27th - 31st Dec 2011

A Great End to the Year!

My year ended with a trip down to North Wales to spend New Year with family. So my brother and I set off early on Tuesday (27th) to get a bit of birding done. First stop was Castle and Kirk Loch at Lochmaben to look for Willow Tits and the wintering AMERICAN WIGEON. A very noisy Willow Tit was found around the bird hide at the south end of Castle Loch along with a Kingfisher and the AMERICAN WIGEON showed nicely on Kirk Loch within a flock of Eurasian Wigeon.

We then headed off for our next and final destination of Leighton Moss. There had been a few interesting birds reported there recently so I had my fingers crossed. The first bird was a GLOSSY IBIS (photo below) which we eventually saw thanks to other birders pointing us in the right direction. Didn't show very well in gloomy, windy conditions but a first for me. After watching the ibis for a while we headed for the Eric Morecombe hides where we saw a single SPOTTED REDSHANK (photo below), a Peregrine and several Little Egrets.

Glossy Ibis

Spotted Redshank

With the light fading fast we headed for the main reserve and went and sat in the Greisdale Hide in the hope of a few more goodies. The first goodie was the arrival of a redhead (female/immature) SMEW and then a juvenile MARSH HARRIER showed itself quartering over the reeds. The best bird however was the arrival of a GREAT WHITE EGRET (photo below) which showed well in the presence of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron for comparison, this was another first for me. We ended the day watching the spectacular sight of mururing Starlings over the reedbeds.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

The 28th saw us heading for the North Wales coast in very windy conditionss. First we failed to find any Firecrests at Conway RSPB reserve, but we did manage to see a WATER RAIL under the bushes we were searching in. We then headed east to Kinmel Bay to look for SNOW BUNTINGS. Thankfully we found them despite the strong winds, sand storms and high tide with crashing waves. Initially only saw the flock of 11 birds flying but they eventually settled and allowed me to get a few photographs (below).

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

For New Year's Eve we went back to the Point of Ayr (having stopped off there on 28th) for high tide. There was a decent number of gulls on the shoreline which gave us something to look through along with large numbers of Dunlin, Knot and ducks. While scanning through the gulls I spotted a SPOONBILL (photo below) sleeping, this bird had been reported recently. This was my final new species of the year and therefore I finished with a year list of 201, with 8 of the birds coming in the last week (all noted in this post).



Bean and GOT IT!!

I was asked if I would like to go and look for geese in the West Freugh area and certainly couldn't resist the opportunity. The first geese we found was a large (c200) mixed flock of Greylag Geese and Canada Geese at Cults Loch, Castle Kennedy. We then headed for Loch Magillie and Soulseat Loch where there was a good range of wildfowl. Geese wise there were 4 EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE and a single Pink-footed Goose within a flock of Greylags in surrounding fields. Then, after being absent from my most recent trips, the GREEN-WINGED TEAL made an appearance with about 200 Common Teal and 100 Wigeon. The female type SMEW was also still present and a single Scaup was another highlight.

The West Freugh MOD area was the next stop and we were soon looking at a large number of geese (c800) feeding in fields. The majority of them were Pink-feet but there was about 13 EURASIAN and 4 GREENLAND WHITE-FRONTED GEESE, 3 Barnacle Geese and a hybrid goose among them. It's very useful to see both sub-species together to see their differences side by side. Knowing there must be more geese about we headed to another area and sure enough there was. Again most of them were Pink-feet (about 1000), but there were a lot more Greenland White-fronted Geese (60+). While scanning this flock I spotted two pairs of bright orange legs which initially I assumed to be a White-front. However there was no belly streaking and therefore would have to be juveniles but the bill colour and pattern looked wrong. They were quite distant and they were also preening and/or sleeping which meant I couldn't see their heads/bill very easily. The bills looked dark and long with only a small amount of colour and therefore realised they must be BEAN GEESE!! We both agreed and soon after 4 more were found which were slightly closer and their shapes were very distinctive. It's probably pointless but I've added a photo below which just about shows the 4 birds. My first ever Beans and a long awaited find.

Bean Geese

Having had our fix of geese we headed to Knockquhassen Reservoir to look for..... more geese! and anything else. The only birds on the reservoir was 9 Whooper Swans. Around the water a couple of Kestrels hovered looking for dinner and then a stunning male HEN HARRIER floated across the heathland. Then while heading away a SHORT-EARED OWL appeared over the horizon and showed nicely for a while (photo below).

Short-eared Owl

It was then time to head to Loch Ryan to look for GULLS. There was a good number of gulls on the shore at Bishop Burn but there was nothing of great interest other than a couple of colour ringed Black Headed Gulls. The first was a white ring with code 'E4JL' which I believe is from the Netherlands. The second had a dark blue ring with code '2A07' which Ive already heard that was ringed on 08/06/2011 at Killington Reservoir, Cumbria (photos below).

Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

So six species of Geese (not including a sub-species and hybrid goose) and a few other goodies equals a great day out!!


The Machars

Stayed close to home due to the potential of icy roads. So a trip to Wigtown and Garlieston was the obvious choice. The wetland at Wigtown was full of ducks including counts of:

190 Teal
99 Wigeon
55 Pintail
12 Shoveler
2 Tufted Duck

On the merse there were 19 Barnacle Geese which included a couple of yellow ringed birds with codes ABC & ABL. They were obviously a pair and they also had a couple of juveniles with them (Image below). After sending the details away, it turns out they were both rung on 31st July 2008 at Ny Aalesund, Svalbard.

Barnacle Geese

The highlight of the day was a stunning ringtail (female/immature) HEN HARRIER hunting over the merse and also the wetland which spooked all the birds out of the long grass. It also landed on a fence post and preened itself in the sunshine allowing amazing views through the scope. After a while it got chased off by a crow and flew quite close past the hide giving me the chance of some pictures shown below.

Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

A quick trip to Garlieston, where the sea was very calm, produced a number of nice seabirds. There were quite a lot of Razorbill and Guillemot scattered on the sea along with a few Red-throated Divers, 15+ Common Scoters and a single GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. A nice surprise was a Kingfisher fishing in a rock pool between the harbour and Rigg Bay.


Wintery Knockman Wood

Below are a few images from a wintery walk around Knockman Wood.

Knockman Wood

Knockman Wood

Knockman Wood


Windy Birds

Strong westerly winds were forecast on the west coast and there was only the occasional shower forecast, so the plan was to head for Corsewall Point. However I stopped off at Stairhaven on the way to look for a large raft of Common Scoters that I'd been told about. The water was very choppy but it was obvious that there were some scoters about. Though I soon picked out a couple of VELVET SCOTERS bobbing up and down and eventually realised that they were a pair and therefore my first drake Velvet Scoter in the county. I then found the large raft of Common Scoters which I tried to count, though I stopped when I got to 700, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was in fact 1000+. Later I found another VELVET SCOTER and also a single Great Northern Diver. Another bird that got my attention was a Kestrel in the car park. The bird sat on the ground and then would run about catching some sort of insect, behaviour Ive not seen before.


I then headed through the West Freugh area where there were a few Greenland White-fronted Geese and also c900 Golden Plovers in a flooded field. Soulseat Loch then had 6 Eurasian White-fronted Geese and the redhead (female/immature) Smew was still present. My final stop before heading to Corsewall Point was Bishop Burn to look for any interesting gulls or ducks. Flocks of Scaup showed very well with at least 7 TUfted Ducks amongst them. Then, while scanning a flock of gulls at the cheese outfall, a small grey wader flew past heading towards Stranraer Harbour. I instantly knew it was a GREY PHALAROPE and after following it for a bit, I grabbed my camera to try and get a record shot (below). This was my first for D&G and only 2nd ever. It, along with 5 Kittiwakes flying down the loch, also suggested that I should be at Corsewall as the wind had obviously forced these birds down the loch.

Grey Phalarope

So what was Corsewall going to produce... well, plenty of seabirds but nothing to eclipse the phalarope. However the biggest surprise was a single MANX SHEARWATER passing close in and a pair of Great Northern Divers (below) were also nice to see. In the one and a half hours a total of 122 Kittiwakes, 5 Fulmars and 48 Guillemots/Razorbills flew south-west past the point.

Great Northern Diver

Another successful day in the west, despite rarely getting out of the car!


Get the Boxes up

It's Friday, but I was out with the Cree Valley (check out their website CVCWT) volunteers to help put some bird and bat boxes up in Low Camer Wood. Winter time is the best time of year to clean out existing bird boxes and put new ones up because the birds are not breeding.


The picture above shows me (up the ladder) putting up a bat box with the other volunteers keeping an eye on me.


Catch Up

In the last week I have had a couple of trips to the Loch Ryan area. On Tuesday (22nd Nov) I helped carry out a count of Loch Ryan which meant going all the way round the loch and finding some new spots to watch from. The main highlight on the Cairnryan side of the loch was a couple of GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS along with many of the usual seabirds (divers, ducks, grebes etc). There was a noticably large number of Common Scoters on the loch with a grand total of 403. Other counts for the day included:

77 Red-throated Divers
29 Slavonian Grebes
62 Great Crested Grebes
167 Red-breasted Mergansers
45 Black Guillemots

There was also 139 Pale-bellied Brent Geese in the fields at The Wig, which included the colour ringed bird that I failed to read fully on 12th Nov. It turned out to have an 'A' on it's red ring (photo below) and therefore is known as KAWR (see 12th Nov post for explaination). I also got a chance to photograph them in nice sunlight and get a good look at the many juvenile/immature birds (photo below).

