RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 15th – 21st February 2020

A wet and windy week with several yellow warnings for wind and rain as storm after storm batters the UK. In the brief spells of calm sunny weather, we have seen Lapwing warming up their vocal cords with short bursts of display flight. Winter flocks begin to break up in February with birds returning to their breeding grounds. Keep a lookout for the male lapwings spectacular songflight over the coming weeks as he wobbles, zigzags, rolls and dives whilst calling to advertise his presence to rival males and potential mates.

Lapwing. Photo credit: Louise Greenhorn (rspb-images.com)

On the wet, milder nights this week we have noticed a high volume of traffic on the road, Common Frogs returning to their ancestral breeding pools. Travelling as far as 5km from their breeding sites in late summer, the return journey often involves tricky and dangerous terrain for these amphibians to negotiate such as dense scrub, long grass and roads. Common Frog generally emerge from hibernation first, very closely followed by the Common Toad. The Natterjack Toad is last to emerge, as this toad waits for temperatures to warm up a bit first, requiring a constant night air temperature of at least 7oC. Final touches to the Natterjack habitat have been finished this week with the completion of strimming the long grass adjacent to the main ditch. Boards have been placed back in the sluice and the water is rising, overflowing from the ditch and creating the shallow water these toads require for breeding with the favoured short grass for hunting prey.

Common Frog. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The last of the invasive non-native Japanese Rose has been removed from the Bruiach hide footpath this week. This invasive species from south-east Asia quickly spreads, outcompeting native flora. The removal of this species has created gaps between the Hawthorn and Blackthorn opening the views into the wet grassland beyond. This summer, we will be creating pools for breeding waders in this area. There is just one week left to complete management work on hedgerows as from the 1st March, you are unable to cut hedges or trim trees as nesting birds are protected under section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. The blustery conditions with gusts of up to 50mph over the last few weeks has not prevented songbirds warming up for the approaching breeding species.

Blackbird nest. Photo credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

The winter thrushes Redwing and Fieldfare have been spotted, soon to depart on migration back to their northern breeding sites in Scandinavian, Russia and Iceland. Kestrel is a daily sighting around the Visitor Centre and saltmarsh. This small bird of prey is a master of stationary flight, hover-hunting extensively looking for voles and other small mammals. Over the next couple of weeks, the parking bay at the woodland will be temporarily closed as we compete the upgrade of the Meida Hide footpath.

Kestrel. Photo credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

Following a year of extreme weather and growing concern about climate change, #ShowTheLove this year is focusing on the actions and contributions of individuals in the fight against climate change. The February Mersehead beach clean really highlighted the growing problem of single-use plastic bottles. Once washed onto the shore, they blow in the wind becoming trapped in the marram grass and buried in the dunes. The bottles in the photograph were only discovered through the crunch of plastic underfoot. Completely buried, one by one, we dug them out of an area no bigger than 1m2. Show the love today by making your pledge for nature.

Single-use plastic bottles. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Do you enjoy informing people about what's going on? Could you run a guided walk or activity or give a warming reception to visitors? Here at RSPB Mersehead, we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help improve and develop the visitor experience on the reserve. But we cannot do it without YOUR help. If interested in volunteering your time, please get in touch – mersehead@rspb.org.uk

Rowena Flavelle, Warden

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