Monday, 31 May 2010

Dumfries and Galloway Action. Part 3 of 3

Before the Rains.

The sun shines on the righteous!


View from the Foghorn

Mull Of Galloway

A Relaxing Closure.

Day Five

There was rain forecast for today so I a decision was made to swop the programme around a little and go to Mersehead today where we would have the benefit of hides for at least part of the time. It proved to be a wise decision although the weather was not as dire as forecast. This is one of my favourite RSPB reserves and I had visited several times in winter, but never in spring or summer. I like reserves which only have basic amenities as I am never drawn to the tea and jam scones that seem to be such a draw at some other reserves although I accept that it gets the punters in. Crowds are never a problem at Mersehead, and long may it last! I had wanted to try and arrange a guided walk to look at the flora on the reserve, but sadly once again an e-mail I had sent to the reserve asking for advice had been ignored. We did have a very helpful guy advise us on the day we visited however. A volunteer I suspect.

I recommended that we do the long walk through the reserve and along the Solway beach whilst it was dry and so we did. Another wise decision as it proved. Apart from a handful of other visitors we were the only ones around, although I understand that a group of school children where using the facilities at some point. The walk brought us species such as Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Buzzard, Dunlin, Curlew, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler (I’m positive I heard one), Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. The walk was a treat even with some threatening clouds at times. I know those who had not visited before were most impressed. It was good to see the reserves at this time of year and so very different from a winter visit. Still no woodpecker though!

It has to be said that the ponds were very quiet in deed and not at all like the busy winter time when there are so many waterfowl. I personally didn’t mind too much having had my share of waterfowl throughout a long winter. We found the likes of Cormorant, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Canada Geese, one lone Barnacle Goose (injured apparently and unable to migrate north), Shelduck, Mallard, Shoveller, Moorhen and Coot. It was good to watch the changing scene as the whole area misted over and the heavy showers came, and they were certainly heavy! I was glad to be under cover. They petered out quite quickly and we moved to another hide and escaped getting wet at any point during the day. There were numbers of Sand Martins at the second hide. There had been other woodland birds, but it had been much quieter than previous visits but no less atmospheric and enjoyable. Everyone had really enjoyed the walk and the day it’s self. We decided to give a possible stop at the Theaves Centre a miss on this occasion and made straight for Newton Stewart at the end of the day. With rain still threatening, this evening was the only one that I missed out my river walk and had an early night.

Day Six

Day six was upon us so fast! I simply think it was because we had had such an action packed week that the time had flown by. Anyway, after breakfast we were soon off to the Mull of Galloway. There was a shower on the outward journey and we drove through the most beautiful rainbow I can ever remember seeing. I think the pot of cold was to come in the form of birds! The drive along Luce Bay is very pleasant indeed and we had Common Buzzards on the outward and return journey.

On arrival at Mull of Galloway I thought to myself that there wasn’t going to be enough here to keep us occupied very long. I was wrong. By now we had blue skies and sun again and we could clearly see Northern Ireland and Rathlin Island at the north tip, an island some of us had visited three years previously. I found Cinnabar Moths, Wall Brown and Small White Butterflies early on. The cliffs were home to large patches of Thrift, Sea Campion and Birdsfoot Trefoil.

We found Wheatears (one of which seemed to be almost tame and following us around), Stonechat (the only ones of the week), Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, and Linnet amongst others. The first sea birds to take the eye were Gannets and the many Kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs below us and calling as they flew close by. Numbers of Fulmar were also soon picked out. Of course we also soon found flocks of Black Guillemot, Guillemot and Razorbill. No Puffins were seen and I understand they have a problem on the reserve from rodents. I failed to find Twite too!

We spent sometime by the foghorn. Easy to walk down the steps to it, not so easy to walk back up! I have a problem with heights but it didn’t really trouble me today as there was so much to keep my attention focused upon and the weather ensured we where here at the best possible time to look around the wide expanse of sea and land around us. I definitely needed some more quiet time alone.

One of the lesser experienced members of our little group pointed out a bird on the cliffs that she didn’t know quite what it was. Well done ‘her’ for spotting it, as it then provided us with about thirty minutes of viewing. It was a male Peregrine Falcon plucking and eating what looked to be a large seabird. The Peregrine gave everyone great views. The guy from the centre came down to keep an eye on us and find out what we were doing. His words not mine. Apparently there have been problems with disturbance of the Peregrines in the past. This one certainly gave me a great sighting. Certainly one of the best I have had of this species. I thought to myself that this was likely to be our last new species for the trip but I was once again wrong. We watched the Sand Martins which were nesting in the weathered cliff side and took photos before dragging ourselves off. We had to leave the area sometime and we had planned to stop for a short time at Glenwan Gardens on our return journey.

Now I can take or leave gardens as a rule. I usually leave them as I am more interested in other things, but I have to say I was pleased I visited this one and I would strongly recommend a visit. Much of the area is still moorland and wild and it has a good selection of wild plants still along with birds of which I will omit the Peacock, handsome chap though he was. The gardens provided us with our one and only woodpecker of the week, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and our only Bullfinch. There was also numbers of Song Thrush, Blackbird, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Yellowhammers. The cultivated area of the garden is very nice and worth a visit and looks over Luce Bay and towards Mull of Galloway. After a cuppa tea we were off back to the hotel for our last dinner and last walk along by the river. The walk tonight was a little less tranquil as the local youth were out en masse with their beer and cider, but none were of any trouble I have to add.

Day Seven
The drizzling rain of the following morning made a return home far easier, but only after having had a group photo taken. We had chosen the correct week without a doubt. Dumfries and Galloway is a fantastic area with so much to offer. We left with a bird list of ninety-three species. If I had to pick one special bird i think it would have to be the Wood Warbler. Birds had been the main focus, but they had not been the only focus and had they been I’m sure the list could have been extended. We also had a large list of plants, some of them new to me. The group had gelled really well and were a good bunch of people to spend the week with. All different in their own way, but all enthusiastic, and all with a sense of humour. I had a great week and we have Southern Ireland in our sights for next spring.. I now have a few days to recover before going off to Orkney and Shetland, touch wood.

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