RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 6th – 12th October 2018

It’s wild and windy at Mersehead today as Storm Calum hits the reserve. Very different to the last couple of days when temperatures have reached a balmy 23oC and Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies have been on the wing.

Barnacle goose numbers are increasing across the reserve with the weekly count reaching 7,261. An increase from 3,812 last week. It is estimated that around half of the World population 22,500 have now reached the Solway. Last year, up to 6 Leucistic barnacle geese were present on the Solway with one regular bird at Mersehead. Leucism is different to albinism; although both cause a loss of pigment resulting in a lack of colour. The main difference between the two conditions is that a leucistic animal will retain its natural eye and leg colour as in the photograph below.

Leucistic Barnacle Goose. Photo Credit: Mark Chambers

Pink-footed Geese are continuing to roost on the wetlands, their distinctive “wink winks” heard through the dawn. Pintail, Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon are all increasing in number across the wetlands. Over 100 Lapwing have been loafing along with Curlew. This weekend is the next Wetland Bird Survey where we will be out on the reserve counting how many wildfowl are present – check out next week’s blog for all the figures. Male Marsh Harrier made an appearance this week.

Pintail. Photo Credit: Ben Hall (

As wintering species continue to arrive on the reserve, other species are moving through on their way to warmer climates. A Blackcap was spotted in the hedgerow this week along with 2 Chiffchaff. Both of this species are becoming a more regular sight in the UK during the winter especially in the south. In the case of the blackcap, it is believed that the increase in winter food supply becoming available in gardens has made spending the winter here possible. Resident species such as Goldcrest become easier to see as the foliage falls from the hedgerows. A flock of Long-tailed tit were noticed moving through the woodland. Mini-murmurmations are starting over the reedbed with around 2000 Starlings gathering. Hopefully we will see this expand to the 40,000 we saw last year.

Chiffchaff. Photo Credit: Robert Coleman

A Guide in the hide will be on hand on Friday 19th and Monday 22nd October in “What’s that Duck” event. This is a drop-in event running from 11am – 3:30pm. A great way to start bird watching and complete a self-led duck hunt around the reserve.

Tuesday 16th October and Saturday 17th November is your chance to explore the newest part of the reserve at Preston Merse. This exposed and strenuous walk will cover parts of the reserve not normally seen by our visitors. Find out how we are enhancing this important place for nature. Participants must be physically fit. Cost: Adults £15 (RSPB Members £12). Car parking charges apply for non-members. Booking Essential: 01387 780579 or

Rowena Flavelle, Warden