It's wilder than you might think.

About Us

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As members of the National Trust for Scotland Dumfries and Galloway Countryside Team, we manage properties across Dumfries and Galloway, including Threave Estate and Nature Reserve; Rockcliffe Property; Venniehill; The Murray's Isles and Bruce's Stone. Our task is to conserve and maintain the variety of habitats and species present, at the same time managing the sites for the education and enjoyment of current and future generations.

09 November 2012

Winter Flocks

We have around 6-700 Pink-footed geese, using the estate and nature reserve, its quite a spectacle when birds are flighting in and out of their roosts. The behaviour of the birds is very much influenced by land management patterns and the weather, especially water levels. Its always a special time of year, with the sight and sounds of a skein of pink-footed geese, flying over. We have also Greenland White-fronted geese with 141 being counted by Arthur Thirwell on the 7th November. These birds are best looked at from Threave nature reserve, and scan the fields behind the castle. We also hosted a roost of around 91 Canada geese on Black park marsh for a short while, this has become a regular event over the last couple of years. The Canada goose population locally is increasing and this may become a regular pattern of the birds using the reserve. We will have to monitor and understand any potential impacts this may have over time. Our duck numbers continue to increase with Teal, Wigeon and Mallard, but also Pintail  and Tufted duck being present in reasonable numbers at times, over the last week.

A flock of 22 Skylark flew over the reserve yesterday and flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing are here in good numbers, with Coal tit, Blues tit, and Willow tit along with Goldcrests using the hedges as they commute between feeding areas in our woodlands. Also Siskin and Redpoll are feeding on birch and alder seeds.

Much to my amazement was the numbers of bats actively foraging along the Threave estate walk last night as I was trying to get to grips with the goose roosts just before dark. Bats still need to build up fat reserves prior to hibernation, and given the spring and summer they have had, they need to maximise any good weather opportunities and eat all the insect food they can get prior to the main onset of winter.

Both Hen harrier and Red kites are showing well on and near the reserve along with Kestrel putting in regular appearances over the last few days, which is always nice to see.

Please get out and enjoy Threave Nature Reserve and let us know if you see any interesting wildlife sightings.

all the best


31 October 2012

Wildlife update

We have had some good wildlife sightings over the last few weeks with around 500 Pink footed geese flighting in to the wetland. Also here are some notable birds :-
Lapwing 76
Teal 101
Whooper swan 4
Shoveler 4
Mallard 40
Little grebe
Reed bunting
Red Kite

The Dumfries & Galloway Countryside team have also been very busy cutting meadows over at Rockcliffe and we hosted an NTS Volunteer Thistle camp lately with various practical tasks undertaken during the week, including footpath maintenance. gorse control and assisting with an archaeological project at Threave.

16 October 2012

Recent Wildlife Sightings at Threave nature reserve

Threave Wildlife seen on nature reserve

Our wildfowl numbers will begin to increase over the coming months, the water levels have been high recently and the river has a fast flow today, so most birds were seen fro the hides on the reserve and lamb island hide.

Pink footed goose
Greylag goose
Canada goose
Red kite
Willow tit
Tree sparrow

Excellent views of Roe deer and the Historic Scotland staff informed us of good Otter watching on the river near the castle. Why not come and visit and enjoy a visit to Threave wetlands and look out for some of the amazing wildlife.

Please do let us know of your sightings at any of our countryside properties in Dumfries and Galloway.

Tree climbing to put bat boxes Threave Bat Reserve

We have recently combined a training session tree climbing and putting up bat boxes in Kelton hill wood, we have more bat boxes to put up over the coming weeks so more fun with the ropes and trees. The rope access into the trees enables to check out any likely bat roosts, in our monitoring of the bat populations here at Threave and also to carry out any checks on trees for bat roosts and other wildlife if they require any tree work, this then guides our work and any mitigation we may need to consider as part of any planned works.

