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Festival hopes for record breaking wild spring homecoming

26th February 2014 Print
Painted Lady Butterfly in Dumfries & Galloway

Wildlife experts are hoping for a record number of birds, insects, mammals and fish species to return to their spring home in Dumfries & Galloway this year. And to celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2014, the region’s Wild Spring Festival (taking place from 5 April to 5 May) is offering over 100 family-friendly events where participants could discover some of these species. Many of the events are free and most hosted by local wildlife guides and experts.

Wildlife watchers are being encouraged to look out for 39 bird, insect, mammal and fish species returning from their wintering quarters to Dumfries & Galloway this spring, one of the biggest wildlife homecomings in Scotland.

Peter Norman, Biodiversity Officer at Dumfries & Galloway Council said: “Dumfries & Galloway is teeming with wildlife all year round, but Spring offers the unique awe inspiring opportunity to see the return of a huge number of migrating wildlife species – some rare. This year we anticipate that the local Osprey population will continue to grow and, after good breeding season weather last summer, fingers are crossed for an increase in numbers of local Nightjars.”

Wilma Finlay, Chair of Destination Dumfries & Galloway said: “What better way to celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2014 than to come to home of so many migrating wildlife species during the spring months. The Wild Spring Festival’s many fun and unique festival events will get them up close to the wide array of mammals, birds, fish and other fauna.

“From Fulmar, Puffin, Guillemot and Osprey to Basking Sharks, Sea Trout and Salmon to Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow Butterflies - there is a wide array of migrating wildlife for families to discover together throughout Dumfries & Galloway.”

Festival events take place across Dumfries & Galloway and the recently designated Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, which recognizes the outstanding natural environment and the way in which the local community works to conserve it.

For further information about the festival visit


Events where you might see some of the homecoming species are: 

Mull of Galloway Guided Walk. Join the RSPB Ranger to explore Scotland’s most southerly tip - spring is a great time to spot seabirds on the cliffs and if you’re lucky perhaps a porpoise or basking shark. (Numerous dates throughout the festival)

Guides in the Hides at the Caerlaverock Wetland Centre. An expert will be in the newly opened two story Sir Peter Scott Observatory and around the hides and towers every day between 11am and 3pm to point out the different birds on the reserve.

Wild Wednesday at the RSPB Mersehead Reserve. Take part in fun activities looking at the wildlife around the reserve. Looking for smallest animal to the nosiest bird and discovering how you can help the wildlife in your garden. (9 April)

Fish Up Close at Torhouse Trout Farm, Wigtown. A guided tour of Galloway Fisheries Trust hatchery. Following on, a tour of Torhouse Trout - a fully operational rainbow trout farm that is situated within the same site - will be given. (11 April)

Mocha and Moths at Mersehead. Not all moths are brown, dull and boring – view some recent finds as they are released and find out more about the various species found in the area, with a morning coffee to enjoy. (17 April and 1 May)

April Moths at the Eskrigg Reserve. Help expert Jim Rae identify any moths caught the previous night. This event is very much weather dependent. (24 April)

Good Friday Walk at the RSPB Crook of Baldoon Reserve. Catch the tide with the Warden for an informative walk through the reserve. Learn how the RSPB is 'Giving Nature A Home'. Bring binoculars and walking boots. (18 April)

Booking is essential for some of the events – please see the website for further information on dates, times, costs and kit required.

Spring Homecoming Species

Fulmar, Puffin, Guillemot and Razorbill - These seabirds spend most of their time over the open oceans, often thousands of miles away. They only return home to the cliffs of Dumfries & Galloway to nest. They usually return not only to the same cliff, but exactly the same narrow ledge on that cliff. Mull of Galloway is the best site in Dumfries & Galloway to discover these seabirds, but they can also be seen at Meikle Ross and Balcary Heughs.

Black Guillemot - In summer (the only time they have their striking black and white feathers) these seabirds make their home at the base of cliffs, but also next door to people's homes eg Portpatrick Harbour.

