It’s been a while since I last went out with the camera, as I have had a bit of an enforced break over the Christmas period so I have been itching to get out. I made a last minute decision to go to Caerlaverock and join Mark Sisson on our annual trip to this wonderful location and boy, I’m glad I did as the weather was superb with clear skies and cold frosty starts. This has been the fifth year on the trot to this Wildfowl and Wetland reserve along the Solway coast and when the conditions are good there is no finer place in the UK.
You can find Whooper Swans at a few other reserves but Caerlaverock is one of the best places to get images of this beautiful bird. The Swans are fed twice a day in front of one of the main hides and this gives you a great chance of capturing a range of different behaviour, from preening, bathing, displaying and aggression.
Once the Swans have finished feeding they start to head off to another lake on the reserve to roost. This gives you a great chance of capturing them in flight especially if the wind is in the right direction.
During the late afternoon the Barnacle Geese also return to the estuary to roost after spending the day feeding on the fields that surround the reserve. This is one of the greatest spectacles in the UK as there can be up to ten thousand of these birds that spend the winter here. These Geese have spent the summer breeding in the high Arctic islands of Svalbard and during October they return back to the Solway.
If the conditions are clear which they were for the four days that we were there, you can get some amazing colour in the sky and this reflects on the water’s surface. This makes a great backdrop as the birds take flight and head back to their daytime feeding sites after spending the night roosting on the estuary.
Caerlaverock is also an excellent place to photograph Roe Deer as there is a healthy population on the reserve. During the early morning and late afternoon they can be found feeding in the fields and sometimes you can find one quite close to the small hides that are dotted along the paths.
The whole of the Solway coast is worth exploring during the winter but one location that I never get bored in going to is the large Starling roost. I have photographed this particular roost many times over the years but rarely under such clear conditions. The sunset was beautiful and made the perfect backdrop to this wonderful spectacle. The numbers weren’t as high as on my previous visits but it was still an amazing display of one of the top sights to witness in the UK.
Caerlaverock is a special reserve and has always been very productive for me on my many visits. It is also one of those places that few people go to so it never feels busy. This is one of the first places that we ran a trip here and I have a feeling it will be a permanent fixture.