Sunday, 30 May 2010

Dumfries and Galloway Action. Part 2 of 3.

Overlooking the River Cree. On the ascent.

My quiet time overlooking the Galloway Hills.

See, I did get there!

Any ideas as to the predator??

The horizon is actually straight, but I wasn't!

Ailsa Craig (West)

Ailsa Craig (West)

Ailsa Craig (S West)

Ailsa Craig (West)

That's me in the trendy blue hat!

Ailsa Craig from Girvan

Day Three

There was a little more cloud today and it was slightly cooler, but still warm. This was working to out advantage as we had a long walk planned for the day. We were going to walk to the summit of Cairnsmore of Fleet, which I understand is the highest of the Solway hills and quite a stiff uphill walk. I had thought that if we finished the walk early people would feel they had deserved a little free time. Little did I know we would be out for over eight hours walking!

We started the walk at the estate which features in the novel The Thirty Nine Steps. A novel I read as a schoolboy, and which I seem to remember is far better than the drivel in the film made in more recent years. We continued through Bardrochwood until we come to open moorland which was an up hill slog. I’d read on a website that there was both Black and Red Grouse in this area. We neither heard nor saw a single one! In fact generally speaking the area seemed to lack wildlife although the walk itself was excellent and offered very good views of the area around Wigtown Bay and the Galloway Hills.

I did find our one and only Dipper of the trip on the burn through the estate at the start of the walk, but generally speaking it was the usual woodland birds that we found here. We did find another singing Wood Warbler here too, which I hadn’t expected. There were some very interesting and old trees. Once into the pine woods however things became a little dull, although we did have at least three Tree Pipits and some Siskin. Once onto the higher open area it was really only Skylark, Swallows and Meadow Pipit that we found, with an odd sighting of Common Buzzard.

Once climbing I was pleased that I had had some recent practice in the Cheviots! Was I glad to reach the summit and have lunch? A couple of us took up a position overlooking a magnificent view of the Galloway Hills, and we listened to the Cuckoos as they called faraway below us, as we ate our lunch. The time spent in the peace and quiet here was very special. There was no wind at all even so high up. I like to get away from all chatter in areas like this and take in the surroundings and give myself some thinking time.

As we made the descent we heard Ravens and got our eye on two as they flew near the summit. The walk had been worth it then! We’d also seen more Orange Tip Butterflies, Small White Butterflies and our first Wall Brown Butterflies. I ended the walk feeling we had achieved something even if there had been fewer bird species about. By the time we returned to the hotel, there was little time for relaxing before dinner. One of out party had found Red Squirrel today and some of us had seen a black Rabbit. I had hoped for woodpecker in the woods, but it wasn’t to be. I did find the remains of a pigeon and wondered what predator may have taken it. Anyway, after a walk along the river bank I was off to bed with the tune from Captain Pugwash playing in my mind!

Day Four

Yes, today was to be our long awaited boat trip to Ailsa Craig. A trip that I had in mind for over twelve months, but which I knew would be weather dependant. The weather was fine and so we left for Girvan where we were to meet out chartered Mull of Kintyre Seatours, Rigid Inflatable Boat. We were quickly into our waterproofs and life jackets and we set off from the harbour. The first early casualty was one of the group member’s hat. I looked around to see it floating on the water, but having checked it was pleasing to note my friend wasn’t wearing it at that time. You’ll be delighted to note that the hat was rescued. Then we were really off at some speed. I was sitting in the front, so I’m pleased I dressed for winter.

Ailsa Craig is the formed from the remains of a volcanic plug and its stone has been used over the years in the making of curling stones. It is the home of many thousands of Gannets. As you approach it looks rather as if some one has dropped a very large cake into the sea. As I attempted to take a photograph on approach, we were hit by a large wave and my self and camera were soaked. Happily both the camera and I seem to have survived unscathed although I was tasting salt water on my lips hours later. Some of the first birds we saw were Black Guillemots, I suspect a first for one or two members of our little group so I was pleased that we saw lots of them. Other birds seen were Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin and gulls, and of course thousand upon thousand of Gannets. The birds all nest on the western side of the island where there are sheer cliffs and it was a magnificent sight to look up at them from the boat. This was one of those experiences that you don’t ever forget. We found both Common and Grey Seals with one of the latter being a real giant.

The return leg of the trip, it takes about thirty minutes to get out there at speed, was much smother than the outward journey. A couple of us got our eye on a Manx Shearwater. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the visit. How could they not?

We decided to return to Newton Stewart via Loch Ryan and this journey give us great views of the sea and Ailsa Craig with clear blue skies. We stopped at the Loch for lunch and I found a shaded area out of the wind out of the wind coming of the sea. This gave me a little more quiet thinking time as I watched Gannets diving along with Common Terns and our only Sandwich Terns of the week. Finches seen today were Chaffinch (we couldn’t go any where without seeing these in great numbers), Goldfinch, Siskin and our first Greenfinch of the week.

We were back in Newton Stewart in time to allow a longer walk along the River Cree and back through the town which is where the Siskin was seen. We found lots of Sand Martins over the river today. I even had time to nip into a local café for a cappuccino and a slice of coffee and walnut cake.
After dinner we drove out to Clatteringshaws to look and listen for Nightjars of which to be honest I wasn’t too hopeful of finding. I had e-mailed Galloway Forestry for information but had been ignored, but a very busy lady at the Clatteringshaw centre had rung me back after busily having to attend to customers. It’s so often the case, that we are ignored by organisations, but helped by the individual. The lady had advised me as to where to take a look. We did see Wild Goat and Red Deer on the outward journey, but had no luck with Nightjars. The large drop in temperatures wasn’t helpful. We did hear Tawny Owls and I and another one of the party managed to catch a brief glimpse of one of them as it flew out of the trees and seemed to complete a small semi circle on the skyline. The almost full moon shone brightly through the pines as I was left standing alone to take in the sight. We left for the hotel, a quick drink and welcome bed. Captain Pugwash was put to rest for the time being

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