Monday, 13 February 2012

Winter Ducks and Geese

The first weekend in February, Gen and ourselves joined John, Pete and Geoff in Dumfries and Galloway to look for wintering waterbirds and anything else of interest. The weather was mixed with very wet conditions on the Saturday but fine, if chilly for the rest of the time. On the way we stopped off to visit WWT Caerlaverock, which was disappointing as the tides were not in our favour and the Barnacle Geese were very distant. Possibly the best birds seen there were a small flock of Yellowhammers feeding on the ground and in the bushes close to one of the hides.
One of the Yellowhammer flock (taken through glass!)

Further along the Solway, at Carsethorn, we had fantastic views of a Peregrine patrolling the shore and putting up the large flocks of Lapwing, Dunlin and Oystercatchers. Yet again geese were seen at great distance on the mud banks of the Solway.
As Saturday was such a washout, with poor views across Loch Ryan, we returned to our hotel in the afternoon, to amuse ourselves by a roaring fire, playing dominoes!
Sunday morning saw us at Port Beg cottage before breakfast for views of Black Guillemot, Eider, Red-throated Diver, Shag, Rock Dove, Fulmar and Gannet. Later, along the western shore of Loch Ryan we saw large flocks of Scaup, a group of Eider with a Long-tailed Duck, a trio of Long-tailed ducks, Slavonian Grebes, Mergansers and Black Guillemots and Red-throated divers, one in particular was quite close to  our viewpoint. We also found a couple of Rock Pipits on one of the slipways.
A flotilla of Scaup

Eider males
Long-tailed Duck

Slavonian Grebe

Red-throated Diver

Just beyond Stranraer we had a possible Iceland Gull, Turnstones, Redshank, Black-headed Gulls, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Knot and Oystercatchsrs with one leucistic Oystercatcher that has possibly been seen in previous years.
Turnstones, Redshank & Black-headed Gulls

We moved further east to a car park where views towards the northern end of the loch gave us a distant Great Northern Diver. From the eastern shore of Loch Ryan we counted two groups of Red-throated divers, one containing 12 and the other 10.
After leaving Loch Ryan we travelled to Wigtown where a Long-billed Dowitcher has been a long staying visitor but alas we were unable to locate it. Not a lot else to be seen apart from some very elegant Pintails and a Peregrine.
On our way home we crossed the moorland to the east of Stranraer in beautiful sunlight. Very few birds about except in the wooded valleys on the way through to the A75. Unfortunately patches of fog became more intense as we travelled and we found RSPB Mersehead enveloped in mist and fog. Views from the hide were very limited as the nearest ducks melted into the mist.