RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 2nd - 8th March 2019

The May like weather we were experiencing last week with a bags of sunshine and temperatures nearly reaching 20 degrees carried on this week. More spring butterflies species have started to appear and we've even spotted our first swallow! Or at least this is what I wish I had to write... Instead I can confirm that everything is back to normal weather wise at Mershsead (fortunately, our wetlands would disappear otherwise!). It has actually been a very wet week, with 48mm of rain since last Friday, half the average of what we usually get for the whole month of March! 

Water rushing to the wetland- Picture: Mathieu Burtschell.

The intense rainfall flooded the access road to the reserve on Wednesday, and also created loads of  wet "splashy" areas around Mersehead. The team might not have enjoyed working outdoors as much as we did last week, but ducks and waders have been loving it! It's great to see them in parts of the reserve they don't frequent as much. For instance, on Thursday we had Barnacle Geese, Lapwings, Curlews, and Oystercatchers all making the most of the flooded field just behind the car park. 

Curlew- Picture: RSPB images, Andy Hay

Not too many visitors decided to venture in this weather, but we still got a few sightings reported by the bravest of them. A Lesser Redpoll which was first spotted in the woodland last week was seen along the path to Meida hide. A Siskin was also spotted just outside Meida, while a Red Kite was observed effortlessly flying high over the hide. Across to Bruaich, visitors saw a Peregrine Falcon, which was also spotted in the field right of the main track. Continuing with our list of birds of prey, A Tawny Owl was heard calling at the entrance of the reserve, and Buzzards were spotted multiple times all aroudn the reserve. Lastly, I was treated to two Sparrowhawk attacks on the birds feeding just outside the visitor centre. It's technique was very impressive. The hawk flew fast and low across the wetland, heading straight for the feeders. He managed to stop instantly to rest on our "bird bath" after the 2nd failed attack. pictures tell a thousand words, so you can click here to watch this breathtaking short video showing a Sparrowhawk attack. 

Unlucky this time- Picture: Mathieu Burtschell.

A few mammals were also out and about doing there business. A Stoat was seen in the hedge alongside the entrance road of Mersehead, A Mink was spotted in our garage, and I disturbed two Hares boxing it off in the field behind the car park. I was recently told about the saying "as mad as a March hare", and I finally got to understand what it's all about! Nothing mattered to them except going at it, and it's not even the males sizing each other off. It's actually females telling males that they are not ready, or testing a male's agility to see if he is the right one. Great spectacle! 

Brown Hare- Picture: RSPB images, Chris Gomershall.

We had three counts this week: a Winter Passerine count around the farm, a WEBs count at Kirkconnell, and a Barnacle Goose count at Mersehead. The Winter Passerine count on Tuesday confirmed the recent sightings of Lesser Redpoll, as we recorded 4 during the survey. The remaining of the count included 66 Skylark, 75 Chaffinch, and 9 Reed Bunting.On Friday morning, 2685 Barnacle Goose were recorded feeding around the reserve. Finally, Over a Kirkconnell on Thursday, the geese count was composed of 105 Pink-footed and 486 Barnacle goose. The ducks were less numerous than usual, but we still had 23 Shelduck, 29 Wigeon, 6 Mallard, 12 Pintail, and 4 Goldeneye. There were also a few waders, 199 Oystercatcher that had started to pair up, 69 Curlew, 34 Redshank, and a single Little Egret.

Goldeneye- Picture: RSPB Images, Ben Hall

That's all for this week. We hope that the weather will be nicer next week so more visitors come and enjoy Mersehead's wildlife! You can also start to get your tickets for the "Let Nature Sing"event taking place later this month. All the information you need is in the poster bellow, and you can show you are interested on the facebook page for the event!

Mathieu Burtschell, Residential Volunteer Trainee Warden.