Bird Watching at Carsethorn

The Steamboat Inn, Carsethorn
Bed & Breakfast and Self-Catering Accommodation
Nature Reserves in South West Scotland
Links * Safety Advisory Services (Scotland) Ltd.
This shortlist of birds and local reserves is sponsored by
The Steamboat Inn Carsethorn, Dumfries DG2 8DS Scotland.
Tel. : 01387 880631. E-mail :
Proprietors : Anne and Graham Carnochan.

Oystercatchers at Carsethorn
Oystercatchers at Carsethorn

Birds and Wildlife at Carsethorn...

Carsthorne is close to locations with a wide variety of bird species, both those commonly seen and others which are becoming rarer throughout Britain. The following list highlights the more interesting species present either inland or on the Solway coast of Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland. :-

Hawks & Owls * Waders * Geese & Ducks * Woodland & Field Species * Riverside Species

Hawks & Owls

Dumfries and Galloway is home to most species of the hawk and owl family still present in Britain. All the following birds have been seen in the area, in breeding territories or as seasonal visitors. The Golden Eagle is an occasional overflying visitor.

Hawks & Owls

Buzzard (Buteo buteo) : The 'kiew' of this robust hawk is a common sound over moorland and open woodland in Dumfries and Galloway.

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) : Smaller than a buzzard, but still a match for anything up to the size and weight of a hare. A breeder on moorland; the birds will pass food to one another in flight.

Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) : A woodland hawk that takes a wide variety of prey including crows, pigeons, game birds, rats and hares. Now more widespread due to protection and re-introduction.

Red Kite : Recently successfully re-established in the region in the Loch Kenm area. Feeding platforms near Laurieston can be visited at most times of the year and the birds observed from a hide or the car park. Charge of 2.50 per adult.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) : This most famous of Scottish raptors has been seen in the foothills of the Southern Uplands. Breeding pairs have been seen further to the west in the Carsphairns.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) : The commonest bird of prey in Britain, widespread above fields and roads in Dumfries and Galloway. An occasional user of large nestboxes. Feeds chiefly on small rodents; above overgrown grazing land, a sign of field mice. Distinctive rust-brown back.

Merlin (Falco columbarius) : Now rarer, but this smaller cousin of the Sparrowhawk will take on anything its own size or smaller. The male has a beautiful slate-blue back but is otherwise similar to the Kestrel.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) : Black backed but with a grey underside, this beautiful bird resembles the eagle in its 'waiting on' and 'swoop and strike' attack pattern. Impact speeds can be up to 180 m.p.h., - enough to outpace even the fastest pigeon. Nests on cliffs and crags in Dumfries and Galloway.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) : Very fast low-level predator of songbirds, pigeons and other small woodland and hedgerow birds. A small bird, but can fly off with a pigeon larger than itself.

Owls :

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) : Buff coloured in the day, grey to the eye at night, this owl is sometimes called 'Farmer's Friend' because of its intake of rodents and love of farmland habitats. Some old barns in Dumfries and Galloway still have 'owl holes' to encourage nesting by this threatened species. Forestry Enterprise action near Newton Stewart and elsewhere has lead to nestboxes being built in the woodlands. The results are encouraging.

Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) : A daylight hunter on moorland and above estuary grasslands, most commonly seen in winter. Wings can meet in flight under the body, during courting displays.

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) : This woodland bird has 'the wit to woo'; its 'k'vick' and 'hoo-hoo' calls are commonly mistaken for 'to-whit-to-whoo', as it hunts and courts at night. An eater of voles and other smaller rodents. Present in Dalbeattie woods and hence the logo of Dalbeattie Internet.

Waders :

A wide range of local and migratory wading birds feed or breed in the Solway Firth merse (salt marshes) or feed on the tidal sands and mudbanks.The following three species are of particular interest :-

Bar-tailed Godwit(Limosa japponica) : A spring migrant, sometimes overwintering, breeding in Scandinavia and Russia. Rich chestnut summer plumage changes for winter to a speckled buff-brown more like a snipe. Godwits plunge their beaks deeply into sand and mud after the worms and other invertebrates it feeds upon.

Sanderling(Calidris alba) : Like a gull with a grey-brown body and a rusty head in summer, but grey and white in winter, this tideline feeding bird is found along sandy sections of the Solway Firth coastline.

Redshank (Tringa totanus) : Very common medium-sized wader with nopticeably red legs and beak-base. Seen on inland and coastal marshes, wet meadows and moorland, flocks of migrants seen in winter at coast. Brownish back, horizontal to angular streaking of pale underbody. Flying bird has pointed white rump and broad white trailing edge to wing. Adult whiteish eye-ring in summer. Winter colour greyer on back and mottled underbody. Noisy 'teu' or 'teu-hu' call. Beak straight, rather stout - distinction between relatives Spotted Redshank and Greenshank.

Turnstone(Arenaria interpres) : This migratory bird visits Britain in winter to feed, lifting shoreline stones in its efforts to find sand-hoppers and other invertebrates. Dark brown and white in colour in winter, the summer breeding season sees adults with chestnut and black backs.

