Mersehead Recent Sightings 28th September – 4th October 2019

The barnies are back! (photo credit: RSPB Scotland)

It’s been a wet week at the reserve, with the access road being badly flooded for much of the week. An increasing problem faced is that we must close when the access road floods. But that said, winds from the north have assisted our winter visitors from the Arctic. Barnacle Geese numbers continue to rise on the Solway, with 8394 counted on Wednesday in fields at Mersehead and West Preston. These have been joined by many wigeons, teals and some pintails along with mallards and shoveler ducks. 1540 pink-footed geese were also recorded feeding in stubbles. It is well worth visiting the Meida Hide, where many of these can be seen on the freshwater wetland but also look to the fields east of the woodland walk (far side of the trees), where both geese and ducks feed in stubbles and grass.

Badger foraging signs along farm road  (photo credit: RSPB Scotland)

Badgers have been particularly active along the farm road, probably due to other areas being too wet. Earthworms, one of their main staples, will be closer to the soil surface and as such can be easy pickings at present. The road between our visitor centre and farm shows clear signs of where these ‘diggers’ have been foraging. Did you know, the name badger originates from the French word for the digger - le bêcheur?  Ancestors built this road on one of the sand banks which run through this reserve, understanding that it would be less prone to flooding. So, it looks as though the badgers also have a nose for knowing the best places to avoid the wet! Being mostly nocturnal, we often miss badgers at their antics but you can get the chance to see this on one of our badger watches, below.

Flooded path to Meida Hide (photo credit: RSPB Scotland)

Water levels are extremely high on our wetland and this is hindering a late cut of rushes in front of the Bruaich Hide. It is hoped that this can be completed soon, to allow enhanced views of water birds in our shallow pools. Please be aware that paths leading down to both hides are currently flooded with water (up to 6 inches/15cm at deepest), so if visiting the reserve, please make sure you bring your wellies.

Sunflowers in paddock (photo credit: RSPB Scotland)

Despite all the rain, the sun is shining! That is, our paddock planted with wild bird cover earlier in the year has some somewhat belated blooming. After a dry early summer and sudden rains in August we didn’t expect sunflowers to do well this year, but they have now bloomed. These are a bit stunted but should hopefully come to seed later and provide some food for finches, like goldfinches and linnets. In the meantime, late pollinating insects may benefit from any nectar production.

Marsh harrier feeding on its kill (photo credit: RSPB Scotland)

Fording down to the hides is worth it. For a few weeks now, a young marsh harrier has been spotted hunting over the wetlands and is still active here. Meanwhile, the coastal walk remains relatively dry underfoot and the eclectic mix of finches, buntings and sparrows continue to feed at our visitor centre, with great views of tree sparrows and yellowhammers. And all this bird activity has come to the attention of a male sparrowhawk, seen several times as it has attempted to catch birds at the feeders and table. In the last week, a great spotted woodpecker was seen on the woodland trail down to Meida Hide. Long-tailed tits and a goldcrest were also spotted there. These dainty wee birds will be busy flitting around in haste for small insects and spiders or seeds. It never ceases to amaze me how these tiny birds brave our cold, damp winters while larger songbirds up sticks and leave for warmer climes.

As we get into October and with the return of winter migrants, there will be a range of events for you to get involved in this autumn. Our Autumn Discovery Walks take place every other Thursday, starting at 11am from the visitor centre. The popular Badger Banquet evenings are back, with badger watches taking place on 16, 19 and 23 October from 7pm. This year, we’ll also be running Sunset on the Solway events, providing the opportunity to see starlings in murmuration or geese as they fly in to roost. Booking is required for all these events, as spaces are limited. For more details, either visit us on Facebook or go onto our website at As mentioned last week, the next Beach Clean will be on Sunday 13 October when we will be heading round to the mouth of the Southwick Water.

Last but not least, we are looking for help in running our events and meeting people in the visitor centre. The team are kept busy with organising and planning these as well as looking after the reserve and would appreciate if any readers could give a little time to support these activities. Please contact us, if interested in giving some of your time as a volunteer?

Thank you and we look forward to meeting you soon, on the reserve.

Calum Murray, Assistant Warden