Birds

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Blue Tit © Mark Pollitt
Blue Tit

Dumfries and Galloway hosts a wide variety of different habitats supporting a diverse range of bird species. As many as 20-30 different species may be easily seen in our gardens alone, and it is these that many people are most familiar with. Whether it be House Sparrows Passer domesticus, Robins Erithacus rubecula, Blackbirds Turdus merula and Blue Tits Parus caeruleus or less common visitors such as Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula and Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, birds are many peoples first link with wildlife watching and recording.

Agriculture is the dominant industry in Dumfries and Galloway, with three quarters of the land in the region being farmed. This produces a mosaic of habitats, from improved grassland to upland sheepwalk, from scrub and hedgerows to wood pasture. Swallows Hirundo rustica and Starlings Sturnus vulgaris utilise the insect-rich feeding areas associated with livestock grazing, though on a national scale the latter has declined markedly over the last 30 years at least partly as a result of changes in agricultural practises. The region is a stronghold for Barn Owls Tyto alba which hunt over the plentiful areas of rough grassland. There are also a number of other locally important species associated with agricultural land, including Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, Twite Acanthis flavirostris, Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra and Linnet Acanthis cannabina.

Barnacle Geese © Mark Pollitt
Barnacle Geese

The Solway Coast is known for its wintering waterbirds, with the opportunity to see ducks, geese, swans and waders, such as Pintail Anas acuta, Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, and Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus. The Solway hosts the entire Svalbard breeding population of Barnacle Geese Branta leucopsis, numbering over 25 000 birds, making it a species of prime local, national and international importance. Other species of waterbirds such as Dunlin Calidris alpina and Redshank Tringa tetanus occur in nationally important numbers. Elsewhere on the coast there are breeding seabirds inhabiting suitable cliffs, whilst Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis and Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea breed on undisturbed shorelines.

Meadow Pipit © Pedro Henriques
Meadow Pipit

Around one sixth of Dumfries and Galloway consists of upland habitat, terrain favoured by some of the region’s raptors. The Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos is an iconic bird of Scotland, with one or two pairs surviving in the Southern Uplands. Elsewhere Hen Harrier Circus cycneus and Merlin Falco columbarius inhabit the moorlands, although large areas of suitable breeding and foraging habitat were previously lost through the expansion of commercial forestry. The uplands are also host to many smaller birds, such as the Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Twite Carduelis flaviorstris, Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus and Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis. Small populations of the nationally threatened Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix persist in some of the wooded fringes of upland areas.

Tree Creeper © Sergey Yeliseev
Tree Creeper

The region has a variety of woodland habitats, from planted coniferous woodland to wood and scrub pastures, with this comes a range of different bird species. Native woodlands are small in size and are fragmented in distribution. Nonetheless, areas such as those in the Cree Valley and Castramon Woods support many of the characteristic woodland birds associated with this habitat, including Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca, Wood Warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix and Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus. Wood pasture, such as that of the Annandale Estate and Fleet Valley, is home to Chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita, Treecreepers Certhia familiaris and local biodiversity action plan species such as the Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. Over 20% of the land area is planted conifer woodland. Although the habitat supports a relatively low diversity of species, newly planted areas can be home to Tree Pipits Anthus trivialis whilst mature areas support Goshawks Accipiter gentilis and Crossbills Loxia curvirostra.