The Mersehead Warden and Assistant Warden live on the reserve and are going to try and keep you updated on the wonderful wildlife they see at Mersehead at this challenging time during their daily walk and whilst completing essential work on the reserve in line with government guidance.

RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 13th June – 19th June 2020

The merse is currently brimming with colour and sound. Ragged Robin and Sea Milkwort are in flower whilst overhead the Skylark’s distinctive song can still be heard. Although the breeding season is starting to draw to a close, the skylark will continue to sing as an anti-predator deterrent. It is thought that by singing, the skylark is indicating to a potential predator that it is strong and in a healthy condition.

Sea Milkwort. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

We have been out inspecting and repairing the livestock fence along the merse and sand dunes this week in readiness for when the cattle move into the dune grassland to help keep the sward condition low for the Natterjack Toads. With the warm weather there were plenty of butterflies on the wing with Common BluePainted Lady, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and numerous Large Skippers all noted. The Common Blue is the most widespread blue butterfly in the UK. The brightly coloured male is conspicuous as he patrols his territories. The female is less easy to spot as she flies lower and more slowly.

Common Blue. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The first Ringlet butterfly of the year has been spotted this week. The small circles on the underwings, which give the butterfly its name, can vary in number and size or can be reduced to just small white spots. The dark colouring also allows this butterfly to quickly warm up and be one of the few butterflies that may be seen in flight on an overcast day. Emerging in June, numbers of Meadow Brown have noticeably increased over the past week.

Ringlet. Photo credit: P.Radford

The Butterfly Meadow. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The Natterjack tadpoles are still growing with approximately 4,310 counted on Monday. Around 15% have developed 2 legs with some stubby forelegs starting to show. The Natterjack toad has a prolonged breeding season running from late March into August depending on weather conditions. Two years ago, we reported the finding of new spawn strings after recent heavy rain during this week. With rain forecast for the weekend, we will be on the lookout for any new spawning activity. The Natterjack toad is a European Protected Species and I hold a licence issued from Scottish Natural Heritage which allows me to monitor this fabulous amphibian. Hopefully we will be able to run our popular natterjack guided walks next May which will give you the opportunity to see this protected toad.

Natterjack tadpoles. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Stubby forelegs! Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The similar but smaller Small Elephant Hawk-moth made an appearance in the moth trap this morning. Well camouflaged for resting on the branches of birch, the Buff-tip has a very twiggish appearance.

Elephant Hawk-moth (left) & Small Elephant Hawk-moth. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Buff-tip. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Like many species, moths will display a multitude of variations in their patterning. The White Ermine below seems to have decided it wanted to have a bit of both illustrations in the identification book!

White Ermine. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

I am are extremely lucky to live at Mersehead and to still be able to walk across the reserve and complete essential work in line with government guidance.

Although some lockdown measures have been eased, Scottish Government guidance remains that you should stay local. Our reserve facilities will remain closed and we are continuing to ask you not to visit Mersehead whilst we prepare for a gradual re-opening of the reserve. We will only do so when we have everything in place to keep our employees, volunteers and you – our fantastic members and supporters – safe.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon, in the meantime, stay safe and I hope you enjoy the weekly Mersehead updates.

Rowena Flavelle, Warden

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