Christmas and New Year in Yorkshire and Scotland

How the years do come and go. Despite countless horrendous global events, 2016 has been wonderful on a personal level - I'm not glad to see the back of it, but am excited about what 2017 may hold. The promise of a new year is always invigorating. Tim and I saw out the old and welcomed the new this time around in Yorkshire and Scotland, with highlights including traditional frumity (a spiced dish with milky wheat that is a Christmas Eve tradition in our family), watching Hull City get hammered by Manchester City, walking in picturesque Brantingham Dale and across Beverley Westwood, and seeing in the new year at our favourite holiday cottage in Dumfries and Galloway. New Year's Day couldn't have been better: it dawned crystal clear, sunny and frosty, so we pottered along the clifftops to Rockcliffe (my absolute favourite coastal walk), where we sat on a bench munching delicious sticky toffee cake made by the supremely talented Annette's Baking in a Box. Here are some snaps ...

Spotting Svalbard's Barnacle geese at Caerlaverock Castle and Wetlands

There's such a cacophony of chatter on the horizon, far over the soggy plains of merse, that it sounds like an excited crowd engaged in hearty discussion. I peer through my binoculars and watch as the geese, huddled in a tight cluster of perhaps 50-strong, gobble and cackle away, unaware that they're being watched. I wonder if they're feeling homesick, these geese, for they are not native to the Solway Firth in Scotland, where I am birdwatching at the WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) Caerlaverock. Instead, they are decorative black-and-grey Barnacle geese from Svalbard in Norway, some 35,000 of whom travel here each winter to enjoy the slightly milder climes.

This certainly beats my previous exploits at birdwatching, which have usually involved sitting in a hide, bored and freezing, waiting and waiting and waiting to see something, anything... WWT Caerlaverock is impressive. Set in an estuarian landscape facing the Lakeland fells and just up the coast from Caerlaverock Castle, a moated triangular medieval structure juxtaposed with a 17th-century manor, the wetlands comprises comfortable modern hides and lookout towers, and promises plenty of exciting sightings.

Having enjoyed watching the Barnacle geese from afar - they are shy creatures, and if you look directly at them they will fly off - we move on to the Whooper pond, where a wild swan feed is about to take place. I've never seen anything like it - the pond is a riot of whooper swans from Iceland, Canada geese, teals, tufted ducks, moorhens, mallards and widgeons - and, so I am told, we may even see egrets, otters, the extremely rare American widgeon and an elusive hen harrier. It is delightful watching the behaviour of the birds - the whoopers graceful and reserved, the tufted ducks dancing and diving, and the mallards charging for the fodder.

The guide tells us that although the birds arrive every day for their feed, they are wild, and any wrong move will scare them away. To end our visit, we climb the Farmhouse lookout tower and gaze across the landscape: the chattery chorus of the birds chimes across the perfectly flat wetlands towards the sea. A cluster of Barnacle geese flies overhead - it's a wonder they have the energy, I think, as I imagine them on their long long journey to arrive here.
© Emmy in Switzerland | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig