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Dumfries and Galloway 2nd to 5th May 2010


    We booked 3 nights at the Dumfries Travelodge to use as a base for a tour of the area to visit Gardens and plant nurseries and do a little birding at the same time. With hindsight we should have stayed much further west, as we travelled in that direction each day and with Stranraer c 75 miles away, we had a minimum of 3 hours on the road prior to any detours to gardens or birding sites.


    Wigtown LNR from the hideSunday 2nd May – Driving up to Scotland on the M6 we saw our first 3 Swift of the year, plus a collection of the usual suspects, including an unexpected Northern Wheatear which flew in front of the car about a mile from home. Our first stop was a small plant fair in Kirkudbright, enabling Amanda to meet up with several of the nurseries in the area and buy a few plants for the garden. We then moved on to Cally Gardens near Gatehouse of Fleet to look at the extensive collection of unusual plants from around the world. More plant purchases and several birds as well, with Nuthatch, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff calling insistently to announce their presence. In addition, a Whimbrel flew over calling and the only Raven of the trip ferreted about in the long grass looking for a tasty morsel. By late afternoon places were closing for the day and with the tide just beginning to ebb we drove on to Wigtown Local Nature Reserve overlooking the marshes and bay. We stopped at a roadside lay-by near Creetown to view the bay and were delighted to find a lone Red-throated Diver feeding along the river channel. At Wigtown, as we drove to the car park, I spotted a drake Garganey through the roadside vegetation. Stopping for a proper look was a good idea as we soon located singing Sedge Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler nearby, along with Tree Pipit displaying and parachuting to perch on a roadside telegraph pole. By comparison the rest of the reserve was a little disappointing, as it is much more productive in winter. Three Pinkfoot lingered on the salt marsh along with a few Shelduck, Oystercatcher and Redshank. On our way back to Dumfries we stopped briefly at RSPB Wood of Cree reserve which was very quiet apart from 3 Buzzard circling overhead and a single Blackcap calling near the car park. About 9 miles from Dumfries we stopped at The Galloway Arms Hotel for a bite to eat and, suffice it to say, we returned there for dinner on the following two nights.

    Monday 3rd May – Our main destination for today was Logan Botanic Gardens, south of Stranraer. On the way over we made a detour around RSPB Ken/Dee Marshes where there were a few lingering Greylag. Looking across the bay from Wigtown LNRWillow Warbler and Blackcap seemed to be calling from each piece of woodland we passed and overhead, the usual Buzzard were joined by at least 4 Red Kite from the local release programme. The Botanic Gardens resounded with birdsong, whilst Swallow and House Martin swished by overhead and several Red-legged Partridge patrolled the entrance-way to the gardens. After lunch at the café we moved on towards the Mull of Galloway, which overlooks the Lake District, the Isle of Man and Ireland. Gannet and Sandwich Tern fished offshore whilst small numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Shag patrolled the waters around the RSPB reserve by the lighthouse. Harbour Porpoise were evident amongst the numerous gulls on the water off the point and in the gully below the Information Centre a single Reed Bunting and Whitethroat gave good views from the tops of the few small bushes. Whilst driving we also came across Wheatear, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, a single Hooded Crow, 3 Whimbrel, a pair of Curlew and a lone hunting Peregrine. We retraced our steps back along the peninsula and made a detour to Portpartick where c12 Black Guillemot went about their business in the harbour.

    Spring comes to ScotlandTuesday 4th May – Back to Stranraer again today for Glenwhan Gardens; but first we drove north along Loch Ryan to Cairnryan to scope out the Loch. Around the harbour we found c20 Black Guillemot. Gannet and Sandwich Tern were fishing offshore and the scrub at the roadside was ringing with the song of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. Glenwhan is set in 103 acres reclaimed from the surrounding moorland 30 years ago and is now a stunning mature 12 acre garden with several large ponds, diverse planting and extensive woodland and moorland walks. As you would expect, birds were everywhere, with a confiding Song Thrush providing an excellent photo opportunity and Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Whitethroat all proclaiming their territories. After lunch in the café we moved on to the Mull of Galloway again in search of Great Northern Diver which had eluded us the previous day. Although in excess of 20 birds were being seen regularly, we had managed to dip out totally. Today our luck changed and we managed to locate at least 6 summer plumaged birds between New England Bay Caravan Park and Drummore, along with a few more Whimbrel and a nesting pair of Stonechat. With high tide approaching we set off for The Wig, half way along the west shore of Loch Ryan. Although we were unable to locate the Iceland Gull being seen regularly around Stranraer harbour and waterfront, we found good numbers of Red-breasted Merganser, Sandwich Tern and Oystercatcher roosting on the spit along with c30 Ringed Plover, a similar number of Golden Plover, c20 Whimbrel, c10 Dunlin and a single Turnstone. 7 Common Scoter floated towards the mouth of the Loch as they fished like synchronised swimmers.

    Wednesday 5th May – Today we decided to make a first ever visit to WWT Caerlaverock on our way home. Although strictly a winter birding site, we were hopeful a few interesting birds might still be lingering on. We were not destined to find out however: having passed through an almost birdless landscape, we arrived in the car park at 09.35 hrs and went for a brief walk back down the entrance road, the air redolent with the aroma of the neighbouring farmyard and cattle. We were watched and largely ignored by the staff and departed again 10 minutes before opening time at 10.00 hrs. My Caerlaverock bird list comprises Swallow, Chaffinch, Robin and House Sparrow. Well…’s a start! A Costa coffee and home were much more attractive.


    Buy Where to Watch Birds in Scotland from AmazonAlthough not a birding trip, we managed 88 species during our stay in Dumfries and Galloway, saw some very interesting gardens, bought a few plants and decided we would definitely return, especially to Cally and Glenwhan Gardens to view them in their summer glory. We were lucky with the weather; we only saw a few spots of rain. We had plenty of sunshine, however temperatures were kept down by a biting northerly breeze. Birding highlights were plentiful: how do you choose between drake Garganey, Grasshopper Warbler, fishing Gannet, breeding plumage Black Guillemot, Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver, not to mention all the amorous warblers in full voice?


    Bird Species List

    Dumfries & Galloway Update 8th to 10th June 2010

    David and Amanda Mason


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