Common, Arctic and Sandwich Terns - These seabirds return home to Dumfries & Galloway in summer to nest in small numbers on shingle beaches. However, they make the most impressive journey of all animals to get home, with some Arctic Terns flying round the world to get here from Antarctica.

Gannet - Gannets spend the winter flying thousands of miles over open oceans. They differ from other seabirds because they only have a few homes, but they share them with hundreds or thousands of other Gannets. There's a global population of about 400,000 pairs but only 41 sites in the world where they nest, 12 of which are in Scotland and one in Dumfries & Galloway - Scar Rocks has about 2000 pairs.

Osprey - A growing number of Ospreys nest in Dumfries & Galloway and can be seen on CCTV (Wigtown & Caerlaverock) or for real at Threave Castle. They spend the winter in Africa, but return home to nest, usually renovating the same giant nest of sticks that they left behind the previous autumn.

Hen Harrier and Peregrine - These two birds of prey can be seen all the year round anywhere in Dumfries & Galloway, but return to their nest sites in the summer. In the case of Hen Harriers, these are in the heather moors such as those around Langholm. The Peregrines nest on precipitous cliffs on the coast or in the hills.

Lapwing - Lapwings can be seen on the coast in winter, but in spring they return to nest on farmland and moors, where they display with a noisy and acrobatic flight.

Common Sandpiper - A small wading bird that winters in Africa, often seen continually bobbing its tail beside rivers and lochs in its home in the Southern Uplands.

Curlew - The bubbling call of the Curlew is the sound of summer in the Southern Uplands. Most birds don't go far from their home at other times of year - often just to the Solway.

Nightjar - A few Nightjars make the forests and bogs of Dumfries & Galloway their home. These nocturnal birds are incredibly rare and difficult to find anywhere else in Scotland. They winter in Africa, but are seldom seen near their summer home, their presence only betrayed by their eerie churring call heard on warm nights.

Swift - For the first three years of their life, Swifts may never touch ground at all, eating and sleeping on the wing in African skies. When they eventually return to nest at the end of April, they make their homes inside our homes - in the roofs of buildings in towns such as Dumfries and Castle Douglas.

Sand Martin, House Martin & Swallow - These three similar looking birds winter in Africa. As with Swifts, the House Martins and Swallows often nest in buildings, usually returning to the same one year after year.

Wheatear - This African migrant is usually the first one home (by the end of March). Its prominent white rump gives its presence away as it flies from along drystone walls in its moorland home.

Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler - These three birds winter in Africa. But in spring they are often found together in ancient oak woods such as at Glentrool, Wood of Cree and Carstramon. Restart and Pied Flycatcher are brightly coloured. All three are best located by their distinctive songs and calls.

Ring Ouzel - The mountain blackbird vies with Wheatears to be the first home from Africa, but the Ring Ouzel is much rarer - they are restricted to a few places in the Moffat and Lowther Hills.

Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff - Warblers are little brown birds from Africa that often make their home in the gardens of Dumfries & Galloway. All of these birds look similar and cause confusion amongst birdwatchers, but can distinguished by their songs, especially the Chiffchaff that continually shouts its own name.

Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler - The little brown warblers that make a home in Dumfries & Galloway's marshes and reedbeds. The Reed Warbler does not nest north of here.
Basking Sharks The second biggest fish in the world – no one is really sure where they go in the winter, but in the summer the Solway is a favoured home for them - their fins sometimes seen cruising through the waters.

Salmon, Sea Trout and Sea Lamphrey - Fish that spawned in the local rivers (such as Cree, Dee, Nith and Annan), but spent much of their life at sea, return to their home rivers in order to lay eggs and continue the next generation. Most return in autumn but the Salmon of the River Bladnoch are most famous for their spring run, leaping small waterfalls as they go. The Lamphrey is an eel-like fish.

Red Admiral, Painted Lady and (sometimes) Clouded Yellow butterflies & Silver Y moth - These butterflies and moths fly to Dumfries & Galloway each year from southern Europe or North Africa - sometimes needing a good tail wind to make it here.

More Photos - Click to Enlarge

Painted Lady Butterfly in Dumfries & Galloway Pied Flycatcher in Dumfries & Galloway