When Countryfile came to town

“Hello, can I speak to your ranger please? It’s James from BBC Countryfile…” this was the request one morning in early May when I answered the telephone at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre, and the first that I was aware that the BBC were considering filming in our area.

Over the coming few days our ranger, Anna Cheshier was in high demand on the ‘phone, the researcher had many questions about what sort of Local Nature Reserve we are, what activities take place, whether we might have a “practical opportunity” for their presenter to help us with and so on.

Sand Martin wall ©Ama

Sandmartin wall ©Amanda Thomson

Monday 9th May dawned bright and sunny; the BBC Countryfile researcher and a cameraman visited our Reserve for the first time – they were delighted with everything they saw, the glorious view, the wildlife, the estuary and the welcoming staff and volunteers. They filmed a little at several locations, including our Sandmartin wall and were led on a tour of the area by Anna. They stayed in Montrose overnight and learned more about some of the interesting activities in the town.

Filming crew

Film crew with ranger Anna Cheshier and volunteer John Anderson

The following Thursday, 19th May, by 9am a larger Countryfile team of 5, including presenter Anita Rani, were ready to film. Typical however of the fickle Scottish weather, it was a dull, grey day – actually the first day in May when we had any rain in Montrose! The team all headed out for a morning of filming in the mist, which turned to a thick drizzle as the day went on. Just as well they had some lovely footage of our Sandmartins taken the previous week! Personally, I was happy to be indoors and just supplying teas and coffees between takes and chatting to Anita and the crew, turns out that Anita is a big fan of our traditional Scottish shortie.

Mallard nesting tube

Mallard nesting tube

In the afternoon Anna and her volunteers were to create a duck nesting tube – the first one on our reserve. Anita had to pull on her wellies, waterproofs and woolly hat again to help with this practical work. We hope that in future Mallard will use the tube of chicken wire and straw to make a nest which will be safe from predators, as these have proven successful on other reserves. This was then mounted on a post which was placed in a pond in front of our Visitor Centre – the sediment at the bottom was rather uneven, and we thought that the water might go over the top of Anita’s boots, but all was well with her – although Anna did return with a wet sock, it was due to a wee hole in her wellie!

© Coastguard Angus & Mearns

Mud rescue with Anita Rani © Coastguard Angus & Mearns

We said goodbye to the by now somewhat soggy BBC team and made plans to meet them again the following morning, much to my surprise Anita gave me a big hug and thanked me for looking after her. They headed off to a nearby hotel and then to meet up with our local Coastguard who was bringing them back to the estuary in the evening to take part in a demonstration of a mud rescue, at this point the weather cleared and everyone actually enjoyed a pleasant view of a Montrose Basin sunset.

Basin sunset © J Harrison

Montrose basin sunset after a rainy day filming © J Harrison

At 6.30am on the Friday the team met Anna once again for the final piece of filming, when I came in it was already half way through their day. Fortunately it was a more pleasant day weather wise and not so many waterproofs were required. Everyone involved had an early lunch, left us about 1pm and went down to the town to join the other film crew with Matt Baker at the rugby ground before flying back from Aberdeen later in the afternoon.

BasinViewsAWW017It seems to me that there is quite a lot of waiting around while the camera and sound person do various checks and that filming requires a great deal of patience. I am happy to tell people all about our fantastic nature reserve, but wouldn’t want a director to keep stopping me in mid flow or asking me to repeat the last bit of information in a different way! The researcher, James, told me that he and the crew were envious of our everyday view.  I replied that they must see some great places in their work, but James said that Montrose Basin was “up there” with the best, and I wholeheartedly agree with him on that!

Anita and myself

Anita and myself

If you missed the BBC Countryfile programme when it aired on Sunday 5th June you can still catch it on BBC iPlayer until 3rd July.

Alison O’Hara – Lead Teacher Naturalist






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My visit to Handa with Scottish Wildlife Trust


I had looked across to Handa island from the mainland a number of times and promised myself that one day I would visit the island as I heard it was a wildlife reserve and a great place to visit, however with work commitments time passed and I never managed to visit.

Once I retired from work I became a volunteer with Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) at Montrose Basin  and I discovered that Handa Island (one of 120 SWT reserves) is one of the largest seabird colonies in north west Europe.

A year later I was helping refurbish the dipping pond at Montrose Basin with Anna, the reserve ranger who asked me if I would be interested in volunteering for a week on Handa and if so I should go and see Emma, which I did immediately and she soon had me fixed up for a week’s volunteering on Handa Island along with Chris a European Volunteer (EVS) from Malta who is volunteering for one year at Loch of the Lowes.

