Wandering around Dumfries and Galloway

7 Apr

Just back from a cracking week in Dumfries and Galloway, based at a converted mill at Auldgirth just north of Dumfries. With the bedrooms at treetop level and a balcony overlooking a rushing stream fifty feet below I figured it would be a good spot for wildlife watching in comfort and I wasn’t wrong – within 30 mins of getting up on Sunday morning I had a dipper in the stream below and a raven cronking as it flew overhead escorted out of the local airspace by two irate rooks.

Threave Castle gave me my first red kites of the year, circling low over the fields and moments later a pair of ravens flew past. Lots of vociferous reed buntings were chasing around and through the hedges along the river banks. Talking to the wardens there we were the first visitors of the year to the castle (it only opened that morning) but we were 30 mins too late to see an Osprey checking out last year’s nest and an otter in the river.

With the late March heatwave I figured we were probably a week or two too late for much at Caerlaverock WWT but there were still 4,000 barnacle geese in the fields and around 1,000 pink foots. Only 6 whooper swans were lingering and there was not much by the way of ducks, although a green-winged teal provided a life tick perched on a bank amongst 30 or so common teal and a few wigeon.

We paid a visit to Bellymack Farm near Lauristown for Red Kite feeding time – I used to travel past Harewood House near Leeds every day for work and was quite used to seeing up to 5 or 6 kites at a time, but 40 together swooping on the meat thrown out in the fields was something else (although the peak of over 120 birds must have been fantastic to see). Kites started to appear as we first arrived 30 mins before the feeding started and slowly built up – at one point a tree just 100 yards from the hide had 12 birds perched waiting for the festivities.

My final bird-related excursion was to Ken Dee Marshes RSPB reserve on an overcast and drizzly friday morning. No sign of the flock of greenland white-fronts which I think had departed a couple of weeks earlier leaving just a handful of greylags. From the hides over the marshes and pools hundreds of black headed gulls were screaming and wheeling creating one heck of a din but precious little else was around – I was pleased to pick up a couple of snipe – bogey species for me that I never manage to spot for myself except on this occasion where one kindly waded across a pool in plain view before utilising its invisibility spell when settling in to a tussock of grass. I knew exactly where it was but could I see it? Not a chance. Eventually it twitched and I was back on to it for a better look.

Lots of woodland birds around though – blue, great and coal tits (no sign of the willow tits that live in the reserve) plus nuthatch, treecreeper and wren, and great spotted woodpeckers drumming all around and flitting from tree to tree.

All in all a nice trip – would have been better a month earlier for birds, but as birding wasn’t the aim of the trip the weather may have been a bit less to the liking of the family (although it did snow for a while!)


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