Hi RSPB Mersehead Community,
Even though the weather has turned from gloriously sunny to blustery with rain showers there is still plenty to see on the reserve. Lots of birds have chicks at the moment, flowers are blooming and there are plenty of insects on the wing. This means plenty of food for birds including swallows and house martins. As you can see in the photo below house martins have been busy building a nest on the side of the Sulwath Centre.
Talking about building new homes and migration, I’m leaving Mersehead today to take up a new challenge at South Essex Marshes as Visitor Services Manager. I’ve truly enjoyed the last 8 months on the reserve and have met many dedicated volunteers and knowledgeable colleagues whose passion for nature shines through. When asked ‘what will you remember about Mersehead’ my first response is the barnacle geese spectacle, especially as they arrived the day before I did back in September. I’ve had many bird firsts; merlin, waxwing, redpoll and grasshopper warbler to name a few. And even though a few of our special sightings like otter and kingfisher have eluded me, there’s still time for one last walk. So on that note, I hope you enjoy your next visit to Mersehead as much as I’ve enjoyed working here.
Hi RSPB Mersehead community,
A great blog from the most recent residential volunteers, Martin and Assumpta O'Connell.
After the coldest winter of almost fifty years we arrived in Mersehead in weather that made a mockery of the idea of spring; then the sun came out, warm showers moistened the soil and the delayed spring came in like the Flying Scotsman. In the Merse, the Lapwings wheeled and spun uttering their unique and lonely cries; the skylarks ascended to heaven pouring out their song and spring was with us, late but welcome at last.
Hard work is the basis of making a positive contribution and under the leadership of Volunteer Co-ordinator Rowena, and Dan, the long-term residential volunteer, our time was a rich mixture of hard work (hauling willow and clearing dykes); education (bird and butterfly surveys); fellowship (meeting and spending time with a wide range of visitors to this lovely and special reserve); and, pure pleasure (a close encounter with the charismatic and hugely appealing Natterjack Toads).
Tired? Yup! Weary? Yup! Refreshed in spirit? Yup! Ready to do it again. You betcher!!!
Mersehead is a lovely and quiet corner of wildness cared for by kind and committed people. It was a privilege to be here and is place we will return to again and again. Thank you so much.
Martin and Assumpta O’Connell
Dan and Martin hard at work in the sluice/ditch system.
Thanks for your hard work Martin and Assumpta!
Bye for now,Liz
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.