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

  1. Carrion Crow
  2. Yellowhammer
  3. Dunnock
  4. Blue Tit
  5. Coal Tit
  6. Barnacle Goose
  7. Tree Sparrow
  8. Robin
  9. Rook
  10. Chaffinch
  11. Greenfinch
  12. House Sparrow
  13. Blackbird
  14. Kestrel
  15. Starling
  16. Wood Pigeon
  17. Feral Pigeon
  18. Little Egret
  19. Mute Swan
  20. Wren
  21. Jackdaw
  22. Grey Heron
  23. Lapwing
  24. Shoveler
  25. Pintail
  26. Mallard
  27. Wigeon
  28. Teal
  29. Gadwall
  30. Curlew
  31. Mistle Thrush
  32. Goldfinch
  33. Song Thrush
  34. Great Tit
  35. Pheasant
  36. Nuthatch
  37. Treecreeper
  38. Little Grebe
  39. Tufted Duck
  40. Buzzard
  41. Shelduck
  42. Great Black-backed Gull
  43. Redshank
  44. Snipe
  45. Meadow Pipit
  46. Reed Bunting
  47. Skylark
  48. Merlin
  49. Jack Snipe
  50. Peregrine
  51. Stonechat
  52. Ringed Plover
  53. Dunlin
  54. Grey Plover
  55. Sanderling
  56. Knot
  57. Black Headed Gull
  58. Herring Gull
  59. Oystercatcher
  60. Linnet
  61. Pink-footed Goose
  62. Common Gull
  63. Cormorant
  64. Common Scoter
  65. Red Kite
  66. Red-throated Diver
  67. Golden Plover
  68. Water Rail
  69. Hen Harrier
  70. Goldcrest
  71. Greenshank
  72. Magpie
  73. Raven
  74. Sparrowhawk
  75. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  76. Woodcock
  77. Tawny Owl
  78. Fieldfare
  79. Barn Owl
  80. Red-breasted Merganser
  81. Bullfinch
  82. Crossbill
  83. Redwing
  84. Canada Goose
  85. Scaup
  86. Twite
  87. Greylag Goose
  88. Stock Dove
  89. Goosander
  90. Pied Wagtail
  91. Long-tailed tit
  92. Jay
  93. Whooper swan
  94. Kingfisher
  95. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  96. Rock Pipit
  97. Lesser Redpoll
  98. Moorhen
  99. Grey Wagtail
  100. Bar-tailed Godwit
  101. Great Northern Diver
  102. Chiffchaff
  103. Goshawk
  104. Collared Dove
  105. Black-tailed Godwit
  106. Wheatear
  107. Blackcap
  108. Common Sandpiper
  109. Sand Martin
  110. Swallow
  111. Little Ringed Plover
  112. Willow Warbler
  113. Grasshopper Warbler
  114. Sedge Warbler
  115. Whimbrel
  116. Cuckoo
  117. Green Sandpiper
  118. Siskin
  119. Common Whitethroat
  120. House Martin
  121. Hooded Crow
  122. Reed Warbler
  123. Spotted Flycatcher
  124. Swift
  125. Quail
  126. Short-eared Owl
  127. Whinchat
  128. Osprey
  129. Gannet
  130. Willow Tit
  131. Tree Pipit
  132. Lesser Whitethroat
  133. Marsh Harrier
  134. Pale-bellied Brent Goose
  135. Turnstone
  136. Brambling

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 (

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; ShovelerPintailMallardWigeonTealGadwall and Tufted DuckLittle Grebe was present, and a Water Rail has been heard squealing from the depths of the reedbed. CurlewLapwingOystercatcher 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 CelandinePink 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

Avian Flu 

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). 

Covid advice 

Please follow our advice on Covid restrictions and updates on our website: