Caerlaverock WSRS Winter meeting

January 25th to 28th 2008

The winter field meeting of the WSRS was held at Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve in Dumfriesshire from Friday 25th to Monday 28th January. It was my first field meeting as a member and I joined with 15 or so other members for an enjoyable and informative few days of recording, advice, discussion and banter.  We stayed at the WWT wetland centre, which is situated in the heart of reserve right next to one of the main pools.  It was possible to wander out of the sitting room to a conservatory offering wonderful views of the pool.  From here, it was possible to see and hear hundreds of ducks, geese and swans as well as catch sight of a badger on its nocturnal visits.  Staying on the reserve also enabled us to record out with the normal opening hours and this afforded us with excellent opportunities to make recordings before the reserve’s many visitors arrived and at times when the wildlife was at its most vocal.

Whooper swans

Caerlaverock is famed for its barnacle geese and several thousand were using the reserve during our stay, grazing out on the salt marshes or the wet pasture.  These, together with hundreds of whooper swans and various ducks and waders made for a varied and noisy spectacle.  So the birds were good, but what was the weather like?  Things weren’t looking promising to begin with, as rather dreich, windy weather made recording difficult.  The numerous hides on the reserve, both large and small, provided some shelter and relief from the wind but I found it difficult at first to get any really clean recordings.  Over the weekend the wind gradually eased and Sunday and Monday morning were both pleasant with only light breezes.  The highlight for me was being out on the marshes just before dawn and hearing the birds wake up, leave their roosts and arrive in to feed and bathe.  First there were the soft notes of teal and the shrill calls of oystercatcher and wigeon.  Then, just as the sky began to lighten, great skeins of barnacle geese thundered across the marshes like an oncoming train.  Finally the whoopers brought their rich bugling to the mix, a sound that only intensified as the morning drew on towards feeding time, when many more would fly in from elsewhere to gather in wait for the warden and his wheelbarrow of grain.

There were plenty of opportunities for new members to meet everyone and for longer-serving members to catch up around the dinner table or in the sitting room.  On Sunday evening we were treated to two interesting talks, one from Douglas Bremner about Culzean Castle in Ayrshire and the other from Roger Charters about a recent visit to Ukraine.  As a first timer and new member I found this to be a very enjoyable and thought-provoking experience and a great opportunity to make recordings, develop techniques and find out more about equipment and software.  I look forward to future meetings.

Whooper swans recorded using low-cost mics constructed like this article

Andrew Whitehouse


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