Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dumfries and Galloway - Bird Club Trip - Saturday

This weekend saw our first outing with Northants Bird Club ( having joined the group in December. The trip was a weekend visit to Dumfries and Galloway, an area we've never been to before.

Saturday started by the old lighthouse at Southerness Point. It was freezing cold and with the heavy cloud quite dull but the shoreline was occupied with good numbers of Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits. We also saw a few Knot and some Purple Sandpiper (new bird!), though the photographs I tried were all grey and blurry so unusable. In addition to the shore birds we also saw a Red-breasted Merganser, so by 9am had two new species, an excellent start.

What was most impressive though was the speed at which the bird club members were identifying birds by call alone or by quick scans with their bins. I wonder if we'll ever be able to do that?

From Southerness Point it was on to Mereshead RSPB reserve ( The feeders outside the window of the reserve office were covered in 'garden' birds including Siskin and it was good to see so many birds so close up. While we were chatting with the warden we were informed there was a Male Hen Harrier in the air so we dashed outside to see it, and eventually did indeed see it though by then quite distant. We're not counting the bird as a 'tick' yet as it wasn't distinct enough to recognise it but it was still exciting! Around the reserve were a number of Barnacle Geese, wintering from Greenland. This part of Scotland in fact hosts the entire Greenland breeding population during the winter. I photographed this pair flying past:

You can see from the background just how dull it was. From the two hides we spotted numbers of wintering ducks, etc, but nothing remarkable. In the brief woodland part of the trail before the coastal saltmarsh, we spotted a pair of Roe Deer, I snapped this one just before it disappeared out of view, showing their typical 'bounding' method of running:

The saltmarsh walk turned out to be remarkably quiet with only the odd Robin for company, probably due to the harsh weather of the previous two weeks.

From the RSPB reserve we drove on to visit a Red Kite feeding station at a farm near Loch Ken. For a bargain £2.50 each you get to watch as they put out sliced up roadkill and dead chicken. We counted approximately 35 birds at peak. Again the lighting conditions were very poor, having driven into the heavy cloud on the way to the Loch. This is about the best shot I managed, showing a Red Kite approach the ground to grab some of the food:

It was very enjoyable listening to the birds calling before the feed, seeing them swoop and dive to grab the food or hassle the Crows and to see them so close-up.

The final destination on Saturday was another RSPB reserve - Ken-Dee Marshes ( Just south of there we encountered a small flock of rare Greater White Fronted Geese wintering from Greenland. Surprisingly these birds aren't protected so can be shot by 'hunters'. Even more surprisingly the gate to the reserve had a 'shooting in progress' sign on the entrance. Shooting on a nature reserve? The reserve as a consequence was very quiet, so we headed home as night fell.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work.

4:34 pm  

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