Mersehead Recent Sightings 5th- 11th October

It was another wet start to the week with the reserve entrance road again flooding on Saturday and meaning wellies were still an essential requirement when visiting the hides. However, it did mean that there was a lot of water around on the reserve attracting lots of birds in. A large flash that formed in one of the fields along Rainbow Lane was holding over 1000 birds on most days. A majority of these were Teal (640), but also present were 390 Barnacle Geese, 310 Lapwing, 75 Wigeon, 15 Shoveler and, giving an idea of how deep the water was, 7 Tufted Duck! They were also joined by half-a-dozen Curlew, and on Saturday a Ruff dropped in and spent the day feeding along the edges of the pool; a scarce visitor to the reserve.

Wigeon and Shoveler.  Photo credit: Andy Hay

Elsewhere, geese numbers continue to increase with 33,000 Barnacles now on the Solway, with 7000 counted on the reserve during the coordinated count on Wednesday. Coupled with the thousands of Pink-feet moving around, the reserve is now teeming with life. The first leucistic Barnacle Goose of the winter also appeared on Monday. It sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the flocks of generally dark-looking Barnacle Geese and is relatively easy to spot, so keep your eyes peeled.

Leucistic Barnacle Goose.  Photo credit: Ed Tooth

It’s not all about the wetlands though. October can be one of the most magical times of year as winter visitors arrive and the last of the summer visitors move south to warmer climes. The hedges and woodlands now buzz with the sound of Long-tailed Tit flocks; a sight to warm the soul on a cold autumn day. But, look a little closer and these flocks are often carrying other species with them. Some stiff easterly winds at the start of the week bought a notable influx of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest, with 15+ and 60+ noted respectively. Also, amongst them was what could be the last record of Blackcap for the year and a late Swallow was also seen making its way south over Rainbow Lane.

Chiffchaff. RSPB images.

It’s also been a good week for raptors. The Merlin is now being seen almost daily, patrolling different parts of the reserve on the hunt for small birds. Keep an eye out around the woodlands and along Rainbow Lane. The Marsh Harrier continues to hunt the Reedbed, at least two Sparrowhawks are seen regularly and can pop up just about anywhere, and both Buzzard and Kestrel have also been seen hunting the saltmarsh and the wetlands. So, there’s plenty to see, and now that the final habitat management works have been carried out on the wetlands, the water levels will soon be raised, bringing in wildfowl in front of Bruaich Hide.

Marsh Harrier.  RSPB images.

Lana Blakely, Assistant Warden