Pale-bellied Brent Geese

Pale-bellied Brent Geese

My other trip towards Loch Ryan was on Friday (25th Nov) when I decided to give Corsewall Point a look in the fairly strong westerly winds. There wasn't much going past but 20 Gannet, 12 Kittiwake, 13 Fulmar, c30 Auks including one Black Guillemot passed during a 2 hour seawatch. I then did a count of Wig Bay with the highlights being 5 LONG-TAILED DUCKS and a single 1st-winter MEDITERRANEAN GULL, along with 4 Canada Geese being a bit of surprise. From Soleburn I eventually found a female/immature VELVET SCOTER bobbing up and down on the choppy water and I was surprised to see a Little Grebe on the loch close in. The conditions sadly made it hard to see everything on the water. A quick stop at Bishopburn produced another MEDITERRANEAN GULL (adult) with white ring 'E107' along with 26 Teal, 64 Wigeon, 38 Shelduck, 12 Pintail and 24 Great Black-backed Gull. Med Gull 'E107' is a Belgium ringed bird that is 3 years old and has wintered at Loch Ryan every year since the summer of 2009.


Hunch pays off!

There has been a lot of reports (more than usual) of European White-fronted Geese and also Bean Geese in the Country, with a few being in Ayrshire. Therefore I hoped some might appear locally, so I thought about where geese are often found and decided Wigtown and The Crook of Baldoon would be a good possibility. I headed along the 'back road' to Wigtown in the hope of some in fields but with no luck. Then to Wigtown Harbour where there was a flock of 13 Barnacle Geese and 4 Whooper Swans on the merse. Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese usually arrive in the area later on in the winter.

Next stop was The Crook of Baldoon where I thought there would be better fields for geese to feed in. On arriving I noticed a decent number of Whooper Swans in a field next to the road so stopped to check them out. However I soon noticed a small group of geese in the middle of the field and hey presto! they were EUROPEAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE. They were too distant for great photos (record shots below), but I could see their pink bills and pale head and neck which help seperate them from the 'Greenland' sub-species. There was a total of 9 birds with a couple looking a bit more immature than the others.

European White-fronted Geese

European White-fronted Geese

Sadly no Bean Geese but it was nice to have a plan work out well!!


Ducks Galore!

Decided to head west to The Rhins again. Started at the mouth of Piltanton Burn, accessed from The County Golf Club. The light was still very dull but a nice male Hen Harrier flying over the Burn towards Torrs Warren brighten the morning up a bit. A pair of Pintail in the burn and a female Reed Bunting in the long grass were the only other interesting birds during my short walk.

Next stop, Soulseat Loch. A Smew had been reported there earlier in the week so that was my target species. On arrival there were plenty of ducks on the loch, but more seemed to be hiding in the grass along the side of the loch. A scan of the loch produced a couple of surprises, a drake COMMON SCOTER and a couple of LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Given the closeness of the sea it seems strange that they would move on to a loch. As I expected there were ducks hiding in the grass, but they were soon disturbed by something and after a quick search I found the female SMEW (record shot below). Quite a rare/scare bird in D&G, with this bird being my first in the county.


After watching the Smew feed and preen I had another look through the small mixed flock of duck that had been disturbed and to my surprise there was a drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL in the middle of them (record shot below). The vertical white stripe was obvious and there was no sign of any horizontal stripe which was a good starter for making it a 'pure' bird (i.e. not a hybrid). However the stripes are not the only feature to be considered. Other features such as facial colour/brightness and other plumage colours all fitted with it being a 'pure' bird.

Green-winged Teal

Other birds on the loch included: 2 Scaup, 2 Pintail, 1 Shoveler, 1 Little Grebe, 3 Coot and a single GREENSHANK on the waters edge. Around the loch there was: 1 Peregrine, 1 Sparrowhawk and flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare. This was by far the most successful visit to Soulseat Loch and makes me wonder what else might have been there in the past!


That's Rubbish

Another Wednesday and therefore another day out with the Cree Valley volunteers. Today was spent in the Blairmount/Doonhill Wood area where we were picking up litter, clearing path ways and looking for signs of Red Squirrel. Given the location of the woods, next to housing and school, a lot of rubbish is unfortunately dropped/dumped in the area. It was surprising how much litter was picked up, but it does make an instant change to how the woods look. I wonder how long it will last!?!

