The Solway estuary, which separates the scenic counties of Cumbria and Dumfries & Galloway, is a magical place for both birdwatchers and walkers and this addition to the trusted Best Birdwatching Sites series provides all the information needed to get the best from this unspoilt region.
Author John Miles, a wildlife consultant and former RSPB warden, details 84 different birding sites on the Scottish side of the water (including 49 routes for walkers) and offers equally extensive coverage to 76 coastal and inland sites in Cumbria (54 walk routes). Each report features detailed maps plus helpful directions, seawatching tips, advice on disabled access and public transport, as well as information on which birds can be seen at different times of the year.
Best Birdwatching Sites: The Solway (Cumbria/Dumfries & Galloway)
by Keith Betton in UK
This is the sixth regional guide produced by Buckingham Press - others having covered counties such as Sussex, Norfolk and Cornwall/Scilly, plus the extensive areas of North Wales and the Scottish Highlands. This is the first to have explored beyond conventional political boundaries and covered parts of two countries with 24 main sites in Cumbria in England and 33 in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. While the book's title focuses on the Solway Firth - and 36 of the sites are coastal, it includes plenty of sites further inland. Indeed one is 75km from the coast! As with the previous guides an authority has been selected to write the text and John Miles was formerly the RSPB reserve warden at Geltsdale in Cumbria.
With over 400km of coastline the Solway does offer amazing birding opportunities. For many it will be the attraction of wintering wildfowl - with up to 30,000 Barnacle Geese using the area, particularly at Caerlaverock. Others will aim for seawatching from the old viaduct at Bowness-on-Solway or Newbie, or watch breeding seabirds at St Bees Head or Mull of Galloway. There are the vast tracts of mountain and moorland around the Lake District (surely the worthy subject of a separate book) and of course there are breeding Ospreys in several places, and the chance of Golden Eagles too.
In all, an astonishing 378 species are covered in this book - and a checklist provides possible sites for all of them. This includes some not seen for many years (which are helpfully marked with the last year of occurrence) but it would have been useful to have a simple coding to indicate relative abundance and seasonality of the regular species. There is an overall introduction with birding tips and background information for all sites and a month-by-month guide for what to expect. Each site is described in around 500-700 words with lists of target birds, each of which has percentage rating on your chances of seeing it in each season. Other possible species are listed too, and in addition to very clear maps (often several for each site) there is information on wheelchair access and public transport and useful contacts.
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