At Mersehead, we have two staff cottages with both the Warden and Assistant Warden living on the reserve. We are going to try and keep you updated on the wonderful wildlife we see at Mersehead during our daily walks.

Mersehead Moments

Inspired by the RSPB Breakfast Birdwatch, I headed out to the Sulwath Garden on Saturday morning armed with a notepad, pen, binoculars and a plastic bag (the benches were a little wet).  Whilst I accept that there aren’t many gardens where you will have Barnacle Geese and displaying Lapwing just over the fence, there is still plenty of wildlife that could be found or encouraged in any garden.  My initial idea had been to try and record all the bird species appearing during the hour from 8-9am, but I soon felt overwhelmed given the size of the garden.  I decided instead to just position myself at one bench and concentrate on what I could see in front of me.  This proved to be a really relaxing, enjoyable and insightful exercise.  I was able to just sit and appreciate a few of the birds that were going about their daily business in the vicinity of a large Sycamore, with collecting materials for nest building appearing to be the main task for the day.  A Dunnock was removing moss from a log, and some nearby reed grass swayed under the weight of two tree sparrows, who were plucking at the feathery plumes.

Sycamore.  Photo credit: P. Radford

Male Tree Sparrow. Photo credit: P. Radford

The most exciting discovery was a pair of Chaffinch, who were building a well concealed nest in the ivy covering the trunk of the sycamore tree.  In fact, the female appeared to be the busiest, making frequent trips to and from the nest site with moss, grass and feathers.  The brightly coloured male appeared to be guarding the territory from nearby branches, and searching the ground for spiders, and other small invertebrates.  Chaffinches usually lay 3-4 eggs between late April and June, with the female being the sole incubator for the 11-14 days until the eggs hatch. 

Female Chaffinch returning to nest in ivy. Photo credit: P. Radford

The other most frequent visitors to the tree were a group of noisy Goldfinch and a single, hyperactive Goldcrest – Britain and Ireland’s smallest bird.  If you hold eight paperclips in your hand, this is roughly a same weight (4.5g) as this fantastic little bird.  They make their nest at the end of the branches of coniferous trees and can lay up to 11 eggs!

Goldcrest. Photo credit: John Bridges (

After such an uplifting experience, I will definitely be taking more time to just sit and watch.  I hope that you are also making new discoveries in place you may have known for years, but never had time to fully appreciate.

Male House Sparrow. Photo credit: D. Jackson

Paul Radford, Assistant Warden