We also kept an eye open for Squirrels and their dreys. Eventually we found both, though the dreys were tricky to be sure they were not bird nests or that they were being used. Fortunately the Red Squirrels were a lot easier to see, with one running along the ground just next to the path and then up a nearby tree. It was good to see them in this area given the size of the wood and its location. However it is very likely that they take advantage of bird feeders in gardens around the edge of the wood.There was also a good variety of birds in the area: Raven, Jay, Fieldfare, Crossbill, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tits, Nuthatch and many more.


What a Crane!

Yesterday a Common Crane was reported in the West Freugh area with the Pink-footed Geese. Another bird I'd never seen before that I just had to try and see. So an early morning start got me to West Freugh before 8am. Soon after arriving I could see a large skein of Pink-feet heading my way, so I stopped and waited and they flew low over my head. Managed to spot the hybrid goose (poss. Barnacle X Ross's) along with 3 Barnacle Geese as they all passed overhead. However there was no sign of the Crane, but Chris had turned up by this point so we split up to check the whole area.

I headed towards High Mye farm where there are often geese in the fields. Once I'd stopped I noticed a few small groups of geese heading over and then.... there it was!! A COMMON CRANE flying along with the geese. It was still quite dull so I only managed to get some silhouette shots (shown below). It flew in the rough direction of Low Mye farm, but I lost it behind some buildings so wasn't sure if it had landed or continued to fly off.

Common Crane

Common Crane

Sadly that was the last I saw of it despite myself and other looking throughout most of the day. I had a quick trip down to the Mull of Galloway again, the only birds of real interest were 3 Great Northern Divers in the bay to the north. Back at West Freugh there was a nice flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese near to the roadside and were on the correct side for photos with the sun behind me for once. There was roughly 120 in the flock which included a few juveniles, including the family pictured below.

Greenland White-fronted Geese

Having had a failed search for the Crane I headed to Loch Ryan. I started by the Soleburn garden centre where there was a large flock of c110 Common Scoters and also my first Long-tailed Duck (male) of the winter. With the light fading I moved around to Wig Bay where there was another 4 Long-tailed Ducks (3 males) and 2 more Common Scoters. There was also a large flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese in the fields along the track to The Scar. I counted roughly 130 geese and five of them had coloured rings. Three of the ringed birds were ones I'd seen in previous winters, but two were new to me but unfortunately I couldn't get the letter/number for one of the rings. The ringed birds were LZYY, HIWW, NTYY, ?T?Y and K?WR (see 31/10/11 post for interpretation). Brent Goose ?T?Y only had one colour ring and a metal on the other leg.

Brent Geese

Another new bird and some nice big winter flocks.... Happy Days!!

Back at home I watched the 'Better late than never' Firework display at Blairmount and tried to get some abstract photos. The best of a bad bunch below is shown below (top pic). The second image was taken in Nov 2007 in Glasgow and is the reason I tried to get some today but I now realise it must have been a fluke!




Dodgy Sparrow

Headed down to the Mull of Galloway to do a bit more Vis Mig-ing. There wasn't too much passing over, with just a few Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Redpoll, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits being seen. However the highlight was hearing the call of a Bunting species. It was either a Lapland or Snow Bunting, but because it couldn't be located in flight I couldn't see which species it was. I've only seen Snow Buntings on a couple of occasions in Lothian and never seen a Lapland Bunting, so this sighting/hearing was a nice surprise.

A quick wander through Auchie Glen produced a nice variety of birds. There was a flock of Goldfinch, Siskin and Redpoll feeding in Alders along with a few Goldcrest and a Treecreeper. The most interesting bird appeared where I had parked the car. Initially I thought it was a Tree Sparrow, but when looking closely there seemed to be a look of House Sparrow about it. The photo below shows the main features of the bird. I've decided, with help from others, that it is likely to be a hybrid Tree X House Sparrow. This is because of the discoloured central crown stripe, smudged cheek spot and the small white spot behind the eye. It happened to be in the same spot as where I'd seen a few Tree Sparrows during last winter, so perhaps one had stayed to breed!?!

Hybrid Sparrow

Then headed to Bishopburn, Loch Ryan for high tide. Not many gulls about, but as ususal many ducks had come close in to feed. These included 2 Pochard, 1 Shoveler, Pintail, Scaup, Tufted Duck and Wigeon. Chris was there when I arrived and we queried "where have all the Med Gulls gone?". I hadn't seen any there for quite a long time so hoped there would be one about somewhere. After Chris had left I moved around the loch to another layby (the one with a Snack Bar) where there was a good number of gulls on the shoreline at a lowish tide. Surprisingly I managed to find two Mediterranean Gulls, a first winter and an adult, so they are still about!!



Having just passed my driving test last week, I couldn't resist going out on my own and finding some birds. Yesterday I took a quick trip to Garlieston in the afternoon sun to see what birds & shells were about. 25 Pale-bellied Brent Geese was the bird highlight and a small Hungarian Cap was the shell highlight.

