Mersehead Recent Sightings 16th - 22nd July
Daniel has written his last blog as his residential volunteering placement comes to an end.
As summer kicks into life albeit very slowly, Mersehead is beginning to liven up after the brief early summer lull. As well as all the regular birds visiting the visitor centre (Siskin/ Lesser Redpoll) and trails we were recently joined by over 250 hirundines (swallows and martins). This unusual peak in numbers was due to the lovely weather on Tuesday followed by the storm, which caused these birds to form flocks. Lots of youngsters were in these groups to, suggesting a good breeding season in their colonies. 2 Swifts also briefly joined in completing the picture. A male Kestrel took advantage of this flying banquet which was unusual for this time of year. Other raptors around include Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and the odd Red Kite.
Sparrowhawk by Ben Hall
Many of the smaller birds are also out in force with my first Scottish Stonechats seen on the reserve. They can be seen around the end of the coastal trail amongst the local rabbit horde! Lots of Whitethroats and Willow Warblers are now moving around, so good id practice for those little brown jobs. This increase in avian numbers was further reflected by the ringing group with larger amounts of Sedge Warblers being caught including a French Sedgie! This was a real surprise and we shall post the results of its travels soon.
In the world of mammals, the Roe Deer are now a lot showier with daily sightings across the reserve. Look out for their Bambi look-a-like fawns to as they follow the adults. Brown Hares and Barn Owls continue to be seen though you might need to come here at dusk to get the best views. Other usual suspects included Badger, Stoat, Field Vole and the elusive Otter.
As part of my placement, we’ve been undertaking regular Butterfly surveys and with the scorching heat this week, there were butterflies all over. Loads of Green Veined Whites, Ringlets, Small Heaths and Meadow Brown. A lone Small Blue and Red Admiral were additional treats.
Red admiral by Andy Hay
Not surprisingly, many amphibians have been making use of the ever increasing slug and invertebrate population here. 5 Newtlets were spotted lurking underneath stone and wood piles and the ever present Common Frog bounced its way through our butterfly transect. Now is a good time to check your own wood piles for these garden visitors.
My placement is now unfortunately drawing to a close. It’s been a real pleasure to work on such a varied and friendly reserve and develop my knowledge of conservation science. All the different tasks have shown me that there is a lot of hard work and graft that goes into maintaining these amazing wildlife havens. I hope to return at some point to see how its developing.
Mersehead Recent Sightings 9th – 15th July
It is a wild, wet and windy day today with rain currently lashing against the window pane however there is plenty to report from the past week at Mersehead.
Some new flowers are appearing out on the merse and beach at the moment. Common sea lavender and sea milkwort are the latest additions out on the saltmarsh. Sea milkwort is adapted to surviving in salty conditions by storing fresh water in its fleshy leaves and grows in a thick, spreading mat so as to reduce water loss by evaporation. In the sand dunes the purple-blue sea holly can now be found. On the seaward side of the sand dunes sea sandwort is forming a thick green carpet. This tough plant is a colonist of the seashore and grows in the sand where it is capable of surviving rough weather and can tolerate immersion in salt water at high tide. Along Rainbow Lane a tall yellow plant has just come into flower, perennial sow-thistle.
Down at the mouth of the Southwick Water goosander and common sandpiper have been spotted this week. One of our residential volunteers found a recently predated sandwich tern on the beach and reported sighting 4 flying over the rocks at Southerness. A single swift was spotted whilst working at the back of the wetlands on Monday whilst a magnificent peregrine falcon has been hunting around Bruiach hide. A rare sight for Mersehead, red kite has been seen soaring over the reserve this week. The barn owl is a guaranteed sight in the evening as it silently and gracefully flies from the farm buildings to the merse to hunt. Lesser redpoll has been present on the bird feeders at the Visitor Centre.
On Thursday, residential volunteer Tracey was out completing the weekly butterfly transect; 51 green-veined white, 1 common blue, 8 meadow brown and 9 ringlet were recorded. Tracey also spotted a 6-spot burnet and lattice heath on the way round too.
Common sandpiper by Andy Hays
What can be seen at Mersehead at the moment?
In his separate blog below, Daniel provides a good summary of the birds which are currently on show at Mersehead. In addition, a male Siskin is occasionally popping by the bird feeders at the Visitor Centre and I’m sorry to say I missed the male Sparrowhawk taking a bird from the feeders earlier in the week. Sorry in both senses.
Good numbers of Lapwings (approximately 60) are still out on the fields with smaller numbers of Curlew.
Photo - Andy Hay, (RSPB Images]
However, it’s the creepy crawlies which are out in abundance.
Green-veined Whites, Ringlets, Meadow browns and Common blues were all out taking advantage of the sun early in the week. Keep an eye on the verges and hedgerows for the first three of these but they shouldn’t be too hard to spot as they flit from one flower to another. The common blues were only seen on the sand dunes amongst the marram grass and if one hadn’t landed on a flower directly in front of me and closed its wings, I’d have struggled to identify it from the flash of blue that went past me.
Also spotted during a break in the rain were good numbers of cinnabar moth caterpillars munching away on their favourite food, ragwort.
While we didn’t get the larger moths, or many, in our moth trap earlier in the week, we did see four Brown-line Bright-eye and one Lunar Yellow Underwing. We’ll be trying again next week so will keep you updated of our discoveries.
While sweeping the hides today I spotted this little jumping spider (possibly a Zebra spider – but if you have any better idea’s please let us know) with a fly in its mouth. It must have just caught the fly as it was still wiggling, though not for long. Luckily it stayed still just long enough for me to get this photo.
Photo - Tracey Samuel-Smith