Cairngorms Birding School of Birding

Helping you to Become A Better Birder

Simon Pawsey Cairngorms Birding


 If you are interested in a bespoke course over dates which suit you, then please get in touch. 


"We thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with Simon. Much more than a tick in the box, Simon takes time out to paint the fuller picture, at a ‘pace’ which we really appreciated. His enthusiasm, knowledge and passion for the great outdoors are as infectious as they are informative. The scones are pretty good as well!" - Robin & Vivien

" Maggie and I really enjoyed our four days with you thank you so much for being such a good guide. We went to places and saw species that we would never have found on our own, and we learned a lot from your expert knowledge and help - thank you. You were great company to be with." - Mike & Maggie 


This is the best school that you didn't get a chance to go to. There are certainly no exams or tests, definitely no homework and absolutely no double maths or cross country ! Just professionally delivered birding instruction, which is stimulating and easy to understand, delivered with good humour at a relaxed pace and designed to build your core birding skills. At the end of the course you will have achieved a priceless life qualification - you will have Become A Better Birder !


​ This is a holiday with a course included.  An opportunity to relax and take time out with like minded people in a wonderful part of the world. Regardless of your age or ability you will come away seeing birds and the natural world through fresh eyes. The course is based at the famous Grant Arms Hotel, the country's premier wildlife watching hotel in Grantown on Spey within the Cairngorms National Park. (

The course follows a structured curriculum over four days and is designed for beginner birders who want to increase their confidence and take birding to the next level and for intermediate birders who want to polish and hone their skills and levels of knowledge.

The course will focus on how to identify birds, but will also take you far beyond that with an holistic 'big picture' approach to birding. I believe that a greater understanding of birds - why they are what they are and why they do what they do - is the key to getting the most enjoyment and satisfaction out of your birding. I have developed a simple system which I term the '5W's' which will help you to have a greater understanding of the species that you are looking at and also increase your levels of knowledge and enjoyment of birds in general.





























Understanding and choosing habitat is an important part of the course and over the four days we will go birding in the following range of diverse habitats :-

  •  DAY ONE - Mountain and moorland

  •  DAY TWO - Forest and freshwater

  •  DAY THREE - Estuary and coast

  •  DAY FOUR - Big day out to the west or east coast visiting a range of habitats to apply your newly learned birding skills.

 The Grant Arms Hotel has a first class lecture theatre with audio visual equipment and we will be making use of this during the course with Field Guide Briefings after breakfast and before we head out into the field for the day. During the Field Guide Briefings we will look closely at the habitat we will be visiting on that day and you will be given instruction on the key identification features of the birds we are hoping to find. 

The course is restricted to six guests to allow a low guest to instructor ratio and individual attention as and when required. 

A lower number of guests also helps to keep our carbon footprint down whilst travelling between locations. In support of this and to help with habitat rewilding a percentage of the profits from each course will be donated to Trees For Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. (

There will be a presentation after dinner on the first evening of the course to introduce you to 'Big Picture Birding' and help you to get the most out of the course. At the end of each day and before dinner, we will gather in the hotel bar for 'detention' (this is a school after all) with a drink in hand to discuss the day's identification challenges, what we have learnt that day and to look forward to the following day's field trip.

During the course we will cover the following subjects, most of which will be delivered and discussed whilst out in the field 


  • Fieldcraft and why good fieldcraft begins at home in your armchair

  • Benchmark birds

  • Bird topography made easy

  • Bird calls and song

  • The wonder of bird migration - how and why

  • Climate change and rewilding and the effects on birds and wildlife.

  • Note taking and field sketches

  • Binoculars, telescopes and tripods. How to choose models for your style of birding and budget and how to use them correctly.

  • Field guides -  which ones to use and how and when to use them, including electronic guides.

  • How to get the most out of your local patch and bird reserves when you get home.

  • How and where to record your sightings.

















The opportunities for birding in and around the Cairngorms are superb with a range of iconic and sought after species which are difficult to find anywhere else in the UK. Depending upon the time of year we will be looking for Crested Tit, Black Grouse, Slavonian Grebe, Red and Black-throated Divers, Crossbills, Golden and White-tailed eagles and Hen Harrier to name but a few species.

Although the course is about investing our time with the birds and gaining an understanding of them rather than simply ticking them off, we will be looking for a broad range of species of different family groups including birds of prey, grouse, ducks and geese, waders, gulls, seabirds and passerines (perching birds). Of course while we are out and about we will come across other wildlife which could include deer species, mountain hares, red squirrels, otters and cetaceans.​

There is a small amount of walking on the course and this consists of walks of two to three miles along predominantly good forest tracks.

What's included in the price :-

  • Five nights dinner, bed & breakfast at the Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown on Spey

  • Four full days guiding and instruction

  • Transport and fuel during the four guided days out

  • Packed lunch prepared by the hotel

  • Tea & coffee whilst out in the field

Cairngorms birding school of birding
Cairngorms birding Black-throated Diver
Cairngorms Birding Slavonian Grebe
Cairngorms Birding Dunlin