Today I headed to Loch Ryan. Unfortunately it was very misty/foggy all the way along the A75 and I could hardly see any of the loch. Having arrived at high tide, it did mean the birds were just about close enough to be viewed. My first stop was Bishopburn where there was a few gulls about and a good variety of ducks close in. Three Whooper Swans calling in the mist swam into view and started to preen just offshore. Fortunately they came out of the water just enough to be able to see one of them had a yellow coloured ring with code "V5L" (photo below). A pair of both Eider and Red-breasted Mergansers also came close in along with a few Pintail and mixed groups of Tufted Ducks and Scaup. Two families, both consisting of parents and two juveniles, of Pale-bellied Brent Geese also flew in and started to feed with their own family.

Whooper Swan

With the mist not going anywhere I moved around to Innermessan before the tide moved out. There was a small roost of birds on the shore below the caravan park and while scanning through them I spotted a stunning male BLACK REDSTART fly to the top of the wall. Sadly it shot off before I had a chance for any photos. However, even with a fairly quick glimpse I could see the bright red tail spread open as it flittered up the rocks and the jet black colour to its head and body. I hung around the area for over an hour with no sign, I even wandered around the caravan park a couple of times. Another interesting bird was a leucistic Oystercatcher (photo below) which has wintered around Loch Ryan for a good number of years. I'm not sure how long but I do have a photo of it from 2009, though it was certainly around before that.

Leucistic Oystercatcher

A couple of Magpies and a few Slavonian Grebes near Leffnoll Point, on the eastern shore, were the only other birds of note. So overall a nice start to my birding by car!


47YY Brent Goose Update

I recently recieved the ringing history for the Pale-bellied Brent Goose I saw at The Wig, Loch Ryan on 9th October (see earlier post). He was ringed on 1st May 2007 at Bessastaðagrandi, SW Iceland. This goose has been reported on a regular basis, both in Iceland and also Ireland where he has wintered each year. So it is the first time 47YY (right leg: yellow "4", left leg: yellow "7") has been reported at Loch Ryan. It will be interesting to see if he stays at Loch Ryan for the winter or if he moves further south to the larger wintering population in Ireland (38000 birds recently). He may also have a couple of juveniles with him, as can be seen in the photo below (juveniles have the pale fringing on back).

Brent Geese

Thanks to Graham McElwaine at the Irish Brent Goose Research Group for the information.


A New Bird!

Had a quick trip to the new RSPB reserve, Crook of Baldoon, to see what the high tide might force in. There was certainly plenty of waders and wildfowl about with the main birds being:

2 Black-tailed Godwit
10+ Knot
7+ Grey Plover
100's Golden Plover
7 Brent Geese

The tide brought a lot of these birds closer in and it also came over the merse flushing at least 30 Common Snipe and best of all a single JACK SNIPE (photo below), which was the first we had ever seen. Not a very scarce bird, but because of their habit of keeping hidden away they are hard to find.

Jack Snipe

Not the greatest photo ever, but good enough to see the short, stubby bill and to confirm the sighting of a new bird for us.


A Bit of Vis Mig

The first reasonably good forecast for a long time had Alyn and I heading to the Mull of Galloway with the hope of seeing some migrating birds (or Vis Mig = Visible Migration). We arrived at around 8am as it was becoming light and the first birds we saw was a large flock of crows around the lighthouse. Initially we assumed they would just be Carrion Crows and/or Jackdaws, but we could hear a few Raven calling and to our amazement they all turned out to be RAVEN. The flock then slowly floated over our heads allowing us to count a total of roughly 70 birds, easily the most Raven we have ever seen in one flock. For the next couple of hours there was the constant sound of Raven calling as a smaller number (up to 30) stayed around the lighthouse.

Our attention was soon taken by small flocks of passerines passing over. We stood by some bushes to watch what was going over and to see what might take a break in the bushes before moving on. The main flocks consisted of: Skylark, Linnet, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit and Reed Bunting. Other individual birds or small flocks seen consisted of Redpoll, Greenfinch, Siskin, Fieldfare and Swallows as well as a couple of Merlin seen flying out to sea. As usual a Peregrine was patrolling the area and keeping the migrants on their toes and about 4 resident Stonechats on the headland.

Continuing on the theme of migrants we headed to Auchie Glen, the furthest south location of trees and shrubs, to see what might be lurking in the trees. Plenty of activity in and around the glen with Redwing and Fieldfare feeding in surrounding fields and a small flock of Goldcrest (c10) in the bushes. The star migrant of the day was a nice BRAMBLING (photo below) in a bush at the bottom of the glen.