Geese and Ducks :

The geese, swans and ducks listed here are just a few of the species that are resident in Dumfries and Galloway or which regularly visit this area.

Geese :

Barnacle Geese at Mersehead
Barnacle Geese at Mersehead

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) : In the air or on the ground, groups of this species 'yap' amongst themselves, the noise reaching a crescendo as they take flight. They forage on coastal grasses, - six will eat as much as a mature sheep, - whilst over-wintering in western Scotland, returning to breed in Spitzbergen and Greenland.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) : The ancestor of the domesticated goose, which inherited its cackling and 'aang-aang-aang' honking in flight. Agricultural development reduced its range to Scotland from its former eastern England breeding grounds.

Pink-Footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) : Other species have orange legs and webbed feet, but Pink-footed Geese are as their name indicates. The back is white and grey, the belly and neck mostly brown-pink, the head being dull brown. A migrant from Greenland and Iceland, over-wintering in Scotland.

White-Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) : Dark-bodied but with a white forehead above the orange beak, this is a winter visitor from breeding grounds in Greenland and Russia. It feeds in marshes and meadowlands mainly near the coast.

Swans :

Bewick's Swan (Cygnus bewickii) : This species are seen in V-shaped skeins in British winter skies on migration from their Siberian breeding grounds. Short-necked, with rounded heads and black and yellow bills, they feed on marshlands seeds and water plants. The rounded yellow patches on the bill vary from bird to bird.

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) :Long-necked, almost silent in flight, these swans are amazingly noisy when in flocks. The odd trumpeting sound that gives them their name is quite distinctive. The black beak has an angular yellow patch on it. The birds often seen grazing in flocks on grassland in winter, but migrate to and from the Arctic.


Pintail (Anas acuta) : This duck normally only winters in British lakes and estuaries, but there are some pairs resident in Scotland. Dark headed, with a white front to the neck and a barred grey back, the male is quite distinctive. The female is a pale mottled brown.

Common Scoter Duck (Melanitta nigra) : Dark feathered, the male having a small yellow patch on its bill, this duck has only a few hundred resident pairs in Scotland, living mainly in moorland on the shore of lochs. Over-wintering migrants from the Arctic and Sub-Arctic swell the numbers in winter. Whilst it may live inland, feeding on vegetation, insects and molluscs, coastal examples prefer a diet of mussels.

Scaup Duck (Aythya marila) : 'Scaup' means 'broken shells', as this bird feeds chiefly on mussels, diving down to the mussel-beds. It is another over-wintering visitor from Northern Europe, visiting coastal marshland and estuary. A few pairs breed on inland lochs and rivers. Scaup prefer to nest in loose colonies on islands.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) : Beautiful birds, with dark green head, cream body, a chestnut breast-band, two black stripes on the back and one under the belly. The male's red bill has a knob above the nose and between the eyes, the female lacking this knob. Most of the year living in Britain, they moult in autumn in the German and Danish estuaries round the Heligoland Bight, returning to Britain for the winter. Unusually, they nest underground in old rabbit-burrows or other hollows, groups of immature chicks staying in 'nursery groups' under the care of a few adults whilst the other adults forage.

Teal (Anas crecca) : Smallest member of the duck family. Teal green bar on inside trailing edge of wings - just barely visible on folded wings. Body brown, streaked, mottled dark, especially on back as underside paler. Adult male has distinctive grey sides below wing level and a chestnut head with distinctive backward-pointing green flash round eyes to back of head. Upends when feeding underwater, feeds also on mud near vegetation. Likes ponds/lakes/marshes with plenty of vegetation for feeding and nesting. Resident, large flocks on coastal bays and shallow lakes. Some winter migrants from Northern Europe.

Wigeon (Anas penelope) : Resident and winter migrant, breeding on forest lakes and marshes, shallow lakes and pools. Winters in coastal habitats, lakes and rivers, flocking except when nesting. Vegetarian grazing bird. Short-necked, large and rounded head, small black-tipped bill and pointed tail. Distinct white belly-patch in flight. Male underbody greyish, tending to red-brown when moulting, females red-brown underbody, both sexes back and folding wings black and white.

Shoreline Species :

Oyster Catcher (Haematopus ostralegus) : Orange-red vertically-flattened long straight bill adapted for finding and opening small shellfish. Brownish-black back, bib and head, white underbody and pink legs with unwebbed toes. Adults have a white 'chinstrap' in winter. Very loud "Peep!" call. Tidal shoreline and merse feeder. Communal roosting in winter. Breeds on sandy, pebbly or rocky ground but has nested on buildiongs and cliffs. Often seen at Carsethorn.

Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) : Prefers to breed on sand and gravel patches amongst short grass on sea or lake shores and on open fells and tundra. At other times a shoreline feeder of small invertebrates in inland waters, estuaries and tidal sands. Compact, full-chested bird with grey back, white underbody andyellow-orange legs that turn red in the mating season. Short, stubby bill with yellow underbase. Black 'ring' around neck, widening almost to a bib across chest. Black and grey band from beak round and under eyes, grey top to white head, but female has a black brow band across head from eye to eye.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) : Both sexes have the black double tufts on the head in the courtship period before breeding. A lakeland bird that migrates to coastal areas in autumn and winter. Distinctive white face and long neck, dark grey-brown back and paler sides and body.