It has been interesting over the last week with the sunshine and warm temperatures we had Soprano pipistrelles out catching insects in Threave garden near the countryside centre mid afternoon last week in glourious sunshine with insects abundant in the air. This is a good indication of how our weather has impacted on the bat population this year with cold and wet prolonged periods. We have also had a Soprano pipistrelle bat which required feeding up due to the weather, and this was released successfully.

Osprey Update October

We are very sorry we have not put any news out recently. We have just heard that an Osprey was seen over the weekend, this may well be one our chicks, or simply a bird passing through. The last sighting of our birds together on the nest was Saturday 6th October. What an interesting season it has been this year in lots of different ways. The Dumfries & Galloway Countryside Team would like to thank all our Threave osprey volunteers, and everyone involved with Threave Ospreys especially Ciril Ostroznik and Andy Milligan.

Best Wishes

25 September 2012

Painted Lady and Sunshine

One delight was from the odd days sunshine we have had recently was this painted Lady butterfly, which was making the most of the sun at Threave on the estate walk last week.

Osprey Update 25/9/2012

Our Osprey chicks are still showing well from the public viewing platform, but increasingly spending more time further away from the nest gaining strength in preparation for their migration. Our male black 80 was around over the weekend and seen bringing in a fish.

The good news we have an identity for our female Blue XC, Many Thanks go to Emyr Evans. We are awaiting more details on her and I will pass this information on as we receive it, yet another piece in the Threave Osprey story .......

13 September 2012

Pastures New:

Hi everyone. My name is Paul and I have been the seasonal ranger with the Dumfries & Galloway countryside team since April this year and have been responsible for creating and updating this blog. 

Having thoroughly enjoyed my time here working with such a great team, in such wonderful countryside, with such wonderful species and encountering all the very friendly visitors, I am off to pastures new. I have been lucky to have been offered a position working for the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire. 

So I just wanted to say goodbye and thank you to all who have followed the blog over the past few months and hope that you have enjoyed the few nuggets of info that I have offered up. The blog will be continuing with the help of Ranger Judy, Ranger Dave and Ranger Karl.

All the best.

Osprey Update 13/09:

The female has now departed on her long journey south to Africa. The Male and the 2 chicks are still regularly seen at the nest. The male is usually the last to leave on his migration after the young have left.

Building Bridges:

The ranger team, with the help of our volunteer Barry, have been busy constructing and installing a new bridge for the circular walk around the reserve on the Threave Estate. 
 All the timber used was reclaimed or from off cuts.

The old bridge was not in a good condition and was starting to rot.

During the removal of the old bridge we were easy pickings for the mosquitoes from the ditch. Luckily the water levels were reasonably low on the day that we were working so we didn't get too muddy.

The new bridge had to be firmly anchored to the ground so that it would not float off during the times when the meadow floods.

Our first visitors were Fiona & Neil Bonser from Newark, Nottinghamshire. They ceremonially cut the ribbon (hazard tape) and took the first official crossing of the bridge. I think their happy smiles are evidence of a well made bridge.

The new handrail is also very useful to rest against after a hard days bridge building.

06 September 2012

Osprey Update 06/09:

As of the 30/08/12 both chicks had fledged the nest. The second chick was a little less confident initially and could at times be seen calling to asking to be fed by the larger of the chicks rather than feed itself when the adults brought fish back. It was also seen more regularly at the nest. All four birds have been seen at the nest over the last few days although they are sitting at the nest less regularly and can often be seen in nearby trees.

29 August 2012

Osprey Update 29/08:


On Saturday 25th August one of the chicks was seen to leave the nest on what we believe to be his maiden flight. Since then there have been a number of sightings of one of the chicks flying around the area close to the nest. The second chick has not been seen as yet but must be ready any day now.

Unfortunately the path to the Osprey Platform has been inaccessible due to flooding, so we haven't been able to get any really good views of the birds over the past 2 days to see if the second chick has flown.

The camera which was placed on the nest will be removed once the birds have gone so as not to disturb them. Once we get the camera back we can hopefully fill in a few gaps in the females background and get some interesting shots of the ospreys behaviour at the nest over the past few weeks.

23 August 2012

Grayling Butterfly:

Ranger Judy got this nice photo of a grayling butterfly at our Rockcliffe reserve.

The colouring and pattern on the wings provide the grayling with perfect camouflage when resting on bare ground, tree trunks and rocks. They are most commonly seen around the coast but numbers are declining especially at inland sites. It prefers drier areas such as dunes, cliffs, heaths, old quarries and earthworks, with plenty of bare ground and sparse vegetation.

Sightings at Threave:

Here are just a few of the recent sightings recorded on the Threave nature reserve over the past 2 weeks:

Bullfinch feeding young
Elephant hawk moth caterpillar
Female marsh harrier
Peregrine Falcon
Roe deer
Female hen harrier
Spotted flycatcher
Greater spotted woodpecker
Barn owl
White throat
A flock of gold finch
Brown hare
A flock of greylag geese

Osprey Update 23/08:

The osprey chicks are starting to look stronger and can regularly be seen stretching their wings and flexing their flight muscles. They should be fledging over the next few days so keep your eyes peeled for young ospreys around the nest.

16 August 2012

Thank You:

The team would like to thank all those volunteers from the Glasgow Conservation Volunteers Group for the work that they put in on the 11th & 12th August at our Rockcliffe reserve. The group helped out with our braken management and we got lots of work done. We would also like to thank the weather for staying nice over the 2 days.

A Gem of a moth:

This fine specimen was found down on our Rockcliffe reserve. The large emerald moth has a distribution across most parts of the UK and is often found in gardens (as this one was), woodlands and heaths.

09 August 2012

Osprey Update 09/08:

The story so far

So just a quick recap for everyone to get you up to speed with what's happened so far this year.  Our male osprey (Darvic ring Black80) arrived back on the 28th March. The female bird did not arrive back until the 11th May and was in fact a different bird to previous years. We were able to tell by the fact that the new female bird was ringed whereas the previous female was not ringed. The new female could be seen to have a blue Darvic ring on her leg but unfortunately we have not had a good enough view through a powerful scope to identify her yet. The arrival of the female on the 11th May was rather late as pretty much all of the other UK birds had arrived at their nests by mid April at the latest. 
The birds showed signs that eggs had been laid around the 30/31 May. We believe the chicks hatched on the 5th July. Again these dates are very late as a result of the late return of the female. It is believed that these are the latest chicks to hatch in 2012. The week beginning the 16th July we had confirmation that there were two chicks in the nest and over the weeks since we have had more and more regular sightings of the chicks as they were being fed and as they were starting to grow and stretch their wings.

Osprey Chick Ringing

On the evening of Tuesday 7th August we successfully ringed our two osprey chicks. The process involved climbing the tree in which the nest platform had been constructed.

The two chicks were then lowered to the ground where they could be ringed and weighed. The details are as follows:
Chick 1: 
Darvic Ring - Blue/White CU3
BTO Ring - 1408278
Weight - 1.673 kg

Chick 2:
Darvic Ring - Blue/White CU4
BTO Ring - 1408279
Weight - 1.474 kg

We believe that both birds are males.

Whilst the chicks were on the ground a camera was installed close to the nest to hopefully get some pictures of the females ring. This would enable us to find out her history and where she is from. If we don't get a clear shot of it then hopefully we will get some interesting shots of some of the chicks.
During the ringing both the male and female birds were seen to be keeping a good eye on the nest and by the time our volunteers got to the platform the next morning things looked pretty much back to normal. 
The chicks will hopefully fledge the nest around the 27th August. 

Moth Trapping:

We recently undertook some moth trapping down at Kelton Mains on the Threave Reserve. Moth trapping is a useful way to study the diversity of moths in an area using non-lethal light traps. We also set the trap at our Rockcliffe reserve a week before. At Rockcliffe we managed to identify a total of 22 species.

