After that we visited Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve. This is one of the best spots to see large numbers of barnacle geese in winter. The entire population of barnacle geese from Svalbard over-winter in the Solway making it an important conservation area. Many whooper swans also over-winter here as do pink-footed geese and many species of duck. Often the fields are full of waders such as lapwing and golden plover and raptors and owls hunt the fields. As it had been quite mild leading up to our trip, there weren’t many waders in the fields on our visit but we did get a large flock of curlew. Scanning the fields we found roe deer, fox and hare. We finished the day watching barnacle geese flying off into the sunset.
On the second day we visited an inland loch in the middle of Castle Douglas called Carlingwark Loch. Here we found goosander, goldeneye, shoveler and large flocks of wigeon and teal. Our journey then took us west to Stranraer to birdwatch at Loch Ryan. This is a notable place for large numbers of scaup (and very close views as a pose to distant views in the Solway). This is also a good place for wintering grebes, long-tailed duck, eider and shag and we weren’t disappointed. Turnstone, ringed plover, knot, lapwing, oystercatcher and redshank lined the loch and there was also a good show of gulls, wigeon, pintail, tufted duck and mute swan.
As the water was frozen, most of the wildfowl were concentrated in one area – here we added gadwall to our list. Wader numbers were also low here and no extra species were picked up either on the inland pools or on the Solway. I was really keen to find a jack snipe that had been seen the previous day but the pools were still frozen and time was moving on – we were heading for the Loch Ken area.
At the feeding station near Laurieston, around 50-60 red kites were perching or swooping around the hide and fields beyond. Raven and buzzard were also present. We watched these for a while then headed off to find Greenland white-fronted geese. This particular flock is often difficult to find among the undulating landscape and they can be quite flighty, therefore some local knowledge is needed to be successful. Luckily, the flock was feeding in one of their favourite distant fields so it was possible to scope them without any disturbance.