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 30th May – 5th June 2020

After entering a semi-dormant state during all the dry weather, the Natterjack toads briefly woke up a couple of weeks ago when we reported that 6 new spawn strings had been found. Although 6 sounds like a tiny number, each spawn string can contain as many as 2000 eggs which have quickly developed into tadpoles.

Natterjack Tadpoles. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

As the Natterjack toads spawned in one of the shallow ditches we are confident that this waterbody will not dry out. The ditch has been profiled to create a gradually sloping edge providing the warm shallow water this amphibian thrives in. A few of the tadpoles have developed one leg and at this stage they start to show the distinctive yellow dorsal stripe with a green sheen to the skin. In comparison, the Common toad remains quite dark as the legs develop.

Natterjack tadpole. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Common toad tadpole. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

With temperatures cooling down the moth trap was considerably emptier this morning with only 16 moths from 9 species. However, over the weekend there were some exciting ones. Obscure Wainscot became the 12th record for D&G. Only found locally in Kirkcudbrightshire, there is one other record for Scotland in East Lothian.

Obscure Wainscot. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The Lunar Thorn is named after the moon-shaped white mark on the wings but more distinctive is the single deep scallop on the hindwing. Locally distributed over much of Britain, it flies throughout May and June. Although preferring a habitat of mature oak woodland, a Marbled Brown also made an appearance.

Lunar Thorn. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Marbled Brown. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Whilst out on the dune grassland checking cattle troughs, I happened to look up and spotted a pair of Peregrine Falcon dive-bombing a Common Buzzard which had strayed into their territory. With dive speeds of up to 180mph, the peregrine is one of the fastest animals on the planet. The buzzard was able to defend itself through mid-air maneuvers, twisting and turning out of the way just in time.  

Peregrine. Photo credit: G.Chambers

House Martins have returned to the office where they have been repairing nests under the eaves. The nest is made of pellets of mud mixed with grass, lined with feathers and vegetable fibre. A new nest is completed in one to two weeks, while repairs to an existing one normally only takes a few days. House martins traditionally built their mud nests on cliff faces. By the 19th century they started making use of buildings, allowing them to expand their range.

Gathering mud. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Finishing touches. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

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.

Although some lockdown measures have been eased, Scottish Government guidance remains that you should stay local. Our reserve facilities will remain closed and we are continuing to ask you not to visit Mersehead whilst we prepare for a gradual re-opening of the reserve. We will only do so when we have everything in place to keep our employees, volunteers and you – our fantastic members and supporters – safe.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon, in the meantime, stay safe and I hope you enjoy the weekly Mersehead updates.

Rowena Flavelle, Warden