Solway Firth

A winter wildfowl spectacular on the Solway Coast of Dumfries and Galloway!

Destination
Focus
2021 Dates
  • 06 Nov - 11 Nov 2021
Duration6 Days
2021 Price
£1395 pp
£100 single supplement. Deposit £200. Please note, for 2020 departures the group size will be reduced to 5 per guide..
Max Group Size5
More Info

NB: for 2020 dates group size is reduced to 5 clients per minibus/guide.

 

Welcome back to Scotland's wide-open spaces! We are currently planning to run all scheduled departures, please read our latest Coronavirus update. Until further notice, our minibuses will carry a maximum of five passengers each, with everyone guaranteed a free seat next to them. Please contact us for up-to-the-minute status on this departure.

A vast, internationally important area for wildfowl, the Solway Firth offers great birding. Flocks of Barnacle, Pink-footed and Greenland White-fronted Geese, great raptor watching particularly Hen Harrier and Red Kite, waders, ducks, good numbers of wintering Whooper Swan and a local population of Willow Tit, all combine to make this an absorbing short holiday. Meet us in Dumfries, and we will take you to see geese in tens of thousands, as numbers peak in mid-November. Winter rarities seen around the 'Solway' in recent years have included Red-breasted, Richardson's Cackling or Snow Goose, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Cattle and Great White Egret - will we get lucky and connect with something special!

Among the sites we visit, Caerlaverock is a birders paradise, alive with tens of thousands of geese. We aim to spend a whole day here, with the majority of the breeding Barnacle Goose population of Svalbard wintering on site! We scour flocks for rarities and will also 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! At nearby RSPB Mersehead we should also see hundreds of Barnacle Geese and many species of duck. Busy feeders support plenty of Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow and in some years Brambling too. With a Starling roost nearby, raptors often pass through, with Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier and Peregrine seen regularly and hunting Barn Owl possible too.

On one day we travel westwards to Loch Ryan which is superb for seawatching and coastal birds. We hope to find flocks of Scaup, Common Scoter and Eider, with Long-tailed Duck and Red-breasted Merganser too and exceptionally up to three species of diver and four species of grebe! Waders should include Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover, and we may also see raptors in an afternoon visit to a roost site. 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 Geese. Willow Tit, Common Crossbill and other woodland species are also a target here, and later we visit the local Red Kite feeding station and search for locally scarce Golden Eagle in the Galloway hills.

Five nights in a very comfortable country house hotel, all travel, access fees, and the services of your Heatherlea guide make this a perfect late-autumn break.

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:

MAINLAND SCOTLAND
Birders Blast

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

Expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be wild and unpredictable. Sunshine, rain and strong winds are all possible, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Biting insects are not expected. Please bring walking boots or shoes, weatherproof clothing and a small rucksack. At many of the reserves the trails can be muddy and even waterlogged at times, so if the forecast is wet during or in the days running up to the holiday then wellies are definitely recommended. The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace, with fabulous birdwatching in a spectacular setting! There will be short to moderate (1 to 4 mile) walks some days.

What's included in your 'Solway Firth' holiday price

• Five nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation. We choose from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Guests are never expected to share. All rooms are en-suite. Full details with your joining pack.
• Full Scottish breakfast and dinner from Saturday evening til Thursday morning, packed lunch daily.
• All transfers by comfortable minibus. Drivers can leave vehicles safely parked at the hotel near Dalbeattie. All transfers to and from rail links in Dumfries.
• Guidance from a professional Group Leader.

What's not included in your 'Solway Firth' holiday price

• Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.

Other birdwatching holidays in Mainland Scotland

Why choose Heatherlea for your Scottish birding holiday?

Heatherlea is THE place for top quality birding holidays in Scotland, chosen by more and more birders each year. Stay in our own three star Small Hotel, and enjoy first-rate birding with Scotland’s best guiding team. Relax and enjoy yourself, as we do all the planning! Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you. Our fully inclusive guided holidays concentrate on the real experience, and we take time to ensure that each of our guests enjoys everything we do.

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Our ‘Mainland Scotland’ holidays based at Mountview Hotel have a maximum ratio of 7 clients per guide, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • We are a small company, run BY birders FOR birders. Come and see!
  • Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
  • There is no single supplement. Single guests are never expected or invited to share.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance loan of Swarovski binoculars, packed lunch and tips to hotels.
  • We offer a courtesy transfer between our Hotel and Aviemore rail/bus links on Saturdays.
  • Heatherlea hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland. We are also registered to pay VAT, which is included in your holiday price as quoted on this page.
  • Once your holiday is confirmed in writing by us, we promise not to surcharge the price for any reason.

Enjoy an excellent birding and wildlife holiday with Heatherlea.
Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’

Visit Scotland - 5 star wildlife experience

'Exceptional'
Visit Scotland

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

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