COACH TRIP TO DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY 12–14 FEBRUARY 2010

The coach with 27 members on board left the Guild promptly at 7:30 am Friday for our very first three-day weekend.

Our first stop was at Powfoot near Annan, on the Solway Coast, where a raft of beautiful Pintail stole the show, accompanied by Wigeon, Shelduck, Pochard, Teal, Red-breasted Merganser and several Goldeneye beginning to do their ritual mating head throwing. We started our wader list with Curlew, Knot, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwit, whilst Greenfinches, Robin and Goldfinch were along the beach.

Our second stop at Glencaple by the river held the odd Heron and Cormorant but most surprising was a very pale wader amongst the Redshanks. I thought it was a Redshank but it was almost white; it turned out to be a leucistic individual which apparently lives thereabouts and is completely white in summer, being different to albino as it has its normal eye and leg colour.

The main destination for today was Caerlaverock Wildlife & Wetlands reserve on the Solway. More Barnacle Geese welcomed us in, whilst a few Pink-footed Geese were surprisingly the only ones of the weekend. Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and House Sparrows chirped from the hedgerows as we went to the swan feeding pond and hide. Whooper and Mute Swans were crammed into this little pond with lots of ducks including Tufted, and Moorhens. Not much was seen from the tower hide except more Barnacle Geese, but at Campbell hide, as we were watching a pair of Stonechats flying up and down from their perch, suddenly all the Barnacles were put up by a ring-tailed Hen Harrier, which then came back and gave us really good views as it hunted along a bank. Good views were also had of a Peregrine when it flew in and perched for a long time eating its lunch. After a good day we were pleased to arrive at our excellent hotel in Castle Douglas where we ate a very acceptable dinner before retiring early in readiness for a long day tomorrow.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny again, and we set off inland towards the Loch Ken/River Dee Marshes RSPB Reserve. Kestrel, Fieldfares, Redwings and more Buzzards (by now into double figures) were seen along the way as were Greylag Geese and our first two Red Kites flying distantly.
Canada Geese were seen in this area, but we were hunting for the elusive Greenland White-fronts and eventually Alison managed to locate 18+ in the distance. On the way back from New Galloway we stopped on a bridge where we had a really close Red Kite and a Dipper flew along the river at the last minute as the coach had to pull away.

We then took to the hills, in the hope of seeing Golden Eagle in a spot that has proved productive in the past, and it wasn’t long before Tom identified one drifting over the distant hills. Gatehouse of Fleet brought us Siskins and Dabchicks on the River Fleet as we travelled on to Stranraer and Loch Ryan. Good views were had of a Shag diving and a raft of Eider and Great-crested Grebes, but only a very brief flyby of a Black Guillemot (our target bird here) was not great. Driving back round the loch we had a really close Red-throated Diver, male Red-breasted Merganser and a female Scaup – brilliant. Driving round to the other side of the loch we passed lots more Scaup of both sexes and a Great Black-backed Gull on the shore. At Wig Bay, two more Red-throated Divers were distant. Brian dug out two Slavonian Grebes and a Black Guillemot in the distance. It only remained to call at the usual airfield location on the way back, where we only managed two very hard to see Hen Harriers.

Sunday morning we set off in the overcast, misty conditions which gradually turned into a fine drizzle for most of the day. Carlingwark Loch gave us Treecreeper and Bullfinches, at Kippford boat yard three unbelievably camouflaged Snipe were well hidden in the bank, and the many Buzzards we saw were sitting around grounded by the weather.

The morning was spent at Mersehead RSPB reserve which, apart from more Barnacle Geese, was very quiet. We added Shoveler, Great-spotted Woodpecker and a flock of Linnets, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches to our list.

After lunch, it was on to Southerness. We started with lots of Turnstone, then at least 15 Purple Sandpipers which were really close and obliging, a single Golden Plover was astoundingly beautiful with its golden spotted plumage, followed by a graceful winter plumaged Greenshank and a single Knot (not Grey Plover).

Our last stop along the coast was Carsethorn which was misty and drizzly. We had two wintering Whimbrel which was amazing.. Ray managed to locate a Grey Plover in the misty distance, another regular bird at this location but few and far between today.

So to sum up the weekend, two beautiful days out of three weather-wise was good with lots of really good birds, the final total being 100 species. Thousands of Barnacle Geese and at least 30 Buzzards was truly amazing. I’m sure everyone will agree with me that the three-day weekend was a huge success.
TRISH

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