RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 18th – 24th July 2020

Many visitors to Mersehead walk the main coastal trail in a loop around the reserve. The Southwick Water cuts its way west through the merse (saltmarsh) and winds out across the sandflats into the estuary towards Sandyhills. This is a beautiful quiet corner of the reserve and worth the extra walk.

Southwick Water. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Most of the shells on the Mersehead beach are Cockles, giving the beach a simmering white appearance. Take the time to hunt for a few other varieties such as the delicate pink Baltic Tellin which is more commonly found on beaches near estuaries opposed to the sea. The Augur sea snail uses the long thin shell to screw backwards down into the sand where it hides from predators. One of our volunteers managed to find a Wentletrap.

Augur or Tower shell. Photo credit: Donal McCarthy

Many botanical coastal specialists can be found in this sheltered corner including the regionally scarce Sea Holly and Sea Bindweed. The endemic Isle of Man Cabbage is a bright yellow crucifer easily identified by its distinctive lobed leaves. This plant only grows on the west coast in Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, on the Gower in Wales and in Southern Scotland.

6-spot Burnet moth & Sea Holly. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Isle of Man Cabbage. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Further out on the merse shades of purple dominant with Common Sea Lavender, Sea Aster and the nationally scarce Lax-flowered Sea Lavender all in flower. Ragged Robin can be seen growing in some of the damper areas. The pair of Peregrine which nested on the cliffs are still maintaining a territory along with the unmistakable song of the Skylark.

Common Sea Lavender. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Lax-flowered Sea Lavender. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Back at the cottage the garden was full of young Swallows hawking insects. Around 25 days after hatching, young swallows are ready to leave the nest and may spend a few hours fluttering on the ground with parental encouragement before they get airborne. The individual below seemed quite happy to sit on the fence as a parent returned with a beak full of insects.

Young Swallow. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

As always, we need to end with a moth photo! Two new species for the year were True Lover’s Knot, a widespread species found from the Channel Islands to Shetland. Although very intricately patterned, this moth is surprisingly well camouflaged. Also a well distributed species, the Scalloped Oak will be on the wing throughout July and August.

True Lover’s Knot & Scalloped Oak. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

It has been great to see visitors back on the reserve this week. The visitor centre (including toilets), viewing hides, Sulwath Garden and children's play area remain closed for now to ensure social distancing measures are followed. We are hoping to open the toilets soon. More information about the re-opening of RSPB reserves and facilities can be found at: Reserve Reboot

Rowena Flavelle, Warden