Mersehead Recent Sightings 15th – 21st June 2019

The merse (saltmarsh) is currently brimming with colour and sound. Ragged Robin and Lesser Spearwort are in flower whilst overhead the Skylark’s distinctive song can be heard from every corner. We have been out inspecting and repairing the livestock fence along the merse and sand dunes this week in readiness for the cattle. With the warm weather there were plenty of butterflies on the wing with Common Blue, Painted Lady and Speckled Wood all noted. A blur of red indicated the presence of the day-flying moth the Cinnabar. When resting on its foodplant, Ragwort, this moth is unmistakeable with a bold red line down the side of the wing and two red spots at the base.

Common Blue. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Ragged Robin. Photo credit: RSPB-Images

The cattle have arrived at Mersehead for the summer and will be rotating around the reserve munching their way through the vegetation. At the moment, they are out on the dune grassland where they are contributing to our Natterjack Toad habitat management. Natterjack Toad colonies thrive in areas of extremely short vegetation structure which the cattle will help to create.

A new arrival to Mersehead. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

The wet weather at the start of June enticed the Natterjack Toad’s back out of the dormant stage they had entered, and we found 12 new spawn strings. These spawn strings have now hatched, and we have estimated around 4,500 Natterjack tadpoles in Pool A. We will be monitoring their development closely over the coming weeks.

Natterjack Tadpoles. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

This week, our spring habitat work has focused on completing a 20-acre reseed for the barnacle geese. This will also improve the breeding habitat available for Lapwing next spring. The field was ploughed in early April before the lapwing started nesting. Now that all the nests have hatched, most recently an Oystercatcher last week, the field has been cultivated and the grass seed sown. The Pottinger plough has been out working for the last time this year with a 14-acre field ploughed. The plough, having been washed, greased and waxed is now safely back in the machinery shed until next spring.

Pottinger plough, greased, waxed and ready for next spring. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Lesser Whitethroat has been spotted on the reserve this week – an uncommon summer visitor to coastal areas in Dumfries & Galloway - so we will be on the lookout for repeat sightings of this bird. Down at Meida Hide, there is a pair of Mute Swan with 6 fluffy cygnets. Visitors have reported Marsh Harrier hunting over the reedbed. Heard but not often seen, a Cuckoo was an unexpected sight as it flew low through the woodland. The moth trap recorded some new species for the year including a Garden Tiger and Large Yellow Underwing. Other species caught included Poplar Hawk-moth, Elephant Hawk-moth, White Ermine, Heart & Dart, Ingrailed Clay, Peppered Moth and Flame Shoulder.

Cygnet: Photo credit: Ben Andrews

Garden Tiger moth & 3 Elephant Hawk-moth. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

We need your help to clean up our shores. Plastic pollution is drastic for our marine life and seabirds. We are running a Beach Clean on Tuesday 25th June and welcome you to join us. Our popular Badger Banquets are returning with dates available through July and August. Looking for an activity to keep the kids entertained during the school holidays? Find our Summer Events Program here.

Rowena Flavelle – Mersehead Warden