RSPB Mersehead Recent Sightings 27th October – 2nd November 2018

A cold and frosty morning with temperatures dipping below zero. Initially, all is quiet on the reserve, then gradually the volume increases starting with Pink-footed Geese leaving the roost on the sandflats and heading out over Portling Hill. The Barnacle Geese are not far behind as they too leave the safety of their evening roost and land on the saltmarsh to start a day of feeding. A cacophony of noise can be heard in the car park as the House Sparrows bustle around in the hedgerow. The bird table at the Visitor Centre is busy with great views of Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer. Finches line up in the hawthorn next to the table awaiting their turn to zoom down to feed. Robin can be heard singing and is one of the few birds that continue to sing throughout the winter as they maintain winter territories. Bullfinch has been seen frequently along the hedgerow to Bruiach Hide with Linnet and Goldfinch perched along the overheard wires.

Bullfinch. Photo Credit: Mark Chambers

This week saw the forth Co-ordinated Barnacle Goose survey. This survey, organised by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, aims to count the World population of Svalbard Barnacle Geese across their wintering range, the Solway Estuary. The Solway is divided into count sections and each counter starts at 10am. This week we counted 9,837 across Mersehead and the surrounding area. With the Word population currently around 40,000 this means almost a quarter of the World population winters at Mersehead and the local area.

Barnacle Geese. Phot credit: R.Flavelle

A true winter spectacle the Starling Murmuration has been spectacular this week. It is believed that starlings whirl across the sky in tight formation to reduce the chance of predation by birds of prey. Roosting communally in the reedbed gives the flock warmth and the chance to exchange information on good feeding sites. We think there is currently around 40,000 birds roosting in the reedbed and the murmuration is continually building. The starling murmuration is currently occurring around 4-430pm but will continue to become earlier as the nights draw in. Media Hide looks out over the reedbed and offers wonderful views of the murmuration. Otter was seen this week from Media Hide after the starlings had gone into roost. Just as spectacular is the sight and sound of the starlings leaving the reedbed in the morning.

Starling Murmuration. Photo credit: R.Flavelle

Thousands of wintering wildfowl can be seen out on the wetlands with numbers of Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and Shoveler all increasing. A Red Kite soared across the wetlands earlier this week making every duck take off in a panic. Up to 6 Whooper Swans have been feeding out from the hides, their elegant necks and beaks easily recognisable from a distant. Both Merlin and a Ringtail Hen Harrier have been seen over the reedbed this week. Walking back through the woodland keep an eye out for flocks of Long-tailed Tit and Treecreeper.

Whooper Swan. Phot Credit: Ben Andrew

Saturday 17th November is your chance to explore the Reserve’s Last Piece of the Jigsaw and explore the newest part of the reserve at Preston Merse. This exposed and strenuous walk will cover parts of the reserve not normally seen by our visitors. Find out how we are enhancing this important place for nature. Participants must be physically fit. Cost: Adults £15 (RSPB Members £12). Car parking charges apply for non-members. Booking Essential: 01387 780579 or

The RSPB Community webpage is being upgraded next week which means we will be unable to post a recent sightings blog on Friday 9th November. Keep up to date with what is occurring on the reserve through our Facebook page RSPB Dumfries and Galloway. We hope to return with the weekly blog on Friday 16th November.

Rowena Flavelle, Warden