RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 3rd - 9th November 2018

It‘s been a very wet week here at Mersehead… but the ducks, geese and waders have been loving it!

On Monday we had our 5th Wetland Bird Survey of the season with great numbers of ducks feeding in front of the hides, and in the flooded field just past the woodland trail. 479 teal were counted, as well as 541 pintail, 400 of which flew in just as we were finishing the survey from Bruaich hide. This is our peak pintail count since we recorded 741 individuals in December 2013. Another fantastic sight during our survey from Bruaich was assisting to the gracious splashdown of 13 whooper swans. Other bird recorded during the Wetland Bird Survey included 5617 Barnacle geese (with the leucistic barnie in amongst them), 810 Dunlin, 531 lapwing, 155 oystercatcher, 121 golden plover, 104 wigeon, 62 mallard, 55 curlew, 44 ringed plover, 26 shoveler, 11 snipe, 3 tufted duck, 2 shelduck and 2 little grebe.

Pintail, photo credit: Ben Hall

An interesting particularity observed during this week’s WEBs is how busy “compartment 12” is at the moment. On top of the 3130 barnies counted in this field alone, wigeons, teals, pintails and lapwings were also dotted around. This is very encouraging as we manage compartment 12 for barnacle geese. It was reseeded and then grazed over the summer to accommodate barnies this winter.  
You can come have a look for yourself and see hundreds or even thousands of barnies if you are lucky. This field is right at the end of the long straight track before you turn left to visit Meida hide, or turn right to reach the beach via the woodland path. Be careful as you approach the gate, although barnies have gotten used to human contact after having spent a couple of months along the Solway, they can still be easily frightened!

Barnacle geese, photo credit: Jenny Tweedie

Few bird watchers and visitors were brave enough to face the adverse weather conditions this week, but those who muster the courage and managed to make it past the flooded road were in for a treat! Wheatears were reported again along the beach, a kingfisher and a goldeneye duck were spotted from Bruaich, a bullfinch was seen just outside the Sulwath centre, a bramblings made multiple appearances on the table feeder outside the visitor centre Last but not least, a “ringtail” hen harrier was observed over at West Preston and from Bruaich hide. Ringtail refers to the female’s white rump and long barred tail contrasting with it’s brown body.

Ringtail hen harrier, photo credit: Mark Thomas (

Finally, visitors on Tuesday might have been surprised to come across a crowd of volunteers frantically taking down part of the hedge along the path to Bruaich hide. We have started cutting back “Japanese rose”, which is an Eastern Asia invasive species that out-compete native species, leading to biodiversity loss.

That’s it for this week, it was a wet one but we are looking forward to the weekend and next week as the weather forecast looks very promising. It should be a great time to come and visit our reserve!

Mathieu Burtschell- Trainee Warden.