Well we've had great excitement so far this week with floods of almost biblical proportions yesterday!! The combination of a high tide, torrential rain overnight and strong winds meant we had to close the reserve for most of the day yesterday, most of the merse was covered in water, all of the ditches and dykes were almost overflowing and the main drive was impassible in a normal car! However it was business as usual again today with the flood waters soon disappearing. It didn't seem to bother the birds though with barnacle geese swimming about on some of the flood water and 100's of curlew feeding in the fields as you enter the reserve.
Anyone visitng the reserve over the next couple of days may find there is a small amount of disturbance near the Visitor Centre as we have contractors onsite erecting our anti-predator fence around Compartment 17 (the field directly behind the VC). This fence will mean that Compartment 17 will become a safe haven for our breeding waders, particularly lapwing who are presently being predated by our resident badgers who have developed rather a taste for lapwing eggs. By surrounding this area with electric fencing we hope to create a part of the reserve where the wandering badgers will be kept out and the lapwings will be left in peace to lay their eggs and rear their young. This also means that in the future visitors to the reserve might even be able to see the story of the lapwings unfold before them.
In other news we've had some amazing sightings on and around the reserve recently. We haven't had any recorded sightings of the red breasted goose or Tod's canada goose since last Sunday, near the reserve on fields around Southerness. The green-winged teal was last reported from the Bruaich Hide on Monday afternoon and yesterday someone saw 2 scaup and 22 twite whilst walking the Coastal trail.
So it really has been all go!
Well hot off the press folks, 10 more barnacle geese have just touched down outside the Bruiach Hide! There are also 15 canada geese. We are hearing a few pink footed geese heading over the reserve too although not many of them are landing here! Also this morning I had my very first sighting of a merlin! It looked exactly like a large swift and flew by at speed being slightly mobbed by some crows.
Pop down to one of our hides for your best chance of seeing our incoming geese! And remember whilst you're here look out for more flocks as they return!
The hedgerows are busy too with a sighting of a redpoll on the lane down to the Bruiach Hide yesterday morning and great sightings of yellowhammer, reed bunting and finches in the hedgerows around the reserve.
Well cast your minds back a couple of months to June 17th and you might remember that we were closed because of bad flooding, well here we are exactly 2 months later and I am afraid to say the reserve is shut again because of flooding. We had an unprecendented amount of rainfall overnight plus a high tide which has led to widespread flooding of the merse and our access road!! There are a number of high tides over the next 5 days so the reserve could be closed for some days yet!
With 6 days to go until due day I am getting slightly anxious on a personal front! Eric is on standby with the tractor to get me across the flood waters if I suddenly go into labour!!
Hopefully the reserve will be open again before too long! Keep your fingers crossed we don't get anymore rain!
Well I had the most spectacular experience yesterday, I was taking a small group round the reserve when we were amazed to see a flock of 2000 pink footed geese, swooping down onto our wetland area! I've never seen so many pink footed geese on the reserve, we headed to the Meida Hide where the whole of the wetlands had been transformed to create a sea of little brown heads and bodies, busy washing themselves! As we were marvelling at this sight we heard a huge commotion coming from behind the hide and were lucky enough to see thousands of barnacle geese that had been peacefully feeding on the fields, flying over the hide heading towards West Preston. A real wildlife spectacle!
We have been seeing plenty of beautiful yellowhammer and reed buntings starting to gather in the hedgerows on the reserve as well, always a beautiful sight too.
In events news, we have 6 more days of our Wildlife Art Exhibition in the Sulwath Centre, 10-5pm and we also have 6 more Goosey Gander guided walks to see the geese, on the last few walks we've been lucky enough to not only see great, close up views of the barnies but also have been lucky enough to see the other 3 species of geese that overwinter on the reserve, pinkies, greylags and canada geese.
In other news, there will be an Open Day at the Red Kite Feeding Station on Saturday 29th October 1.30pm-4pm. This will give you free access to the Kite Feeding Station (it normally costs £2.50 per adult), a chance to see another amazing wildilfe spectacle that occurs in Dumfries and Galloway for free! To find out more go to www.gallowaykitetrail.com or call Calum Murray on 01556 670464.
A quick update from Mersehead, I'm glad to say that we've survived the recent wild winds and rubbish rain unscathed! The bad weather we have experienced recently has meant that we aren't getting many decent bird sightings at the moment. I wouldn't fancy trying to fly in those blustery conditions! However we are counting down the days to the return of our fabulous Svalbard Barnacle Geese! We would expect to be seeing the first flocks arriving in about 3 weeks! As those of you that are familiar with Mersehead will know winter is the season when the reserve really comes to life! We'll be getting flocks of Pintails, Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler arriving on the wetland areas over the next few months as well as flocks of Buntings, Finches, Sparrows and Linnet feeding on our wild bird cover. With them will come the raptors, we hope to get the same amazing sightings of the Hen Harrier this winter that we had last year.
We will be running a number of events next month. The Sulwath Centre at Mersehead is pleased to be hosting a Wildlife Art Exhibition, a selling exhibition of artwork by local artists including John Threlfall, who created the amazing artwork in our 2 hides, as well as the large Red Kite painting in our Access for All Kite Garden. The exhibition runs from Saturday 15th - Sunday 30th October opening 10-5pm daily. There will also be prints available to buy and profits will go to our Galloway Local Group to raise funds for RSPB conservation work in the region.
Also on these dates we'll be running "Goosey Gander" guided walks 11am-12pm daily, this is a chance for visitors to come on a walk with one of our team to learn more about the fantastic Svalbard Barnacles, we should be able to get some fantastic views of these birds too and at that time of year who knows what else we might see on our wander!
We're having a special event on Saturday 15th October to launch our special edition Mersehead flying Barnacle Goose pin badge! A must have for collectors and enthusiasts alike! These badges will only be available to buy at Mersehead! On this day we'll also be launching "Wild Autumn" a Dumfries and Galloway wide celebration of all the amazing wildlife spectacles that occur at this time of year through a series of exciting, informative and fun events throughout Dumfries and Galloway at different venues. So whether you want to see the Swan Feed at WWT Caerlaverock, join us for the events already mentioned at RSPB Mersehead, do some orienteering in the Galloway Forest Park or take your family on a Hedgerow Safari at Cream of Galloway, look out here for details. Or you can find out more on at facebook.com look out for the Wild Autumn in Dumfries and Galloway page! Wild Autumn also hopes to launch its own website soon - keep watching this space for details or check out the sites individual websites.