Hi RSPB Mersehead community, I'm just back from a short break and so much has happened on the reserve in two weeks! The barnacle geese left this time last week, Friday 10th May. They have flown to Svalbard to breed and will return to the Solway coast in late September. There are a few lapwing nests on the reserve and yesterday we were delighted to see three small balls of fluff, lapwing chicks, that you can just spot them in the photograph below (centre and right hand side by the water).
Thanks to residential volunteer Martin O'Connell for the photograph
It seems that the afternoon is the best time to see them in dry weather, so Sunday is probably the next best day to visit!
Recent sightings: Visitor centre: lapwing, oyster catcher, lesser redpoll, pied wagtail, reed bunting and usual finches and tits.Meida hide: mallard, chiff chaff, willow warbler, blackcap, song thrush and heronTrails: wheatear, whitethroat, treecreeper, starling, bullfinch, sedge warbler, willow warbler, blackcap, chiff chaff, linnet, tawny owlButterflies: orange tip, small white, small tortoiseshell, red admiral
Bye for now,
Hi everyone, here's a blog from Dan, our newest long term residential volunteer at Mersehead.
My name is Dan Snowdon, and I’m volunteering at RSPB Mersehead for 6 months this summer. I’ve been here a month now and it’s been great, so I thought I’d share with you some of my experiences so far!
On my very first night I joined one of the guided walks to help me get to know the reserve. We were led along the gorse-lined Rainbow Lane, across the merse (a Scottish term for ‘salt marsh’) and finally down onto the beach at dusk, where thousands of barnacle geese came noisily flying down onto the mudflats to roost. It’ll be a long time before I forget the sound of them overhead as the sun set pink against the hills behind us, and caught the tops of the Lake District mountains across the Solway Firth.
Since then I’ve done all sorts, including helping out at an off-site event, greeting visitors in our newly renovated visitor centre, and helping to build an access road for cattle over some very damp grazing land (where I also investigated how heavy a wellington boot becomes when you fill it full of water). I’ve seen a peregrine falcon hunting over the merse, hen harrier patrolling the reedbeds and my first ever red kite, which was spectacular, showing off its amazing red, white and black plumage in the sun.
My role here is split between people engagement and land management, so it’s been nice to go from a hard day’s work in the great outdoors learning about the reserve habitats to a more sociable role in the visitor centre, where I get to share what I’ve learned with visitors (and treat myself to a hot chocolate...and maybe a flapjack too. Or a chocolate muffin).
Just last night from my bedroom window I could hear natterjack toad calling, snipe ‘drumming’ with their tail feathers (always sounds more like someone blowing quickly over the end of some milk bottles to me), lapwing displaying, a song thrush singing and a tawny owl hooting somewhere in the distance. ‘Wow‘, I thought, ‘I must write a blog about this tomorrow!’. So that’s just one month of experiences – I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer holds.
All sounds fantastic, thanks to Dan for writing a blog!
Bye for now,Liz
Here's a blog by one of our current residential volunteers Jim Beattie:
In mid April, after being involved with the RSPB Residential Voluntary Wardening scheme for 21 years and assisting at over 18 reserves or locations, I headed for Mersehead RSPB reserve excited at what lay ahead.
Halfway through my time here I can say I have not been disappointed. The staff were welcoming, the work variable and the wildlife amazing. My first full day was a day off, which I spent bird watching at Ken-Dee Marshes seeing willow tit and Red Kite, two species which are unfamiliar in the area where I live.
The rest of the week was taken up by meeting and greeting visitors to the reserve as well as path construction at Kirkconnell, bird counts around the reserve and looking for the location of a burst water pipe on the merse. During the butterfly transect we observed no butterflies on our official transect but noted two green-veined white while later visiting one of our hides (Liz - the first of the year!). While in the hide I was amazed to see a Daubenton’s bat flying over the pools.
Wildlife on the reserve included thousands of Barnacle geese, many other wildfowl, fox, badger, roe deer and the arrival of spring migrants such as sand martin, willow warbler and blackcap as well as the sound of natterjack toads calling.
I look forward to the varied experiences which lie ahead during my seond week on the reserve.
It may not feel like summer yet, but we're seeing some of our summer migrants arriving; swallow, house martin, sand martin, wheatear, chiffchaff and willow warbler have all been seen on the reserve in the last couple of days. Black cap, little grebe and goldeneye have also been seen. Natterjack toads have started calling, Daubenton's bats are out in the evening and green-veined white butterflies in the daytime.The stoat has also been seen outside of the Visitor Centre.
With so much going on we hope to see you on the reserve soon!
What a difference a week makes! It was with some trepidation that I set off from Leeds last Monday to begin two weeks of residential volunteering at RSPB Mersehead. I had been trying to reach the reserve for three days, but the deep snow made it impossible, so I packed all my layers and was braced for freezing weather when I arrived.
And now here I am and although it’s cold, the beautiful sunshine has made my stay at the reserve so far fantastic. Residential volunteering is all about getting stuck into the day to day running of a reserve and at Mersehead this has involved surveying wetland birds, counting geese and helping out with Easter events at the visitor centre.
As well as helping out on the reserve, I’ve had plenty of great opportunities to spot wildlife. I’ve been lucky enough to catch the barnacle geese on the reserve (a wildlife first for me!) before they head off to Norway and then finally back to Svalbard in a few weeks time. We even got to see thousands of them flying out onto the mudflats during “Sunset on the Solway”, an evening guided walk around the reserve. As a relative birding newbie, other bird firsts for me include yellowhammer, meadow pipit and snipe. Mersehead is also home to many mammals. I’ve managed to spot a stoat at the visitor centre, four hares from my bedroom window and will be going in search of the reserve’s elusive otter tonight.
Residential volunteering really is a great opportunity to see how reserves are run and lend a hand with anything and everything that’s going on during your stay. I certainly will be back for more volunteering in the future!
Catherine, Residential Volunteer
If RSPB residential volunteering sounds like something for you visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering/residential.aspx