Wildlife aplenty on the Galloway coast


November can be a dodgy time to take a holiday in this country, but last week I had a break on the Galloway coast and hit it lucky.

The weather was cold, but the sun shone most of the time, highlighting what a lovely part of the world it is.

Marketed as the Secret Coast, it proved a fitting description, as the place was virtually deserted, which is just how I like it.

The first thing I usually do on arrival at a new haunt is to put up some feeders to see what’s around.

Based at Kippford and about a mile from the sea on a wooded hillside, I didn’t know quite what to expect.

Firstly, it was coal tits, about a dozen at a time, with the odd great and blue tit thrown in.

As the coals dislodged the seeds from the feeders onto the ground, the scavengers arrived in the form of loads of chaffinches and the occasional robin and dunnock.

Then the good stuff started to appear.

Jays began to turn up, up to three at a time. It is a bird I often hear in the central Borders, but seldom catch more than a fleeting glimpse.

Here, they were feeding three feet from the window, allowing me to get some pictures and to get great views of this most handsome, but normally shy, member of the crow family. Other seed scoopers included wood pigeon and rabbit, but best of all was the arrival of the red squirrels.

They were absolutely everywhere in the area and bold as brass when it came to swinging from the bird feeders.

When I did manage to drag myself away from the window, there was a lot to see locally.

Just down the road was Mersehead RSPB reserve which was teeming with barnacle geese and lapwings.

I was lucky to catch sight of a female hen harrier putting the lapwings to flight in their hundreds. They then proceeded to carry out a spectacular “murmuration” display before returning to terra firma.

Another fascinating day was spent at the Wildlife Conservation Park at Kirkudbright.

Typically, there was no other visitors there, as I explored the various woodland enclosures containing a wide variety of endangered species such as grey wolf, Scottish wildcat, red panda, ring-tailed lemur and tapir.

As expected, the most entertaining were the meercats and the otters, one of which showed great skill as it juggled a stone while sitting on its hind legs, passing it behind its back from paw to paw.

Yes it can be cold and it can be wet, but if you go prepared for anything, a late autumn break can be great fun.