Back in 2013 I stumbled across what has come to be a favourite spot. I was accompanying my husband on a business trip at the time and during the day, while he worked I was free to explore the local area. We were staying in the exotic climes of the Scottish Border near Carlisle and it was late February-early March. As you can imagine, the weather was not always kind and I spent much of my time pottering around the Solway firth looking for good birdwatching spots where I could observe the murky shapes of waders through the mist from the relatively comfortable confines of my car. I also made a trip to WWT Caerlaverock where I was greeted by the astonishing spectacle of 35,000 Barnacle Geese gathered in the fields, great flocks of Yellowhammers in every hedge and masses of Whooper Swans to boot. Despite enjoying all of this, my top spot was elsewhere: about half a mile outside Lockerbie, opposite the Garden of Remembrance for the dreadful air disaster of 1988, lies a small patch of mixed woodland called Eskrigg. The 7 acre site is run by the local Lockerbie Wildlife Trust and is a haven for all manner of species, but it was here that I first photographed Red Squirrels and it remains a favourite spot today.
The reserve itself is beautifully kept with well maintained paths, regularly filled feeders and a couple of small but immaculate hides offering close encounters with the wildlife. The first hide overlooks a small loch an which is home to a surprising number of Mallard considering its diminutive size, as well as a pair of Mute Swans. To either side, a plethora of seed and nut feeders invite a wide variety of small birds including but not limited to Chaffinch, Siskin, Robin, Greenfinch, Coal tit, Great tit, Blue tit, Nuthatch and Willow tit. Red Squirrels also make use of the box feeders which provide their own form of entertainment with different individuals climbing in to the feeder by varying degree in order to stuff their cheek pouches. Emerging, they scamper away to find a suitable hiding place for their cache.
It is difficult not to be enamoured by their endearing antics, even when fights break out among them. They chitter at one another in high-pitched, aggravated tones whilst chasing each other up, down and around the tree trunks at high speed in somewhat farcical fashion.
On my most recent visit to Eskrigg, I was pleased to see another demonstration of the area’s biodiversity, the weather conditions had been perfect to encourage the growth of masses of fungi. Of course, the part we see is the fruiting body and so while these mysterious species have been there all along, only when they produce their fruit bearing toadstools are we able to see them in all their glory. The mixture of trees in the woodland including pine, beech, birch, hazel, oak and others allows for a particularly rich variety of fungus species too, as many are dependent on a specific tree species. Eskrigg is definitely a place that I would like to visit more often and I will always try to fit a stop into my journey further north when I can. If you’re in the area, why not pop in and see for yourself?!