RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 4th July – 10th July 2020

At last! We opened today and welcomed visitors back on the reserve. It’s been a long wait and a lot has changed but people can now get out and see the fantastic nature here for themselves. Please note however that the visitor centre, viewing hides and Sulwath Garden (including children's play area) will remain closed for the foreseeable future, to ensure social distancing measures are followed. Staff and returning volunteers have been busy while social-distancing, as they prepare the trails for re-opening, cutting back vegetation to ensure that everyone can enjoy the walks at a safe distance. And although our team won’t be engaging folk directly, signage and information has been placed to help ensure a great experience for all users on the reserve. More information about the re-opening of and facilities available at RSPB Scotland reserves can be found at: bit.ly/CheckBeforeYouGo

Social-distanced working with volunteers clearing vegetation on the trails. Photo credit: Dave Jackson. Sign to indicate safe distance from others. Credit: RSPB.

Toilet facilities aren’t available, at present but we are looking to remedy this as soon as possible. We understand that this may disappoint some visitors but hope the walk on our trails will be reason enough to come here, especially for the smaller creatures to be seen at close range and the dramatic views of landscapes, the sand-flat and big skies. Distancing is not limited by any means, with plenty of beach to spare for everyone.

Sand and sun for all to enjoy. Photo credit: Calum Murray

It’s certainly a busy time, not just for us licking the reserve into shape for your arrival but also for wildlife in this productive season.

For anyone taking a wander down to the shore, keep a look out for two young roe deer. These twin fawns have been spotted by both staff and visitors on the sandy shore and also in the woodland walk approaching the sand dunes. Brown hares have also been scampering close to the farm buildings for the last few weeks. I recall returning to work from furlough only two weeks past and almost tripping over a leveret near the Sulwath Centre. And again, a couple of hares were seen there just this week. A young kestrel has also been spotted near to the farm, where it is believed they nested in one of the barns. Keep an eye on the telegraph posts along the farm road and over the adjacent fields for these birds as they perch or hover while hunting. Buzzards have been dotted around the reserve, often on vigils from tops of telegraph posts or getting mobbed by crows near the woodland.

Buzzard circling over fields. Photo credit: Calum Murray

Even though bird song is beginning to quieten as breeding is now well underway, you may still hear the odd song. A yellowhammer was heard on Monday by the car park, releasing its “Little-bit-pf-bread-and-no-cheese”. Wherever you go on the reserve, there is still a warming sound of skylarks singing in their ascending call, as they reinforce their territories. These iconic farmland birds can be heard almost everywhere along the trails. See if you can find one, as it calls from above.

This time of year, is better for finding our smaller creatures. Pollination is well underway, with bees, butterflies and other insects buzzing and fluttering along path verges and in the wildflower meadows. While cutting grass, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of Ringlets and Meadow Brown butterflies, this past week and have noticed quite a few Large Yellow Underwing moths as they get disturbed by the passing lawnmower. As volunteers help us to control ragwort plants on the reserve, Cinnabar moth caterpillars have also been removing these toxic plants as they feast, often with masses of them systematically devouring each plant in turn.

 Cinnabar moth caterpillars munching on ragwort. Photo credit: Calum Murray

Plenty of bees are active in search of nectar. The greater knapweed by the car park picnic area has been alive with both honeybees and red-tailed bumblebees, while odd white-tailed bumblebees can be found in various places. On close examination of the ground, you can find several ground beetles and 7-spot ladybirds scurrying about in pursuit of prey and if the sun shines, listen or look for common green or field grasshoppers in long grasses.

Honeybee and red-tailed bumblebee feeding on greater knapweed. (Note the pollen sacs on hind legs of the bumblebee indicate this to be a female worker bee. Photo credit: Calum Murray

We look forward to welcoming you back in an albeit different way. Unfortunately, all events scheduled to the end of August have been cancelled and our direct visitor engagement is on hold for now but we will endeavour to make you feel as welcome as possible and have a great experience when you visit.

And of course, we hope you all continue to stay safe and well.

Calum Murray, Assistant Warden

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