At Threave we clocked up a rather small total of just 12 different species.
They were:
Burnished brass
Common footman
Common wainscot
Dark arches
Garden tiger
Large yellow underwing
Plain golden Y
Rosy rustic
Scalloped oak
Single dotted wave
Twin spot carpet

We believe a number of factors led to the low diversity of moths. The night we set the trap was very clear meaning that it was rather cool. Cool temperatures often lead to low moth activity. We were also competing with another light source as there was a full moon. The trap was also set close to the buildings at Kelton Mains where there is not much in the way of vegetation. Hopefully we will be setting the trap again on a warmer cloudier night in an area of the reserve which has a richer and more diverse vegetation cover.

Burnished Brass 

Rosy Rustic (above)  Common Footman (below)

Garden Tiger

02 August 2012

Swallows Enjoy Dramatic Sunset:

This small group of swallows can just be seen catching their last few flies before bed.

Osprey Update 02/08:

Despite some terrible weather of late the osprey chicks are battling through it and popping up to show their faces. The parents have been working hard catching fish to feed to the young and providing well needed cover from the bad weather.

Wish You Were Hare:

If you're visiting the Threave nature reserve keep an eye out for this brown hare. It's been seen regularly around the buildings and car park at Kelton Mains. The brown hare's ability to run at speeds of up to 70kph (45mph) enable it to feed in large open spaces, relying on its speed and acute senses to avoid predation.

The Toad Princess:

Whilst cleaning out the cattle grids at Kelton Mains we came across a rather fine specimen of a toad. I don't think it was too impressed by the prospect of getting a kiss from Ranger Dave. The look on the toad's face is priceless.

26 July 2012

Osprey Update 26/07:

The osprey chicks are gracing us with their presence on a fairly regular basis now. They have even popped onto the edge of the nest to use the bathroom shall we say!

Upcoming Events:

Over the next few weeks we have a number of events for you to enjoy.

29/07 - Threave Osprey Day
Come on down to Threave nature reserve between 11am - 4pm for some osprey themed activities, great views of ospreys & thier chicks, and the opportunity to chat with the rangers and volunteers about the ospreys and any other wildlife questions you have.

31/07 - Rough Island Walk
Join the rangers for a leisurely walk to Rough Island and explore the mudflats on the way. Discover the strange creatures that live in the estuary and why the island is so important for wildlife. Walks run from 2 - 4 pm. Booking is required on 0844 493 2245. Meet at the main (upper) car park in Rockcliffe. Bring wellies and binoculars if you have them.

07/08 - Butterflies, Bugs & Beasties
A beginners guide to who's who in the insect world. Explore the Rockcliffe meadows and meet some of the tiny residents. Event runs from 2 - 3.30 pm. Meet at the main car park at Rockcliffe. 

14/08 - Rough Island Walk
see details for 31/07

22/08 - Bumblebees
Join the rangers for an amble round Venniehillmeadow looking at bumblebees, wildflowers and other insects. Event runs from 2 - 3.30 pm. Booking is required on 0844 493 2245. Meet at Vennie hill meadows at the north end of Gatehouse-of-Fleet high street. 

26-27/08 - Meet the Highlanders
A chance to meet some of the highland cattle which graze the fields at Rockcliffe over the winter months. Discover why these large hairy lawnmowers are so iimportant in keeping our meadows rich in wildlife. No booking required just follow the signs from the main car park at Rockcliffe. Event runs from 11 am - 4 pm on both days.

28/08 - Rough Island Walk
See details for 31/07

17/10 - Wild Wetlands
Join the rangers for a longer walk around the Threave Estate including a visit to the wetland hides to catch up on the winter visitors and then out to Carlinwark Loch. Bring a packed lunch and binoculars if you have them. The walk runs from 10 am - 3 pm. Booking is required on 0844 493 2245

20 July 2012

Osprey Update 20/07:

Over the past few days there have been numerous sightings of the chicks. We can confirm that there are 2 chicks. 

