Sunday, 16 February 2014

Caerlaverock...Come Rain, Come Shine.

15th Feb.  Sam and I left Washington WWT and headed for Caerlaverock WWT with a coach load of friendly and keen folk.  It wasn’t long before the heavy rain was hitting the coach and mist covered some areas of the hills.  Never mind it was forecast to clear in the west as the day went on.  Large flock of Starlings, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Lapwings added a little interest as we travelled through Northumberland and Cumbria, but it wasn’t until we approached Caerlaverock that the real interest began and we saw large flocks of Oystercatcher, a few Curlews and flocks of Barnacle Geese as we approached the reserve.  The first of the days sightings of Roe Deer were made just before reaching the centre.  It was still raining heavily and conditions were wet and muddy.

We headed for the Tower hide where whilst watching out for the Green Winged Teal we found a number of Brown Hares in the area.  The Green Winged Teal was found amongst numbers of Wigeon and Teal.  Black-tailed Godwits were seen amongst waders in the distance and a flock of Dunlin flew past.

Whooper Swan showing unusual bill pattern.  Sam knows all about the varying bill patterns so you must ask him!
Whooper Swans were the next species of real interest although as with the Barnacle Geese, because of good wet and mild conditions over a wide area providing ideal feeding habitat, numbers were well down on the reserve from last year.  Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Mute Swans and other waterfowl were in this area and sizable flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing flew overhead.  The rain had been streaming down the windows of the hide until we left when it seemed the weather was on the change.  We watched the flock of what were fifty plus Yellowhammer (I’m told that this time last year there was almost one hundred more of these birds at the same area), and the odd Reed Buntings and Dunnocks.  The Yellowhammers were drawing everyone’s attention and were quite a spectacle as they perched in numbers on the contrasting green and brown hedges or visited the pools on the ground.

Yellowhammers and a couple of Reed Buntings visit the mud and puddles.
Reed Bunting


As we walked down the flooded and muddy Robin pathway were not surprised to find confiding Robins which seemed to be in wait for feet to disturb possible food sources in the mud.  Anyway Sam now has some work to do sifting through the Robin images to find a suitable one for his 2015 calendar!

Robin waiting for a feed
The light was now becoming brighter and I was confident that we were going to see Caerlaverock in many of its moods.  It wasn’t too long until the sun shone and the surrounding hills were shown up well with some having a sprinkling of snow which looked frost like.  A Peregrine Falcon was perched out in the Solway some distance away.  It stretched its wings on one occasion, but was obviously well fed as it did little else.  A flock of Knot flew over the Solway in typical fashion.

Caerlaverock moods
As we walked down to the farthest hide we found Little Egret, Grey Heron and the occasional Curlews.  Our time spent in the actual hide was short as there was little to see bird-wise, but it does give a wonderful view across the area.  We left it having added only Shelduck to our growing list.

Grey Heron passes by
As we walked back we took more notice of the flocks of Barnacle Geese and also found more Roe Deer.

We took another look at the Whooper Swans and supporting acts before finishing off in the Folly Hide were waterfowl and waders, including large numbers of Redshank, were seen in numbers, as was a Little Egret again.  A Common Buzzard was perched in the tree in the distance.

Before we headed back to the coach we took a look at the books.  We even purchased one, although we desired many more, but decided that Amazon may be a better option!  The sun was shining brightly as I took off my waterproof trousers and changed my footwear before setting down for the trip back.  The return journey offered much better light.  We took our last look at the Barnacle Geese and noted that the Galloway hills to the north and Cumbrian fells to the south were showing well.  The higher fells were covered in snow.  More Roe Deer and more Common Buzzards were noted.

A man without whom conservation would have been a great deal poorer!
So it had been a day of changing weather and therefore changing moods.  We’d seen forty-six species of bird (six new ones for the year list), along with Brown Hare and Roe Deer.  This is a wonderful part of the UK (and I hope it remains so in more ways than one) which offers great habitat.  I hope that I can get back to the area soon.  Great day.

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