Saturday, 8 October 2011

Back in Cumbria......Trip out to the west coast and Solway

Hello everyone I am back down in Cumbria now after an amazing season on Mull and I would just like to thank everyone at Sea Life Surveys for making it such a superb experience. The season was finished off by an end of season do with most of the SLS staff going to Glengorm estate on the northern coast of the island to stay for 3 nights. I had Red Deer rutting and a Magpie near the castle (a good record for Mull). This is a wildlife blog so I am not going to talk about all the drunken riff raff that happened.....although we did have some unbelievable card games of Ring of Fire where you had to do dares and stuff but lets not go there.....move on

Very sad to say my goodbyes to everyone and the magical island itself which felt so much like home over the last 7 months and is a real wildlife haven. I will be back! The trip down was a smooth one and the usual amazing varied landscapes give you so much to look at...a long with looking at the road from time to time. I was joined by Ruth Abernethy and Craig McD for the journey as I would drop them off in Glasgow. Dropping them off in the Scottish capital was strange after being in such a remote environment for so long and I really did feel out of place like a fish up a tree. Did the last stretch over the border and landed in Carlisle at 7pm after setting off from Tobermory at noon. great to be back.

Weird waking up back in glorious Gdale especially looking out of the kitchen window to see beaters working the heather trying to flush partridge for shooting. It reminded me of the all the drastic changes happening down here with a lot of land taken over to be managed for game birds means even more pressure on the surrounding wildlife.


Friday 7th of the month and I got up at 9 o'clock to glorious sunshine in the valley. Me and J Milo scanned the fell side while having our shreddies and managed to pick up 2 Buzzards, Kestrel, 3 Ravens and Sparrowhawk along with 3 different species of geese overhead in Canada, Greylag and Barnies heading west.
We decided to head west ourselves and make the most of the sunshine so we set off at 11ish and called into the butchers on the way where a splendid gentleman works and has great customer skills....."Arite Boss" "Taraa Cheif" "catch you later mush"....lovely chap.

workington harbour, stumpster and 2 black headed gulls

Headed towards Workington on the savage 595 road and the on arrival the first port of call was the harbour for a quick sea watch and to check out the gulls. Its safe to say that Workington is a very different coastal town to Tobermory where I lived for 7 months. Up in Tob you got whales near by in the sea and in Workington you got them walking along the streets going in and out of farmfoods. Had the harpoon in the boot on standby.

Cumbrian Legend!

The harbour is a good sea watching location and has had great success in years gone by. A strong westerly wind and retreating tide made it hard work for picking stuff up out at sea but the gulls were not a let down with the famous Stumpy who I had heard so much about flying close by. Stumpy is a Mediterranean Gull which spends a lot of its time there and has a leg missing with just a stump, hence the name. Stumpy is a Cumbrian legend and should fly north to Mull and give Buster the seal some company and they could discuss and share their problems in would make a good cartoon program.....Stumpy and Buster!

I seen a bird approach me which at first I said is that Juv Kitiwake or is it Sabines?? the bird soon disappeared out of sight and we didn't pick it up again but seen the report later in the day that Juv Sabines was seen there at half 10 so it could well of been that bird.

Siddick pond, former roman port

We headed north and suddenly Dad told me to take a sharp right into Asda and I just thought he was popping into get more Hobnobs but directed me round the back and we parked up and walked round and there was a lovely pond called Siddick pond which had an Adult and Juv Med Gull and 2 Snipe on. Dad got a Kingfisher on the stretch of river behind as well. As you can see by the picture the pond is in a funny location surrounded by industrial buildings and a true urban environment but really is good place for birding. I imagine though that the pond has got them fish in from The Simpsons with 3 eyes.

Maryport Marina

On to Scaryport.....I mean Maryport and we headed to the marina and round to the coast. Seeing the harbour reminded me of Tobermory harbour, all it needed was Jim Trainer cruising around the pontoon. Not much happening there just a single Rock Pipit calling and we headed north again along the coastal road with John pointing out that an old roman fort was over there and I replied 'I fort it was' which he did not get because it was a too higher level of comedy for him. Drove past Maryport golf course which looked like a nice little links track.


Stopped off at Crosscanonby which is another great coastal stretch. lovely beach when the tide is out and great surroundings. I think as a whole west Cumbria is very under rated and has some beautiful areas. An exciting record for the Solway last week was a Leatherback Turtle photographed on the Scots side and it is the second report this year! They can grow to 3 meters in length and would be a fantastic sight off a British coastline.

Solway coast

Mawbray - John Milo scanning......

We moved onto Mawbray and still fantastic weather and great light for photos. A dead Gannet was on the rocky shore and seemed to be a 3rd year bird. Amazing to see their design close up and feel the strength of their neck which they rely on for feeding. Dad was saying that you used to get Little Tern colonies here as well a few years back.


All the people we met when we were out and about would stop and chat as well and they all come across very friendly on the west side. In the photo above I was playing about with the Polarizing filter that Andy Tait has kindly lent me. It filters the light and you can get some nice effects.

Dead Gannet, Criffel in the back drop


Sunny Siloth was next and it really is a lovely place when the sun is out. Turnstone and Redshank were showing down by the shore. Down past the golf course next to the docks is another good sea watching spot and the road again was Mull all over as it was covered in pot holes and about as even as a frogs back. More Redshank and Cormorants on show.

Male Stonechat, Skinburness

On to the main event and Skinburness just north of Siloth is one of my fave areas in the county. Especially this time of year with all the movement and wintering raptors. we parked up and within minutes as Dad was yapping to the local farmer I got a female Merlin go right past us heading south. A Stonechat also just sat on the fence post and Dad commented that it was only his second of the year! We headed a bit further down and got 20 plus Lapwing and also Curlew. Butterflies showing well with 10 plus Red Admiral and 3 Small Tortoiseshell. A great place.....I will be back.

Red Admirals

One for team Gannet

Blog postings to come include a top 5 highlights on Mull as well as best photos from the Island as well as other sightings and trips around Cumbria.......Thanks for looking :-)

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