Dumfries and Galloway has many undiscovered birdwatching sites. Below is a summary about the species that you might expect to see in the area.
Corsewall Point is situated on the north west point of the Rhins of Galloway looking out into the Atlantic Ocean. From here you can also look over to Ailsa Craig, Arran, and on a good day, Ireland. Throughout the year good numbers of seabirds can be seen such as Red Throated Diver, Black Throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Eider, Gannet, Fulmar, Shag and Kittiwake. The best autumn seawatching site in the county is here; with a good north westerly wind various species such as Sabine’s Gull, Petrols, Shearwaters and Skuas can be sometimes be seen.
GALLOWAY NATIONAL FOREST
The Galloway Forest is Britain’s largest forest park stretching over three hundred square miles. The habitat throughout the park is varied with heather hills, ancient woodland and lochs enabling a vast array of species to use it. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and help through RSPB and Scotland Natural Heritage the area has been developed for Black Grouse with a viewing platform along the Carrick forest drive. The walk around Loch Trool through the ancient woodlands should supply you with large numbers of woodland species such as Flycatchers and Redstarts. Similarly, the walk around Penninghame Pond will give you a good variety of woodland species including the occasional Goldcrest. A walk from Stroan Viaduct can take you towards the Black Water of Dee which again provides various habitats. In the wetland areas, good numbers of Teal and Goosander can be seen while up on the moors, in the purple
moor grass, large numbers of Skylark are usually present. The nearby conifer forest on the return route tends to be a great spot to see Crossbill feeding on the cones. Throughout the park, birds of prey such as Red Kite, Hen Harrier, Barn Owl can be found and the stunning Golden Eagle can sometimes be seen from the top of Merrick and in Glentrool.
KEN DEE MARSHES
Ken Dee Marshes is an RSPB reserve just by the west side of Loch Ken. This area comprises both wetland and woodland areas. As you walk from the carpark good numbers of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler can usually be heard and seen in the hedgerows during the summer. Half way along the track you can turn right to walk down to the Goose viewing platform where, during the winter months, you can see Greenland White Fronted Goose, Pink Footed Goose, Barnacle Goose and good numbers of Greylag and Canada Goose. In any month you can usually be usually treated to Red Kite and, during the summer, Osprey fish in Loch Ken.On returning to the main track it then leads you into woodland habitat where you can see various species such as Wood Warbler, Nuthatch, Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher,and Willow Tit and Redstart. From the main hide you can look down onto feeders which are regularly frequented by Coal Tit, Nuthatch and also Red Squirrel. On the pool outside and the marshes you can often see Lapwing and Redshank feeding on the mud and Barn Owl and Tawny Owl flying over the marsh. On the other side of the water the old hide is home to great numbers of bats which roost in this building.
The Mennock Pass is surrounded for around six miles with large heather and scree-clad hills with the Mennock Water flowing right through the middle. Up to Wanlockhead, the area is managed as as a grouse moorland so it is an easy place to see Red Grouse. However, other species such as Ring Ouzel can also be seen on the hills either side of the pass with Dipper and Common Sandpiper in the Mennock Water.Lowther Hill straddles the Dumfries and Galloway and Clyde border along with Green Trough and Green Lowther. This is a great location to see good numbers of Golden Plover and the sometimes the passage of Dotterel during spring.
MULL OF GALLOWAY
The Mull of Galloway is the most southerly point of Scotland and is managed by the RSPB. It is one of their smallest nature reserves but it still host’s a wide variety of species. In summer, the almost vertical cliffs host the largest seabird colony in the region and is home to nesting Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Puffins. Also nesting in the cliff face Peregrines can often be seen. Small numbers of Hooded Crow and Ravens frequent the cliff tops with Wheatear, Stonechat, Twite and Rock Pipit easily seen. Out to sea good numbers of Manx Shearwater and Gannets can be seen passing by.
Newbie is located along the Inner Solway, west of the mouth of the River Annan. The site has a predominantly shingle beach with mudflats at low tide. During passage each year, you can often see large numbers of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. During the spring passage Newbie and Seafield, which is situated further east . are two of the best places to see the skua passage in April and May. Arctic Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Pomarine Skua and Great Skua are regularly seen. Sanderling, Gannet, Eider and Guillemot have been known to occasionally pass through.
PORTPATRICK AND WEST FREUGH MOD
Portpatrick is a small fishing town which like around six miles south west of Stranraer. This little fishing harbour is home to breeding Black Guillemot which can be seen flying into the cracks in the harbour wall during the breeding season. Outside the breeding season they can be seen in the harbour or just out to sea. The rocks outside the harbour have a colony of gulls. Fulmar and Kittiwake come onto the cliffs here. On the rocks around the cliff Purple Sandpiper and Rock Pipit can also be picked up easily. Out to sea Gannets, Guillemot, Razorbills and various species of Diver can sometimes be seen.Travelling east from Portpatrick, West Freugh is easily reached being proximately 5 miles south-east of Stranraer. This area, a former airfield, is home over the winter months to good flocks of Greenland White-fronted and Pink-footed Goose. Hen Harriersalso use the area throughout the year and can be seen drifting over the fields adjacent to the airfield. The area surrounding West Freugh is comprised of various habitats including heather bog, coniferous forest, wetland, and agricultural fields such as arable and improved grasslands. This area has some of the best places in Dumfries and Galloway to see Grey Partridge, which has become relatively scarce in the region.
WOOD OF CREE/KNOCKMAN WOOD
The Wood of Cree is located within the heart of the Cree Valley and is the largest ancient oak woodland in southern Scotland. This site has woodland, marshland and water bodies all of which can become home to a variety of species. This site can be home to large number of Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Wood Warblers. Along with these Spotted Flycatcher, Grasshopper Warbler and Tree Pipit can be seen here. Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Water Rail breed by the woodland streams. Wildfowl such as Teal, Goldeneye and Whooper Swans arrive on the River Cree during the autumn and winter months and can easily be seen.
WWT Caerlaverock’s 1,494 acres has a variety of habitats such as saltmarsh, semi-improved grassland, improved grassland, reed beds, ponds, scrapes and wooded avenues which all hold a vast array of wildlife. WWT Caerlaverock is internationally renowned for its flocks of Barnacle Geese that arrive each October from Svalbard to stay on the Solway and feed on the fields and merses. Since 1940, with the help of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s management of the land, the population of this species has increased from fewer than 800 birds to more than 25,000Large numbers of Pink-footed Goose also roost on the merses and mudbanks during the winter and WWT Caerlaverock hold “Dawn and Dusk Flights” to allow the public to watch the tens of thousands of birds arrive and leave the roost site. Lesser Canada Goose sub-species including Cackling, Taverners and Richardson have been recorded over the last few years. Red-breasted Goose, Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose have also been found in the Barnacle Goose flock.More than three hundred Whooper Swans winter in the area and can be seen up close from the Sir Peter Scott Hide during the daily swan feeds at 11am and 2pm.From the Saltcot Merse Observatory during the winter months, in the region of 10,000 Red Knot and Dunlin can be seen around high tide with good numbers of Golden Plover and Grey Plover on the merse and shore. Hunting over the merse and fields, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and Short Eared Owl may also be seen.