Northwest England & southern Scotland Birding Tour
Oct 12 - 20th 2012
Join our small group birding tour of this historic and beautiful part of northern England and southern Scotland.With a mild climate and great diversity of habitat, this part of the U.K. is excellent for birding. At this time of year the estuaries are filled with a huge variety of wildfowl and shorebirds, while migrant passerines are passing through from Iceland and northern Europe. If the weather is unsuitable for birding then we'll spend more time enjoying the wonderful castles, cathedrals, gardens and other historical sites which abound in the area. Maximum group size of eight. Accommodation in small country hotels or guesthouses.
Depart Friday 11th from Newark airport to Manchester, U.K. via United Airlines. Evening flights, leaving c 7 – 8 pm.
Saturday 12th: We’ll arrive into Manchester about 8 am. After collecting our van we’ll head west about one hour to the wetlands, fields and coastal habitats between Liverpool and Southport. The diversity of birdlife is amazing for a relatively built up area, with many thousands of gulls, predominantly Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed, and occasional Yellow-legged, Mediterranean and Little Gulls.
Cormorants and some late terns will be present, and large numbers of ducks. Eurasian Teal are common, with shelduck and a variety of other dabbling species. 38 species of shorebirds have been recorded, the most common of which are Redshank and Oystercatcher together with smaller flocks of Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Curlew, Turnstone, Knot, and both Black- and Bar-tailed Godwit. Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper are regular during passage periods, while scarcer species include Temminck's Stint, Purple, Green and Wood Sandpipers and Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes. Overnight near Southport, a classic Victorian coastal resort town.
Sun 13th. We’ll explore the tidal and lowland areas of western Lancaster, starting with a visit to Martin Mere, one of the sites developed by the naturalist, Sir Peter Scott under his Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust. From the comfort and choice of ten lookout blinds, internationally important numbers of ducks, geese and swans can be watched in late autumn where they form spectacular feeding flocks on seasonally flooded wetlands. Especially large numbers of Pink-footed goose and Whooper Swans occur, as well as marsh specialties such as Marsh Harrier.
After lunch we’ll continue north, stopping off in some wood and farmland reserves to get views of common finches such as Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, as well as Green & Great- spotted woodpeckers, larks and pipits. Overnight near the county town of Lancaster, an historic market town built originally on the site of a Roman fort.
Monday 14th: We’ll turn inland east towards the northern end of the Bowland Fells, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This is an upland region varying from piecemeal, irregular-shaped fields around individual farms to rolling moorlands rising to 1500’. It is a windswept landscape, which in October will be patterned with the bronze and gold colors of Fall. Here we’ll have a good chance at classic British montane species such as Red Grouse and Stonechat, but we may also get migrants such as Whinchat, Wheatear, golden plover and others. We’ll overnight near Windermere in the Lake District of Cumbria (two nights).
Tuesday 15th: The Lake District is a dramatic region of small hill farms, scattered woodlands and mountain vistas. Ancient monuments such as the stone circle at Castlerigg (Photo) show that the region has been inhabited since at least the Stone Age. Birds to look for include Merlin, Peregrine, Raven, Common Crossbill, and a variety of farmland birds such as wagtails, linnets, thrushes and pipits. Overnight near Windermere.
Wednesday 16th. We’ll cross into Scotland and visit Caerlaverock NNR, a National Nature Reserve covering part of the Solway Firth and the land south of Dumfries, Scotland. It has been designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The Reserve covers an area of 21 square miles and consists of saltmarsh, vast mudflats and grazing land. It is an internationally important wintering site for waterfowl and wading birds. Virtually the entire population of Svalbard Barnacle Goose overwinters here, ca. 24,000. More than 130,000 wading birds have been recorded in winter. In addition, many thousands of birds stop for "bed and breakfast" while passing through. Highlight birds include flocks of wintering Lapwing, Golden plover, Redwing, Fieldfare and Brambling. A real treat would be to find Black Grouse in local woodlands.
The coastline is characterised by lowland hills and small mountains and is widely regarded as some of the most scenic lowland coastline in the British Isles. It is a mainly rural area with fishing and hill farming still playing a large part in the local economy. Overnight near Dumfries in the Scottish border country, two nights. Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, composer and satirist lived here. He immortalized its countryside and humble farm life in his songs and poems.
Thursday 17th: We’ll work some local sites for geese such as Greylag, Greater and Lesser White-fronts, as well as Whooper Swans before continuing north through the historic hill country of southern Scotland to Edinburgh. The country is dotted with castles and ancient towns, and is the country of ‘Braveheart’ and similar movies. This is the zone where the Hooded Crow displaces the Common Crow, keeping company with other crow species like jackdaws, rooks, magpies and jays. Overnight near Edinburgh.
Friday 18th: A day of mixed coastal and farmland birding trying to catch up with those species we may have missed. There are good opportunities locally for Smew, Jack snipe, Woodcock, Goldeneye, Great Crested and Little grebes, as well as Tawny owls & Common kestrels.
Saturday 19th: Today we’ll take time out to tour Edinburgh and enjoy the sites of this historic city.
Sunday 20th: Depart for U.S. from Edinburgh airport.