Saturday, October 28, 2006


George and I are here on our own this weekend while The Man of the Place goes off diving in Loch Long with his pals in the Carlisle Subaqua Scuba Club.
Late in the morning, I asked G if he wanted to come with me to do a little birdwatching at Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust out along the Solway coast.

We left the house about noon and headed towards the direction of Dumfries.

After stopping off at the supermarket to get a picnic lunch we headed out toward the coast. It must be said that the coast here in Dumfries & Galloway doesn't look like coasts anywhere else. Its mud flats for as far as the eye can see when the tide is out. When the tide comes in, and it comes in very very quickly, all those mud flats are covered in shallow water. This is great for migrating birds, but not so great for a seaside picnic and sandcastle building. You can't walk on the mud flats because the mud can hide quicksand. If you want a seaside with a recognisable beach you have to travel further north or south. There are a few places where there is some sand along the Dumfries & Galloway coast, but they're pretty rare. Further north in Ayrshire there are some lovely beaches with sand and even some picturesque cliffs, but here at home, we've got mud flats.
We got to Caerlaverock just in time to watch them feed the swans. The staff at the wildfowl trust try to have it so that the same person feeds the swans each day so that the wild swans aren't alarmed more than they need to be by the appearance of somebody they don't recognise.
In jockeying for supremacy, the whooper swans bob their necks up and down, honk quite a bit and take nips at each other. There were a couple of Mute Swans there too, but the bulk were migrating whooper swans. The Whoopers that have just returned to these winter feeding grounds from Iceland still have very stained feathers. Their heads and the feathers below the water line are discoloured from the tannins and minerals in certain areas of Iceland where they spend the summer, raising their families.
Here is an entire family of Whooper Swans just arriving. Mum, Dad and five mostly grown cygnets. If the adult swans are sporting leg bands, the number will be read in due time and logged in. The number will then be looked up to see where the swan first received its leg band and any further information that might be held.
Here is the family of new arrivals making their way towards the food. I bet they're hungry after that long flight.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my son George who has taken most of the photos of the swans that I have posted today. He also took this photo of a Wigeon and the photo of the Roe deer. The young buck was on the other side of the swan pond and was completely unfazed by the noise and commotion of all the birds. The photo is fuzzy because the deer was pretty far away and I had to crop the picture quite heavily to get him to a decent size. George also is quite fun to take birdwatching now. He is older and understands that being quiet is very important. He also has the makings of a great nature photographer because he'll wait and wait for a bird to be in the right position for a good photograph. He was getting quite annoyed at the swans and ducks for dipping their heads in the water to get food or turning their backs to him when he was spending so much effort getting a shot in focus. After the swans, ducks and geese had been given their dinner, we walked down to one of the big bird watching stations. It has a sod roof! On the way we managed to get a couple of photos of the thousands upon thousands of Barnacle Geese that make The Solway their winter home.

It is a pretty good place to watch birds in comfort. Its not heated, but its out of the wind and rain.

Two birds I added to my life list today are the Shoveler (pictured above) and the European snipe (too far away to get a good picture).

George managed to get a couple of photos of me while we were out.

This one should be entitled, "What's that smell".

I normally don't like photos of me, but this one turned out okay. Thanks for a nice day out George.


Jay said...

Looks like that was a fun time. My biggest problem with wildlife photography is lack of patience. George is doing a good job.

When I was a kid we would play gold on course near the lake that had swans on it's ponds. Man were they mean too! hahaha .. They would chase after us flapping their wings and honking like crazy.

The Bird Woman said...

Nice report, Peggy. I don't remember the hide with the grass roof being there last time I went. Nice pics (well done George!), and it's great to see the Whoopers.

Betty said...

Great photos! George seems to have a talent for it. I love to watch swans, too. When I was in England and Scotland a few years ago, it seemed they were everywhere.

Alan G said...

That is quite the bird-watching station. I enjoyed your post and I even learned a few new things. I past your bird-watching report to another bird-watcher here in the States. Thanks for sharing.

UKBob said...

Looks like you had a nice time Peggy. I think you did well getting a shot of a deer like that.

Peggy said...

Jay - yeah, I'm proud of him

Bird Woman - The grass roof looks like it's new.

Betty - swans ARE everywhere here and this time of year, geese too.

Alan G - Thanks for passing on my blog to others. I'm flattered. Your comments are always welcome.

UKBob- the deer shot was George's but he did do well. The deer helped by standing there for about half an hour

Joy said...

I don't think I've ever seen that many birds...of one kind or one place before. Beautiful birds. What a fun day. George took great pics of look good in purple. Wonderful usual, Peggy.

Peggy said...

Joy, I bet there is a bird sanctuary near you. Just look it up someday.

Thanks for the compliment. That purple fleece is as old as the hills. I'd be lost without it.

Xtreme English said...

What a great post and what wonderful photos!! Good going, George! It is so interesting to read about the birds' heads getting stained by the tannins in the Icelandic waters and then actually to see a photo of one. I'm wondering if this is the equivalent in bird culture of coming back with a great tan??

Claude said...

I wish I had been there with you, except I'm sure it wouldn't have be as enjoyable for G. :)
Caerlaverock looks just like something I would have loved to see! Those photos are wonderful!h