Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve (NNR) was established in 1957 with the aim of managing nature conservation alongside the seemingly conflicting interests of farming, fishing and wildfowling. This approach of managing activities for both the conservation and enjoyment of the natural heritage remains key to the continuing success of Caerlaverock NNR. The Caerlaverock Panel have produced a introductory guide to wildfowling at Caerlaverock to ensure that highest standards of behaviour and safety are observed for the benefit of all.
Controlled wildfowling over a designated zone within part of the NNR is allowed by permit under byelaws. The wildfowling scheme is overseen by the Caerlaverock Panel for which NatureScot provides the Chair; its members represent reserve staff, local wildfowlers, the land owner, the local community, and national shooting and conservation bodies. Applications for permits are accepted from 1 July onwards and are issued on a limited first-come first-served basis. Application forms can be downloaded using the links on this page.
Application forms can be downloaded (see links below) and should be completed and emailed. Application forms should not be posted to the usual office address as normal operations continue to be disrupted.
If you are able to sign and scan the application that would be preferable, but if not, please email the completed form back without a signature. In exceptional circumstances applications can be completed over the phone, as this is extremely time consuming please only use this method as a last resort.
The wildfowling season lasts from 1 October to 20 February each year, and permits are available as follows:
Season permits are available only to those applicants who are resident within 18 miles of the NNR on the Scottish side of the Solway Firth. A maximum of 80 are authorised by the Caerlaverock Panel for issue each season.
Short period permits
Short Period Permits are available to all other wildfowlers, who can apply for periods of up to 12 days at a time. You may apply for as many of these periods as you wish provided there is a gap of at least 2 weeks between each period. A maximum of 22 Short Period permits per day are allowed from September to November, 20 per day from December to January (except on Saturdays, when it is 19 per day in December and 13 per day in January), and 13 per day in February. Please ensure you only apply for the periods you are likely to use the permit to avoid blocking dates which could be used by others.
If you would like minutes before 2022, please email [email protected]
Caerlaverock NNR - Guidance - Wildfowling permit notes
Wildfowling at Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve (NNR)
These notes have been compiled by the Caerlaverock NNR Wildfowling Panel and are designed as an introduction to wildfowling at Caerlaverock. Please read them carefully and ensure that the highest standards of behaviour and safety are observed for the benefit and enjoyment of yourself and all visitors to the NNR.
When and Where to Shoot:
The area on which you may shoot is shown on the map in the permit, on the map supplied with your permit and on the Reserve signs. Study the map carefully; there is no excuse for straying outside the wildfowling area, it is clearly marked with yellow and black striped posts along the east and west edge of the zone. The north boundary is marked by the stock fence at the back of the saltmarsh (merse). The south boundary is the edge of the green merse within the confines of the east and west boundaries. If you intend wildfowling for the first time at a morning flight you are advised to inspect the boundaries and access routes the previous day.
You may shoot from one hour and 15 minutes before sunrise until 10 am and then from 3 pm until one hour and 30 minutes after sunset on any day for which the permit is valid during the season from 1 October until 20 February except Sundays and Christmas Day. When carrying a shotgun you may only access this wildfowling area during these times. From 1 February to 20 February you may ONLY use your permit from below high water mark, ordinary spring tides - this means from any of the creeks within the shooting zone.
For the purposes of access you are permitted to carry your gun in a slip from the reserve access points to the wildfowling area. The access points are the reserve car parks at Castle Corner and Hollands and Hollands loaning. The wildfowling area is marked by the stock fence at the north edge of the merse, please use the styles provided. Published tide tables can be found on the reserve notice boards.
What can be shot:
The permit only allows you to shoot wildfowl subject to the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and any requirements set out with the advice of the Caerlaverock Panel. For Caerlaverock NNR this means that the quarry species are:
Geese - Pink-footed, Greylag, Canada
Duck – Pintail, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Gadwall, Pochard and Shoveler
You may not shoot at any other species:
You should be particularly aware of the presence of large numbers of protected species on the NNR and wider Solway Firth. Barnacles are protected and any person shooting at this or any other protected species will, in addition to being reported to the Caerlaverock Panel, be reported to the police. For information Barnacle Geese often flight from the mudflats over the wildfowling area in mixed flocks with the Pink footed geese.
You are advised to know your quarry and do not shoot if in any doubt.
There is a bag limit of 5 birds per flight.
- You may only use non-toxic shot and you may not carry or use lead shot on the reserve.
- Load only when in position. Never leave a cartridge in the gun - too many accidents result from neglect of this simple rule.
- Always unload before you leave.
- Always check that your gun barrel is clear of obstructions e.g. mud.
- Always keep the safety catch on until ready to shoot.
- Never shoot where you cannot see clearly.
- Keep your gun properly maintained.
- Always take away your cartridge cases for safe disposal. They can prove fatal if eaten by grazing stock.
Distances on the merse can be deceptive, and you may be tempted to shoot at birds well beyond reasonable range. The shooting range, regardless of bore, is to be no higher than 50 yards. High or out of range shooting will result in the immediate withdrawal of the wildfowling permit.
As large, conspicuous birds, geese often appear to be flying lower and more slowly than they really are. Consider whether you are judging height and speed accurately within the capabilities of your gun, charge and shot and the conditions. Indiscriminate shooting not only spoils your own sport but that of others, risks wounding birds and brings shooting and the NNR and wildfowling into disrepute.
Only take shots which will results in birds falling where you can ensure you can reach them. You may retrieve the quarry when shot or wounded birds land beyond the wildfowling area. In event of un-retrieved bird please advise stewards or reserve staff of location to ensure safe dispatch.
Ensure that your dog is kept under close control and please ensure that you clean up after your dog, in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Park carefully and quietly
Do not obstruct gateways or roads and avoid slamming doors. Parking is in designated areas as shown on the permit
Be on time
It is infuriating to have shooting ruined by latecomers. However, any wildfowler found to be on the wildfowling area out with the specified times and in possession of a firearm will have their permit withdrawn immediately and be reported to the Caerlaverock Panel
Wear inconspicuous clothing otherwise the birds will avoid you as well as other nearby fowlers.
Sound travels far over the merse at flight times.
Use torches sparingly. Flashing lights not only spoil your vision but alert the birds to your presence.
Keep your distance
For your own safety and enjoyment as well as your neighbour's.
Ensure all used shotgun cases are collected after flight.
Familiarise yourself with details of tide time and height; the merse and creeks can be flooded especially at times of spring tides and strong south-westerly winds.
Poor weather conditions
Carry a compass in case of mist or fog.
while not essential, help identify species and add to your enjoyment
Duck and Goose Rings
Please remove any rings from your quarry and send them to the appropriate address or give them to a member of NatureScot staff.
Please be aware that public have access to the site at all times.
You must complete an entry on the permit for each flight which you attend as soon as it is practically feasible. The information supplied is our main indication of the extent to which the wildfowling area is being used and of the relative success of wildfowlers. False or incorrect information may lead to reduction in permit issue which is unnecessary or to an increase in permit issue which could lead to overcrowding. The main aim of the control of wildfowling at the Reserve is to ensure that the sport is sustainable and enjoyable.
Because of the importance attached to the information obtained from permit returns, anyone who does not return their permit is automatically banned from receiving a permit for a year. Completed permits, whether used or not, should be returned within 15 days from your last booked date.
Wildfowling is monitored by NatureScot Officers and authorised stewards to ensure the permits scheme rules are adhered to. The NatureScot staff are also concerned with scientific and management work and wider visitor safety, access, understanding and enjoyment. They are there to give advice and information about the reserve and it is hoped that you will pass on information to them on anything of interest you see while at Caerlaverock.
The NatureScot staff and authorised stewards will ask to see check your permit and may ask you to provide proof of ID, e.g. your shotgun certificate or a drivers licence. Window stickers must be displayed in vehicles.