Come on down to the osprey platform to get some great views of the parents feeding the young.

These slightly out of focus shots show the female feeding the young who are just out of sight.

Osprey chicks take around 53 days to fledge. We believe that they hatched on or around the 5th July so this should mean that they will be fledging around the 27th August.

Next Sunday (29/07) wil be OSPREY DAY! Come on down to Threave nature reserve between 11am - 4pm for some osprey themed activities and to chat with the rangers and volunteers about ospreys.

12 July 2012

Thank You:

A big thanks to all the volunteers who came down to Rockcliffe to help with the bracken management. The group put in a lot of effort and got a lot done.

We manage bracken in the meadow areas as it has become very invasive and out competes the wildflowers which are beneficial to many insects such as bees and butterflies.

The management technique involves damaging the stem of the bracken so that it puts its energy into repairing the stem. After a number of years of this management the plants vigour is reduced and the bracken canopy starts to thin, giving other species the opportunity to flourish. To damage the stems a technique called swiping is undertaken. This involves swiping with a metal stick as in the picture above. This is used in conjunction with a bracken roller pulled by a quad bike. The advantage of the swiping by hand is that more care can be taken to avoid wildflowers as shown in the picture below.

New Kids On The Block:

Look out for these two house martin fledglings when you are down at Kelton Mains. They've been hunkering down in the nest for the past few days but the sunshine of yesterday and today should entice them out some time soon. Is it me or does the one on the left look like the naughty one?

They're Back:

The pied wagtails that earlier this year decided to nest inside our tractor, right on top of the engine, are back with another brood. Their attempts to raise chicks earlier this year were successful despite the chicks being driven half way around the estate before we realised they were in there. After the chicks fledged we cleaned out the nest and continued using the tractor. However, over the past month we have not used the tractor and when ranger Dave checked it this morning there was a new nest, full to the brim with pied wagtail chicks just about ready to fledge. The parents obviously have very post-modern industrial taste when it comes to the decoration scheme of their nests.

10 July 2012

Falcons at Grey Mare's Tail:

The Grey Mare's Tail peregrines have had another successful year, despite the very wet spring that badly affected many peregrine nests elsewhere in the UK. These three chicks, seen here with Alan Moores (NTS Recruiter & Volunteer), David Foreman (Volunteer) and George Smith (Bird Ringer), fledged in mid-June but are still seen regularly flying over the Grey Mare's Tail car parks.

06 July 2012

Osprey Update 06/07:

The ospreys have been showing behaviour that would indicate that hatching has taken place. Yesterday the birds were both seen standing on the edge of the nest, one with its head in the nest. The female then returned to sitting in the nest. We don't know for certain yet, but this behaviour would suggest that at least one egg has hatched and they may still be brooding on the remaining eggs as the eggs do not usually hatch on the same day. 

05 July 2012

Almost ready:

The swallows in residence in the countryside centre look just about ready to fledge. There is hardly enough room for them all in the nest. Their friends down at Kelton Mains fledged on Saturday. 

Splash of Colour:

The ponds around the estate have come to life with a splash of colour today. The sunny morning  seems to have been to the liking of plenty of damselflies. This one I snapped whilst resting is an Azure Damselfly. Haven't spotted any dragonflies yet.

Can You Spot the Flycatcher?:

If you take a stroll past Threave house you are quite likely to 'spot' one of these - a juvenile spotted flycatcher. They nested behind down spout of the guttering on Threave House. Luckily the nest was not washed away with all the rain that we have had in recent weeks. The chicks have now fledged and can be seen practising their flycatching skills above the lawn behind the house. At this stage they are sometimes also still being fed by the adults. 

