This holiday starts and ends in Dumfries.
Day 1: Sat 10 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 might 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 duck. Wintering birds here include good numbers of Pintail and Snipe, whilst feeders often hold Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow. 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 should see numbers of birds as the light fades.
Day 2: Sun 11 November Loch Ryan and Luce Bay
A day travelling westwards, where our early destinations may include the coast around Wigtown to see Pink-feet, Snipe and Rock Pipit, and Stairhaven via Luce Bay. Loch Ryan is superb for seawatching, and the road that encircles it guarantees good sightings whatever the tide, the light and the weather. On the open sea we hope to find flocks of Scaup, Common Scoter and Common Eider, with handfuls of Long-tailed Duck, Black Guillemot, Red-breasted Merganser and exceptionally upto three species of diver and four species of grebe! 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 a vantage point 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: Mon 12 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 entire 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 about twenty small hides on the reserve, where we scour these flocks for rarities including 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. Rare ducks and waders are perfectly possible with Green-winged Teal and Scaup likely targets. Feeders here often feature Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer, with large flocks of passerines likely. If the tide is particularly high, wader numbers can be into the thousands on the coast here as the mud disappears and birds are forced to come into the grassland or wheel around in great flocks. These concentrations often attract Hen Harrier and Peregrine which move through regularly. 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: Tues 13 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 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, though Merlin and Peregrine might be found. At lower altitudes, Siskin, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Redwing and Fieldfare and Common Crossbill are found.
Day 5: Wednesday 14 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 sites within easy reach, we will take a close look at the tide and weather forecast before making a call 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. Our coastal forays will be interspersed with visits to sheltered lochs, with a good list of wildfowl and small birds expected.
Day 6: Thurs 15 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: