Friday, 6 November 2015

WWT Caerlaverock Autumnwatch

I recently visited the WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) Caerlaverock reserve near Dumfries. The autumn and winter months are a fantastic time to visit as the Solway Firth comes alive with wintering wildfowl. As I approached, the surrounding fields were covered with Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) and I could feel the anticipation building!

Entrance to WWT Caelaverock (photo Laura Shearer)
Upon arrival I had a great chat with a volunteer who explained the layout of the reserve and the recent wildlife sightings. First stop- the Farmhouse tower in search of the Green Winged Teal (Anas carolinensis). It only took a few minutes before I was watching this American visitor alongside some other birders- what an amazing start to the day! 

Walking from hide to hide I was astounded at the amazing set-up of this nature reserve with regular hides providing amazing views of the wildlife! As I wandered around the Peter Scott trail I stumbled upon some bird feeders crammed with Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskins, Chaffinches- even a Great Spotted Woodpecker was in on the action. I could've sat there all day but there was plenty more to see. 

Into the next hide, this time facing onto the back pond. Within seconds of sitting down there was a blue flash as a Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) whizzed by! Could this get any better?!! I sat there alone, watching this gorgeous bird fishing approximately 30-40m from the hide for about 20 minutes. What a vista! 
Kingfisher fishing at the "Back pond" at WWT Caerlaverock (photo Laura Shearer)
As 2pm approached, I joined the other visitors at the Peter Scott Observatory for the daily swan feed. Explaining more about the migration of the wildfowl in the pond, the staff were on the lookout for coloured rings around the legs of the swans and the geese. Each are uniquely coded and using a special machine inside the observatory, it was possible to find out the life history of each ringed bird. What an amazing resource and highly addictive too as we all tried to read the rings!

Swan feed as seen from the Peter Scott Observatory at WWT Caelaverock (photo Laura Shearer)

Reading colour rings during the swan feed (photo Laura Shearer)
Each pond at Caerlaverock was bursting with wildfowl and wading birds including Pochard, Shovelers, Teal, Wigeon, Snipe, Lapwing- too many to name them all! As I left the reserve I was thoroughly impressed with the amazing work of WWT and how they engage the public with wildlife. I couldn't wait to visit again!

Fortunately I didn't have long to wait as several days later I was invited to be part of the audience of BBC Autumnwatch Unsprung- filmed live from the reserve. Tom Burditt from the National Trust highlighted their Sounds of the Shores project #shoresounds aiming for members of the public to record their favourite sounds from our coast. The show played several clips including my personal favourites- Kittiwakes and Grey Seals calling. Chris Packham's enthusiasm and passion for natural history was infectious and once again I left Caerlaverock with a smile on my face, itching for a return visit!

In the audience at BBC Autumnwatch Unsprung (in the red coat)
For more information on WWT Caerlaverock see their website or follow them on Twitter: @WWTCaerlaverock

Watch Autumnwatch unsprung on BBC iplayer:

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