The Mersehead Warden lives on the reserve and is going to try and keep you updated on the wonderful wildlife they see at Mersehead at this challenging time during their daily walk and whilst completing essential work on the reserve in line with government guidance.

RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 25th April – 1st May 2020

The Barnacle geese were very restless on Sunday, with large numbers jumping into the air, swirling around and calling chaotically. On Monday, I saw a small skein fly over and by Tuesday all was quiet. Our barnacle geese have left us and have started north on their 2,000-mile migration back to their breeding grounds. The entire World population of Svalbard barnacle geese winter on the Solway Estuary and will now be gathering on the Rockcliffe marshes near Gretna Green before flying across the North Sea and working their way up the Norwegian coast.

Barnacle geese. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

In preparation for their return in September, the winter stubble is being put back to grass to ensure there is enough nutrient-rich food available on the reserve for the geese. It was a great surprise to see a Hooded crow foraging in the freshly turned over soil for insects. Hooded crow is a scarce visitor to D&G with careful identification required to determine whether the bird is a hybrid or not.

Hooded crow. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

A second surprise was the arrival of 3 Red Kite. It is not uncommon to see a lone red kite soaring over the reserve as their range has gradually spread from the reintroduction area around Loch Ken. I have never however, seen 3 so close together over Mersehead before. At one point, I also counted 39 Lesser Black-backed gulls rummaging around in the soil too.

Red Kite. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Lesser Black-backed gull. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Mersehead is a great location to watch Brown Hares. Throughout March and April, hares can often be seen leaping about, wildly chasing each other and boxing. Boxing behaviour is usually a female warning off unwanted male attention opposed to two fighting males. The photographs below were taken by Mersehead Volunteer Dave Jackson last year. I was delighted to see some hares tearing around chasing one another this week. At one point, an individual reared up onto its back legs but unfortunately, I did not get to witness any boxing!

Brown Hares. Photo credit: Dave Jackson

The Barn Owl has been spotted hunting during the day over the saltmarsh which may suggest there is a breeding pair and the male is beginning to bring prey to the female. Barn Owl have bred on the reserve each spring over the last few years. The first Cuckoo of the year has been heard calling from the back of the wetlands and a female Marsh Harrier has been hunting over the reedbed.

Every week I take part in the Garden Moth Scheme and this week I was lucky enough to record a female Emperor Moth. This magnificent moth is one of the UK’s larger moths with a wingspan of up to 80mm. The bold patterning is surely enough to deter even the bravest of predators! A new species for the year was a Shoulder Stripe, described in the book as being unmistakable this moth is on the wing throughout March to May.

Emperor Moth. Photo Credit: R.Flavelle

Shoulder Stripe. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

BREAKING NEWS! Since I wrote the above, the first 3 Lapwing chicks have been sighted!

Lapwing Chicks. Photo credit: P. Radford

I am extremely lucky to live at Mersehead and to still be able to walk across the reserve and complete essential work in line with government guidance.

We look forward to welcoming visitors back to Mersehead again once restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, stay safe and I hope you enjoy the weekly Mersehead updates.

Rowena Flavelle, Warden

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