Next stop, Loch Ryan where the tide was going out. Not much at Bishopburn as we passed so we headed to the east side of the loch. Here we found good numbers of Slavonian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Scaup, Wigeon and Red-breasted Mergansers. I then spotted a Common Scoter flying south, past Leffnoll Point, and landing further down the loch. Alyn then noticed it had landed next to a couple of female/immature VELVET SCOTERS (photo below). They showed well for a while until flying off north to Leffnoll Point. We also saw a leucistic Oystercatcher fly past which has wintered at Loch Ryan for a good number of years.

Velvet Scoters

Finished off a successful day at Bishopburn where there was no sign of the Glaucous Gull or any Mediterranean Gulls.


The end of a great weekend!

We decided to go back to Wigtown for sunrise to see if there were any migrants moving through. Sadly no migrants present, but plenty of other birds about to keep us interested. The Long-billed Dowitcher was still present, still feeding on a small island it had been on yesterday. If only it would come closer to the hide, oh and the sun would come out! After having a quick scan with the binoculars to see what else was about, I had a closer look at the ducks with the scope. I eventually picked out a nice eclispe male GARGANEY (photo below) feeding with Teal. This was the first Garganey we had seen this year and quite a late bird given it should be heading south for the winter.


Though the Garganey was a nice surprise, it was even more surprising to find a Black Swan with a couple of Mute Swans feeding on the merse. Before we had left it had moved on to the River Bladnoch and eventually the wetland (photos below). This bird may be the one that was present at Bishopburn, Loch Ryan during the summer. It was also a good morning for birds of prey with 1 Merlin, 1 Kestrel, 2 Peregrines, 1 Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard being present. A Kingfisher made a brief appearance at the back of the wetland, good to see one still around given their probable decline due to the last couple of winters.

Black Swan

The afternoon was spent around Loch Ryan with the hope of finding the recently arrived Glaucous Gull at Bishopburn. However the weather didn't help to start with and there were not many gulls about. So we took a trip to Corsewall Point and sat in the wind and rain. Only bird of interest was a juvenile Arctic Tern feeding along the coastline. Once the rain had stopped we headed back to Bishopburn where the tide was coming in. Still not many gulls about but there was a good number of ducks on the loch which consisted of mainly Scaup with a few Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers. Flocks of gulls started to arrive and I soon managed to pick out an adult Mediterranean Gull. Soon after, the GLAUCOUS GULL was spotted flying in along the shoreline, it then landed on the beach infront of us. A crow decided it wasn't happy with the presence of the gull and kept picking at it's tail and shouting at it. The gull therefore moved up the beach allowing me to get a few photos (below).

Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

So, the end of a great weekend birding despite the weather!


Another DOWITCHER & more shells

Alyn (my brother) has come home for a few days, so this morning I took advantage of his driving ability to go down to Garlieston and Wigtown. Arrived at a very windy Garlieston to find there was a "shoot" taking place near Eggerness Point so we decided to head to the harbour and look out into Wigtown Bay. Managed to find a couple of Skua's harassing Kittiwakes quite far out, as well as a single of both Common Scoter and Red-throated Diver. A few flocks of ducks flew by consisting of at least 7 Wigeon, c60 Teal, 10 Gadwall and some Mallard. Three Greenshank also showed along the shoreline.

I then left Alyn and had a good hour looking for shells in Garlieston Bay. The last time I was there the beach had been ploughed, so I was pleased to see the shells had returned. I found a couple of different shells from what I'd found there before: Turban top Shell and Smooth Artemis. The highlight was finding all 5 species of limpets (known in this area) which included only my second Key-hole Limpet. But that wasn't all, I also found my second ever Tusk Shell. Photo below shows (from left to right): Tusk, Key-hole and Slit Limpet.


On the way home we decided to stop off at Wigtown to see what was around the reserve. Initially there was too many people in the hide looking over the wetland, so we started by looking over the merse. Not much showing with the tide well out, however the others left allowing us to look at the wildfowl on the wetland. There was plenty of Teal and Wigeon with a few Pintail, Shoveler and Gadwall mixed in. My attention then was taken by a couple of waders on a small island. They both looked like Redshank through binoculars, but a quick look through the scope revealed one of them to have an obvious eye-stripe. It then became apparent that it was in fact a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER. My second in a few weeks and Alyn's first ever. It stayed on the small island which was a bit distant and therefore only a few video-grabs through the scope could be achieved (below).

Long-billed Dowitcher


Glentrool Acorns

Spent today with the CVCWT volunteers on a rare sunny day, though very cold! The morning was spent weeding the new Montane Demonstration Garden at the Stroan Bridge car park. This garden contains many plants that would typically be found above the tree line on the slopes of local hills, therefore allowing those who cannot get up the hills to see a similar habitat. While weeding there was a variety of birds about, with Long-tailed Tits and Crossbills being the most notable.


