Mersehead Recent Sightings 20th – 26th August
The start of the week felt very autumnal with the cool breeze and birds starting to flock together. Out on the beach a flock of 22 redshank have suddenly made an appearance whilst over the merse a group of 46 lapwing went sailing by. Round on the spit at the mouth of the Southwick Water the oystercatcher and curlew have started forming the high tide wader roost. Ringed plover have been present on the beach this week too. Twice this week, a wisp of snipe have flown over the Visitor Centre.
Red kite has been seen over the reserve for a fourth week in a row, it was spotted hunting over the sand dunes. Stonechat can be heard chattering away in the gorse bushes on the merse path. A rare sighting at Mersehead, red squirrel has been spotted this week.
Photo credit: R.Flavelle
Large flocks of goldfinch can be seen flying from the species rich grassland where they are feeding on common knapweed upto perch on the telegraph wires. They are being joined on the telegraph wires by house martins and swallows. The swallows at Mersehead are preparing to migrate. They flutter about restlessly and often gather on telegraph wires. The return journey to Africa takes around 6 weeks. Swallows from different parts of Europe end up at different destinations. Ours end up in the very south. They travel down through western France and eastern Spain into Morocco before crossing the Sahara desert and Congo rainforest - finally reaching South Africa and Namibia.
On Wednesday, the autumnal feeling left the reserve with temperatures reaching 22oc, the perfect day for a butterfly survey. Jonathan recorded 4 small white, 16 green-veined white, 1 small copper, 3 painted lady, 3 peacock and 10 wall brown.
Photo credit: rspb Images
Rowena Flavelle, Warden
Mersehead Recent Sightings 13th August – 19th August
A month has passed since I began my placement at Mersehead. My duties have been highly varied from land management work such as grass cutting, repainting the holiday cottages, ragwort pulling from the hay field and inspecting the anti predator fence for damage. I have also been involved in a lot of public engagement work, from manning the visitor centre, to assisting in running a stall at offsite events at Kirkcudbright, Cream O’Galloway and Sandyhills. On Wednesday there was an event at Mersehead for children to gain the experience of becoming a wildlife warden for a day. We had two enthusiastic children who were getting involved in bird surveys, moth identification and building a bug hotel. They were very keen about the whole event and it is inspiring to see people take such a strong interest in nature from such an early age.
Also as part of my placement I have been undertaking weekly butterfly surveys. The butterflies have been taking advantage of the fine weather we have had recently, as have the dragonflies and damselflies: lots of Green-veined Whites and Peacock were spotted along with the occasional Wall Brown. A solitary Small Copper and Small White were also sighted. Visitors to the reserve have been enthralled by the butterflies visiting the garden next to the car park: Peacocks and Red Admirals have been frequent visitors along with the occasional Small Tortoiseshell and Painted Lady.
Not much activity has been seen at the hides recently aside from the corvids, however visitors walking the trails have seen (and heard) willow warbler, stonechat, grasshopper warbler, meadow pipit, wheatear, whitethroat and whimbrel. The swallows and house martins have been seen frequently perching on the telephone wires at the reserve, however they will soon begin their migration route back to Africa.
It’s been a good week for raptors: Buzzards and Kestrels have been spotted hunting on the reserve. A Red Kite was also spotted flying across the wetlands. The most exciting discovery was during an evening walk around the reserve that resulted in the discovery of two young barn owls, which were perched on the exterior of the barn calling to their parents. Tawny owls have also been heard calling at night.
Photo credit: J. McDougall
At the visitor centre, visitors to the reserve have been entertained by the presence of our usual birds: yellowhammer, greenfinch, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin, blue tit, coal tit and great tit. The large number of small birds has not gone unnoticed by a stoat that has taken to spying on the feeders from the bug hotel. A wood warbler, a garden warbler and a linnet have been new visitors to the feeders. A female pheasant has been feeding from the tree stump beside the feeders with her two offspring.
For mammals, brown hare and roe deer have been spotted regularly on the trails. Voles have also been seen and stoats have been seen visiting the Sulwath garden and the visitor centre garden.
Jonathan Taylor, Residential Volunteer
Peter Howard a mature male has just completed his third, two week stint as a residential volunteer at Mersehead. His home is in East Anglia and finds the change of geographical location and the time spent at Mersehead interesting and stimulating.
Mersehead Recent Sightings 6th August – 12th August
Part of the pleasure of bird watching is the time that you spend with like minded quality people.
This is particularly true of Mersehead!
The people that I have met here again have enhanced my stay (and my knowledge of birds) and have been varied and interesting
They have ranged from the ever helpful full time site staff who continue to treat me with consideration and respect, the numerous visitors who I have had the pleasure of meeting on their visit here (especially the children who I try to involve with nature) to the local bird ringers who carry out fortnightly surveys to try to increase our understanding of bird behavior
My duties at Mersehead have been varied but I have spent extended time within the Visitor Centre. Here one is afforded time to try to enhance people’s visit to the site be it that the variety of birds around the site in early August is very limited.
However the bird feeders in front of the main viewing area of the Visitor Centre are a source of constant activity, with less mobile people often spending several hours there!
It is good to see such “common” birds at close proximity and they continue to thrill the visitors. This year there have been families of Greenfinches, Yellow Hammers, House Sparrows and Chaffinches with the interaction between the juvenile and the adults of continual interest.
Good views were also available of a pair of adult Siskins, a bird I (and many other visitors from the south of England) have never been able to watch at such close proximity
The morning (5 am to 10 am) spent with the bird ringers are probably the highlight of the stay. Good views of a Kingfisher were available from the Media Hide before we started and there was also a view of what was deemed, be it at some distance, by the assembled ringers to be a family of Whinchats.
The ringers had a particular successful morning catching and ringing 99 birds (one recapture), mainly Willow and Sedge Warblers but also a single Tree Pipit and a Spotted Flycatcher. They thought this number was a record for a mornings work!
It was inspiring to see such a dedicated team of people giving up their time to try to increase our knowledge of bird behavior and ultimately for the bird species well being and conservation
As the accommodation is on the Reserve itself one is afforded the luxury of being there 24/7.Other moments that will stand in my mind was the massing of Swallow/House Martins-probably 200 to 300 on two occasions ,and of a couple of Wheatears all stopping off before their onward journey to sub Sahara Africa and warmer climes!
I am also travelling home to East Anglia tomorrow also to what by looking at the weather maps on the BBC weather forecast are warmer climes as my two weeks here have been particularly blustery and excessively cool and wet on occasions!
However, I hope that I have contributed to the objectives of the RSPB during my stay here, in a particular to the Mersehead Reserve as I myself have benefited as a person from my time here!
Peter Howard, Residential Volunteer