This holiday starts and ends in Dumfries.
Day 1: Saturday 9 November - Arrival and first birding
The holiday begins at lunchtime at Dumfries or you may choose to meet us at our hotel. After we assemble, we may look locally for Goosander and Dipper and then it's off to RSPB Mersehead for an initial look at the flocks of geese. We expect to have time to walk to both hides on the reserve and get our list off to a good start, where we should see hundreds of Barnacle Geese and many species of wintering wildfowl including good numbers of Pintail and Shoveler. Dazzling Kingfisher often dash past or pause on convenient perches and Snipe may be seen on the reed edges. Busy feeders often hold Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow plus Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and in some years Brambling too. With a Starling roost nearby, raptors often pass through, with Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier and Peregrine seen here regularly. The Starling roost changes location so we have to be lucky to connect with the big murmurations, though we hope to see gatherings as the light fades.
Day 2: Sunday 10 November - Loch Ryan and Luce Bay
A day travelling westwards, where our early destinations may include the coast around Wigtown, Stairhaven or Luce Bay depending on whats around. On reaching Loch Ryan we anticipate good coastal birding and seawatching, the road which encircles it guarantees good sightings whatever the tide, light and the weather. On the open sea we hope to find flocks of Scaup, Common Scoter and Eider, with handfuls of Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Black Guillemot too. All three species of diver winter here and exceptionally four species of grebe may be seen! A superb location, there is always something to look at with maybe the odd rarity mingled in. Waders today should include Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover, and we will endeavour to find the Pale-bellied Brent Geese that winter here in small numbers. We close the day with scanning over a large area of rough grassland, where Hen Harrier, Merlin and the odd Short-eared Owl roost. If weather conditions allow we should gain views of several birds.
Day 3: Monday 11 November - Caerlaverock
The most northerly and remote reserve of the WWT, Caerlaverock should be alive in November with tens of thousands of geese. We aim to spend the whole day here, with perhaps a stop on the River Nith to overlook Kirkconnell Moss NNR on the outward or return journey. At Caerlaverock the fields are often full of geese before you even arrive at the reserve, with the majority of the breeding Barnacle Goose population of Svalbard wintering here! Caerlaverock is a birders paradise, a true nature reserve with no exotic wildfowl collections or other distractions. Here we wander around the four observatories, four towers and twenty smaller hides on the reserve. With time to scour the flocks for rarities, possibilities include Red-breasted Goose, Richardson's Cackling and Snow Goose, or perhaps something truly special like a Lesser White-fronted Goose. We will attend at least one of the daily wild swan feeds, when the spectacle of numbers of Whooper Swan flying in to feed is something to both see and hear! Other wildfowl should include Pintail, Teal, Wigeon and Shelduck, and waders should include Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwit with rarer species perfectly possible. Such concentrations often attract Hen and Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin which move through regularly. Large flocks of thrushes are likely in the fields and hedgerows, along with Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer. We may also visit the saltmarshes or 'merse' habitat and rocky coast to add to our birdlist depending on available daylight - Caerlaverock often enthrals us all day!
Day 4: Tuesday 12 November - Ken Dee Marshes and the Galloway Hills
The Ken-Dee Marshes offer expansive views across the River Dee and Loch Ken, and are host to many exciting winter visitors, including Greenland White-fronted and Greylag Geese. Local trails hold resident Willow Tit, Nuthatch and Red Squirrel to interest us, and other open country passerines might include Tree Sparrow, Linnet and Stonechat. Later we visit the local Red Kite feeding station, where you can expect a very close first-hand experience of these beautiful and gregarious birds as they come in to feed. If weather allows after the Kite feed, we head into the Galloway hills where perhaps the major prize is the locally scarce Golden Eagle, with Merlin, Peregrine and Raven also present in the area. At lower altitudes, Siskin, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Redwing and Fieldfare are likely and Common Crossbill are found in the forests.
Day 5: Wednesday 13 November - The Solway Coast
Today sees us making a thorough exploration of the Solway Coast, from the Crook of Baldoon through to Southerness. With so many birding locations within easy reach, we will take a close look at the tide and weather forecast before making a decision on what order to visit sites. Wader numbers should be high today, with numbers of Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover amongst many other species. A wintering Whimbrel or Greenshank is a possibility, as is Rock Pipit and sometimes Twite. Our coastal forays will be interspersed with visits to sheltered lochs with a good list of wildfowl and small birds expected.
Day 6: Thursday 14 November - Round-up
A round-up of anything we might have missed. This may see us return to the coast, or nearby woods or lochs, depending on luck with the weather or any known rarities. The holiday concludes late morning in Dumfries.
This holiday can be combined with: