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28th December 2021 – WWT Slimbridge, Gloucestershire

We were beginning to get cabin fever after a day or so of rain and so this afternoon we took a chance and drove half an hour up the road to Slimbridge to get a bit of exercise and some air. We were so lucky as the rain stopped and the sun shone for an hour.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many birds in one place. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop being able to take a free pick The huge flocks were quite spectacular in the sunshine and I didn’t know where to aim my camera.

Having seen Whooper swans in Scotland recently it was interesting to see the smaller Bewick swans here at Slimbridge
Northern pintail
Lapwings
Pochard
Teal
Tufted duck
Buzzard causing consternation and creating quite a spectacle
The cranes were not put off by the buzzard
Curlews in the fading light
Wigeon
Curlew
Ruff
Redshank
Great spotted woodpecker on a feeder
Even the blue tit looked amazing in the sun
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15th December 2021 – Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

We are having a short stay (short in time rather than distance) in Scotland. We are staying just over the border at Glencapel, a few miles south of Dumfries on the River Nith.

There are two very good bird reserves nearby: the WWT reserve at Caerlaverock and RSPB Mersehead.

We stopped off at Kendal in the Lake District on our journey north but we only had glimpses of the beautiful scenery as the weather was not kind to us.

My only bird photo in the Lake District!

A brief glimpse of the Lake District


We had a recce around WWT Caerlaverock on our arrival and were not only rewarded by seeing the large flocks of barnacle geese and Whooper swans but saw some birds we don’t see at home, in particular yellowhammers.

Yellowhammer

Whooper swans

Whooper swan
Whooper swan

Our second day in Scotland we visited RSPB Mersehead, the other side of the River Nith on the edge of the Solway Firth. They have maintained a mosaic of wetland habitats on the reserve, including wet grassland, open water, ditches and reed swamp. This part of Scotland is suffering from bird flu and it was very sad to see dead carcasses of geese. Whilst the risk to people from this disease is very low, there are biosecurity measures and signage in place on the reserve for visitors to try to help prevent further spread amongst wild birds.

Although the star features are the barnacle geese, lapwing and pintails we also enjoyed seeing siskin and twite -birds we rarely see close to home. We also had a very close encounter with a roe deer.

Barnacle goose

Siskin
Twite

Our holiday cottage looks out on to the River Nith and the Kirkconnell Merse Nature Reserve on the far bank.

The River Nith with the the Kirkconnell Merse Nature Reserve behind

Lapwings on the River Nith

As I was trying to focus on a curlew one of our friends (a top bird spotter) with whom we are staying was gesticulating from the window and, when we could make out what she was saying, we realised that there was a peregrine falcon on the far bank with its prey and a red kite on a nearby post looking to plunge in, if given half a chance. Quite a drama pursued with the peregrine and the red kite taking to flight and even another peregrine appearing.

Peregrine
Red kite
Peregrine in flight
Peregrine in descent
Red kite
Peregine with its prey

We eventually tore ourselves away and went off to the Caerlaverock Wetland Centre just down the road.

Again the barnacle geese and the Whooper swans were the highlight but we also enjoyed seeing close up lots of other birds such as fieldfare, redwing and blackbirds making the most of the luscious haws, the fruit of the hawthorn.

Haws
Barnacle geese

On the ponds there were wigeon, teal, shelduck, pintail, tufted ducks and snipe. Along the lanes we also saw treecreepers and out on the wetlands another peregrine.

Pintail
Snipe
Treecreeper

On the way home we stopped briefly to visit Caerlaverock Castle and then along the banks of the River Nith to see redshank and curlew feeding on the mudflats.

Caerlaverock Castle – I gather the only triangular castle in Britain
Redshank and curlew on the River Nith

Back at the cottage I couldn’t resist taking photos of the spectacular sunset.

Today, our last day in Scotland, the weather has closed in and I am taking the opportunity to write my blog before the long journey home tomorrow.

Additional note

Just as we were packing the car up to return home there were a couple of extra sightings (3 golden eye and two litle egrets) on the River Nith in front of the cottage as well as a huge flock of barnacle geese which filled the sky and then landed on the reserve.

Golden eye

Little egrets

The sky laden with barnacle geese

Barnacle geese

The sun rising across the Solway Firth as we left
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9th December 2021 – Eastville Park, Bristol

There were glimpses of sunshine as we started our walk in our local park but it soon became gloomy and rain threatened. The kingfisher, our local celebrity, (and the magic of Adobe Lightroom) persuaded me it was worth publishing a blog.

Grey heron
Cormorant photo-bombing the heron’s spot
If you look closely you can see two peregrine falcons on Stapleton Church spire
Wren on the river bank
Kingfisher
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3rd December 2021 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

It was good to get out this morning having self-isolated all week. I went looking for a firecrest which other birders/photographers have been seeing all week in Stoke Park but I didn’t have any luck.

There were 5 ducklings on Duchess Pond which were drawing the attention of a few predators. The finest of them all was a sparrowhawk.

I don’t think these little ones have much chance at this time of the year
Mum is keeping a good eye on them
Sparrowhawk
Black-headed gull

There’s always something worth photographing here but the nearby motorway is rather noisy. The beauty of nature still overcomes the disturbance of man.

Cormorant
Robin
Duchess Pond
Stoke Park Estate