RSPB Mersehead Blog 1st – 7th January 2022
The end of 2021 saw a respectable 136 species on the Mersehead year list. The long-awaited final species was a Brambling, finally spotted in the Hawthorn bushes opposite the cottages. These vibrant finches head to the UK in the winter, escaping the Scandinavian ice and snow.
Brambling. Photo credit: G.Chambers
The constant background soundtrack to the work this week has been the evocative call of Pink-footed Geese. Arriving from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland in September they gradually move further south to areas such as Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. The geese flying over the reserve this week are now on their northward migration back to Iceland. In 2020, through their extensive Goose and Swan Monitoring Program, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust estimated the current UK wintering population of pink-footed geese to be 485,500.
Pinkfeet. Photo credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Temperatures at Mersehead dropped to a low of -4oC this week covering the wetland habitats in a layer of ice, we even had a flurry of snow! A total of seven wildfowl species have been spotted this week snoozing and diving in the limited open water; Shoveler, Pintail, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Tufted Duck. Little Grebe was present, and a Water Rail has been heard squealing from the depths of the reedbed. Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Redshank have all been busily probing the mud for invertebrates.
Photo credit: Dave Jackson
Bullfinch has been spotted on the walk to Meida Hide. Keep a look-out for Nuthatch and Treecreeper as you wander under the winter canopy. A large roost of Starlings are still spending the night in the reedbed with an impressive exit early morning. Usually heard before seen, the sky is suddenly filled with tens of thousands of birds heading off for a day of foraging.
Signs of spring are starting to appear with the foliage of Lesser Celandine, Pink Purslane and Wood Sorrel appearing in the woodland and beneath the hedgerows. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming over the Christmas holidays, advertising its availability as a mate. They will excavate a nesting hole in tree trucks or large branches favouring dead wood or a soft wood. Love is starting to bloom out on the wetlands as Teal have started forming pair bonds with the males flicking heads and tails to impress.
Planning your 2022 holidays? Discover the breath-taking scenery, wildlife, cultural and history of Dumfries & Galloway whilst staying in one of the Mersehead cosy semi-detached holiday cottages located in the heart of reserve. Enjoy a 10% discount on any remaining weeks throughout January and February at BARNACLE and SHELDUCK.
We will shortly be advertising for a Residential Volunteer to join the reserve team as a Trainee Warden. With free accommodation provided on the reserve, the work is very varied and will allow you to gain a wealth of experience for pursuing a career in nature conservation. Keep a look out on the blog and our Facebook page for this opportunity to join the Mersehead team.
Rowena Flavelle, Warden
Positive cases have been confirmed in dead birds at Mersehead nature reserve. Biosecurity measures are in place on the reserve along with signage with further information for visitors to try to help prevent further spread of the disease. Although the risk of contracting the disease from a wild bird is very low, we recommend that people do not handle sick or dead wild birds, remain vigilant, and report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), gulls or birds of prey to the UK government Defra helpline (03459 33 44 77).
Please follow our advice on Covid restrictions and updates on our website: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/stories/coronavirus/reserve-reboot/
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