For the afternoon we went hunting for acorns in the Buchan and Glenhead Woods, which are beyond Bruce's Stone. They were not too hard to find, but it was interesting the see the variation in size and shape of the acorns coming from different trees. Though the collecting was fairly easy I was still knackered by the end of the day, too much fresh air! The plan is to plant the acorns collected at the CVCWT Nursery next week. As usual I kept an eye out for any interesting creatures. It turned out that the most interesting creature was one I had first seen a week ago, the micro-moth Diurnea lipsiella (photo below). By the end of the walk a total of about 15 were seen within the Oak Woods.

Micro moth

At home, before heading out in the morning, I saw 19 Whooper Swans heading East over Newton Stewart. There was also a large mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwing in the Barclye area as we headed towards Glentrool.


Baldoon Waders

I was kindly invited by Pete to join him during a WeBS count at the Crook of Baldoon in the area of the new RSPB reserve. On arriving there was clearly a large number of waders about on the shoreline with the tide coming in. Sadly the high tide height wasn't at it's greatest but was just about good enough to view the birds reasonably well. Some of the most interesting waders were:

9+ Grey Plover
c16 Knot
1 Bar-tailed Godwit
100's Golden Plover

There was also flocks of Dunlin and Lapwing hanging around, all of which occansionally got harrassed by a Peregrine that stayed nearer Wigtown Harbour. Snipe also made the occansional appearance, with 15+ in total being flushed from the merse by wandering sheep. Also in the area were Redwing, Buzzard, and good numbers of Meadow Pipits.


Fieldfares have arrived!

A morning standing in the garden eventually produced a small flock of around 40 Fieldfares flying over. They also briefly landed in bushes down the road before flying off while giving their great sounding call. Redwing numbers seem to be increasing with a few flocks of around 20 moving around the area. Also some calling this evening while in the garden chasing a couple of large Fallow Deer stags away. A group of 3 Starling also flew over which, though a common bird, generally aren't seen around the house.


New for VC73 (Kirkcudbrightshire)!!

This evening I have had confirmation that a micro moth that I found and photographed in Low Camer Wood yesterday is the first record for the vice-county of Kirkcudbrightshire. The moth in question is Diurnea lipsiella (photo below), not a very colourful moth but given it wants to keep away from predators it wouldn't want to be brightly coloured. I understand that it is also only the 4th record for D&G, so it's turned into quite a nice find.

Micro moth

Thanks to Roy Leverton for the identification.


Voluntary Day

For the past few summers I have been a volunteer for the local Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust (CVCWT), who manage the woods in the Cree Valley. So most Wednesdays I'm out in all weather helping to look after the local woodlands. This week the team of volunteers (usually up to 10 people) were thinning Birch Trees from Low Camer Wood. Thinning the Birch out allows more light to get to the small ground plants and other trees (especially Oak) which need the light to grow. It is quite hard work using bow saws and tree cutters to cut down the trees and then also pile them up to create a nice habitat for small invertebrates, but it's good to do something where the difference can be seen straight away.

Each week I try and look for different wildlife in the wood we happen to be in and this week was no exception. The leader of the group, Pete, found a nice smelly Stinkhorn which had attracted a variety of flies (photo below). Other fungi seen included Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma Fasciculare), Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria Amethystea) and a Chanterelle species.


Caterpillars are one of the main creatures I've been finding over the last few months, with two species already being found in Low Camer Wood (Small Angle Shades & Coxcomb Prominent). Today two more were found. I found a small brown caterpillar sitting on an acorn, which has now been identified as a Purple Clay larva (thanks to Roy Leverton on the ScottishMoths Yahoo Group). Then Pete found a nice colourful Buff-tip larva (photo below) which we had also seen elsewhere earlier in the year.

Buff-tip Larva

At home birds are continuing to move over and through the garden. Redwings have been seen everyday, with a maximum flock size of about 30. Flocks are moving in all directions suggesting that they are possibly moving between food sources in the area rather than migrating. Jay also continue to fly back and forth over the house. Still waiting for some geese to go over and those first Fieldfares to pass through.


Garden Goldies

A decent afternoon forecast today gave me the chance to get to Garlieston and practise my driving. Tide was on it's way out and as has been usual recently there was a large flock of gulls on the shore. While walking around the bay I spotted a single Pale-bellied Brent Goose in the water just off the rocks where a few Redshank and Greenshank were sitting. We then headed through Shore Wood, towards Eggerness Point, where I found a single Speckled Wood butterfly sunning itself on bushes. A quick look back into the bay produced 4 Whooper Swans flying around the bay, they then headed inland in a westerly direction.

