Critical home for Scottish wildlife secured

Harry Bellew

Monday 6 February 2017

• One of the most important sites for threatened habitat and wildlife in Scotland is set to be expanded by 112 hectares, or 80 football pitches, after extraordinary public support saw £285,000 raised in only one month.
• The RSPB aims to transform the reserve to make it even an bigger and better home for nature where people will be able to bring their families to enjoy wildlife for generations to come.

Home to an immense variety of wildlife, including thousands of barnacle geese, the extremely rare natterjack toad and the charismatic curlew, RSPB Mersehead in south Scotland is set for a huge transformation that will see the nature reserve expand by 112 hectares - the equivalent of 80 football pitches - to unlock its true potential for wildlife and visitors.

Located on the Solway Firth close to Dumfries, RSPB Mersehead is a special sanctuary for upwards of 10,000 barnacle geese that make the epic thousand mile migration from the arctic island of Svalbard every year. The sights and sounds of the team of geese arriving overhead has become one of Scotland's most iconic moments in the nature calendar.

In October 2016, Europe's largest conservation charity launched an urgent appeal to raise £285,000 in one month to expand Mersehead transforming the arable farmland into a haven for the geese and other wildlife. Over the next two years the money raised will help to create new wetlands and to restore former grazing marshes to ensure the reserve fulfils it potential as the perfect habitat a huge variety of species.

David Beaumont, RSPB Scotland Reserves Manager in South and West Scotland said: "A huge thank you to everyone who donated money to this urgent appeal. It really was a race against time when we launched our campaign to secure this site for nature. Thanks to the overwhelming public response, Mersehead has now been made whole which is wonderful news for the special wildlife of the Solway Firth."

• RSPB Mersehead was previous two different parts of land separated by arable farmland but this purchase now means that RSPB Scotland will be able to bridge the gap making the reserve whole for the first time.
• Work will be carried out to restore the special saltmarsh and sand dune habitats on the newest part of the reserve creating more nesting sites for redshanks and skylarks, and more ponds in the sand dunes that will help boost the natterjack toad population.
• Once complete, visitors will be able to experience the new development first hand with the addition of new nature paths and trails bringing them closer to the nature making its home on the Solway Firth.
The extraordinary response to the appeal will secure the future of some of Scotland's most important and rare wildlife. Mersehead is home to the country's sole population of the incredibly rare natterjack toad, whilst in the summer the songs of yellowhammers, linnets and lapwings fill the air. The autumn brings an array of wetland birds to the site, including pintails, teals and widgeons, with curlews, oystercatchers and otters also appearing on the reserve at different points in the year.

David Beaumont added: "We're immensely proud of what we have achieved at Mersehead since it became a reserve in 1994 with intensive agricultural land being transformed into wetlands, reedbeds and salt marsh teaming with life, and the use of wildlife friendly farming ensuring that nature here can thrive in harmony with the farming systems. We're incredibly grateful that thanks to public generosity this transformational journey can continue for many years to come, with work already underway to make Mersehead an even bigger and better home for nature."

To learn more about RSPB Mersehead and how the astonishing public support is helping to transform this part of Scotland - https://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/donate/appeals/mersehead-appeal/

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Conservation Topic: Giving Nature a Home Topic: Habitat conservation Topic: Species conservation