RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 6th 12th April 2019

Spring really sprung into action this week, as a host of summer visitors arrived. Saturday saw the first big arrival, as 8 White Wagtail and a female Wheatear were busy feeding in one of the recently ploughed fields. Out on the wetlands were another 2 White Wagtail and a single Black-tailed Godwit, and these were joined late-afternoon by an influx of hirundines; around 60 Sand Martin and 3 Swallow. However, the real highlight came in the form of a female-type Yellow Wagtail. This is a reasonably rare species, and pending acceptance by the local rarities committee will represent the first record since 2015 in Dumfries and Galloway. Sadly, it was illusive, and only stayed for one evening. Yellow Wagtail spend their winters in Africa, migrating to Britain to breed in lowland wet grassland or near waterbodies. They are one of the most complex of all British birds, with at least 8 different races occurring across Europe.

White Wagtail. Photo credit Ed Tooth

The run of good birds for the reserve continued on Sunday when a Water Pipit was discovered on the wetlands. Formerly regarded as conspecific with the more common Rock Pipit which can be occasionally seen on the beach at Mersehead, the Water Pipit is a much scarcer short-distant migrant. A small number winter in the UK, with the majority wintering in mainland Europe. They spend the winter in flooded fields, marshes and other wet areas and in spring head for upland and alpine slopes to breed. They can be difficult to separate from Rock Pipit; however, this bird is sporting the distinctive unstreaked pink-wash to the breast and ash-grey head that develops in the breeding season. The bird was present until at least Thursday and represents just the 6th record for Dumfries and Galloway if accepted by the local rarities committee.

Water Pipit. Photo credit Mike Langman

Later in the week, the Black-tailed Godwit on the wetlands was joined by a further 4 birds, bringing the total to 5; in their splendid ochre summer finery and could be seen feeding close to Bruaich hide. A fine Greenshank dropped in briefly on Sunday, giving excellent views in front of Bruaich hide too. The White Wagtail remained all week, and with the swarm of Sand Martin (a quick count revealed over 70 individuals) and Swallow over the wetlands and the warm evenings, there was a distinct feeling of the hazy summer evenings to come.  Out on the wet grassland, a flock of 81 Golden Plover were noted, many in full breeding plumage.

Black-tailed Godwit. Photo credit Gordon Langsbury

The first territory mapping of the year took place this week in the reedbed, and there were plenty of Reed Bunting in fine voice. Finches are also starting to disperse, and while the hedgerows around the reserve are full of the buzz of the resident Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch, the feeders at the visitor centre hosted Redpoll and Brambling, and Siskin could be heard whistling overhead. On Thursday, the first Willow Warbler of the season was heard singing in the woodland. Later in the afternoon, a Peregrine was seen flying over the visitor centre, heading towards the cliffs.

Willow Warbler. Photo credit John Bridges

Spend the Easter holidays ducking and diving, attend a badger feast or make a mud pie! Check out the Mersehead Events page for all the details of our Easter events.

Lana Blakely, Assistant Warden