Mersehead Recent Sightings 18th - 24th May 2019

This week has seen the start of many babies emerging on Mersehead. Lapwing chicks are off to a strong start as egg predation has been relatively low. There have been around 23 chicks counted inside our anti-predator fence (built to keep ground predators such as badgers and foxes away from ground nests) and more elsewhere over the reserve. A Leveret (baby Hare) was flushed from the vegetation alongside the path to Bruaich hide. Also, a Roe Deer Fawn was spotted down near the sand dunes. As for Natterjack Toads, due to the recent dry conditions, some pools have unfortunately dried out but there are fully submerged spawn string which are developing into tadpoles. Natterjack toad breeding season can extend into late summer, and so the combination of wet conditions followed by a warm night should see more Natterjack toad activity.


Lapwing chick on Mersehead main track. Photo Credit: E.Neilson

Lapwing chick. Photo Credit: C. Pollard

This week we have spent a lot of time at RSPB Kirkconnell Merse. Primarily to repair the fencing which stops grazing cattle from escaping through the muddy gullies. Having cattle grazing on the land allows us to manage the vast amount of vegetation across the site to be at a desired height for breeding waders and wildfowl. We also carried out our second survey on breeding waders and wildfowl at Kirkconnell merse. From this, Curlew, Mallard, Shelduck, Redshank, and Oystercatcher were all recorded. We also happened across an Oystercatcher nest.

Oystercatcher nest spotted at Kirkconnell Merse. Photo Credit: R. Flavelle

During our survey at Kirkconnell, there was a variety of other different species spotted. A Cuckoo could be heard calling in the early morning.  A Peregrine was seen flying over and a pair of Goosander. Cormorant and Little egret were both spotted. The little Egret is a small white heron with white plumes on their crest, chest and back, and contrasting black bill and legs with yellow feet.

Upon arrival to Kirkconnell at 5.30am, a layer of mist covered the site. Photo Credit: C. Pollard

Across Mersehead, we have been working to tackle the spreading of Japanese rose along the path to the Bruaich hide. Japanese rose is an invasive non-native species to Scotland as it suckers easily and forms dense thickets which outcompete native species along hedgerows. The removal of this species means we are encouraging the growth of native species, such as Hawthorn. Along the path to the Bruaich hide, the vegetation will look rather haphazard and patchy- this is our intention as we are creating microenvironments for the benefit of insect species.

Strimming in patches removes Japanese rose whilst keeping long vegetation, giving a home to insects. Photo Credit: C. Pollard

Over the weekend, a Grey Scalloped Bar moth appeared our wardens garden moth trap.  This moth is very rare to the area with the last recorded in Kirkcudbrightshire in 1988. Overall for Dumfries and Galloway, the last record was in 2003. It was a surprise to see the species at Mersehead as they tend to appear in areas of heathland, moorland, raised mosses and bogs.

Figure 2 Grey scalloped bar moth. Photo Credit: R. Flavelle

Our visitors reported back to us sightings of Dunlin, White Wagtail, and Wheatear all from Bruaich hide. Sighting from across the rest of the reserve include Ringed Plover, Swallow, Stonechat, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Sand Martin, Oystercatcher and Tree Sparrow.


We have several events and activities to get involved with at Mersehead reserve, 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!

Cheye Pollard

Residential volunteer