Saturday, 16 April 2016

Seeing red....

I recently visited Historic Scotland Threave castle- well known for its breeding pair of Ospreys (in nearby trees I hasten to add!). Walking along trails maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, I came across the jetty and landing area for the small boat journey across the River Dee- the only access to the castle. The amazing tower creates a formidable scene and transports your imagination back to the 14th century when it was home to the Earls of Douglas.

Threave Castle (photo Laura Shearer)
Ospreys on the nest at Threave (photo Laura Shearer)
Continuing on the trails I came across a viewing platform for the Osprey nest. A lovely NTS volunteer was on hand, explaining more about their incredible migration and feeding techniques whilst offering views through a telescope. Soaring in the sky above them was 3 Red Kites- a common sight in Dumfries and Galloway after their reintroduction in 2001-2005. Agitated by their presence, a pair of Common Buzzards swooped and dive bombed the kites until they flew off into the distance. This was shaping up to be an amazing visit!

The marsh hides at the far end of the reserve provided excellent views onto the River Dee which was covered in wading birds such as Lapwings, Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatchers. Outside the trees were buzzing with singing Willlow Warblers- my first sightings of this species this year.

Suddenly I caught a glimpse of red- a Red Squirrel running up a tree. As if this wasn't exciting enough- another 2 Red Kites flew overhead. This was definitely a trip to remember!

Driving along the A75 I decided to visit Kirroughtree ran by the Forestry Commission. Known for its long walks through the Galloway forest park, it is an excellent place to start a nature hike. One hide situated close to the car park is surrounded by tall trees and feeders. Within seconds of sitting down I could hear some shuffling up one of the trees. Down came a Red Squirrel which nibbled on some peanuts mere feet away from where I sat - I was literally frozen to the spot with awe!

Red squirrels at Threave (left) and Kirroughtree (right)- photos Laura Shearer
Birding around Dumfries and Galloway, I am always surprised with what I see. On Thursday night whilst out with friends, we stumbled across some Red Deer- my first sighting of this species in the region. Admiring them from the car, they started rutting and playing with each other before jogging off into the horizon. What an amazing fortnight of wildlife sightings I have had!

Red deer, Dumfries and Galloway (photo Laura Shearer)

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Hi ho, hi's off to work I go...

The Mull of Galloway with the Isle of Man in the distance (photo Laura Shearer)
Heading back to work on the Mull of Galloway, my mind was swirling with images of all the amazing wildlife sightings I had in 2015. Even with high hopes I was not prepared for the amazing spectacle of feeding Harbour Porpoise only 15 minutes into the new season! Performing my usual loop around the reserve I caught a glimpse of some fins underneath the Foghorn. Dashing down for a closer look it was obvious the pod were feeding along the tidal race where the gulf stream meets the tides from Luce Bay. Over 20 porpoise were seen for over 40 minutes however I only managed to capture a few pics and videos before my camera battery died- doh!

Harbour Porpoise- Mull of Galloway (photo Laura Shearer)
Elsewhere the Guillemots, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Shags are busy reinforcing their pair bonds as the seabird breeding season begins. Preening and nest building, its a busy time of year as they slowly settle onto the cliff ledges to nest.
Razorbills pairing up as the seabird nesting season begins (photo Laura Shearer)
Around the reserve, various migrant birds have been recorded including Snipe, Jack Snipe, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows- spring is on its way! The star of the show at the minute though are the pair of Stonechats singing and displaying around the RSPB visitor centre- I have an office with a view!

Female Stonechat- Mull of Galloway (photo Laura Shearer)
After work I've been birding around the Rhins of Galloway, checking out the Geese and Swans that are on the move. The highlight of my week came from a walk down a local glen as a friend and I came across a very noisy bird calling from behind some shrubs. As we approached it shot off- it was a Ring Ouzel! A good record for Dumfries and Galloway and an excellent record for the Rhins! What a great start to my 2016 season!