Sunday, 30 May 2010

Dumfries and Galloway Action. Part 1 of 3.

Wood of Cree
Moth at Wood of Cree. I D please??? Thanks to one of my traveling companions I now have an I D. Light Emerald Campaea margaritata.

English Stonecrop Sedum anglicum

Common Blue Butterfly

Green Veined White Butterfly

Sea Campion Silene uniflora

Sea Kale Crambe maritima

St Ninian's Cave

Spring Squill Scilla verna

Day One

Our group composed of the magnificent nine, and made up of French, Irish, Scottish and English representatives, we made our way across the border on 23rd May, on what was a very hot day.

Our first short stop was at the River Nith in Dumfries town. We hadn’t bargained for the local fun boat race on the river in what appeared to be home made boats crewed in some cases by pirates. There was therefore to be no Otters in the river, but what we did see included Mallard, Lesser Black Backed Gulls, Swift, Sand Martins, Swallows and Grey Wagtail. It was a good place to break the journey on such a gloriously sunny day. We soon made off for the Ken Dee Marshes where we ate our lunch before taking a walk through the woodland. We were soon able to compare the song of Blackcap and Garden Warbler, the latter especially rewarding to me as they seem to allude me. Other warblers noted were Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. As we walked through the woods other birds seen included the usual common woodland birds with numbers of Song Thrush reflecting the large numbers seen during the following days, in comparison to out home area. Goldfinch, Siskin and Reed Bunting were seen. The wood flora included Bluebells, Red Campion, Stitchwort and Wild Garlic.

I had been hoping for Red Kites and two or three did eventually give good sightings, as did Common Buzzard, several of which had been with us on our journey, and our one and only Osprey of the week fished over the loch, eventually giving us a decent sighting before it eventually seemed to dive behind the tree line. Our trip had started very well indeed. I was pleased to find many Orange Tip Butterflies, these being my first of the year. Other butterflies seen were Large White, Small White, Green Veined White, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, the latter being very faded and the worse for wear. Brown Hare and Rabbit were in the area.

We then drove through Laurieston forest before making a further stop on the higher ground. At least one of the group spotted Grey Partridge on this drive. My only previous visit to this high area had been in mid winter and I had almost been blown over in the wind. What a contrast today’s visit was. It was hot, still and silent apart from the song of the numerous Skylarks and much fewer Meadow Pipits. We watched and listened to the Skylarks at times at eye level in the sky. One of many magical moments on this trip. More Common Buzzards were seen, at least three Kestrels and a distant Sparrowhawk was seen flying along the hill tops. A Wheatear gave us all a very good sighting. The flattened and disintegrating skin of an Adder was found on the road. I think we would have all been happy to spend longer just taking in the scene before us, but as time was now getting on we decided to make for the hotel in Newton Stewart via Gate House of Fleet, Wigtown Bay and the Cree Estuary.

After dinner a couple of us decided to take a walk along by the River Cree where Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were singing constantly and where we found a pair of Pied Wagtails taking food to a nest site. Common Comfrey was certainly the dominant flora of the River Bank and I also found an expansive area Common Crowsfoot in the river. The highlight of this evening’s walk, and every evening for that matter were the Swifts. I don’t remember having seen such numbers. Late in the evening the ‘screaming’ from them became very loud and they flew and lifted in the sky as if for sheer pleasure. A few of us ended the evening by watching the bats catching insects behind the hotel under what was almost a full moon. I never sleep well in new surroundings and tonight was no exception, but it didn’t seem to matter too much.

Day Two

Today was planned to be one of comparative relaxation and we started out after an early(ish) breakfast (opinions differed as to whether it was early or not) for the RSPB Reserve at Wood of Cree.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here, but I have to say it is a magnificent area of woodland which quickly gave us a singing Wood Warbler which took everyone’s attention for sometime. With a bit more work we found at least one female and three male Pied Flycatchers. Species both were new for the year, for me. We again had Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff and this time added Sedge Warbler. The latter near the Otter viewing platform. Treecreeper was seen and amongst the tits recorded was Coal Tit. Grey Wagtail was again seen but no Dippers were found and sadly we had no luck with Redstart either. Wrens were numerous and I believe we had a Grasshopper Warbler.

The atmosphere in the woods was wonderful, and the waterfalls added a feeling of coolness even if that was just an illusion on yet another hot day. Everywhere you looked was a mass of Bluebells. We found a medium sized pale blue moth in the woods and I would like to indentify it so will include a photo. Cuckoo was heard and very briefly seen by at least two of us as it flew between the trees. We spent the whole morning in the area of the woods which I know were the one hundredth reserve acquisition of the RSPB. Before we left the area very low flying aircraft flew over our heads and nearly deafened us. I’m pleased I got my hands over my ears in time!

Now I’d planned the trip to give a good mix of experience in different habitats and our afternoon trip was to be to the area of Whithorn and more precisely St Ninian’s Cave. I had thought this might prove to be a weak part of the trip, but I was to be proven incorrect. We left for St Ninian’s Cave after a lunch by the River Cree.

We drove through the machar area past Wigtown and Baldoon Bay, which is to be established as a new RSPB Reserve, but didn’t have time to stop at either place. Once the vehicles were parked up we began the walk down to the beach, initially through farmland then through an interesting area of woodland which was once again covered at ground level in Bluebells. The flora was in places a mix of cultivated plants and wild plants. What really caught the eye were the very large Gunnera and Common Valerian plants. Bird life in this wood was quite sparse, but the areas of gorse on the walk contained numbers of Blackcap and Whitethroat territories. There was also good numbers of Goldfinch about in this area too.

Once down at the beach we soon found the likes of Cormorant, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull. There was numbers of both Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit near the cliffs. A pair of Rock Pipit was busily feeding youngsters near to the cave entrance and House Martins were also nesting on the cliff. Common Tern was found over the sea.

St Ninian’s Cave still has much religious significance with pilgrimages still been made and there are various offerings left at the entrance alongside wooden crosses and carvings in the rock. We all enjoyed relaxing sit down here as we took in more sun and the sounds of the sea. There was a strong wind coming off the sea, but in sheltered areas it was still very hot. I took advantage of the break to look at some of the interesting plants which included Sea Campion, Stonecrop, Spring Squill, Sea Holly, Thrift and Sea Kale.
I remember a Sparrowhawk being seen but I don’t remember quite where. I think it was flying along the cliff tops. I also found Common Blue and Green Veined White Butterflies at the beach area. Incidentally this beach was used to film part of the film, The Wicker Man. We returned to the vehicles as we in the main retraced our steps confirming that there was a good deal of Wild Angelica about. We were ready for dinner and then another walk by the river.

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