Trip reports

Coach outing to Maidens Harbour and Dumfries House Estate

Coach outing to Maidens Harbour and Dumfries House Estate
Striding out - Winnie Thomson

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The harbour at Maidens, south of Ayr, is a quiet, open area to watch shore birds and scan the sea. Gannets were flying low over the water, shag were diving, and a very inquisitive grey seal entertained us by coming within almost touching distance, giving the opportunity of close-up photographs.

Turning our attention to the rocks, we were delighted to see large numbers of ringed plover, interspersed with redshank, dunlin and turnstone. On the larger rocks guarding the entrance to the harbour cormorants were drying their wings, and lapwing, rock doves, a golden plover and a grey heron were huddled against the wind. Looking across the harbour to the bay beyond, 3 Slavonian grebe were spotted as well as a goldeneye and a line of 4 red-breasted merganser. Four species of gull were noted in the harbour area - black-headed, common, herring and great black-backed. Moving to a higher point to look over the small bay to the south, oystercatcher, bar-tailed godwit and curlew were noted, and a number of rock pipits were busy among the rocks and seaweed. Some jackdaws were on the beach, playing a version of King Canute with the incoming tide. We had planned to scan more of the coastal bushes from another path, but the rain was becoming insistent, and the area had been disturbed recently by building work. We did check the small stream before leaving and had a scan of the harbour from a different angle, adding eider, goldfinch, house sparrow and starling.

The Group's first coach outing to Maidens was in 2012 when we included Culzean. This time, to give a variety of habitats, I had decided to try a new venue, Dumfries House, near Cumnock. The 2000 acre estate also offers various beautifully restored bridges, buildings and gardens and most people chose to explore in small groups, meeting up in the Coach House Café afterwards.

The two raptors of the day, a common buzzard and kestrel were seen, but sadly not the "local" goshawk. In the garden areas dunnock, robin, a flock of mistle thrush, blackbird and wren were seen, while woodpigeon, great, coal, blue and long-tailed tits were spotted in the woodland. The loud call of a nuthatch directed us to the canopy, and we had great views of this lovely bird searching the lichen. Magpie, rook and carrion crow completed the day's corvid sightings, and a grey wagtail on the river was a nice way to finish, although from two worthies who walk these grounds every day we heard that we had missed a jay and a flock of bullfinch.

As a newly restored estate it will take time to settle and mature. The arboretum, although young, looks fabulous with the various shapes, heights and colours (vivid at this time of year) and the small, monthly farmers' market created another interesting diversion. Finishing the day in the warmth of the Café we discussed the visit and the general view was that although we hadn't added significantly to our day's bird sightings it had been an interesting and enjoyable venue - a place to return to.

Val Donaldson