Mersehead Recent Sightings 4th – 10th May 2019

It has been a cold week with night-time temperatures dipping to 1oC making it a slow Natterjack Toad season. Natterjack toads require a constant night-time temperature of a least 9oC to spawn. So far this spring we have found 32 spawn strings. The spawn development has been slow as the water temperature has been cold which can make the spawn vulnerable to developing cotton mould. Natterjack Toads have an extended breeding season which can run from late March into July which allows them to take advantage of the weather. With temperatures set to rise next week we expect to see a sudden increase in Natterjack Toad activity.

Natterjack Toads spawning. Photo Credit: Roger Broad

This week we have focused on preparing our Wild Bird Cover plots by spreading horse manure over the areas to be ploughed. This organic fertiliser adds nutrients to the soil and helps improve plant growth. With the Barnacle Geese leaving the Solway to begin their 2,000-mile migration back to their breeding grounds in Svalbard, we have begun preparing for their return. A 13-acre field has been ploughed, soon to be cultivated and reseeded. The temporary grassland at Mersehead is reseeded on rotation every 5-years to ensure it remains nutrient rich and attractive to the Barnacle geese.

4-furrow reversible plough at work. Photo Credit: R.Flavelle

Always present but rarely seen, the Otter made an appearance at Meida Hide this week. The approach to the hide through the woodland is full of birdsong, with the distinctive song of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler leading the way. With a fluty overtone the Blackcap will announce his presence – scan the branches for a glimpse of this summer migrant. Surprisingly, a Willow Tit was heard singing which we assume is our lone male from the winter.

Otter. Photo Credit: Ben Andrews

The scratchy song of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler abound from almost every area of the reserve. A pair of Linnet perched on fenceposts beautifully showed the different shading of red between the male and female. A summer visitor to the Solway Estuary, Common Sandpiper has been seen for the first time this year. A flock of 9 Whimbrel have been feeding in the wetlands. In the UK, this species only breeds in north Scotland being a passage migrant to other areas in spring and autumn.

Common Sandpiper. Photo Credit: Andy Hay

With 25 Lapwing nests identified on the reserve so far, our earliest nests have started to hatch with 2 Lapwing Chicks spotted. The Hooded Crow reported from last week has been seen again and is considered by the Local Rarities Committee to be a pure Hooded Crow. Due to the regions geographical location there are probably very few pure Hooded Crows in the area with the majority likely to be hybrids. Whinchat has been reported to the Visitor Centre this week.

Lapwing & newly hatched chick. Photo Credit: Amy Millard

Back in March, a volunteer work party found an unusual moth sitting on a fencepost – a quick flick through the moth book identified it as a Grey Shoulder-knot. We have just received confirmation from the County Moth Recorder that this is the 3rd record for Scotland. Again, cold temperatures have affected the amount of moths on the wing with just 2 Hebrew Character recorded during the weekly Garden Moth Survey.

Grey Shoulder-knot. Photo Credit: L.Blakely

There are lots of events coming up with our last Natterjack Nights running this Sunday night. Join a Spring Discovery Walk for a leisurely tootle around the reserve or make a mud pie whilst defending a fortress at Pond & Play MAY-hem!


Rowena Flavelle – Mersehead Warden