Mersehead Recent Sightings 15th – 21st December 2018

The weekend did not start off too well at Mersehead, as heavy rainfall flooded the road and forced us to cancel Sunday’s beach clean. Targeted beach cleans are an important way to involve people in solving the global plastic crisis. Plastics represent 60 to 80% of all marine debris, and other than being an aesthetic nuisance during our beach walks, they are a real threat to wildlife. Here are three reasons why:

  • Entanglement Animals can easily get entangled in floating debris such as abandoned fishing nets. This weakens animals, reducing their ability to feed and makes them more vulnerable to predators.
  • Ingestion Marine wildlife can mistake floating debris for food, resulting in sea life ingesting plastic that can asphyxiate or block their digestive system.
  • Smothering Lastly, over the years, buoyant plastic is coated with denser matter that sink it. The accumulation of plastic on the seafloor suffocates organisms living on the seabed as oxygen is not able to penetrate through the plastic layer to reach their habitat.

Because it is such a key issue, we have decided to start 2019 by taking plastic pollution head on! Join us for our next beach clean on Saturday 12th of January (More information on our facebook page RSPB Dumfries and Galloway). We also encourage all our nature lover readers to consider how they can reduce their use of plastic, and maybe go as far as to pick up some of the litter they come across during their walks! On a brighter note, the Mersehead Otter has been since multiple times this week from Media Hide.

Otter. Ben Andrew (

This week, the staff and volunteers focussed on a few final jobs before Christmas. We are very happy (and I’m sure our hard-working Tuesday volunteers agree) to have finished removing all the invasive Japanese rose along the 400m path leading to Bruaich hide. This week’s tasks also included our final Mersehead and Preston Wetland Bird Survey (WeBs) of 2018 which took place on Wednesday. It was an early start to reach our high tide roost count spot over at West Preston. 1380 Barnacle geese were still out on the sand flats, alongside 69 Shelduck, 133 Oystercatcher, 8 Ringed Plover, 32 Grey Plover, 450 Dunlin and 106 Curlew.

Ringed Plover. Photo Credit: Andy Hay

Elsewhere on the reserve, the duck count was composed of 407 Teal, 402 Pintail, 99 Wigeon, 58 Shoveler, 56 Mallard, 5 Tufted Duck, and 1 Gadwall. We also had good number of waders, especially Lapwing with a count of 675. A further 104 Oystercatcher, and 182 Curlew as well a 23 Snipe, and a single Little Egret. A few gulls were also out and about, with 34 Common Gull, 6 Black-Headed Gull, 6 Herring Gull, and 5 Great Black-Backed Gull. Lastly, the Svalbard Barnacle Goose count reserve wide was 5855.

Snipe. Photo Credit: Andy Hay

It was also a good week for spotting birds of prey at Mersehead! A Kestrel was spotted on two different occasions hovering near Bruaich Hide. A Sparrowhawk made his usual appearance next to the table feeder in front of the visitor centre. 2 Peregrine Falcon disturbed Barnacle Geese during our WeBs count just past the woodland. A Ringtail Hen Harrier was repeatedly spotted throughout the week, including from Meida hide and over the polytunnel. Other notable sightings included a Twite, Long-Tailed Tit, and several Tree Creeper in the woodland.

Hovering Kestrel. Photo credit: Ben Andrew

That’s it for this week! Everyone at Mersehead would like to thank our readers for your support during 2018. We hope that you will continue to follow us in 2019, and we wish you a very Happy Christmas. The Mersehead sightings blog will be back on Friday the 11th of January, so see you all next year!

Visitor Centre Opening Times over Christmas:

22nd - 24th December 11am - 3pm

25th & 26th December CLOSED

27th December - 3rd January 11am - 3pm

There will be no refreshments available during the above dates.


Mathieu Burtschell, Residential Volunteer and Trainee Warden.