RSPB Mersehead Blog 11th - 17th December 2021

On Monday, a flock of 18 very fluffy Twite were seen in the hedgerow running down to the Bruaich Hide. A similar bird to the Linnet, Twite can be distinguished by a slightly longer tail and a yellow bill in autumn and winter. A Todd’s/ Lesser Canada Goose was also seen on the weekend hiding amongst a flock of Barnacle Geese. 

Fluffy Twite. Photo credit: Luke Jones

Some amazing Starling murmurations have been seen over the reedbeds from the Media Hide this week. Between 3-4pm is the best time for a chance to see thousands of starlings flying into the reserve in smaller flocks and forming a large murmuration over the wetlands, before rapidly descending into the reedbed to roost for the night.  

Starling murmuration from the Meida Hide. Photo credit: Amy Blachford

On Tuesday we held our last volunteer work party of the year, working on our polytunnel and on clearing overgrown gorse along the entrance road. Throughout the year, our volunteers have worked a grand total of 1,400 hours completing numerous tasks such as litter picks, vegetation management, non-native invasive species control, manning the visitor centre etc. A massive thanks to our volunteers for all the hard work they have done this year!  

Highlights from Thursday’s WeBS survey at Kirkconnel Merse were 549 Wigeon, 480 Lapwing and 377 Redshank. One Goldeneye was also seen during the survey. Goldeneye are diving ducks, and rather surprisingly nest in holes in trees or in special tree nest boxes. In the UK they only nest in northern Scotland, where nest boxes make up for the lack of sufficient numbers of large trees with suitable sized and shaped holes. 

Goldeneye ducks. Photo credit: Ben Hall (

The last Mersehead WeBS survey of the year was conducted on Friday, with a beautiful sunrise over the Lake District giving a great start to the day. A mixed roost of 1,100 Dunlin and 350 Knot were seen at the high tide roost, with 120 Cormorants seen further out on a large sand bank. Why not give a go at identifying the different waders in the image below? A grand total of 669 Teal and 440 Lapwing were also seen across the wetlands. During the survey, a mother Otter and her cub were seen from the Meida Hide, playing in the pool in front of the hide. A small flock of Bullfinch were also seen in the hedgerows. 

Morning view over the Lake District. Photo credit: Luke Jones. 

Mixed roost of Dunlin, Knot, Sanderling, Grey Plover and Curlew. Photo credit: Luke Jones.

The team at Mersehead wishes you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Luke Jones, Trainee Warden. 


Reserve announcements 

Please note that Mersehead nature reserve is prone to flooding during periods of high rainfall and/or strong winds and tidal surges. To avoid disappointment at these times, please contact the reserve in advance of your visit by email in the first instance at or check the RSPB Dumfries and Galloway Facebook Page for daily updates. 

Avian Flu 

Positive cases have been confirmed in dead birds at Mersehead nature reserve. Biosecurity measures are in place on the reserve along with signage with further information for visitors to try to help prevent further spread of the disease. Although the risk of contracting the disease from a wild bird is very low, we recommend that people do not handle sick or dead wild birds, remain vigilant, and report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), gulls or birds of prey to the UK government Defra helpline (03459 33 44 77). 

Covid advice 

Please follow our advice on Covid restrictions and updates on our website: 

Festive opening times: 

From 23 December - 4 January the visitor centre (including toilets) will be closed at this reserve. The carpark, hides and trails will remain open with the exception of the dates below.   

  • Christmas Day: Visitor centre, car park, hides and toilet closed 
  • 26 December: Visitor centre, car park, hides and toilet closed 
  • New Years Day: Visitor centre, car park, hides and toilet closed 
  • 2 January: Visitor centre, car park, hides and toilet closed