Part three and my final blog post from my recent stay at WWT Caerlaverock......
Another bird appearing daily on the bird sightings section of the Caerlaverock website (link here) is a male Green-winged Teal.
This bird is a twitchers big tick and I'm not a twitcher, but along with the Yellowhammers, Whooper Swans and Barnacle Geese, this was another bird that I really hoped I would see, but like the Yellowhammers I presumed it would be a distant sighting at the best.
But no, I was wrong again ! Before Sue and I had even gone on to the reserve when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, one of the brilliant knowledgeable staff members showed us around the accommodation and as we went in to the conservatory that looks out over the Folly Pond, there was the Green-winged Teal just feet away !
It's very easy to see why it can get 'lost' amongst the other more common Eurasian Teal, especially at a distance, so below I've added 'extra large' snaps of both a male Eurasian and the lone male Green-winged Teals for comparison..........
|common male Eurasian Teal....|
|male Green-winged Teal....|
Yet again the wonderful WWT staff filled us in on a few details. They think this is the same bird that was blown off course a few years ago but chose to hang around. In North America this Teal is as common as our UK Eurasian Teal. Yet this male has appeared again and spends most of it's time in a particular corner of the Folly Pond. But, as Sue and I discovered, at around 4.30-6.30pm every afternoon it comes very close to the shore line right outside the heated conservatory of the farmhouse accommodation.
So with us staying on site, could things really get any better ? Yes they could.
The other major thing I took into consideration when researching my stay at WWT Caerlaverock was the guaranteed views of Badgers feeding from the comfort of the farmhouse cottage own conservatory. And yes, they were as obliging as the website promised......
The only downfall is that you cannot get a good quality sharp photo. Obviously it's pitch black when the Badgers decide to come out for a treat. The feeding area is discreetly lit up but the conservatory windows are double glazed. But to be honest Sue and I didn't really care. The thrill of seeing a wild Badger feeding just a few feet away was fantastic. The only Badgers I generally see are the poor road kill victims on the side of major A roads or motorways, or the captive few at the British Wildlife Centre. I think when people ask me what was my best experience of my stay at Caervaerlock it will be the memory of watching Badgers with a glass of wine in my hand and in the comfort of a heated conservatory.
The Badgers are so lovingly predictable that the reserve is allowing paying public to view them every evening from 6th - 19th April (full details here)
Sue and I stayed on site for four nights and for the first couple of evenings we didn't even try to attempt to photograph the Badgers but on our last two nights we started to experiment with our DSLR camera settings. If you turn off your flash and use a short lens (50mm) and stand directly in line with the Badger through the double glazed windows, you can just about get a half way decent photo. None of my mine below are going to win any wildlife photography awards but I don't care, it was the experience that made it for me.
Our last evening in the conservatory was the best. By 3pm it was dark, cold and overcast so we settled ourselves in the conservatory with hot mugs of coffee. We watched the WWT staff come along and hide peanuts under the stones and tree trunks for the Badgers to find later, along with honey smeared across the tops of the trunks. Not long after that the Green-winged Teal came over from out of nowhere and fed off the shore line. By this time the wind was blowing a real hooley.
Just before 6pm a Hare appeared on the path on the left hand side and made its way towards the Folly Hide. As Sue and I were used to seeing the Badgers emerging from the same direction as the Hare we were not prepared when three Badgers suddenly appeared from the right hand side instead. We stayed in the conservatory until past 11pm and were treated to two more single Badger sightings plus a Tawny Owl calling when we popped out in to the courtyard.
During my stay I'm fairly certain I heard Little Owls calling too, but just off the reserve by the farm buildings and dirt track that leads you up to the centre.
As my regular blog followers know, I love to look at mammal tracks, so here's a few of both Badger and Roe Deer.....
and now I'm developing a taste for pellets, not literally tasting them of course, but finding them and breaking them open and seeing what's inside.
Sue first alerted me to these weird coloured ones which were numerous in the 'avenue' heading towards Avenue Tower.....
|about 2 inches long...|
|tiny fragments of bone plus lots of grass and grain....no odour at all|
After breaking a couple open and finding tiny bones, plus grass and grain, but no fur, I took some to the front desk at the Information Centre. It turns out they are Carrion Crow pellets and the brilliant informative staff member even took the time to produce a book that showed the differences in sizes and colour of pellets that are bought up by Rooks compared to Carrion Crows. The same wonderful staff member then took me to a site where Barn Owls are roosting on site and let me take away a perfectly formed Barn Owl pellet....
|Roughly 3.5 inches long....|
|completely matted with fur....|
|rib cage bones showing....|
|jaw bone of a mouse or possible similar sized vole ?|
It was fascinating breaking it apart and comparing it to the Crow pellet which had no fur in it, yet the Barn Owls pellet was practically held together with fur.
Another 'great experience' for me courtesy of WWT Caervaerlock.
So what can I say about my visit to WWT Caervaerlock ? It was all the better for staying on site.
I absolutely loved it. Four nights wasn't enough for me, I could have happily stayed a week. Unlike WWT London, this centre isn't geared towards families, it focuses on the wildlife that we all want to see in the selective season. I doubt if families with young children will find anything interesting on site to keep the youngsters amused for more than a day, but for people like Sue and I who don't just bird watch but have a genuine interest in all things wild, this place is a haven.
Within the next few days (hopefully) the resident Ospreys will be returning from their winter holiday in Africa, the Whooper Swans will leave to go to their nesting grounds as will the Barnacle Geese.
And I will certainly be coming back too.
Thank you so much WWT Caerlaverock. I had a fantastic time.