Mersehead Recent Sightings 1st – 7th June 2019

With the recent bouts of heavy rain over the last week or so the Natterjack pools have started to fill up again.  Natterjack Toad have an extended breeding season precisely for this reason; if the shallow breeding pools dry out early in the spring due to a lack of rain (as happened to some on the reserve this year), they are able to take advantage of the freshly filled pools and lay spawn.  Prior to this they would have been laying dormant, hiding from the hot, dry weather. On our first survey since the pools filled again, we found 12 new spawn strings!  Over the next few weeks we’ll hopefully find more strings and see lots of tadpoles that eventually make it to toadlets.

Around the reserve this week, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of fledgling birds. Goldfinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow are now all busy feeding young out of the nest, and young thrushes can be seen feeding in the verges along the main track. Other highlights include a Whimbrel on the wetlands on the 3rd, a single Swift that did a brief tour of the reserve on the 5th and two Marsh Harrier over the wetland on the 6th.

Juvenile House Sparrow. Photo credit: Ray Kennedy

Continuing on theme of new life, staff came across two Roe Deer Fawn during an early morning bird survey this week. Females give birth in May or June and despite being able to walk after just a few hours, the fawns will spend the first week of their lives hiding in long vegetation until they are strong enough to follow their mother around. We also have a new resident in the donations box in the car park; a Wood Mouse. One of Britain’s most common rodents, they can have up to 6 litters a year of 4 to 8 young. She was found sheltering at the back of the box suckling at least four reasonably large young. Don’t worry though, they are safely tucked away, well out of harms way.

Roe Deer fawn. Photo credit: L.Blakely.

Wood Mouse with babies. Photo credit: L. Blakely.

On the insect front, there was a successful catch in the reserve moth trap this week with highlights including Small Elephant Hawkmoth, Elephant Hawkmoth, Gold Spot and Four-dotted Footman. There are lots of caterpillars around too, and amongst the most common and conspicuous ones are those of the Drinker Moth. On the weekly butterfly transect, despite the lower than normal numbers due to the bouts of rain, the highlight was three Small Copper, arguably one the finest of British butterflies with their dazzling copper forewings.

Gold Spot moth. Photo credit: L.Blakely.

Drinker moth caterpillar. Photo Credit: L.Blakely.

There was bad news for a nest of Red-tailed Bumblebee which was found by the resident Badgers last night, and promptly dug-up. Red-tailed Bumblebees are underground nesters in colonies up to 300 strong; badgers are able to sniff out these colonies and then dig them up to get at the grubs and larvae within.

Red-tailed Bumblebees trying to make emergency repairs.  Photo credit: L.Blakely

Lana Blakely, Assistant Warden