Mersehead Recent Sightings 25th - 31st May 2019

Reserve work this week has focused on preparing the two 1ha Wild bird cover plots. Both areas have been ploughed, cultivated and the Oats and Sunflower seeds drilled into the ground. Just as the small seed spreader was being attached to the tractor, the heavy rain forecast for later in the afternoon arrived early and unfortunately prevented the work being completed. Over the weekend, mustard, linseed, white millet and a forage brassica will also be sowed into the wild bird cover plots. Using a mix of cereal and oil-rich crops will provide the most reliable food source for seed-eating birds throughout the winter such as Yellowhammer, Linnet and Reed Bunting. The nectar is great for insects throughout the summer and autumn too.

Seed drill. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Sunflowers. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The weather has turned dreich towards the end of the week with 24mm of rainfall recorded after weeks of dry weather. The rain should refill the dry Natterjack toad pools and the warm night temperatures may tempt the toads out for a late breeding season. The warm and dry weather at the start of the week saw plenty of insects around the reserve with the first Speckled Wood being spotted near the Visitor Centre. Wall butterflies have been on the wing in what appears to be larger numbers than normal for Mersehead. A Cream Spot Ladybird was seen along the woodland footpath.

Wall Butterfly. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The warmer nights have increased the number of moths caught in the moth trap with 40 moths of 21 species. Some new species for the year were recorded including Sallow Kitten, Purple Thorn, Lychnis, Water Carpet, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Heart & Dart, Brimstone and Marbled Coronet. The first Hawkmoths were also caught with both Poplar Hawkmoth and Elephant Hawkmoth making an appearance. Not all moths are nocturnal, and the day-flying moths are often mistaken for butterflies as they are just as brightly coloured and beautifully patterned. Both Mother Shipton and Speckled Yellow have been seen this week.

Elephant Hawkmoth. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Mother Shipton. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

One of the Orange-tip butterfly’s foodplant is the Cuckooflower. Looking closely at the stems it is possible to find the butterflies eggs and caterpillars. The larva eats its eggshell on hatching and will also eat any other orange-tip eggs it encounters. The caterpillar will climb to the developing seed pod where it nestles in to feast.

Orange-tip Caterpillar. Photo credit: G.Chambers

Spotted Flycatcher has been singing in the woodland and managed to fly into the Constant Effort mist nets so is now sporting a shiny metal ring. There are families galore as Lapwing chicks continue to grow and are starting to reach the “well-feathered” stage. A family of Raven have been seen out on the merse with the young bird perching on the footpath way-marker calling to the adult. Raven nest every year along the cliffs below the coast road. A family of Long-tailed Tits are resident in the woodland close to Meida Hide and we have confirmed the presence of breeding Tree Sparrow with the sight of 3 fledged birds by the Sulwath Garden.

Fledged Tree Sparrow: Photo Credit: R.Flavelle

The first House Martin nest has been built under the eaves of the office. House Martin are colonial nesters, with an average group size of four to five nests. A pair of Peregrine have been hunting across the dry grassland fields appearing to target the lapwing chicks – that’s nature!

We need your help to clean up our shores. Plastic pollution is drastic for our marine life and seabirds. We are running a Beach Clean on Tuesday 25th June and welcome you join our regular volunteer work party.

Rowena Flavelle – Mersehead Warden

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