Sunday, 18 March 2018

Barnie's At Mersehead

I've just come back from a very pleasant couple of days in Dumfries and Galloway. I was attending the Scottish Ornithologist's Club and BTO's Birdwatcher's conference at Dumfries, and what a great conference it was! Gail and I made a weekend of it and we headed up on Friday and spent a couple of hours in the afternoon birding at the RSPB's Mersehead reserve.

I have always wanted to go to this reserve, but for some reason I have never got round to it, but I will most certainly go again! If I lived close by, it would certainly become one of my local patches. Primarily it is managed for the wintering Barnacle Geese, but there is a good range of habitats and these include merse (saltmarsh), freshwater grazing marsh, semi-improved grassland, wet woodland, sand dunes and hedgerows.

 Barnacle Geese (above & below)

Outside the visitor centre, in front of a cracking looking set of scrapes, there is a feeding station and it was swarming with Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows. Among the avian throng was a male Yellowhammer looking quite exotic with its bright, canary yellow head!

It was bitterly cold as Gail and me set off around the reserve with a strong biting easterly wind driving stinging showers of hail, rain, sleet and snow! We just had a walk through the farmland, wet woodland and looked from the hides over the two pools. We decided to give walking down to the coast a miss because of the weather.

There was a reasonable number of Barnacle Geese in the fields and I counted 586. Sometimes I wish I could switch off from counting and just immerse myself in the atmosphere of the moment! A number of Little Egrets were trying their best to find food on the pools and we had three in total. In a field close to the visitor centre 28 Lapwings looked thoroughly miserable in the cold weather and were doing their best to hunker down out of the cold.

Out on the pools we had excellent views of Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, Wigeon and Shovelers. I won't bore you with the counts as I imagine they would be huge under estimates compared with the numbers actually present.


Three Reed Buntings and a Goldcrest in the hedgerow along the track later we were back at the visitor centre, and shortly after that heading off to the Sulwath brewery in Castle Douglas, one of my favourites!

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