2018 started quite slow with geese coming in quite late in any numbers and then around mid-January the large flocks of pink footed geese started to come in with small numbers of barnacle geese in the third week. Due to wildfowling most of the geese only used the estuary muds as a roost with some lingering until an hour after dawn. As the month of January progressed into February they followed true to form knowing when they were not going to be shot at and staying on and feeding on the saltmarsh or hopping over the reserve into the grassland behind.
Counts of 13 to 15 thousand depending visibility were achieved for the bay as a whole and for the reserve 6 to 7 thousand on the muds against the saltmarsh. Inland wildfowling finished on the 1st February and coastal wildfowling finished on the 20th February and true to form the 21st February saw 2000 pink footed geese and 654 barnacles feeding on the saltmarsh in front of the car park and so it has been through the rest of February with a peak of 2500 pink footed geese and 1400 barnacle geese numbers being down on last year could be due to weather I believe. The other long range migrant to grace the reserve are our usual flock of whooper swans with a max count in January of 92 these move around the bay utilising the reserve for roosting and washing in the freshwater lagoons.
The duck population seems to have dropped away on reserve since last winter’s massive totals of 1500 teal dwindling to 1‘s and 2’s.
However, our little egret numbers have continued to increase with a max count for the bay of 44 in January and 37 in February with 23 being recorded on the reserve in January.
Waders have been depleted by weather conditions with golden plovers and dunlin being down by three quarters and two thirds respectively since December.
Raptors are still evident with peregrine, merlin, hen harrier utilising the wealth of small passerines such as linnet, reed bunting, goldfinch and starling.
Work on reserve has been affected by poor weather conditions throughout both months but once again our volunteers have managed to achieve a lot on their Thursday work parties.
We have trimmed and layered a 7 year old hawthorn hedge on the main drive but we still have 30meters to lay but that should get done after his cold snap. We have laid around 64 tons of type two on the main trackway on to reserve and car park both of which have suffered quite badly from the weather conditions.
The main track has been patched twice over the first five weeks which takes a day out of our work program, so we bit the bullet and spread to a depth of 50mm type two aggregate in one day that should last a couple of years as the last time we did this exercise was in 2012.
The wetlands have been very much about checking water levels but with the amount of rain we have had that has not been an issue. On the 27th of February with the help of Galloway reserves staff we got the eight lagoon islands strimmed for the new breeding season before this cold snap there were seven male lapwings displaying on the lagoons.
Hopefully not lasting to long but the worst snow and Ice since 2011 has hit the Wigtown bay and the Crook this past weekend making life difficult for the wildlife. Both lagoons totally frozen so few birds roosting most hoping to get a feed out on the saltmarsh mud and roosting out there as well. Some flocks of pink footed geese moving about the bay trying not to find wildfowlers at their next resting place, there is the need for another 7 days of sub zero temperatures and the cold weather ban will start.
Left to right four of our volunteers Peter, Gerry, Carl And Jim missing from this group and worked hard on this project are Jackie, and myself. we have also had some support from volunteers and staff from RSPB Wood of Cree reserve and RSPB Mersehead.
I am pleased to say that the footpath is now finished and waiting on fencers now to make it stock proof.
The one thing that does rattle our volunteers cages is irresponsible dog owners that walk there dog and do not clear up the mess and take it away with them. Within two day of opening the new path we have had two cases of dog mess left on the footpath as a dog owner my self I find it very annoying to clear up another persons dogs mess. We have had to put up big signs which I personally find very intrusive about the SNH code of the countryside which should be known by all responsible people.