Myself (Jenny), Tim and Paul are the new residential volunteers here at Mersehead! Like the barnacle geese we will be overwintering here and will be updating you each week on all the interesting things happening on the reserve.
The reserve has changed since I (Paul) started residential volunteering here at RSPB Mersehead.
Eric kept telling us we’d pay for the lovely warm, dry weather. And of course he was right...
The weather has turned a tide here at Mersehead, with the subject of any land management sometimes being washed away. However, wildfowl and waders have continued to flood in to the reserves wetlands, joined closely by sluice stressing amounts of rainfall. So much in fact, that the woodland and path to Meida hide is really quite flooded, so please bring wellies just in case! (All puns intended).
One handy by-product of so much rain is the increase in standing water in some of the more moist fields, giving the fine selection of the reserves feathery residents a little more paddling space. Weather can be a big deciding factor in the running of a nature reserve, and mine and Tim’s project of recording over 1000 Barnacle Goose rings has suffered a lot. With so many flooded fields we’re limited as to where we can get the reserve vehicles, and which jobs we can safely do. Luckily it doesn’t stop us surveying the reserves birds, of which we’ve had some great numbers. At last count we had nearly 8000 Barnacle Geese on the reserve, a flock of 253 Golden Plover hanging out with 53 Dunlin on the beach, and nearly 100 Pintail. As well as those lovely birds we have also had good numbers at Kirkconnell Merse, including Red Breasted Mergansers and 113 Redshank.
A big thank you to all of you from Turcan Connell that joined us over weekend for some conservation work. As a team we tackled unwanted scrub with loppers and bow saws to improve the habitat for natterjack toads
Strange beach find of the week
Lots of unusual objects come to rest on the beach at Mersehead!
Here is this weeks top find, can you help us identify it?
Here are the recent sightings from Mersehead
Bruaich Hide- mute swan, snipe, shoveler, curlew, wigeon, little grebe, redshank, tufted duck, fieldfare, barnacle goose, greylag geese, pink footed geese, teal, pintail, gadwall
Meida Hide- wigeon, teal, pintail, mallard, shoveler, hen harrier, grey heron, whooper swan, starling
Visitor Centre- barnacle geese, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, house sparrow, tree sparrow, wren, magpie, song thrush, yellowhammer
Trails- fieldfare, stonechat, pied wagtail, stock dove, mistle thrush, twite, barn owl, wren, rook, meadow pipit, wheatear, linnet, lapwing, redwing, jay, brambling
Beach- lesser black backed gull, black headed gull, curlew, oystercatcher, golden plover, dunlin,
Woodland- wren, rook, goldcrest, treecreeper, bullfinch, blackbird
Other animals- roe deer, badger, bank vole, field vole, weasel
The morning of the 25th of September had the Mersehead team in quite an excitable flap! After a lonely few months of endless quiet we saw our first noisy invaders! The Barnacle Geese had returned!
Or at least, 38 of them had to begin with.
Over the course of what had begun as a grimy, miserable day turned to glorious sunshine, the whole sky seeming to celebrate the Ol’ Barnys return. In drips and drabs they begun to flock back to Mersehead, bring the numbers up from the mornings 38 to at least 60 by 4 o’clock. Joined by a rather grumpy looking set of Pink Footed Geese the mini Goose army spent the whole day sunbathing and splashing about between the Bruiach and Media hides.
Soon the reserve will be absolutely filled to the brim with Barnacle Geese who herald in the winter! They’ll be joined over the next few weeks by every duck in the book from Pintail to Shoveler bringing the year to a perfect close!
With the new arrivals coming in we also had some old timers going out. I’m afraid I’m off!
Having spent a wonderful few months at RSPB Mersehead it’s time for me to fly the coop and return home. I came up to the West of Scotland 6 months ago with my life shoved into the back of a little red VW and wasn’t really sure what to expect, having never been to this part of the world or really, ever touched a shovel or seen a Barnacle Goose. I couldn’t tell a Teal from a Mallard and thought the Warden, Rowena, was playing a trick on me when she’d asked if I’d seen a Snipe.
How far I’ve come since then! I can talk people’s ears off about Barn Owls, hunt through a pond and name almost every creature and hold a moth when 6 months ago I’d have run away screaming!
I’ve cleared ditches of trees, built pathways for cows, hunted Natterjacks in the dark and counted goose after goose after goose. I’ve even been allowed to drive a tractor! Under strict supervision of course. I’ve hosted crafting events and educational fun days at the Cream of Galloway Park – snuck onto “Go Bong”, its brilliant! – And enjoyed every second of my stay here!
The team have been wonderful, looking after me, teaching me and more than once rescuing me from muddy holes. A huge thank you to Rowena, Eric, Kirsty and Colin and to every volunteer I’ve worked with this summer!
I won’t be out of the RSPB’s hair for long though, having been accepted to do a further 6 months volunteering at the RSPB Strumpshaw. So you might even hear from me there!
Have a lovely winter!