Anyone who breaches the permit scheme rules, byelaws or wider legislation which applies on the NNR will have their permit removed by NatureScot staff. A report will be sent to the Secretary of the Caerlaverock Panel who will invite a written statement from the wildfowler concerned and an account of the incident will be presented to the Panel for their consideration. If a crime may have been committed this will be reported to the police. Proven offences result in a ban on holding a permit for a varying number of years depending upon the severity of the incident, please see the table below. Further breaches may result in a permanent ban.
|Type of breach||Length of ban|
|Not carrying an issued permit||1 year|
|Permit not returned||1 year|
|Late return of permit||1 year|
|Entering the shooting zone with a firearm outwith permitted times||1 year|
|Shooting on the reserve outwith permitted times||1 year|
|Shooting on the reserve outwith permitted dates||2 years minimum|
|Shooting at non quarry species||2 years minimum|
|Shooting and killing protected species||2 years minimum|
|Using somebody else's permit||Lifetime|
|Allowing somebody else to use your permit||Lifetime|
|Shooting without issued permit||Lifetime|
|Abusive or aggressive behaviour to staff, stewards or other NNR users||Lifetime|
|Using toxic shot||Lifetime|
If you require any more information about wildfowling on the Reserve or indeed you wish to know more about any aspect of the Reserve our Reserve staff will be pleased to help and can be contacted at: NatureScot, Greystone Park, 55 / 57 Moffat Road, Dumfries, DG1 4NP, Tel: 01738 458678 email: [email protected]
NNR Minutes - Caerlaverock Wildfowling Panel - 86th meeting, 1 April 2022
Welcome and introduction
Robbie Cowan (RC) – Caerlaverock Estate
Mark Fogden (MF) – Savills
Graeme Dalby (GD) – CDWA (part of meeting
David Gilbert (DG) – SSWA
Colin Shedden (CS) - BASC
Will Marshall (WM) - SACS
Stuart Graham (SG) – NatureScot - acting chair
Suzanne McIntyre (SMcI) – NatureScot
Andrew Over (AO) – NatureScot
Susan Copeland – NatureScot minutes
Stuart Graham introduced himself and welcomed everybody to the meeting, followed by a quick round table introduction by all present.
Malcolm Laurie – CCA
Previous minutes and actions
Avian flu update – NS reserve staff carried out dead bird counts every 2-3 weeks between November 2021 and January 2022; the peak impact was seen in December, with death rate dropping off from mid-January, there were still a number of sick pinks at the end of January. Barnacle geese showed clear symptoms of AF with quick death, pink footed geese didn’t show such obvious symptoms but there was recognisably odd behaviour. Pricked birds were not included in carcasses counts. Avian flu (H5N1) has a distinctive neurological effect unlike normal flu, photos and video taken for reference. It will probably only be from the winter counts of 2022 that the full impact on the bird population is known. NS and WWT staff sent samples of geese and swans to Defra for testing during the outbreak, NS have also sent a fox carcass, this will only be tested for H5N1 once the avian flu outbreak has been dealt with.
There has been 110 birds tested recently from Dornoch Firth. Still picking up a few fresh carcasses on the Solway, note that carcasses have been sprayed during counts to prevent double counting. Between Dec – and first week of February 4650 dead barnacles counted on the Solway, of which 2024 dead barnacles counted on the reserve alone, given conditions and relatively low levels of resource this should be seen as an undercount. Ducks have not seemed to have been affected, it has mainly been waders and geese.
During sample collections NatureScot staff were instructed to use full PPR, to take a course of Tamiflu tablets and report on their state of health to public health contacts on a daily basis. This level of protection and monitoring was far more intense and in sharp contrast to the approach taken with wider public messaging from government and public health bodies. Biosecurity disinfectant points were installed around the reserve.
Regarding risk of transferring AF to humans it continues to be judged to be very low risk, there was one confirmed case of transference to a duck flock owner in England during the outbreak. There is a much higher risk of transfer to other birds, the existing government protocols cover commercial flocks and there isn’t a clear protocol for wild bird infections, hopefully this unprecedented outbreak will help with clearer response and messaging if an outbreak occurs again. It was noted that there was quite a lot of discussion on social media, mainly around personal health issues.
Bird count data:
Data recorded by staff and volunteers from NatureScot, BTO and WWT and recorded on BTO survey databases, unless otherwise stated.