Small Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) : Found on lowland fresh water such as reed-fringed rivers, lochs and marshland. Also called 'Dabchick'. Buff-coloured top and pale underside, with chestnut throat in summer.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) : Diving bird with an appetite for flat fish and eels. Colonies can number thousands of pairs. Nests mainly on cliffs or by rivers and la kes, occasionally in trees. Distinguished from its relative the Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) by its white cheeks and thigh-patches. The Shag is a greenish dark colour and has a short forwards-pointing quiff of a crest. The Shag also prefers rocky ledges and sea caves for breeding.

Woodland and Field Species :

Nearly 40% of Dumfries and Galloway has forest cover, the majority being commercial Larch, Spruce, Pine and Fir plantations. These are home to a variety of woodland species, some of which are listed here. Some take advantage of clearings near streams and rivers.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) : This tiny insect-eater is found in the coniferous plantations near the tops of the trees. The crest of the male is orange, the female's being yellow, each framed in a thin black 'moustache' running back from the bill. The back and upper wing feathers are mostly dull green, the underside a speckled cream buff colour.

Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) : The peculiar bill crosses like a grapple, a very powerful design that allows this bird to tear open pine and fir cones to extract seeds. Males are a colorful brick-red with dark wings, the females beinmg greenish-yellow with dark wings. The Dumfries and Galloway coniferous plantations are excellent habitats for these birds.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) : Nests in tree crowns of lowland deciduous woodland, conifer plantations and gardens, but mostly winters in southern and western Europe. Effectively resident in UK, migrating in some cases from northeastern Scotland. Fond of seeding thistles and burdocks - may feed in groups. Beak pointed, quite long for a finch, ivory coloured, with distinctive white, black and red markings at front of head around beak and eyes. Back a dun brown, breast pale, wings black and white with a distinctive bright yellow bar curving rounde from wing-root to midway along forward wing edge.

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) : Resident in the UK and hardy. Woodland edge, field and garden breeder and feeder. Nests amongst tree and bush branches. Stout, conical ivory bill. Whole plumage greenish, shaded towards brown on back and greyish green on underbody. Wings have small yellow 'flash' folded, but in flight yellow confined to outer forward wing edge. Female plumage less bright than males. More variety in song than its cousin the Goldfinch.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) : Breeds on farmland, scrubland, woodland edge, heath and coastal meadow. Resident, but Scandinavian birds migrate for winter to UK. Both birds have yellow-streaked grey head and pale yellow beak in winter, redbrown stripe along back and pale patch at nape of neck, otherwise pale brown with hints of yellow. Tail brown, fairly long. Male summer coat bright yellow shade underbody and bright yellow head.

Skylark (Alauda arvensis) : Breeds in open cultivated farmland, meadows and heaths. UK receives some Scandinavian winter migrants. Brown and off-white with yellow tinges to wings and breast, underbody pale to white, back and wings fairly brown, trailing wing edge and sides of tail have white edge. Good at hovering and will sing whilst at 50 - 100 metres, needing care to spot. Song a mix of rolling, chirruping and whistling notes, whilst ascending and in flight, fades out as it descends to land.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major) : A common sight and sound in most seasons in plantations and mixed woodland, particularly where damaged trees are rotting but upstanding.

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) : The 'kew-kew-kew' or 'yaffle' of this cider-logo bird is more common sign than the sight of the bird itself. Bright green and cream with a red cap, it has been seen in Dalbeattie and Mabie Forests.

Riverside Species :

Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) : Though common in Dumfries and Galloway, this bird's need for clean fast-moving shallow waters has seen its decline elsewhere. The brown back, white breast and chestnut belly, make this bird unmistakable in its habitat. It is unusual in its flying underwater to find invertebrate food. Regularly breeds in Dalbeattie Burn.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) : No longer as common as it has been, its jewel-colored turquoise blue-green back and orange chestnut underbelly are hard to mistake. Riverside nesting bird needing fish-rich water.

Heron at Dalbeattie Burn
Heron at Dalbeattie Burn

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) : Breeds in colonies or solitary, in woodland near lakes and tidal waters. Patient fisherman, stands (often one-legged) waiting to seize passing small fish. Dark crown to head, yellowish dagger-like beak, white neck with front 'keel', slate-grey back, white/pale grey underbody, long yellow legs. Common in Dumfries and Galloway.

Example pictured was in Dalbeattie Burn on a ruined weir, about 30 metres west of the High Street bridge. The wind was disarranging its feathers, accounting for the 'ragged' appearance.


All Steamboat Inn Enquiries and Booking Requests to :- Tel. : 01387 880631. Mobile : 07885 648900.
E-mail :

Carsethorn Birds list built by Dalbeattie Internet.
Uplifted to Easyspace Server 1st February 2006. last updated 3rd February 2006.
Development copy at Dalbeattie Domain Server from 22nd November 2000.