Mersehead Recent Sightings 30th September – 6th October

This week we have been ever hopeful that we will hear distinctive barking and yapping sounds in the distance and see the subsequent line of Barnacle Geese fly down into Mersehead. The patient wait continues….  The Barnacle Geese that winter on the Solway Coast have spent the summer breeding in Svalbard and are now winging their way to us.  Last winter, just over 41,000 birds called the Solway Coast their home; here at Mersehead our peak count was just over 10,000.  Winter is just a fantastic time to visit the reserve, not only for the ‘Barnies’ as they are affectionately known, but for a whole host of other wintering waders and wildfowl.  Numbers of these have been increasing daily, and Pink-Footed Geese have really been stealing the show at the moment with c.2500 birds currently out on the wetlands, their ‘wink wink’ calls revealing their presence from quite a distance!  There has also been a sizeable number of Canada Geese present; at last count there were 160.  Thursday evening saw 11 Whooper Swan stop by for a visit, will good views had from Meida Hide.  Visitors were treated to some drama at Meida Hide this week; a Little Grebe was enjoying the spoils of a successful fishing trip when out of nowhere a Kingfisher darted past and stole the fish! 

Elsewhere on the reserve 5 Wheatear were seen on the beach whilst another was seen in the hedgerow on the path down to Bruaich Hide. Buzzards are seen regularly around the reserve but we had particularly good views this week as when entering the reserve a bird was perched in a bare tree very close to the road and didn’t seem overly concerned by our presence. 

Mixed skies at Mersehead.  Photo credit: Jon Foot

In glorious sunshine we carried out the second WeBs (Wetland Bird Survey) count of the season over at our Kirkconnell Reserve. Highlights were 540 Lapwing, 738 Redshank, 3 Golden Plover, 1 Greenshank, 184 Common Gull, 44 Curlew, and although not officially part of the count, a striking Kingfisher, the blues lit up against the mud-covered rocks in the bright morning sunshine.  Also of note was the amount of Pink-Footed Geese flying overhead during the count, with c.1500 birds seen in 2 hours.

Glorious morning for counting birds.  View from Glencaple looking towards Kirkconnell with Criffel in the background.  Photo credit: L. Blakely.

Whilst the moth trap produced only 5 moths this week, we couldn’t complain at the quality! Red-green Carpet, Angle Shades, Brown-spot Pinion and Feathered Ranunculus were found hidden amongst the egg boxes.  Feathered Ranunculus is classified as resident local in Dumfries and Galloway, being found mainly near the coast where the caterpillars feed on Thrift, Sea Plantain and Biting Stonecrop.  The attractive Red-green Carpet, on the other hand, is common and can be seen on the wing well into November.  The caterpillars of this moth feed on trees, especially oak, and can subsequently be found in any number of habitats that contain trees such as scrub, hedgerows, woodlands and gardens.

Red-green Carpet Moth.  Photo Credit: L.Blakely

Good numbers of Common Darter have been seen around the reserve, as well as single sightings of Common Hawker, whilst Red Admirals and Silver Y moths are still out in force despite the mixed weather we’ve been having. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for the arrival of the much anticipated Barnacle Geese.

Silver Y Moth on some Sea Radish. Photo Credit: Adaica Rodriguez

Lana Blakely, Assistant Warden