At Eggerness Point we scanned Wigtown Bay and found the usual small groups of Common Scoter, with a total of about 20 birds. There was also a few Divers on the water, but only a Red-throated Diver that landed just off the rocks could be identified accurately. A few Tern species in the middle of the bay were nice to see and the odd Guillemot made a brief appearance close to shore. We then decided to head back, but this time around the outside of Shore Wood. It turned out to be a good decision as we found a flock of 15 Greenshank, one of my highest counts for Garlieston. Back in the bay I did some shell searching, main highlights was a Common Piddock (photo below) and a single Slit Limpet.

Common Piddock

Once home I decided to stand outside and see what birds would pass overhead as it got dark. Plenty of activity with common garden birds (Chaffinch, Siskin) flying over in small flocks. A flock of c20 Pied Wagtails then came over heading up the Penkiln Burn which was a slight surprise, but not as much of a surprise as when 4 Golden Plover turned up. They came quite low over Old Minnigaff and then seemed to become interested in joining a flock of circling feral/racing Pigeons which had come out for an evening flight. This went on for a few minutes until a Peregrine came through and scattered the Pigeons, it then chased the Goldies out of sight. Soon after the Peregrine returned over the house, apparently without any prey from what I could see, but I then noticed only 3 Goldies flying off. A bizarre 10 minutes with the first Golden Plovers for the garden list. We tick most birds seen in or from the garden.

Other interesting birds from the garden today included:
3 Goldcrest
2 Raven
2+ Jays
fem Blackcap

Another day with a few surprises, what will the rest of the week bring.... Fieldfares?


Winter Migrants

This morning I saw my first flock of REDWING of the winter. There was about 15 birds with a couple of Mistle Thrush flying over Minnigaff. A couple of Jays also flew over the house, with one returning over the house with an acorn which I'm sure it will have stored somewhere in the wood nearby. Despite the dull and wet conditions I had a trip over to Loch Ryan in the afternoon for a walk at The Wig. Good numbers of birds about at low tide with highlights including:

28 Pale-bellied Brent Geese, 3 Grey Plover, 300+ Golden Plover, 1 Merlin, 1 Snipe, and 2 Knot.

The Merlin disturbed the large mixed Finch flock which comprises of at least Twite, Linnet and Goldfinch, but getting an idea of how many of each is hard to decide. Also noticed that one of the Brent Geese was colour ringed. Couldn't get close enough to read the yellow coloured rings with binoculars but a shot with the camera showed it to be number 7 on the left and possibly 4 on the right. I've seen 4 previous colour ringed Brent Geese in the last few years but never this one, though it may just have stopped off before heading to Ireland. A Magpie on the way back along the A75 near Glenluce was a nice addition to the days sightings.

Brent Geese

Shells have become my newest interest and today I couldn't resist looking along the shore at Wig Bay. Managed to find some nice shells in the short space of time I had there:

3 Common Tortoiseshell Limpets, several China Man's Hats, 1 Hungarian Cap, 1 Banded Venus, 2 White Piddocks, 1 Faroese Sunset Shell, 1 Alder Necklace Shell, plus a Sea Urchin.

So the winter Thrushes are arriving and Loch Ryan is starting to fill up with plenty of Wildfowl, a great time to be out and about what ever the weather!


Fungi or Dowitcher....?

Woke up on Friday morning expecting to have a nice sunny morning in the garden followed by a guided Fungi walk at Caldons, near Glentrool, organised by the CVCWT. However, just as I got up Chris text me to find out if I was up. I was and the next thing was he was ringing the bell and asking if I wanted to go and see a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER. Having never seen one before I just couldn't resist the opportunity!

We arrived at Caerlaverock WWT around midday and headed straight for the Folly Pond to find it was hidden from sight behind the first small island. Over an hour went by without any sign of it so I decided to go up the Farm Tower to at least get a glimpse of a very sleepy Dowitcher. It wasn't until 14.10 when we first got our first good look at this bird, with a lot of thanks going to the female Peregrine that flushed everything in to the water. I managed to find the Dowitcher swimming out of the flock of Teal and in to shallower water. It then preceded to feed along the edge of some vegetation to the left of the hide allowing some decent photo opportunities in decent light conditions (See below).

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

After about 15 minutes of feeding the Dowitcher swam across to the island infront of the hide, but sadly walked around the back and out of sight where it went back to sleep. While it was asleep a small flock of waders dropped on to the Folly Pond; 10 Ruff and 4 Dunlin. It was amazing to see the size differences between the individual Ruff. Other birds around the reserve included a Sparrowhawk, Golden Plover, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and flocks of Barnacle, Pink-feet and Canada Geese.

Long-billed Dowitcher


So a great day out on a rare sunny day (we didn't have the Indian Summer) along with great company and an extra thanks to Chris for getting me up and taking me!