On the Saturday, the day for the trip, we travelled to Tarbet in the far north west of Scotland.  On arrival, we introduced ourselves to Rodger the ferry master who operates the ferry which takes all volunteers and visitors to the Island.

With Rodgers help we loaded our bags and our food for a week’s stay on Handa on to the ferry and we set off up Handa sound heading for the island, on the way we saw a few Red-throated Divers and Shags in the water and a White-tailed Eagle above us.


The ferry approaches

As we approached the island we could see that it was going to be a beach landing and the two 2016 season rangers were there waiting for us on the beach, one pushed up a portable jetty to the boat and the other held the boat steady so we could disembark safely. Just along from the boat in the water was a Black-throated Diver and on the beach some Oystercatchers and a Ringed Plover.

handa bothy

Welcome to Handa

The rangers Tom and Danni welcomed us to Handa and helped us with our luggage up a very steep hill to the bothy where we would be staying for the week. On the way to the bothy we saw two Wheatears and a number of Skylarks plus a few rabbits running about on the hill just above the shelter.

The next day (Sunday) was a day off and Tom and Danni accompanied us around the visitors walk which is about 6km and took us about 3 hours.

On the Monday morning we put on thigh waders and the rangers Tom and Danni took us to the visitors shelter where we would be each day from 9am to 5pm.  They gave us an introduction to our job on the island, which was to work with the ferry, we were given a radio each for communicating with Rodger and a mobile phone for contacting the rangers.

Rodger would radio us when he was bringing visitors to the Island, we would then go to the beach where one of us would operate the portable jetty and the other would steady the boat, once the jetty was in place then whichever of us was working the jetty would also steady the ferry boat and ensure the visitors disembarked safely.

the beach

The beach

It wasn’t long before we received the first radio message from Rodger telling us he was on his way with a number of visitors and would be landing at the Lockie which was the name of one of two beaches used to land visitors on the island the other was Chapel bay but was simply known as The Beach so we headed down to the Lockie to meet the ferry.

safety talk

Me giving the safety talk

Once the visitors were safely on the beach we then accompanied them to the visitor shelter where Danni welcomed them to Handa and explained that the island was owned by Scourie estate and managed by Scottish Wildlife Trust.  She gave them some information about the island and about their safety while on the island including providing them with a map showing points of interest and the rangers phone number in case of emergency.

Tom and Danni helped us with landing the visitors up until 2pm and then said they were happy that we were working well and left us on our own for the rest of the week. The 2pm ferry brought Kate and Andrew, the new assistant rangers that would be staying on the island for four months. Tom and Danni the season rangers stay on the island for six months.

Handa team

From left to right: Chris (EVS volunteer), Tom (Handa ranger), Danni (Handa ranger), John (SWT volunteer), Kate (assistant ranger), Andrew (assistant ranger)

 The Visitors Walk

After leaving the shelter visitors head up hill and the first point of interest is a ruined village which consisted of 6 black houses and 64 people and was occupied until the mid-19th century when after the potato famine in 1845, followed by two years of failed crops the last remaining people approached McIvor one of the Duke of Sutherlands factors and asked him to ask the Duke if he would pay their passage to Canada (Nova Scotia) which he did and spent around £200 on biscuits for their voyage.

Once the people left, sheep were then put on the island and sheep were the occupants right up until 2003.

visitors walk

Keep on the path

The walk continues north and visitors were advised to stay on the track for their own safety and so they don’t disturb nesting birds or damage the habitats. They pass an area of heath where the Great Skua (Bonxies), Red Grouse, and other birds nest, then arrive at the cliffs and Puffin Bay, where on sheer cliffs, with a vertical drop of around 120 metres and a small needle stack, they can see Puffins and Fulmars soaring in the wind. Artic Skuas, White-Tailed Eagles and Gannets can also be seen flying.

Also on the heath you can see flowers such as the Spotted Orchid and Lousewort, Bell Heather, Sea Mayweed, Roseroot, Thrift, Bluebell and numerous mosses and lichens, common lizards, newts, Magpie and Garden Tiger Moths.

Heading west along the cliffs the next place of interest is the Handa Great Stack, a huge tower of torridonian sandstone reaching up from sea level to the height of the cliffs some 120 metres high, the stack is almost impossible to climb and it has been said that more people have landed on the moon than have reached the top.

On the stack at times there are thousands of Guillemots which at times can reach some 66,000 plus there are Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Shags, Cormorants and Fulmars.

