Blustery, overcast and squally showers greeted me this morning as I gazed out of the window of my room in the Nith Hotel at Glencaple. Porridge and the full works of the "Nith Grill" set me up nicely before gathering my gear and venturing out. Although the wind was a little to the north of west I gave the sea the benefit of the doubt at Southerness but after half an hour of nothing more than a few Sandwich Terns, Gannets and a Whimbrel, I gave in.
With the tide on the rise I decided to spend a little more time in the Southerness area and made the short hop to Powillimount on the east side of Gillfoot Bay as the waders were congregating. Very spectacular it was too - 1320 Oystercatchers, 35 Redshank, 11 Bar-tailed Godwits, 38 Golden Plover, 5 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover and 24 Curlew covered the sand and seaweed-strewn rocks. A small gull roost, again mainly Common Gulls, had 164 Sandwich Terns and 3 Common Terns with them. The impact of the nearby caravan site and expansion of the village here had been raised in the previous night's WeBS meeting, but the problem doesn't stem from land acquisition but the use of Gillfoot Bay for leisure and dog walkers.
Over the next hour I so I spent my time in the area of my recent Corn Bunting sighting, scanning the fields and checking wires and fence posts. The task was made difficult by flooding (I could view from the car but couldn't get out!) and also the bird flocks appear to have dispersed. Unusually for this area there was no sign of any migrants either. The nearby Mersehead RSPB was next up where I spent a lot more time than first anticipated. Not that there was an awful lot there but the Corn Bunting had been reported here again (2 September) meaning a thorough grilling of the hedgerows and fields. No luck but it would appear that there is at least one individual in this area given my isolated sightings and these records over the previous 2 years. Single Barnacle Goose, 35 Shoveler, 2 Peregrines, 50 Lapwings and juvenile Spotted Flycatcher were the only birds to trouble my notebook this morning at Mersehead.
I'd been keeping a keen eye on the "Unofficial Birder's Weather Website" over the last week and noticed some prime seawatching conditions for Friday in the Stranraer area. Pete Berry (who was staying on the Mull) had kept me informed with the latest prognosis so a quick call to Ruth at the Blue Peter Hotel in Kirkholm, secured a room for the night and extending my D&G tour.
So with license to roam I headed west at lunchtime and taking a detour south from Newton Stewart to "The Book Town" of Wigtown. The super wetland local nature reserve at the harbour here (just added to my mini-guide to the Solway on the right of this blog) has been a bit neglected by us over the last few years. In fact I've not popped in for about 3 years now since that grey, rainy November afternoon when Mrs B and I sat in a local cafe after dipping on a Black Tern here. Actually I've never seen this Black Tern record in the bird reports come to think of it and while I wouldn't make so bold as to doubt anyone's competence, the thought that this might just have been better than a Black Tern (admittedly a brilliant D&G record anyway) has crossed my mind once or twice given the unusually late date. Unreserved apologies to the observer in advance once this record is documented of course. Phew!
Anyway back to the present day. Spotted Redshank and Garganeys had been seen on the reserve just prior to my departure from home. The Spotshank had been seen on 2nd again but no sign of the Garg's and today there had been no news either way on whether the birds were around. So, as the very least I could do was provide "negative news" I settled in to the hide and started scoping the wetland: Single Little Grebe, 52 Teal, 2 Shoveler, 4 Mallard, 77 Lapwing, 1 Snipe, 31 Redshank and this .......
OK, not the best photo, but you get the point. A nice Spotted Redshank on the islands with the Redshanks and a good D&G record despite this year's better than average showing for this species.
Something scattered all the Teal (probably just a Crow that had been harassing the Lapwings), shuffling the pack up a bit and revealing the 2 Garganey on one of the islands. Just in case you don't believe me .......
After all this excitement I made for the car, phoned the news in and headed west along the A75 towards Stranraer.
Bird Tour D&G Part 3 (or "Petrel Shortage") to follow.