Helen and I are staying in the Lake District this week, and we decided to have a session of birding at Caerlaverock today.
We were last here about two years ago – in the depths of Winter. It was much nicer on this occasion – in mid-April – not to be shivering as we walked around the reserve! It was sunny, but a little breezy – nothing we couldn’t cope with.
We first followed the Sir Peter Scott Trail today. On our previous visit here, two years ago, we spotted our first-ever Water Rail. There was no sign of any Rails today, but there were large numbers of small birds on the feeders, including: Great Tit, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Greenfinch. Two hides look out onto the mere and a field adjacent to the reserve from here. A number of birds could be seen from these vantage points today: Song Thrush, Pied Wagtail and Carrion Crow were all showing particularly well, along with variously-coloured Feral Pigeons.
Next we visited the Peter Scott Observatory. In the Winter months the pond here is full of Whooper Swans, which are fed daily, to the delight of the great many visitors who come to see these lovely over-Wintering birds. There were no Whoopers here today, of course, but we did see one rather unexpected, lingering Winter-visitor – a lone Wigeon – amongst the other waterfowl on the pond which comprised mostly Tufted Duck and Mallard.
On our last visit to Caerlaverock we were unable to follow the trail down to the Tower Hide due to severe flooding. We were, indeed, very lucky to be able to visit the reserve at all on that occasion, as the North-West of England had suffered tremendous flooding over an extended period and large parts of nearby Carlisle were submerged under flood-water necessitating a huge rescue and clean-up campaign in the days which followed – all covered extensively by national television.
On this visit, however, we had no such difficulties, and were able to visit the Tower Hide. On arrival we were very impressed to discover how large the hide is, with its three floors and a great many viewing ports. Helen and I wanted the best views, naturally, so we climbed all the way to the top. From here we had a panoramic vista which took in sweeping views including the Solway Firth and the distant Lake District.
Birdwise, the large flocks of Barnacle Geese browsing the local fields provided the best views from the Tower Hide. These birds must have been fattening-themselves up for their return to their breeding grounds in Svalbard, we reasoned. Most of the area’s many thousands of over-Wintering Barnacle Geese had already left for Scandinavia by this time and these must surely be the last batch yet to leave.
As we walked back up the path towards the Visitors’ Centre for a much-needed cup of tea, we could hear a great many songbirds singing in the trees around us. They are becoming harder to spot again now due to the sprouting foliage on the trees. However, a beautiful Wren with some nesting material in its beak gave us a good photo-opportunity.
After our hot drink, (and erm…large piece of cake!) we finished today’s visit with a quick stop in the Folly Pond Hide. A few distant Redshank and various waterfowl were all that we spotted here today, unfortunately.
Not one of our best days in terms of spotting ‘exciting’ birds then, but it was a great pleasure to be out and about in this excellent reserve again. Roll-on our next visit here.