Thursday, 25 October 2018

Birding Mersehead

One of my favourite birding sites is Mersehead RSPB in Dumfries and Galloway, on the northern shores of the Solway. And I had an opportunity to go birding there this week as I had a couple of site visits to do north and south of Castle Douglas on Monday. Gail came with me and we stayed overnight so we could go birding on the Tuesday. It's something we've done for several years now and we thoroughly enjoy it!

My two work related site visits are well and truly in Red Kite country, one more so than the other as it is very close to Lock Ken. On our drive to and from Castle Douglas we counted ten without trying, including one over the garden of a house that we looked at in Crossmichael!

The following morning as we drove from Castle Douglas to Mersehead RSPB we had a further two Kites. We arrived at Mersehead under full cloud cover, with a moderate westerly wind, and we looked forward to some decent birding and a good walk.

There are a variety of habitats at Mersehead including saltmarsh, sand dunes, open shore, mudflats, coastal mixed woodland, arable land, low input pastures and freshwater pools. So a great mix, and the beauty is that it is quiet. In fact we were at the reserve for three hours on Tuesday morning and other than us there was just one other couple on the reserve. We had it to ourselves. In fact when we got to the glorious white sandy beach, covered in shells, there was nobody to be seen!

 The white sandy beach (above & below)

On the reserve are a number of wildbird seed plots with a high density of sunflowers in the mix and they were alive with finches. One plot is adjacent to some low coastal mixed woodland and a lot of the birds were flying in to the trees and then in to plots to feed. A rough estimate of the finches we saw included fifteen Tree Sparrows, 370 Greenfinches, three Bramblings, 65 Chaffinches, five Yellowhammers and 82 Linnets. Stonking!

Other passerines that we encountered included a Siskin, four Song Thrushes, two Redwings, five Goldcrests, a Reed Bunting, a Fieldfare and a Bullfinch. Funnily enough the only raptor that we saw on the reserve was a single Sparrowhawk, but I did half expect Merlin, Peregrine, Hen Harrier etc.

Of course the main reason that I like Mersehead so much, apart from how lovely and quiet it is, is the fact that it is a wintering site for my favourite goose, the Barnacle Goose. I love everything about Barnacle Geese; their stunning monochrome colours, the 'barking' dog like call and just their overall loveliness! It was hard to say how many 'Barnies' were on the reserve, but we certainly came across at least 1,700.

Below you will find a number of pictures of Barnacle Geese and I make no apologies for this because I think they are a stunning bird!

The freshwater pools held a variety of wildfowl with eight Pintails, 59 Teal, 35 Wigeon and 22 Shovelers. There was more than this, but this is just what was in view immediately in front of the two hides.

 Mixed wildflowl outside one of the hides


The view from one of the hides

With a heavy heart we had to return to the car and head home, but we'll be back soon I'm sure!

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