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Ive lived in Lanarkshire all of my 40 years, and in that time I have seen my local area change beyond all recognition, and definitely not for the better. From the appearance of massive identikit housing estates where rolling fields once rang to the song of yellowhammers, the inexorable process of urbanisation goes on as the local authorities undertake a concerted effort to eradicate every sign of nature- or so it seems. The nature- filled halcyon days of my childhood are a swiftly receding memory, replaced by the creeping horror of what is replacing them. Its important, I think, to highlight what we, as nature lovers in general and bird lovers in particular, still have, for the moment at least.
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Dumfries and Galloway Big Day Out (2)

Posted Saturday 23rd November 2013 at 10:22 by Green Sandpiper
So, we've been to Ken- Dee, we're still bewildered at having travelled down at silly o' clock, and still on a high after getting great views of the Kite. Sat Nav duly programmed for Caerlaverock, and the twitch is on. (It wsan't really a twitch for the GW teal, since I was going there anyway......)

Straight out from the reserve we get another kit, sitting in a tree, cue much pointing out of car windows, screechign to a halt in the middle of the road, and many, many furious galloway drivers. The only thing that beat that was when another one floated across in front of us, offering a wonderful in- flight view of its wings and tail. Already, this was turning into a damned fine day.

The drive to Caerlaverock took longer than I'd have liked, such was the excitement. Eventually got there, but before even parking the car a field turned black as thoudsands of barnacle geese took to the air in unison. A lifer for me, believe it or not, but more than that, truly one of the greatest spectacles I've seen.

Once in the visitor centre, the staff/ volunteers/ locals were unbelievably friendly. Take note, Lochwinnoch RSPB, that not only did these guys not suppress their good birds, they went out of their way to help us find them. The impression I got even at this early stage is that this is a place for folk who loves birds.

Anyway, walked briskly round to the Folly Pond, and this is where Bluebill's prior knowledge came in handy- the sheer scale of the reserve was daunting, but we found the pond within minutes. A well laid out, comfortable hide looked onto the pond, with seats, shelves, etc. And without holes knocked in its walls- how quaint, Baron's Haugh. the GW teal was exactly where we were told it was, I did a brief version of the dance of lifer shame. Even better, the bird then decided to swim toward the hide, moved onto an island, and showed ridiculously well. Lots of photos all round, good to see a mixture of old and young birders in the hide. Teal, wigeon, blackwits and barnies all present and accounted for.

From here, I took the chance to do a more expressive dance of lifer shame outside the hide- its tradition, innit? On to the whooper pond for the scaup, and the new Sir Peter Scott hide. The sign said it wasn't quite finished yet, but it was better than most hides I've been in (guardbridge in Fife, excepted) It has a lift for wheelchair users, for example, an audio system piped in from the pond, and I was assured it was fully soundproof, so nothing would frighten away the birds. This is a HIDE!! A lot of visitor centres could take note of this.

Anyway, the large bay windows gave wonderful views of the pond, with mute, whooper, canadas, mallard, moorhen, tufties, all within easy view. I got a few photos through the windows, and to be honest, its as if the glass wasn't there. A detailed and frantic scan of the pond failed to provide a positive ID of the scaup. A couple of likely suspects, but nothing definite enough to tick. Not to worry, though.

Moved on to the 'observatory' which is a multi- story hide looking out over the merse. The path down there was a bombing alley for the thousands of barnies flying over in formation. I read somehwere its good luck to be poo-d on by a bird. Thousands of geese flew over me, and I remained unsullied. You can draw your own conclusions about my luck....

Drew a blank for raptors from the merse, and by now hunger was making demands on us. A very reasonable lunch, with exceptionally friendly staff, and we were ready to try the scaup again. Still a blank, although we later found out that one of the 'likely suspects' was the scaup itself. Untickable, though.

Daylight ran out on us, and reluctantly, we decided to head home, some 11 hours after beginning our trip.

Thoughts:

Ken Dee is one of the best RSPB places I've been to, and I'm excited about what it offers in summer. Caerlaverock, which gave me 2 lifers, had me all emotional and philiosophical. A real birders place, but one thats serious about looking after birds as well. Brilliant facilities, brilliant volunteers, reasonably priced all told. Being somewhere like that was kind of like finding a home for birders- a place where you were among like- minded folk, folk who understood your own foibles, your lack of dress sense, the fact you are covered in mud and don't mind it, and that you can suddenly start dancing like a loon because you got a lifer tick.

It was also a damned good adventure, with damned good company. And my damned wonderful wife has just suggested I do it again in the spring!!!!
Total Comments 5

Comments

Old
Marmot's Avatar
We have only managed to get to Caelaverock the one time as we spend more time going west when in D & G. But I must admit I was impressed as well when we visited. We have a member on here Mike Youdale [myoudale] who I believe works at Caelaverock so I think he will be more than happy with your comments on the reserve. If you get more over to the west coast [thats if you havent been already] we always got to Stranraer [Loch Ryan] and always have a good tally of birds on our visits and this time we went to Portpatrick and were rewarded with great views of the Black Guillemot [love those red legs].
Posted Sunday 24th November 2013 at 16:50 by Marmot Marmot is offline
Old
I was toying with the idea of hitting the west and Loch Ryan for winter waders/ divers, but have got too much to do at Chez Green Sand for the mini- sand's birthday, then Christmas. Maybe early january, depending on Brownie Points.

There's a booklet I've copied off the internet which details all the birdwatching sites in D&G. Excellent resource, I periodically read it and dream a dream....
Posted Sunday 24th November 2013 at 21:14 by Green Sandpiper Green Sandpiper is offline
Old
Marmot's Avatar
With Loch Ryan we have been in May and Sept and had good results.

The booklet you mention we actually have a couple of copies, one from when we started visiting D & G and a newer one from earlier this year. They started to charge for it [which dont mind as you say is excellent] but when we visited the Tourist Information Centre in Dumfries they were giving them away free. Might be worth contacting them to see if they can send you one out.
Posted Monday 25th November 2013 at 07:56 by Marmot Marmot is offline
Old
thanks for that, it might be worthwhile giving them a shout in the new year. The variety of habitats and different sites means that merely one visit would never do the region justice, so I'd have to improve on my planning.

On the plus side, I've just finished my redecorating tasks, so have built up a reservoir of goodwill from the wife!!!
Posted Tuesday 3rd December 2013 at 14:25 by Green Sandpiper Green Sandpiper is offline
Old
thanks for that, it might be worthwhile giving them a shout in the new year. The variety of habitats and different sites means that merely one visit would never do the region justice, so I'd have to improve on my planning.

On the plus side, I've just finished my redecorating tasks, so have built up a reservoir of goodwill from the wife!!!
Posted Tuesday 3rd December 2013 at 14:25 by Green Sandpiper Green Sandpiper is offline
 
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