RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 1st – 8th January 2021

With temperatures forecast to reach -7oC tonight, winter has finally arrived in Dumfries & Galloway. Throughout the Christmas break, the weather was bright, sunny and cold with a hard frost most mornings. There were many spectacular sunsets.

Twilight over the Mersehead sandflats. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Fiery Sunset. Photo credit: G.Chambers

It was the perfect weather on New Year’s Day for a stroll around the reserve to kick-start the Mersehead year list. Not the most glamorous of birds, Carrion Crow had the honour of being first on the list as it was spotted from the kitchen window whilst waiting for the kettle to boil! There was plenty of activity on the bird table with both Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow recorded; species not many folk have the pleasure of seeing regularly, let alone daily on their bird table. They were joined for breakfast by Dunnock, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Robin and Greenfinch.

Yellowhammer. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Greenfinch. Photo credit: G.Chambers

The wetlands have been iced over for the last few weeks with a layer of light snow falling yesterday morning. A total of seven wildfowl species were snoozing in the limited open water; Shoveler, Pintail, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall and Tufted Duck. Little Grebe was present, and a Water Rail was heard squealing from the depths of the reedbed.  A walk back through the woodland revealed Nuthatch and Treecreeper with Mistle Thrush making it to 31 on the list.

Ice on the Wetlands. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

A Jack Snipe was flushed from the sea-club rush on the walk along the beach towards the high-tide wader roost whilst a Merlin zig-zagged its way along the sand dunes. Eight wader species were gathered at the roost; Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Sanderling, Knot, Oystercatcher and Golden Plover. A distant Skien of Pink-footed geese and a Red Kite made it onto the list with a Red-throated Diver an unexpected addition flying low over the waves. A flock of Linnet were busy feeding on the fir cones at the back of the sand dunes.

First spotted resting on a fencepost, a Peregrine was disturbed by a male Hen Harrier. Whilst wondering back towards the cottage, Goldcrest made it to number 70 as it called and showed well in the hawthorn hedgerow. After a quick pit-stop for a cup of tea Greenshank was recorded probing through the mud of the Southwick Water. An evening walk along the access road managed to find a few more species with Magpie, Raven, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk and Woodcock bringing the final tally of the day to 76.

Hen Harrier & Peregrine. Photo credit: G.Chambers

 The results are in from the December beach clean where we collected single-use plastic bottles separately to determine their primary use. Of the 200+ bottles collected in just a few hours, we found that 83% were drinks bottles with spring water, Lucozade and Coca Cola the most frequent. Christmas has come and gone but if you do not own a re-useable water bottle maybe it could be a New Year investment? With ~8 million tonnes of plastic entering the oceans every year, the impact on the marine environment is devastating with ingestion, suffocation and entanglement causing the death of millions of marine wildlife each year. Birds are highly susceptible and it is estimated that over 90% of all seabirds have now ingested plastic.

Everything seems to be made of plastic and it is daunting to try and reduce it from our lifestyles. My New Year’s resolution is to start making small changes and build on them. The shower gel in a plastic bottle went years ago but that pesky disposable razor was still sitting on the shelf, so I had a go with a safety razor designed to last for life with recyclable metal blades. We have been trialling plastic free washing-up soap in the kitchen and found it was amazing! It can be hard to break habits we have grown up with, fairy liquid washes the pots right, nothing else could possibly work as well? Thankfully plastic stemmed cotton buds have been banned in the UK but their legacy lives on, I collected 759 on the Mersehead beach during December.

Please note that Mersehead is open to visitors but all indoor facilities are closed under Tier-4 rules, this includes the bird hides, Visitor Centre and toilets with our trails and car park remaining open at present. We will keep you updated on any changes.


Rowena Flavelle, Mersehead Warden