Mersehead Recent Sightings 9th – 15th March 2019

With 98mm of raining falling in March so far, the reserve is looking extremely wet. In some areas this is great! The Natterjack pools are full of water and with night-time temperatures warming up it may not be long until the first Natterjacks are out of hibernation. The vegetation in the wet grassland in front of the Visitor Centre has been cut with a machine operated by the tractor (topping) to create a mosaic structure attractive to different species of wader. We have noted up to 10 Redshank in this area and a pair of Oystercatcher. Lapwings started displaying during the warm spell in February. Up to 9 birds have been heard displaying this week however the cooler weather has caused a small decline in display activity.

Snowy start to Sunday. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Since writing the above paragraph we have seen our first Natterjack Toad! Natterjack’s require a constant air temperature of at least 7C before they will come out of hibernation. Last night it was forecast to be 7-8C although the wind was slightly gusty. We decided to go out for a wander as we had sneaky feeling one or two toads might be tempted out. We found one Natterjack along with quite a few Common Toad. With temperatures forecast to drop back down to 2C next week our lonesome Natterjack will be diving back into his burrow for warmth. We will be running two guided walks in May giving you the opportunity to see and hear this fabulous amphibian; find more information here.

Natterjack toad at Mersehead last night. Photo credit: L.Blakely

With 57mm of rain (and snow) falling just this week, other parts of the reserve have been under water when we would prefer them not to be including the entrance road to the reserve!

Entrance road flooded on Tuesday. Photo Credit: R.Flavelle

The wetlands out from Bruiach and Meida Hide are currently holding a lot of water and as a result we have seen a decrease in the number of wildfowl using the reserve on the count this week as the water is too deep in places; 307 Teal, 109 Wigeon, 69 Pintail, 65 Shelduck, 58 Shoveler, 19 Mallard and 15 Gadwall. Windy conditions made counting the high tide roost tricky with 949 Oystercatcher, 360 Knot, 85 Golden Plover, 5 Grey Plover, 249 Curlew, 99 Lapwing and 70 Dunlin recorded. The gull roost was represented by 2 Great Black-backed, 2 Lesser Black-backed, 1 Herring Gull and 1 Common Gull recorded.

Cormorant on the flooded merse. Photo Credit: R.Flavelle

It is that time of year when we are now waiting for the spring to arrive and the hectic breeding season and spring habitat work to begin. All the seeds have been ordered for the wild bird cover which this year will consist of mustard, white millet, forage rape, linseed and sunflowers. We are hoping to create a small sunflower “maze” this year so keep an eye out for this during the summer. Old fencing around the reserve is being removed and the sheds have been tidied. We have been working hard to improve the pond dipping facilities by reprofiling the pond and breaking some old field drains to ensure the water holds throughout the summer. Aquatic plants such as Flag Iris have been planted and the path to the platform improved. Lesser Celandine blooms are increasing along the base of the hedgerows and Wood Anemone has been spotted.

Credit Line: Ben Andrews (

Feast your eyes on badgers, as they snuffle around for a snack in our garden on a Badger Banquet. These creatures are living on the reserve and often leave tracks and signs along our trails but close views can be a challenge. Watch them from the comfort of our Sulwath Centre with hot drinks available throughout the evening. There are only a handful of places left on tomorrow night’s event; phone us on 01387 780298 (10am-4pm) to secure a place. Can’t make it this weekend? The next Badger Banquets will be held on:

Wednesday 3rd April

Thursday 11th April

Wednesday 17th April.

Join the Solway Sinfonia for an evening of music inspired by nature and bird song with proceeds going towards RSPB Scotland’s conservation work in Dumfries & Galloway.

RSPB Scotland has reserves across Dumfries and Galloway including Mersehead, Wood of Cree, Ken-Dee Marshes, Crook of Baldoon and Mull of Galloway where we are creating and managing habitats for all kinds of birds and other wildlife and helping people get closer to nature. Thanks to the Solway Sinfonia, this concert will be raising money to help protect some of the area’s most important places for nature.

Rowena Flavelle, Mersehead Warden