Public secure crucial wildlife site

Barnacle geese

​Solway Firth site is a famous wintering area for barnacle geese

Graham Martin's photo

7th February 2017 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A public appeal has helped secure a critical site on the Solway Firth for nature.

RSPB Scotland’s Mersehead reserve has been expanded by 112 acres, making sure a crucial wintering site for barnacle geese is safe.

Over 40,000 of these distinctive black and white geese migrate to the area every year from Svalbard in the Arctic, with a quarter of these settling at Mersehead.

The sight and sound of them arriving each autumn is one of the most iconic moments in nature’s calendar.

In October 2016 the conservation charity launched an urgent appeal to raise £285,000 in just one month to expand the reserve.

The land neighbouring the reserve included an area which would allow two separate parts of the reserve to be linked up making Mersehead whole for the very first time.

The public response to the appeal was outstanding and many species are set to benefit from the interconnected habitats that will be created.

Mersehead is home to the only Scottish population of the country’s rarest amphibian, natterjack toads, whilst in the summer the songs of yellowhammers, linnets and lapwings fill the air.

The autumn brings pintails, teals and wigeons to the reserve and waders such as oystercatchers, golden plovers and increasingly rare curlews join the geese during the colder months of the year.

Over the next two years RSPB Scotland will be working to restore the special saltmarsh and sand dune habitats on this newest part of the reserve.

This will create more nesting opportunities for birds such as redshanks and skylarks that breed in the saltmarsh and more ponds in the sand dunes suitable for the natterjack toad population to expand into. Work will begin this spring with the removal of scrub and non-native plant species.

Joining up the land in the reserve will also see benefits for the management of the site through revitalising burns and ditches to help to create more wetland areas, and visitors will be able to further immerse themselves in the nature rich Solway Firth through new access trails.

David Beaumont, RSPB Scotland reserves manager in south and west Scotland, said: “A huge thank you to everyone who donated money to this urgent appeal. It really was a race against time when we launched our campaign to secure this site for nature.

“Thanks to the overwhelming public response, Mersehead has now been made whole which is wonderful news for the special wildlife of the Solway Firth.

“We’re immensely proud of what we have achieved at Mersehead since it became a reserve in 1994 with intensive agricultural land being transformed into wetlands, reedbeds and salt marsh teaming with life, and the use of wildlife friendly farming ensuring that nature here can thrive in harmony with the farming systems.

“We’re incredibly grateful that thanks to public generosity this transformational journey can continue for many years to come, with work already underway to make Mersehead an even bigger and better home for nature.”