|Birds and Wildlife|
Our area is rich in wildlife as exemplified by the quantity and diversity of its birds.
The cliffs and estuaries, hills, woods and mixed farming areas of this part of Galloway play host to a correspondingly diverse bird life. Auchencairn and Orchardton Bays, rich in silt, attract waders and duck and, apart from peregrines, the cliffs around Balcary provide predator-free nest sites for seabirds. The local hills Bengairn and Screel - are preferred haunts of ravens, buzzards, curlew and the occasional red grouse. The view from their summits well rewards the effort.
Each season has its special attractions. As the New Year breaks, Galloway with more than its fair share of wetlands, is thronged with wildfowl and waders. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Caerlaverock is alive with thousands of dapper barnacle geese from Spitsbergen - an exhilarating sight and sound on a cold, bright January day. There, and on the R.S.P.B.'s adjacent Mersehead Reserve, you can hone your identification skills, distinguishing grey-lags from pink-footed geese, brushing up your shoveler, wigeon, teal, mallard, pintail, pochard, tufted and the occasional rarity such as an American teal.
If the wildness of mudflats and estuaries engages you, there is plenty to keep you enthralled, especially with a telescope. Hundreds of piping oystercatchers probe busily for cockles and the plaintive 'coor-lee' of the curlew rides on the wind. But there are many more: redshank, dunlin, knot, ringed-plover, greenshank, bartailed godwit and rarer waders.
This part of Galloway is especially rich in raptors, amongst them the floating harrier, the hovering kestrel, the dashing little merlin and, one of our specialities, the barn owl. And what about finches, thrushes, fits, woodpeckers, treecreepers, goldcrests and many more?.
Sorry, no space!; we have to move on to spring when the woods and uplands come alive and the swallows, warblers, cuckoos, chats and other summer visitors arrive to take advantage of Galloway's rich insect life. Consult one of the Walks and choose a sunny day in late May when there is birdsong on every side and a riot of blossom. Before spring matures into blowsy summer, what about an excursion to a cliff stretch of coast? Auchencairn area has no breeding gannets (the nearest are at Scar Rocks, Wigton), nor many puffins, but you can enjoy colonies of guillemots and razorbills, cormorants, gulls, fulmars, the occasional tern and seawatching for others. And here and there the tystie or black guillemot.
As summer matures, things quieten. Bird song subsides, vegetation hides everything, adults of many species become reclusive as they moult and recuperate. The cuckoos have long gone, but swallows and martins abound and recently fledged tits, finches, thrushes and many others launch out into a life full of natural, and these days unnatural, hazards. Before long the frosts will return. Already, in Iceland, the young barnacle geese are growing rapidly. Most young seabirds are already away, many of them continuing their development at sea. Swallows bead the telephone wires.
But no matter what the season, the bird watcher in Galioway will find plenty of interest and a range of excursions to suit every ability. And even if the jaunt turns out to be relatively birdless, the countryside will be its own reward.
NOTE: A new hide has been built on Torr Point where the waders and ducks of Orchardton Bay, and smaller birds of the surrounding woodland can be viewed in comfort. To get there, follow the details of the walk to Red Haven.
"RSPB GALLOWAY GROUP"
The Galloway Group's website is www.gallowayrspb-localgroup.org .
Robert Greenshields,the present leader of the Group, lives at Nether Linkins, near Auchencairn and on the western boundary of Rerrick Parish. He encourages Group members to visit the impressive Auchencairn hide and Hugh Paton shore walk.