Caerlaverock, great at any time

With the passing of the winter solstice, the days may be getting longer, but they aren’t yet much warmer.  A visit to Caerlaverock at this time of year will however warm the spirits and guarantee seeing big flocks of barnacle geese, waders and a host of wildfowl, as Jonathan Warren explains.

The presence of all these birds brings in hunting peregrines and merlin along with wintering hen harriers hunting the saltmarsh, or merse as it is locally known, for small birds such as skylark and twite.  In prolonged cold conditions, flocks of snow buntings are occasionally seen feeding on the shoreline, whilst starlings use the reed beds as roosts.

Work continues on the reserve to upgrade access over the freshwater marsh of ‘The Flooders’ with the installation of an new board walk which will be completed this week.

A largely black and white landscape is still punctuated by the bright yellow gorse, which can flower in almost any month of the year. Although invertebrate life is largely tucked up for the winter, the presence of spiders is made more obvious by the rime of frost on the webs.

The New Year sees the start of repairs to fences torn down by last winter’s storm surges.  Large sections of fence are intended to allow cattle grazing for management of the merse and the cattle ensure there is the short turf required by grazing geese and foraging natterjack toads.  The storms however did bring in some more unusual animals normally found living in deeper water and washed them up on timber.  Folklore suggests the ‘goose barnacles’ were once thought to be the source of the barnacle goose, emerging from the shells to appear as adult geese in autumn.  We now know that the geese migrate from the high arctic island of Svalbard to winter on our shores … a remarkable journey.

So wrap up well, put on your boots, and head for the out to see what you’re missing at Caerlaverock NNR.

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