Mersehead Recent Sightings 8th-14th June 2019

Sightings from our visitors this week include Whitethroat, Linnet, Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow. A Sparrow Hawk appeared right outside the visitor centre window, perched near the hanging feeders. Needless to say, all the usual House Sparrows and Gold Finches disappeared from sight. A Reed Bunting was also spotted perched on a fence post along Rainbow lane (the path running alongside the saltmarsh to the coast).

Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows can be seen perched on overhead wires along the trails and from the hides swooping low over the water to catch insects. These birds are arriving in the area from a long journey from sub-Saharan Africa where they spent the Winter. Numbers of these birds have seen declines all over the UK, especially in the South of England as the distribution of birds seem to be moving further north- this could be due to changes in temperature and humidity which lead to warmer, drier summers and therefore cause a shift in insect availability.

Our residential volunteers carried out a Bee walk this week. This consists of walking a set route each month and taking a note of the different Bee species along the walk. It was a warm sunny day, and so there were plenty of bees to try and identify. The most common bees to appear were the White-tailed bumblebee, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Red-tailed bumblebee and Tree Bumblebee. Others which appeared were the Garden bumblebee, Early bumblebee, Common Carder, and Communal Mining bee.

White-tailed bumblebee spotted along Rainbow lane. Photo Credit: C. Pollard

An exciting bit of news is our last Oystercatcher nest on the reserve has hatched its first chick. This chick will be well looked after by both parents and will receive plenty of earthworms to eat until it can take care of itself where it will eventually move on to eating mussels and cockles, utilising its long orange bill.

Oystercatcher chick. Photo credit: R. Flavelle

A Marsh Harrier has been spotted on several different occasions this week. These fantastic birds of prey can be recognised by their long tail and long flight with their wings held in a ‘V’ shape. Compared to other harriers, the Marsh Harrier is much larger and broader, and they also lack the white rump which other Harriers have. With around 400 breeding pairs across the UK, Marsh Harriers have a conservation status of Amber, the second most important category of concern. They are considered a schedule 1 species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning they are protected from persecution by special penalties.

The reserve is blooming with wild flowers appearing all over. A common species found is Birds-foot trefoil, which is a great source of nectar for bees and is an important food source for caterpillars. The name Birds-foot trefoil comes from the shape of the seed pods which resemble bird’s feet or claws. Another common name for this plant is ‘Eggs and Bacon’ which comes from the distinct colours of yellow flowers and red buds.

Birds-foot Trefoil in Mersehead reserves Butterfly Meadow. Photo Credit: C. Pollard

There are plenty of upcoming opportunities to get involved on the reserve including Summer Discovery Walks and a Beach Clean to keep our beach free of plastic.


Cheye Pollard

Residential Volunteer