I'm here and settling in!
I had a fantastic time birding in the Highlands. I stayed in a small town called Nethybridge, right near Cairngorms National Park. We birded around there, seeing House Martin, Swallow (Barn Swallow in the US), Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Swift, Buzzard, Pheasant, Lapwings, Mistle Thrush, Meadow Pipit, Red Grouse, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Gold Crest, Robin, Great Tits, Crested Tit, Common and Herring Gulls, Kestrel, Greylag Goose, Dipper, Gray Wagtail, Mallards (of course), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Osprey, Grey Heron, Hen Harrier, Curlew, Redpoll, Hooded Crow, Greater Black-backed Gull, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, and Black-headed Gull. (I just listed straight off my notes from various places, not repeating though of course we saw repeats.)
Alas, we tried but didn't see Capercaillie.
then we took our little van to Maillag, where we got on a ferry to Lochboisdale, on South Uist (in the Hebrides). Along the way we saw seabirds galore, including Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Guillemot (aka Common Guillemot in the US), Black-legged Kittywake, and Fulmar.
We drove up to Benbecula, where we stayed two nights. During the day, we drove around Benbecula and North Uist birding. I saw Snipe, Red Shanks, Eider Duck, Cormorant Starling, Raven, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Common Gull, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, GLAUCOUS GULL (very exciting), Dunlin, Greater Black-backed Gull, ICELAND GULL (also exciting!), Common Gulls, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Greylag, Twite, Corn Bunting, Merlin, Black Headed Gull, NORTHERN WHEATEAR (another exciting one!), Pied Wagtail, Tufted Duck, Gannet, Rock Pipit, Stone Chat, Kestrel, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Coot, Gadwall, Diver (aka Red-Throated Loon).
After birding the second day, we drove up to Lochmaddy, and got on a Ferry to take us to Uig Bay on the Isle of Skye. On the Ferry we saw Great Skua, Gannet, Black-legged Kittywake, and Manx Shearwater. We drove across Skye pretty much straight because we needed to reach the hotel in Nethybridge, and it was pouring rain, but we did see Rook and Jackdaw.
The last two days we spent going up Cairngorm (in hopes of seeing Ptarmigan, but didn't), but we did see Goldeneye, White-Tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Red Grouse, Black-throated Diver (aka Arctic Loon), Goosander (aka Common Merlin), Wigeon, Shell Duck, Peregrine, Black-tailed Godwit, a weird hybrid Canada/Greylag goose (it looked like a pale Canada Goose with pink legs), Shag, Arctic Skua, Common Tern, Green Shanks, Barnacle Goose, Slovonian Grebe, Moorhen, Blue Tit, and Green Finch.
All in all, I saw some 80 species of birds, almost all of them new for me. So that was very exciting! (I can't seem to load images, but will try again later.) I went with a birding company, Heatherlea, and they were great, and the guide wonderful. There were six guests on our trip, and one guide, so we got to see lots, and he gave us lots of background information, too. I'd love to go on another trip with them.
Then I spent a few days in Inverness, walking around, visiting Clava Cairns, the Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness (on a boat), and Urquhart Castle. It was all wonderful.
And now I'm at the Abbey, and I need to finish prepping for my courses. This, too, is a beautiful place, very comfortable, with a staff that really takes care of things well.