Pink - footed Geese
NatureScot - Pinkfoot counts Oct/Nov 2021 and March 2022:
4276, 362 and 3682
WWT - Pinkfoot counts Nov 201 and March 2022:
Avian Influenza - actual count of dead birds across Solway 163, excludes pricked birds, to note still receiving reports of sick birds on Solway in March and in larger numbers further north east coast and Islay.
Solway population average around 40,000 in last 5 years. Last year peak count for Solway was 42,303 in Oct 2021. Highest count so far 26,000 in January 2022. Avian Influenza -actual count of dead birds across Solway 4650 dead, of which 2024 on the reserve, peaked in December.
Peak of 50 British/Irish on recorded 14th September. Very small numbers throughout the rest of 2021, none recorded in 2022. 2021 had skeins of 25-35 across the reserve in November and December. Although seen in small numbers on the reserve have not been picked up in scheduled counts.
Only recorded on the NNR in November with a peak 90 on 11th November on the NNR. Majority of Canadas recorded at WWT inland in September. Much lower than last year with 2021 Caerlaverock population (including WWT inland) of almost 500 which had been consistent in the last few years, peak this year including WWT holding was 378.(seven dead birds from AI).
Peak 12th September with approx. 1370 on the wider NNR. With approx. 350-400 still recorded on the reserve till February. Much lower than last year 2020-21 peak was 3357 and up to 870 remaining till end of the season.
Peak in 2021 Caerlaverock area of 291 in November. This year saw peak of 1000 in on the wider NNR November and with several hundred reaming on the reserve throughout the season.
In 2021 Teal arrived in September with flock peak of 260 recorded on the reserve following September moon. This year September count for Caerlaverock NNR was 238 and numbers remained stable throughout the season. Large flocks counts in the wider Solway up to 1000 birds.
Peak count of 106 in September, then flock of single figures up to 50 through the rest of the season which is consistent with 2020-21.
Shoveler and Gadwall
Records of one individual bird on September and November on the reserve. Which is the case in most years, with groups of 4-7 in 2020-21 being the exception. No records of Gadwall on the NNR.
Wildfowling report (shoulder and punt gun)
Use of Permits
44 season permits were issued, 25 were returned used, 19 were returned unused and 2 were not returned
110 short period permits (visitor permits) were issued, 53 were returned use, 1 was retained, 57 were returned unused and 9 were not returned
Season permits used - 57%
Visitor permits used - 48%
Bag statistics change from last year - 31%
Amount of wildfowling on permitted days per month
October 572 recommended, 272 issued and 0 refused or cancelled
November 550 recommended, 217 issued, 0 refused and 6 cancelled
December 517 recommended, 168 issued, 0 refused and 3 cancelled
January 506 recommended, 213 issued, 0 refused or cancelled
February 221 recommended, 185 issued, 36 refused and 8 cancelled
Total 2366 recommended, 1055 issued, 36 refused and 17 cancelled
Total days applied for - 1091 issued - 46%
Permit holders who shot nothing 8
Permit holders who shot nothing 32%
am nobody present 67
nobody present am 55%
pm nobody present 91
nobody present pm 75%
both flights nobody present 61
am max (5) exceeded 2
pm max (5) exceeded 1
5 or fewer birds 18
Permit holders who shot nothing 37
Permit holders who shot nothing 70%
am nobody present 55
nobody present am 45%
pm nobody present 64
nobody present pm 53%
both flights nobody present 49
am max (10) exceeded 0
pm max (10) exceeded 0
5 or fewer birds 52
Both flights nobody present 26
am flights nobody present 30
pm flights nobody present 51
Both flights more than 15 present 0
Permit holders who shot nothing 45
shot nothing 58%
am max (15) exceeded 0
pm max (15) exceeded 0
Shot 5 or fewer birds 70
Shot 5 or fewer birds 90%
Puntgunning - Permits issued in October (2), November (2) and February (2) – returned ‘no days used’. One of the November bookings was cancelled owing to avian flu.
There were a total of 246 flights available during the season. Stewards were present on the reserve on 115 of these flights representing 47% of flights. This represents a total of 179 man/flights by stewards.
