RSPB Mersehead Blog 11th – 17th November 2023

For our keen birders out there, you’ll be interested to know that our staff heard the loud, piercing call of the Cetti’s Warbler on Thursday at our Meida Hide whilst conducting our reserve wetland bird survey. The Cetti’s Warbler (pronounced chetty) is a shy wee bird that you’re most likely to hear before seeing. Typically, this species’ range has been Northern England and Wales, so it was interesting to hear its presence on the reserve. If you’re visiting us, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this bird in the scrub or reedbeds. If you do, we’d love to receive your photos or audio/video clips, simply email mersehead@rspb.org.uk. Listen to a sample clip of its call here.

A Cetti’s Warbler in a reedbed. Photo credit: RSPB

Other highlights from this week’s wetland bird survey (WeBS)

RSPB staff strategically positioned on the sand dunes to survey wading birds on an incoming tide. Photo credit: F. Gilgunn

Wednesday gave us a foggy, dreich morning for the survey at RSPB Kirkconnell Merse, but we were buoyed by the sighting of a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers swimming alongside Common Goosanders. These diving ducks are members of the sawbill family, named for their serrated bills for catching fish. Red-breasted Mergansers are at home in both freshwater and saltwater, while Goosanders are largely freshwater birds.

Red-breasted Merganser (L) and Goosander (R). Photo credit: RSPB

Back at RSPB Mersehead…with the sheer volume of rainfall this week, you’ll notice that our wetlands are quite high and saturated at the moment. These water levels have had the effect of attracting birds that like to take deeper dives, such as Little Grebes and Tufted Ducks. Enjoy seeing them while they’re here!

Little Grebe (L) and Tufted Duck (R). RSPB image

Whilst out surveying the shoreline and sand dunes, we caught a glimpse of a Hen Harrier, also known as a ‘ringtail’ for the distinctive white banding on the tail. We spotted a Marsh Harrier in flight as well during our survey of the surrounding fields. These birds of prey can affect our counts of birds during surveys but are an integral part of our reserve species.

Here’s a tally of what we counted on both reserves this week:

Species

Mersehead

Kirkconnell Merse*

Mute swan

2

0

Pink-footed goose

1

100

Canada goose

38

0

Barnacle goose

4655

190

Shelduck

262

0

Wigeon

28

339

Gadwall

4

0

Teal

686

180

Mallard

20

86

Pintail

95

0

Shoveler

62

0

Tufted Duck

2

0

Goldeneye

0

6

Red-breasted merganser

5

2

Goosander

0

2

Little Grebe

2

0

Cormorant

0

5

Little Egret

7

3

Grey Heron

1

4

Moorhen

1

0

Oystercatcher

630

1

Ringed plover

34

0

Grey plover

6

0

Lapwing

400

25

Sanderling

34

0

Dunlin

1413

86

Snipe

26

1

Curlew

160

8

Redshank

37

463

Greenshank

6

0

Water rail

2

0

Bar-tailed godwit

10

0

Black-tailed Godwit

500

0

Total individuals

9129

1501

Total species

30

17

*not a visitor accessible site

Badger banquets were a banging success

Last Saturday, we wrapped up the last of our popular, sold-out Badger Banquets. The badgers certainly didn’t disappoint by treating visitors to a rare opportunity of seeing them in their natural habitat and observing their foraging antics. We received fantastic feedback from everyone who attended, with many commenting that they found the experience “absolutely brilliant”, “fascinating” and “informative,” and that they came away with “a greater understanding” of these nocturnal creatures. We hope to offer more engaging events like these in the new year, so continue to watch our website for updates.

Badgers ambling up to the windows of the Sulwath Centre. Photo credit: A. Hallatt

What our volunteers we’re haulin’ this week

Common Ragwort is classified as an agricultural weed under the Weeds Act, as it adversely affects the quality of grazing land and poses a risk of poisoning livestock. If ragwort goes to seed, one plant can disperse up to 60,000 seeds by wind and travel long distances! While it can be a hard slog, we are grateful to our hardy crew of volunteers who hand pulled the most egregious ragwort from our grazing fields this week, filling about 40 bags for proper removal and disposal.

A huge thank you to our volunteers who help us mitigate the spread of ragwort on our farmlands and wetlands, where livestock graze to make way for overwintering geese and wading birds. Photo credit: F. Gilgunn

Remainder of events for 2023

Forest School

25th November

Forest School

16th December

Our Forest School has limited places available for primary aged school children. Each workshop costs £5 per child. Parents and guardians are welcome to stay but not necessary. Suitable clothing and footwear for outside play are essential. Please email mersehead@rspb.org.uk to reserve a space or for further information. Forest school involves learning that is in tune with nature and the great outdoors. Its aim is to promote new skills, confidence, self-esteem, and team building while participants take part in fun outdoor activities.

Frances Gilgunn, Residential Volunteer

*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.

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