Spring birdwatching breaks in Galloway

NEW DATES COMING SOON FOR 2018

Join birdwatching expert Jamie Champion for a weekend of informal birdwatching around the Galloway coast. From Kippford to Mersehead, Kirkcudbright to Gatehouse-of-Fleet, James will take you on an amazing journey of discovery combined with informal tips, an evening talk, good company and the opportunity to meet like-minded enthusiasts.

 

Galloway is a haven for birds, and on our late September tour we will hope to encounter a wide range of species, with a combination of lingering summer visitors, resident species and migrants as well. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned birder, this weekend promises to be highly enjoyable, and the combination of unpredictable migrant birds and delicious food at the delightful Selkirk Arms Hotel will prove rewarding in every way.

We will hope for a good number of waders, including flocks of Golden Plover and Knot, Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit, and we may be lucky enough to find something rarer. If we are lucky, some of the winter geese may already be in, and we will hope to see Barnacle and Pink-footed Geese, newly arrived after their long migration from the Arctic.

The RSPB’s reserve at Mersehead has become something of a magnet for small seed-eating birds, which have become scarce elsewhere due to lack of food. Tree Sparrows can often be seen on the feeders in front of the reserve centre, while Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, large numbers of Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Linnets feed on the fields and in the hedges.

We may also have time for a walk at the RSPB’s Ken Dee Marshes reserve, where Nuthatch, Bullfinch, and the declining Willow Tit may be seen, as well as a small flock of endangered Greenland White-fronted Geese that frequents this area. Goosander may be fishing on the loch, and Whooper Swans may be feeding in the fields or in the marshy bays.

Although getting good views of the more unusual and more spectacular birds will be our main focus, seeing how many species one can find is always fun, and we might manage up to 80 species. We will take time to appreciate each bird, and identification tips will be given for those who are unsure about how to distinguish the more difficult species.

Raptors will be on the agenda as well, with possible sightings of Hen and Marsh Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine and Merlin, as well as Buzzard and Red Kite.


Arrangements

Friday

Arrive in your own time.

6.30pm - Welcome drinks and canapés in the Burns room. Welcome from your host for the weekend, James Champion.

Dinner in the main restaurant – followed by coffee and an illustrated talk in the meeting room.

Saturday

After a hearty breakfast, depart in convoy to your first destination along the Solway coast, packed lunch provided with many more secret locations for birding, returning to the hotel around 4pm.

6.30pm - Pre dinner drinks and canapés followed by Dinner.

SUNDAY

After a hearty breakfast, head off

10am - a morning of birdwatching before

1.45pm - returning for a soup and sandwich lunch

Depart mid-afternoon.


Price

 £249pp based on two sharing a twin or double

£299pp for single rooms


James Champion, you local birdwatching guide

James Champion has been birding in Galloway since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He is a passionate wildlife enthusiast with a long and fascinating pedigree. His great grandfather George Charles Champion was a renowned entomologist who spent the years 1879 to 1883 collecting insects in Guatemala and Panama, and then working for the rest of his life in the Natural History Museum in London, cataloguing and describing more than 4,500 new species for science. James went on an incredible journey in Central America in his great grandfather’s footsteps in 2011, searching for and finding a butterfly, Drucina championi, which his great grandfather had discovered on the slopes of a volcano in Guatemala in 1880, and which had only been seen twice in the intervening years.

James is frequently to be found in India, where his grandfather, F W Champion OBE IFS, campaigned vigorously for the protection of tigers and other wildlife in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. FWC was the pioneer of tripwire photography in India, a system that is now known as camera-trapping and is one of the key tools in the struggle to protect India’s priceless wildlife heritage today. His astonishing images, obtained using primitive and cumbersome glass-plate cameras, graced the front covers and interior pages of publications such as the Illustrated London News, Country Life, The Field, and Indian State Railways Magazine.

James has always been fascinated by wildlife, in particular birds and butterflies, and is the guardian of much of his forefathers’ legacy. With the use of diaries, letters and other historical documents, he managed to retrace some of his grandfather’s journeys in India, even recreating a trek that his grandparents and father (aged 8) had made to the Pindari Glacier, in the Kumaon Himalayas, in October 1936, staying in the same bungalows and photographing exactly the same scenes precisely 70 years later to the day, in October 2006. James loves to share these tales with others, and he will give an illustrated talk on his Indian journeys during the weekend.

James is by training a university English language teacher, and this role has allowed him to spend extended periods in many different countries, providing opportunities for the observation of wildlife in six continents. He has also worked for many years as a wildlife tour organiser and guide, a role that he relishes and which allows him to share his passion for natural history and his extraordinary family legacy with other wildlife enthusiasts.