Sound of Gunna provides the opportunity to see as variety of sea birds, stunning scenery and the possibility of seeing dolphins.

Most visitors take advantage of the puffin-therapy afforded by a trip to Lunga, where you can sit within a few feet of these iconic little sea-parrots and watch them interact. Lunga attracts over 2000 breeding pairs of puffins within a small area on a grassy plateau overlooking the sea, which makes for a fantastic spectacle.

Accommodation is available at Coll Bunkhouse, which has 16 beds available from £22pppn.

Further accommodation is available in the village of Arinagour at the Coll Hotel, Tigh na Mara Guest House and Dun Fraoch B&B. An extensive list of accommodation options on Coll, including self-catering properties, is available here: Visit Coll.

A number of events are run over the course of the weekend and customers can choose individual events or a package rate.

For visitors booking accommodation at Coll Bunkhouse there is a discount of 10% on bookings of 3 nights or more.

Package rate: £68 (£60 for RSPB Members).   This includes 3 x walk tokens (equiv. ~ 2 hours each), 1 x boat trip, 1 x ceilidh ticket and entry to the talks.   For walks, you can choose from the new RSPB-led ‘off the beaten track’ walk (2 tokens), the duskwatch (1 token), Arinagour walk (1 token) or the Big Hunt (1 token).

To register interest, please call Coll Bunkhouse on 01879 230217 or email: info@collbunkhouse.co.uk.

For a handy guide to getting to Coll, look no further than the Coll page on the Caledonian MacBrayne website which offers advice on travelling to Coll by car or public transport: Calmac Info on Coll.

For those of you arriving by public transport and/or without your own vehicles we will provide options for transport to/from events using local transport providers which will involve a small fee. Please contact us for further details.

Once again the Coll Bird Festival is brought to you in partnership with one of Scotland’s leading organisations. We’re very grateful for the support of the variety of people who help us to organise this event. Please use the links below to read more about the work of our partner organisations.

RSPB

Calmac

Isle GO

John McLaren, a previous visitor to Coll Bird Festival, has very kindly combined some video excerpts from his time on Coll and Lunga.   Other than the boat trip to Lunga it doesn’t feature the other Bird Festival events, but it gives you a real flavour of Coll and what you might expect from a visit: