(report and photo courtesy of Tim Carley)
This year, we went a little earlier, the last week in February. Ably led by June Hargreaves, eleven of us stayed in The Farmhouse in the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Caerlaverock reserve on the Solway Firth.
As well as the usual birding sites around this wonderful estuary, we also had a guided walk on the Kirkconnel Flow National Nature Reserve – a raised peat bog (or mire in the local parlance). Our guide was Stuart Graham, an area manager for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). We heard about the importance of such peat bogs for capture and storage of atmospheric carbon, how SNH have managed to reverse the deterioration of the mire by some quite aggressive management techniques, and of course all about the flora and fauna from cranberries to adders – not forgetting the birds and the red squirrels.
We visited many birding sites in the area and we dined well each night, either in The Farmhouse, or at The Nith Hotel up the road in Glencaple. The bird count was slightly down this year, only 67 species were recorded, but this did include Britain’s smallest bird, the goldcrest. As usual, the badgers came to feed and entertain us outside the conservatory windows every night. Who wouldn’t entertain you for free peanuts and honey-smeared logs?
Thursday night was cold and clear, so we were all stood in a dark lane admiring a marvellous array of stars. We think we even saw the Milky Way, not something you will ever see in Cheshire – unless they switch off all the lights.
The weather? We got very wet going to a bird hide on Monday, a few showers Tuesday, great weather Wednesday and Thursday, but chased away by the rain on Friday morning. It rained on us all the way until we reached the M56! A big thank you to June from all of us.