R.S.P.B. Mersehead Blog  3rd - 10th June 2022

Well, what an amazing week again, I'm buzzing. Bees! I've never seen so many, and now that the Birdsfoot Trefoil, Red Clover and Yellow Rattle are all in bloom, our little buzzing friends are everywhere. Yellow rattle is really useful in a wildflower meadow because it is a hemi-parasite, taking nutrients away from grasses and stopping them thriving. Clover is a favourite with all kinds of invertebrates, a rich nectar source in the summer months.

Yellow Rattle Photo Credit : C.J.E.Farrell; Red Clover  Photo Credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com); Birdsfoot Trefoil    Photo Credit : Paul Turner (rspb-images.com)

After seeing all the huge queens earlier in the year, the tiny worker bees are a stark contrast. Bees of the Buff/White Tailed, Garden, Early, Red-Tailed and Common Carder bee species are all busy collecting nectar and delivering pollen. A perfect surprise down at the sand dunes was a Bilberry Bumble bee, my personal favourite with its range of coloured bands and huge red 'tail' stretching right up its body.

Flying from bees to moths, the warden, Rowena Flavelle's eagle eyes spotted a 6-Spot Burnet moth caterpillar amongst the ragged robin and birdsfoot trefoil. In the same patch was a  chrysalis from the same moth species, tightly attached to the upright stem of the ragged robin. There is a rare form of this species that has yellow spot, If you see one of these you're very lucky!

6 - Spot Burnet chrysalis Photo Credit C.J.E.Farrell; 6-Spot Burnet caterpillar Photo Credit C.J.E.Farrell; 6-Spot Burnet adult   Photo Credit Paul Radford

But what was your highlight of the week? I hear you cry. I'll tell you: searching for and counting (HA!) the gazillions (real number kids) of tadpoles in the Natterjack toad breeding pools. The whole thing's been a real worry. Will it rain? Is it too hot? Is it too cold? Is it too windy ? How deep's that pool now? Was that a carnivorous diving beetle I just saw eyeing up the tadpoles? So, seeing the numbers actually developing legs is fantastic. As they develop they get little white chins which are now becoming more and more obvious and some are now even developing their yellow dorsal stripe. Happy days! I think I'll just pop down to the pools to have a little check...

Little white-chinned Natterjack tadpole     Photo Credit : C.J.E.Farrell                                                    

And the lapwings are ticking along nicely, lots of them are well grown and starting to try their maiden flights. Whilst surveying for chicks in the main lapwing fields, I was able to get up close and personal with lots of the gorgeous little fluffballs! Their parents call and call to keep them in check but they will insist on wandering off! The older ones now are starting to develop their characteristic feather colours but some of the younger ones still like to nestle down in the grass, their fluffy chests still visible.

Where do you think you're going? Photo credit : C.J.E. Farrell; Growing chick Photo Credit : C.J.E.Farrell; Fledgling Photo Credit : C.J.E.Farrell

My volunteer experience took an unusual turn last weekend with an 'exciting' couple of hours in The Roost. A local feathered resident, not happy with a ......hectare nature reserve to fly around in, decided that it wanted a room of its own! The ensuing chaos was a challenge, particularly due to the 'changes' that were made to the room during its escapade. Needless to say, that particular crow is firmly off my Christmas card list. The perils of living on amidst flocks of swooping, skimming, swirling, diving birds....

Poster credit : Sam Boothman

Thursday saw a team of staff from various reserves meeting at the Wood of Cree in order to remove the invasive Skunk Cabbage from an area of the site. Having had previous experience of this activity, I was prepared both mentally and physically! Having tried to save some clothing from then murky, boggy depths last time, I had quickly realised that there was no escape and abandoned all hope, returning to Mersehead a muddy mess. Gavin Chambers, warden, took the prize for the longest root and he was rightly smug! The whole process is strangely satisfying when the whole plant comes out in its entirity, unfortunately ones efforts are often met with a little popping sound as the roots snap after a long contest!

The team removing skunk cabbage!!    Photo Credit : C.J.E.Farrell

The weekly moth trap survey was exciting again, with over 20 species being found this week. One of my favourites put in an appearance, the Map- winged Swift. It's so interesting to see all the species change month on month although if they stayed the same I'd have a better chance of identifying them! Even after more than 10 years of trapping I get confused each year as 'new' species appear, I just hope that one or two identification features stick each time! And the reedbed survey, apart from listening to all the delightful reed warblers, produced the first Golden-ringed dragonfly of the year for me. The size of these incredible creatures never ceases to amaze me, some females reaching 84mm in length!

Golden-ringed Dragonfly  Photo Credit : C.J.E.Farrell

Bertie's Blog

How many balls of mud does it take to build a House Martin nest? There are now at least four pairs of house martins that have built nests on the main house here at Mersehead. I've noticed that in the evening the birds tend to snuggle together in the nest, cute. Oooh...now I'm wondering if the birds actually line their nests, and if so what with? More research needed...that'll be one of the many questions I'll be trying to find the answer to over the weekend!

House Martin Nest             Photo credit : C.J.E.Farrell

It's not all FUN! FUN! FUN! here.....it's also quite a lot of hard work as I found out when I was asked to remove the Ragwort. But I gathered my tools and set out to see what I could find. Thank goodness I wasn't asked to go to the 'skunk cabbage' work party!! Phew!

Me working hard  Photo credit : C.J.E.Farrell

Claire J Farrell - Volunteer


Upcoming events:

How to begin Birdwatching

Friday 22nd July


*Holiday Cottages - Planning your 2022 holidays? Discover the breath-taking scenery, wildlife, cultural and history of Dumfries & Galloway whilst staying in one of the Mersehead cosy semi-detached holiday cottages – Barnacle and Shelduck – located in the heart of reserve.

*Flooding - 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 mersehead@rspb.org.uk or check the RSPB Dumfries and Galloway Facebook Page for daily updates.