Heading south you can see the great wall, a huge torridonian sandstone wall, again with Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars and Puffins. Continuing south you come to Poll Ghlup (pronounced Paul Gloop), what a great name for a sink hole! This is a huge sink hole caused by a collapsed sea cave hundreds of feet below. The torridonian sandstone is also the bedrock of the island, over 1,000 million years old and provides perfect ledges on the cliffs for nesting birds.

handa 2

Clear day with a view of the mainland

As you continue south and look west towards the Western Isles of Harris and Lewis, in the ocean if you are lucky you can see whales, dolphins, Porpoises, Basking sharks and seals.

The next place of interest is Boulder Bay here it is possible to see Otters and seals, further along are some more sandy beaches.  The track then heads east and visitors arrive back at the shelter, we then radio the ferry and once it arrives we again operate the portable jetty and get them safely back on board for their trip back to the mainland. We do this several times a day and each visitor is informed that the last boat leaves at 5pm, also as visitors arrive on the island we keep a record of how many adults, children and under 5’s arrive on the island, how many leave and how many are on the island at all times insuring that everyone has left at the end of the day.

Once the last visitors are safely back on the ferry, that’s it, our days’ work is done, we complete the paperwork for the day and head back to the bothy for a meal after which we are free to explore the island or do whatever we want to do.


Handa sunset

In the evenings you can hear numerous Snipe drumming with their tails, a very strange eerie sound and one I had never experienced before and sunsets on the island are simply amazing.

Sadly, Saturday come all too soon, our week on the island was over and it was time to leave but thanks to Scottish Wildlife Trust a great experience on an amazing Island, new friends made and after a few photographs and goodbyes we boarded the ferry as the next weekly volunteers disembarked.

On the way back I took Chris on a tour down the west coast to Ullapool and showed him the Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve before heading back to Inverness and on to Perth stopping in Aviemore for Fish and Chips.

John Anderson – Scottish Wildlife Trust Volunteer, Montrose Basin

Handa Island recently featured on BBC One: Highlands – Scotland’s Wild Heart 
























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Marvellous Moths of Montrose Basin

Laura and Maxime are two students who have travelled from France to join us working on the reserve at Montrose Basin for two months.  They recently enjoyed attending the Moth Night and have written a brief description of how they found the event. 


At the end of the afternoon of June 9th 2016 we participated at the Moth Night event at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre.

Paul giving us a presentation on moths

Firstly, Paul gave a talk on the different types of moth including how they live, reproduce, and how they grow up, with a presentation.


Paul and his moth trap

Then, we have seen many species of Moths thanks to Paul’s traps.

Indeed, he showed us more than 30 species, some in traps, others in tubes. Furthermore we have been able to take some species on our hands; that was really cool and funny.


Elephant Hawk Moth

Our favourite moths were the Poplar hawk and Elephant hawk moth, because we have never seen moths as big and colourful, in addition we would never had imagined that these kinds of species could exist in Scotland.


Poplar Hawk Moth


Maxime and Laura – Volunteer rangers Montrose Basin





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Wandering around

After our arrival, we got a “welcome pack” with lots of leaflets, maps and information. One of the most interesting from them was the one with the walking paths in Montrose. As I like walking very much, it gave me the first goal to reach: to walk along all of them.


Scurdie Ness Lighthouse, the first trip – Noémi Menczelesz

My first tour led to Scurdie Ness Lighthouse, from which one can have amazing view to the sea. If you are not tired, I suggest continue the trip in the direction of Mains of Usan, along the beach. No one should miss the beach of Montrose, too. As I came from a country, where there is no sea, I couldn’t take enough pictures from it.


The beach of Montrose – Noémi Menczelesz

I also had time to explore the walks of the Basin. As many of our visitors take the same road, it was quite useful to walk along it. Although that day we had typical Scottish weather with wind and cold, the walk was very interesting. It was even better, because I wasn’t alone, I went with one of my colleagues. We also had an opportunity to observe the Swan management officer moving the swans off the fields to protect them from overgrazing.

As I have said, one of my aims is to walk along as many walking paths in Montrose as I can. One of them leads to North Esk and Charleton farm. At the first time I didn’t reach North Esk, but I saw the fruit farm. In the beginning of May off course the berries were not ripe yet, but I am sure that I’ll return, when they will be ripe.

Our first trip to another town with Marika led to Dunnotar Castle and Stonehaven. Dunnotar Castle has a beautiful view to the sea. The castle is mainly a ruin, but with the information provided there, we could imagine, how they used the parts of it. After that, we continued our trip to Stonehaven, where we saw the harbour and even the bar, where the deep fried Mars bar were invented. Maybe I will miss the experience to taste it. We had some time to explore the beach, and to try our first fish and chips. It tasted so good that I think one of my plans is going to be to try it at as many places that I can. After having a nice ice cream (in hats and winter coats – but we have one life, haven’t we?), we headed back to Montrose. We also planned to visit an RSPB reserve, to see the puffins, but unfortunately, we ran out of time, it remains for the next time.


