Sunday, 15 February 2015

Caerlaverock Ends a Good Week of Geese

14th Feb.  I’ve been to Caerlaverock most winters over the past ten years and I seem to remember that the last three times I’ve gone along with the WWT group from Washington.  It’s always good to see that the trip always attracts participation from a wide range of all age groups ranging from the very young to the more mature!  The level of knowledge amongst the group is at various levels but everyone seems keen to learn especially the youngsters.  The interest is there and can be utilised with just a little appropriate action, and I think that is something other groups could learn from.  Cater for folk and many will be hooked, don’t bother then just forget inspiring folk.  The evening before had provided another large turn out for a really good presentation concerning Beavers at the NHSN, another organisation which these days captures an audience of a mixed age group.  As I’ve mentioned before I believe efforts made to move this organisation forward into the 21st century has really paid off. Anyway, we left Washington with the song of a Song Thrush filling the rather damp air.  Before we had reached Carlisle and turned northwards the cloud had cleared and we were blessed with clear skies and sunshine for the rest of the day.  For the first time this year I didn’t bother getting the hat and gloves out.  Four Common Buzzards lifted in the thermals over a small area of woodland as we approached the entrance to the reserve.  Our first flock of Barnacle Geese were seen to the other side of the road.  Sparrowhawk and Kestrel had been seen on the journey.

Barnacle Geese

My previous visits to Caerlaverock have often met with rain and distant flocks of Barnacle Geese on the ground.  Today was different with the flocks of Barnacle Geese (I believe there were around four thousand on the reserve) up in the air and on one occasion passing directly over our heads, a sight enjoyed in sunshine.  Following our experience with the Pink –footed Geese at Druridge Bay, Northumberland earlier in the week, this has given Sam and I highlights for February.  We found the geese in one large flock of thousands later in the day.

Barnacle Geese

Barnacle Geese over the trees

The WWT doesn’t stand still, and it was the first time I had entered there new hide near the entrance.  Now I don’t rate watching birds from behind glass at the top of my list of wildlife adventures, but to be fair it does give the chance for good close up sighting of the wildfowl and in particular the Whooper Swans and with the talks being given by staff it is an excellent learning experience for all age groups.  Anyone with any real interest in a subject is keen to learn more, and education in my opinion should be at the top of the list of any organisation or group involved with wildlife.  There are some excellent hides at Caerlaverock giving excellent views over the entire area.

Whooper Swan
Other waterfowl seen today were Mute Swan, Canada Geese, Shelduck, Mallard. Gadwall, Shoveller, Wigeon, Teal, and Tufted Duck.  A look on Folly Pond before we left brought us good sightings of both Pintail and the Green-winged Teal.



Mallard   Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
The large hide looking out to sea gave us sightings of Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and two Little Egrets.  There was no sign of the Hen Harrier reported early morning.  A return walk brought out a pair of Treecreepers in the hedging, the pair giving a good sighting and in fact my first for 2015.  Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were both seen on the reserve as was a group of at least six Roe Deer.  Skylarks were numerous.  Grey Heron made occasional appearances.

There were far fewer passerines along the hedges and pathways than I recall seeing on several previous visits.  I think perhaps the mild weather ensured that many were finding feeding easy across a wider area rather than feeling the need to congregate in large flocks in small areas.  Most numerous were Chaffinches and Yellowhammers.

Towards the end of our visit we came across what was perhaps along with the geese, the sighting of the day.  This was a Water Rail making a grand appearance in the open to feed.  It was certainly attracting the photographers two or three who seemed to be camped there for the day!  Sam and I managed some decent images of what I think is for both of us our best and longest sighting of a Water Rail.  (images to follow in later blog)  At one point it ran along the grass at the side of the reed-bed and once hidden in the reed bed it continued to entertain with its pig like squeals.  It seemed that the Water Rail was content to keep re-appearing throughout the day.  After moving on we took a last look at the Whooper Swans before retuning to the coach.  A member of staff was still there giving out information to youngsters.

There was no time for a visit to the shop or to have a ‘cuppa’ tea, but we had visited the reserve for other reasons than sitting drinking cups of tea.  It had been a really good visit, if a little short and we returned with a day list of fifty species, three of which were new for my year list.  On our return a Song Thrush continued to sing from about the same position as when we left.

I can still hear those calls of the Barnacle Geese.  The Solway, whether on the English or Scottish side is a wonderful area.  Despite the sun today there was still traces of snow on the tops of the hills which added to a grand atmosphere.   It’s been a great week and I applaud the WWT and NWT, just two of the organisations which help ensure these habitats are worth visiting.

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