RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 30th March – 5th April 2019

The Lapwing has a spectacular display flight where the male rolls, dives and somersaults through the air whilst calling to attract a potential mate and alert rival males to his presence. The lapwings at Mersehead have been displaying and setting up territories for a few weeks now and this week we have found the first nests! Each nest contains four light mottled eggs and is usually situated in short vegetation where the adult bird has a good view and can spot approaching predators. The parents engage in active defence of their eggs by either flying at a potential predator or by enacting a distraction display in an attempt to lead the predator away from the nest’s location.

Lapwing. Photo by Ian Francis

In the woodland spring flowers abound. The tiny Moschatel, also known by the name ‘town-hall clock’ which refers to the neat arrangement of five yellowish-green flowers which all sit together at the top of the stem with four flowers facing outwards and one upwards, is growing along the edge of the footpath. The first Pink Purslane flowers are appearing. As the name would suggest these flowers are usually pink however at Mersehead we have the slightly more unusual variety which has white flowers with delicate pink lines across the petals and pink-lilac anthers. Wood Sorrel leaves form an emerald carpet with the first buds starting to appear. Out in the wetlands, the first Marsh Marigolds are in flower adding a splash of bright yellow to the banks. A paler shade of yellow Primrose can be seen peeking out from the banks too.

 Moscahatel. Photo by R.Flavelle

The spring field work has begun this week with 33 acres ploughed. We use a spring oat crop to break up the 5-year grass rotations for the Barnacle Geese. Once harvested, the stubble is left for the winter providing a vital food source for seed eating farmland birds such as yellowhammer, tree sparrow and linnet. In modern crop rotations the land is often cultivated immediately after harvest for winter crops making overwinter stubbles a rapidly declining agricultural habitat which has been directly linked to the decrease in farmland bird numbers. Invertebrates are brought to the surface as the soil turns over attracting a variety of corvids such as Jackdaw and Rook. The most numerous gull species present was Lesser Black-backed Gull with as many as 15 following the plough. Pied Wagtail joined in the feast with 7 hopping along the furrows.

 Ploughing for the Spring Oats. Photo by R.Flavelle

Another returning spring migrant has been spotted over the reserve this week in the form of House Martin. Wheatear has continued to be seen along the beach and the warm weekend saw a Red Admiral fluttering by the Visitor Centre. With overnight temperatures then dropping to 1oC there has been no further developments with the Natterjack toads and we are still waiting for the bulk of the population to emerge from hibernation. The 41 Whooper Swans reported last week remained at Mersehead over the weekend while a Merlin was reported from Bruiach Hide. Merlin can be seen along the Solway coast during the winter months but will leave to breed in the uplands.

 Red Admiral. Photo by Andy Hay

Spend the Easter holidays ducking and diving, attend a badger feast or make a mud pie! Check out the Mersehead Events page for all the details of our Easter events.


Rowena Flavelle - Warden