One breach of regulations was noted and reported to the Nature Scot wildfowling monitor present at the time. This related to early access. This was dealt with at the time. A few polite reminders were issued about high shooting.
Overall, good standards of behaviour were noted throughout the season. Wildfowlers are now well used to the role of stewards and the NS wildfowling monitor. Permits are offered up for inspection voluntarily and wildfowlers know that their behaviour is being monitored. We have received no direct adverse comments about this but are aware of a few behind the scenes grumbles about being “watched”.
The season was generally quieter than usual due to the impact of Avian Flu when many wildfowlers stayed away during the worst of the outbreak during December. Monitoring visits were scaled back slightly. Low numbers of pinkfeet crossing the merse also contributed. In addition to normal monitoring monitor No 1 attended both ends before work to ensure no wildfowlers were accessing the merse early.
It was noted that wildfowlers were not questioning stewards asking to check permits, in some cases they are offering the permit without being asked. The system is working well now.
The Caerlaverock Estate noted the expectation of very high standards from the visitors, the area is becoming busier with motorhomes, dog walkers, walkers, and more holiday cottages, with everybody out in the early morning; therefore a need to keep on top of standards.
Breaches of permit scheme and incident reports – one incident
Incident report received from NS wildfowling monitor 07 January 2022
Incident account email received from permit holder on 07 January 2022
The incident was discussed by the panel at length and the panel concluded that in this instance a genuine mistake had been made. They agreed after careful consideration that in this instance no ban would be issued. Although it was recognised that the relevant information was available on the existing documentation that accompanies each issued permit, it was agreed that the information should be simplified with important points emphasised to prevent any future misunderstanding of the rules.
There was discussion about opportunities for education and further provision of assistance for new visitors. It was agreed that whenever they could that the NS wildfowling monitor and stewards will seek to engage with wildfowlers to ensure new visitors were given helpful advice and were clear on the rules of the scheme.
Decision – No ban given – the instructions to be amended and additional guidance and support will be given to new wildfowlers.
AP 36/1 – SMcI to send letter to permit holder
Feedback (including questionnaires from wildfowlers) and discussion
23 feedback questionnaire returned
- car sticker could be stickier
- stop high shooting, but I know this is being tackled
- appreciate efforts of all involved, amazing place
- very friendly and efficient wardens
- access excellent for older people like me, easyish walking and plenty of cover
- I wish all Scottish foreshore was controlled in this way
- well run scheme
- thank you
- runs good
- seems much better run this season
- appreciated avian flu email updates, chose not to use permit
- I did not use my permit this year mainly due to the avian flu outbreak
95% of returns rated experience as 10 on score of 1 – 10 where 10 is very positive
One review scored admin 5, information 10, monitoring 5, recommend to others 5
One review scored 10 for everything except monitoring scored at 7
One scored 10 for everything but for ‘would you recommend to others’ scored 1.
Compliment letter – hardcopy of October letter provided to the panel.
Discussed request for shooting for youngsters, agreed could only take place with the relevant shotgun certificate and insurance, noted BASC support for shooting from the age of 14years with accompanying certification.
AP 86/2 SMcI to seek clarification on minimum age for shooting under the permit scheme on a National Nature Reserve.
SSWA – feedback on wording in notes related to disciplinary process - discussed a few areas for improvement to the information relating to the disciplinary process in the event of a breach. Agreed to draft changes to provide further detail and to include clarification of the start and end date of the ban period.
AP 86/3 – DG and SMcI to draft update to notes
AOB - none received.
Discussed local newspaper articles about avian flu, in January there had been an article submitted by a local member of the public which was critical of the lack of a wildfowling ban during avian flu, in February the CDWA had printed their own article in response. Discussed the complex issue of disturbance not just by wildfowlers and the implications of temporary suspensions to activities in relation to non-captive birds. Recognised that there had been a delay in government response to the rapid escalation of the outbreak in early December, and that given the extent of the outbreak that it would not have been unreasonable to have seen a temporary suspension while the situation was assessed. Agreed that by the time any such measures were discussed at a high enough level to implement a statutory suspension that it had been too late for effective action during the wildfowling season.
Next panel meeting – will be end of March 2023