The spotted flycatcher is a species of conservation concern within the UK as its numbers have dropped so dramatically in recent years. This is due to a number of factors including a decrease in insect populations caused by pollution and insecticides. 

Osprey Update 05/07: 

As of this morning there were no signs that any of the eggs have yet hatched. They should be hatching within the next week. Fingers crossed.

28 June 2012

Wild about Wildflowers:

We were lucky enough to have recently attended the National Trust for Scotlands wildflower workshop near Comrie in Perthshire. NTS staff from across Scotland got together to learn about the identification of wildflowers, grasses, sedges and rushes, and to discuss if the ligules were longer on rough stalked meadow grass or smooth stalked meadow grass.

One of my favorite plants of the day was this fragrant orchid.

Seeing Red:

Down at Rockcliffe Ranger Judy got this lovely shot of one of the young red squirrels that were born earlier this year. Our native red squirrels are under threat from the introduced grey squirrel.  The greys carry a squirrelpox virus which they are immune to but is deadly to the reds. The grey squirrel also out competes the reds for food. This has caused a devastating reduction in the numbers of red squirrels and forced the population to drastically reduce its range. They are now rarely found in England and Wales and the Scottish populations are an important stronghold for the survival of our native species.

The Adventures of Karl:

Our Senior Ranger Karl got some lovely shots which show the amazing wildlife which you can see around Dumfries & Galloway in just one weekend. The shots below were taken in and around our properties at Threave, Rockliffe and Venniehill.

This wild brown trout (which was returned to the river) has fantastic markings. Brown trout are a good indicator of the health of a river or lake and play an important role in the ecosystem of the river.

Karl came across this adder basking in the sunshine. It soon made for cover when it saw Karl (who wouldn't) as they are rather timid reptiles. Adders like open habitats such as heathland, moorland, open woodland and sea cliffs, and rarely stray into gardens.

This common spotted orchid was found at our Vennie Hill reserve. This site near Gatehouse-of-Fleet is managed as a meadow and is a good place to see wildflowers.

Another good place to find wildflowers is in the meadows at Rockcliffe. Karl found this nice example of some Dyers Greenweed.

Grey Mare's Tail Exhibition:

An exhibition of stunning photography of Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve opens this week at Craigieburn Garden and Cafe near Moffat. The exhibition is to mark the anniversary of Grey Mare’s Tails 50 years in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. From the dramatic landscape and its picturesque waterfall to the wildlife and botanical interest found there, Grey Mare’s Tail is shown in all its glory.  All the photographs have been taken over the past 8 years by Property Manager Richard Clarkson.  Richard is an accomplished wildlife and landscape photographer whose images have been published across the world in books, magazines and advertisements and prints have gone as far afield as New Zealand, the United States and Canada.  All the photographs are for sale and all the money will go directly to support the running of Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve. Richard said ‘I hope visitors to the exhibition will be inspired to visit the reserve, will learn a little more about why it is so special, and also appreciate how significant the NTS are countrywide as guardians of Scotland’s wildlife and wild land.  Hopefully the exhibition includes something for everyone, including those that know the reserve well, as it includes some rarely seen views of the waterfall and intimate images of difficult to photograph wildlife.’  The exhibition opens on Sunday July 1st and runs until the end of August.

22 June 2012

Leaving home:

Keep your eyes peeled for dragonfly exuvia around ponds over the coming weeks. The exuvia is the skin of the dragonfly nymph which it sheds during its metamorphosis into an adult dragonfly. The nymphs crawl up the stems of plants so this is a good place to look for them (especially Iris leaves). The ponds at Threave Gardens are heaving with nymphs at the moment so plenty of adult dragonfly should be on the wing over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for them to.

New Species Found!

This grand specimen was spotted in the garden earlier today. We believe it is the first species of owl known to have metal wings.
It is one of a number of new sculptures which can be found around Threave gardens. Come and visit us to see what other impressive specimens you can find. And don't forget to pop down and see the opsreys and other fantastic wildlife on the reserve.