RSPB Mersehead Blog 17th February – 23rd February

Following on from last week’s blog, we are continuing to feel a change in the air with regular sounds of bird song, as well as the morning and evenings gradually getting lighter. Plenty of sightings and signs we are getting that wee bit closer to Spring!

View of the beach at dusk. Photo credit: A. Mulraney

Buds beginning to open on Cherry Blossom tree at Sulwath centre. Photo Credit: A. Mulraney

At the weekend, we held our second Badger banquet event of the year where our visitors were able to enjoy the view of our Sulwath garden hoping for an appearance of our resident badgers. Indeed, they did make an appearance, snuffling about in search of the snacks that were put out for them. Not only did the badgers come out to play, but we were also treated to a pair of Barn owls, swooping around the garden and making their distinctive screeching sound. Their stunning white and cream colour stood out against the dark sky as they perched on the surrounding trees. The ‘twoo’ sound of a Tawny owl could also be heard during the event. Possibly catching a smell of the snacks set out in the garden, a rabbit also made a visit on the night. Why not come along to our next event - Easter Badger Feast - for the chance of seeing these lovely mammals! You can find out more about this and other upcoming events at Mersehead here:  RSPB Mersehead events

Badger feeding in the Sulwath garden. Photo credit: A. Mulraney

At the start of the week, there were a number of reported sightings of the Common Frog and Common Toad on the reserve. I was lucky enough to spot one of these amphibians unexpectedly... As I was making my way back towards the farm, what appeared to be a brown rock or leaf in the middle of the road, turned out to be not just one but two Common Toads!

Two Common Toads on road. Photo credit: A. Mulraney

The Common Toad is usually brown or olive-brown in colour and have ‘warty’ and rough skin. They also produce a toxin from their skin which many predators may find unpleasant. Adult toads usually start to appear in late spring heading back towards the ponds to breed. Males pair up with the females by grasping their waist (a position called ‘amplexus’) and the female carries the smaller male towards the pond. This is what I had witnessed when spotting them near the farm. A great sign that we are nearly out of winter and heading into the new season!

Some of the team had also spotted spawn in one of the pools in the wheel rut on the reserve. Can you tell who it belongs to? Toad spawn is different to Frog spawn. Toads lay their spawn in long strings in deep water which is usually twined around water weeds. Frogs spawn is laid in shallower water, usually in clumps.


Frog spawn in wheel rut pool. Photo credit: F. Gilgunn                  


An unexpected sighting of a Violet Ground Beetle was made in the visitor centre this week. With it’s black colour and metallic-purple sheen, it stood out strongly against the pale tile of the floor. These beetles usually rest during the day and become active at night where they go in search of prey such as worms, slugs and snails.

Violet Ground Beetle. Photo Credit: A. Mulraney


Tuesday Volunteer Work Party

On Tuesday, our volunteer work party carried out essential maintenance down Rainbow Lane. This involved pruning gorse, bramble and other vegetation either side of the path to ensure this area is kept clear for visitors and doesn’t become overgrown. Another important task which was also carried out by the volunteers was the removal of Common Ragwort in one of our grasslands. As we have cattle come on to the reserve during the summer, the Ragwort needs to be removed as this can be poisonous to the cattle if it were to be eaten.

Volunteers cutting back gorse and vegetation on Rainbow Lane. Photo credit: F. Gilgunn

Volunteers removing Ragwort. Photo credit: A. Mulraney


Beached Bird Survey

On Friday, taking advantage of the glorious day, fellow volunteers and I walked from Southerness Lighthouse to the Southwick water to conduct a beached bird survey. The survey is part of an international survey to monitor oil pollution at sea and to record birds washed ashore, and if any of the birds have been oiled. For the stretch of coastline that we covered, we found 11 dead birds in total. Whilst carrying out the survey, we also came across a few other interesting finds!

View of beach from Southerness. Photo credit: A. Mulraney

Message in a bottle. Photo Credit: A. Mulraney

King Alfred’s Cakes fungi on washed up tree. Photo credit: A. Mulraney


Alison Mulraney, Residential Volunteer/ Trainee Warden

Upcoming events

For more information on individual events and to book a place, please go to our website:

Easter’s Egg-Layer Trail

23rd March – 3rd April; Self-guided family event

Put a Spring in your Step  Guided Walk Booking Essential

29th March

Easter Badger Feast  Booking Essential

30th March

Natterjack Night  Guided Walk Booking Essential

19th April

Natterjack Night  Guided Walk Booking Essential

26th April

Lapwings and Larks Guided Walk Booking Essential

4th May

*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 or check the RSPB Dumfries and Galloway Facebook Page for daily updates.