Even though the breeding season is tailing off, we’ve seen a few gems this week. The first was a new bumblebee to the reserve: the tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum). It was spotted along the path to Bruaich Hide amidst about 50 buff- and white-tailed bumblebees.
A common bumblebee in mainland Europe, the first individual was found down in Wiltshire in 2001. Since then, they’ve spread northwards relatively quickly through England and Wales and, more recently, Scotland. They commonly nest in birdboxes, which may have helped their range expansion within the UK. It was just a matter of time until they appeared at Mersehead.
Their markings are unmistakable: thick bands of orange (the whole thorax), black and then white (on the abdomen). It’s quite possible that you’ll find them in your garden, but be careful – they’re strongly defensive!
Mersehead's first recorded tree bumblebee. Photo credit: Charlie McMurray
The second highlight of the week was a female brown hare suckling its leveret. It was a tender moment and a real treat to see. The mother allowed her young to get its fill, before gently pushing it onto its side to clean it. The youngster’s kicking legs showed its displeasure with the enforced bath.
Unlike rabbits, hares nest above ground and disperse their brood (two to four leverets) to separate places. They’re born in a more developed condition too, with their eyes open and the ability to move if needed. The mother will feed them at dawn and dusk, calling to them when she arrives.
A young brown hare demonstrating its hopping skills in front of the trailcam. Credit: Charlie McMurray
Last but not least, when you next visit, look out for the weasel that’s been seen scampering across the access road this week.
On the 18th and 19th June we embarked on a weekend long Bioblitz. A bioblitz is when people including experts and local people gather together and record as many flora and funa within a designated area and time. We were very lucky that the Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resources Centre joined us to help in this event.
Mersehead has never had a Bioblitz and we were excited to see what we would find. So on Saturday morning we started with moth trapping with help from the local moth recorder. We placed four traps out around the reserve, one in the garden, one in the woodland, one on the sand dunes and one on the salt marsh.
After three hours we had emptied all the moth traps and found we had caught over 64 species.
Mapped Winged Swift and green silver line (photo credit Kirsty Griffiths)
The star catch a female fox moth (photo credit Kirsty Griffiths)
The team emptying the moth trap (photo credit Kirsty Griffiths)
During the day other people spotted different animals including birds, insects and spiders. The first fledged song thrush was spotted along with a hare trying to hide in the long grass.
Brown hare and song thrush (photo credit Kirsty Griffiths)
On Saturday afternoon we had Andy Riches Local Mammal recorder come along to do a walk on mammal tracks and signs. He took a group out and along the walk the found evidence of badgers, fox, otter, mole, bank vole, field vole and common shrew. To carry on with mammals we had a bat walk in the evening with the help of the Dumfries and Galloway Bat group. During the evening we were given bat detectors to help us identify what bats are around.
At the end of the night we had identified four different types of bats which included common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, whiskered bat and noctule bat.
On Sunday we woke up nice and early for the North Solway Ringing Group, for the ringing demonstration. During the morning they caught a variety of birds which included meadow pipit, blackbird, yellowhammer, great tit, goldfinch, chaffinch , sedge warbler, song thrush, dunnock and House sparrow.
Yellowhammer posing and meadow pipit being rung (photo credit Kirsty Griffiths)
Ringing equipment (photo credit Kirsty Griffiths)
So after the weekend the totals are as follow
Mersehead Recent Sightings 11th June – 17th June
The first swift of the 2016 was spotted soaring over Rainbow Lane yesterday evening. To begin with there were just 2 and then suddenly they had increased to 16 and then 37. Then, just as suddenly, they had all disappeared. Swifts only return to the UK for a very short time, just 3 months, before returning to Africa. They almost never land and have the ability to sleep on the wing. Swifts can’t feed in wet weather in the UK, so fly around storms to find dry areas – the only UK birds to do this. The swift is the fastest bird in level flight (the peregrine is the fastest of all birds, but only in a steep dive called a stoop).
The other new arrival this week is the cattle; 36 cows, 36 calves and 1 bull have made their way out to the wetlands. These ‘munching machines’ will be hard at work until October helping to keep the reserve in good shape for breeding waders.
Photo credit: Eric Neilson
The merse is starting to turn a shade of red and pink as ragged robin and thrift come into flower. Along the edge of Rainbow lane, red campion, meadow vetchling, tufted vetch, yellowrattle and meadow buttercup add more colour. The splash of white out on the merse is common scurvy-grass, a common saltmarsh plant. Skylark are still filling the merse with song whilst in the hedgerow along Rainbow Lane a whitethroat and yellowhammer are singing along too.
Whinchat has been reported to the Visitor Centre this week. The whinchat is a summer visitor and passage migrant to the UK. Birds breed in upland areas of northern and western Britain with a few in Ireland. Tree sparrow are regularly appearing at the feeding station along with a single redpoll. In the evening, the barn owl has been seen hunting over the merse and carrying prey back to the Sulwath garden.
THIS WEEKEND IS THE MERSHEAD BIOBLITZ COME DOWN AND JOIN US
by Rowena Flavelle