A wetland with various grasses, rushes and a pool of water. There are fields behind leading to forested hills.

The first thing that comes to mind for many people when they think of Mersehead is geese. And why not? Thousands of Barnacle Geese spend their winters on the nature reserve after the long, tiring flight from Svalbard and it truly is a magnificent spectacle.

But that’s winter. In today’s blog we’ll tell you why this hidden gem on Scotland’s south coast needs to be on your radar over the summer months too. 


Start at the beginning

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best way to start your visit is to pop into the visitor centre. Not only can you get your bearings before you set off on the trails, but our friendly volunteers are always up for a chat and can help you make the most of your visit. Moreover, there are activities for the kids and a café-lite with seats looking right onto our bird feeders. Keep an eye out for Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows as you enjoy a nice, refreshing cuppa. And don’t forget to check out the share shelf – from skeletons to shells, it’s chock full of discoveries our visitors have made while exploring the nature reserve.

The visitor centre at RSPB Scotland Mersehead. It is a white cottage with maps, signs and benches outside.

Go wild for wildflowers

Sadly, wildflower meadows have become an increasingly rare habitat in recent decades, but you’ll be spoilt for choice at Mersehead. There are numerous meadows to explore just minutes from the visitor centre, each packed with Oxeye Daisies, Red and White Clover, Meadow Buttercups and lots more. Take a stroll through our specially cut paths or find a seat and just watch the butterflies and the bees as they bumble from flower to flower.

A wildflower meadow with trees along its verge and a path cut through the middle. It is full of Oxeye Daisies and other wildflowers.

Discover a real Scottish rarity

If Barnacle Geese are the star species in winter, Natterjack Toads take that crown in spring and summer. The north coast of the Solway Firth is the only place in Scotland you can see them, right on the edge of their European range. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, look for the yellow stripe down the back that differentiates it from a Common Toad. However, you’re perhaps more likely to hear a Natterjack than see one, especially in spring when males join together for an evening chorus that can be heard up to a mile away!

A close-up of a Natterjack Toad. It has a grey-green body, round green eyes and a pale yellow strip down its back.

Hit the beach

A quick hop over the Natterjack’s sand dunes and Mersehead opens out into a breathtaking beach, with panoramic views in every direction. Supposedly you can see five historical kingdoms of Britain from this spot: Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Although if you can actually see Wales, please let us know. Someone with eyesight that powerful would be a massive asset on our breeding bird surveys.

The beach is home to some fascinating military history too, having been used to train RAF pilots during the Second World War. It’s the perfect place to seek out treasure for our share shelf, or just sit back and enjoy the sounds of the sea.

A panoramic view over the beach at Mersehead with the Solway Firth in the background.

So much more to see

We’ve touched on a few of the species that live on the nature reserve thus far, but there is so much more to experience. The wetlands are home to Lapwing, Curlew and other waders, alongside ducks such as Shoveler and Gadwall. Marsh Harriers patrol the skies and Roe Deer flit from woodlands into open fields and back again. And if you’re a livestock enthusiast, you won’t want to miss the Belted Galloways.

In fact, there’s so much going on you may even want to make a holiday out of your visit.

To learn more about Mersehead and plan your trip, head over to our website. And make sure to keep up to date with the reserve by following their blog and Facebook page.

Natterjack Toad image credited to Andy Hay.