The view from Dunnotar Castle – Noémi Menczelesz

As the part of exploring new cities in Scotland, we had the opportunity to visit Dundee, and other EVS volunteers there. After spending so much time in Montrose, which is obviously a smaller town than Dundee, it was a little bit strange to be surrounded by so many people. We visited the main parts of the city, the Discovery Point, which was a ship used to explore the Antarctic. We also walked to the McManus Gallery. It is a beautiful building with many paintings and other information, too. It was a hard walk, but we managed to get to the top of Dundee law, too. I can say that for me it has worth the effort, because I like to see things from above, and beautiful landscapes. In my home country, we often went on trips to see our city from a hill nearby. We also saw many churches in Dundee. Unfortunately, none of them were open; which is a strange thing. In Hungary, we can usually visit the inside of the churches. After exploring the town, we had a very interesting international night with other EVS like us from France, Greece and Spain.


Dundee from the Dundee Law – Noémi Menczelesz

Now, I can feel that spring has arrived here, too, so in the following month I hope I can continue wandering around.

Noémi Menczelesz

European Volunteer

Posted in EVS, General, People, Sightings | Tagged , , |

Oh, look, it’s raining again…

Do you know when, for breaking the ice with new people, you take the “weather argument” and you feel an immeasurable loser because you haven’t found a better topic?
Well, here in Scotland it will never happen.
Here “weather” is the must, it’s the usual expression between the first greeting and the passage to the conversation’s heart; and that’s because actually about the weather you can say a lot.
Personally I’ve had a lot to tell regarding these days when I had occasion to assist to a sequence of sudden changes, alternating rain, wind, sun, snow, hail stones, sun, wind, rain, sleet, sun… all in eight hours.
I’m glad not to be meteoropathic.

"Summer is coming" they tell me...

“Summer is coming” they tell me… © Marika Davoli

Anyway, apart the quaint weather, my second month has passed through new discoveries, some trips, little personal goals and project for the future.
One thing that I love mostly of this city is its music dimension. Montrose is quite famous in Angus for hosting MoFest: a music festival which for three days will occupy squares, streets and pubs of the entire city, around the end of May. I’m speaking about bands almost purely local and pubs that give their space (and their beers!) to a mass of people who love the sensation of rumbling tympanums, of bass vibrations under shoes, of hearing guitar solos, and who cannot wait to get wild to the rhythms of rock, folk, reggae, and so on.
Then, I will be in that mass too, probably busy running here and there looking for the sound I love and, above all, groups that I’ve had the honour of appreciating and that I’ll gladly hear again.
So if you, between the 27th and the 29th of May, will have nothing to do, here there’s a little town that’s waiting for you with rivers of beer and good music!

Dunnottar Castle view © Marika Davoli

Dunnottar Castle view © Marika Davoli

In these days – aided by the more human temperatures – I’ve had the possibility to find out new sides of this land which reveal itself with delicate discretion day after day.
Our first, lucky excursion was towards Dunnottar Castle: suggesting ruins roost on a coast’s fragment, a little but fundamental fortified village which gave a very important contribution to Scotland’s history. Was there where, in fact, about the 13th century, William Wallace set fire to the chapel full of English soldiers who had taken refuge inside; and where, about three hundred and fifty years after, the Crown Jewels were hidden during the dark ages of Cromwell’s occupation.
Dunnottar Castle is a typical Scottish landscape, of those which you can find on every postcard and recognize effortlessly. North Sea hitting the bluffs, white froth cutting through by gulls, razorbills and guillemots (unfortunately I didn’t see any Puffins, sigh sigh), huge and green meadows… and romantic castle’s ruins.
Oh, moreover Dunnottar Castle has been the scenery chosen by Franco Zeffirelli for his film Hamlet (1990), which won two Oscars and, well, that’s made me feel a bit at home.

Dun Estate's path © Marika Davoli

Dun Estate’s path © Marika Davoli

Another much appreciated trip was at Dun Estate, in Montrose: a lovely building in Georgian style surrounded by an enormous green estate, crossed by lots of little rivers reached through one of many “secret” paths, and where a beautiful series of centuries-old oaks stands out and makes a wonderful impression at the sunset.
Taking advantage of imminent summer, hoping the weather won’t get weird, I wish to explore Angus, this region full of stories, ways and views that make it feel like for each threshold crossed there’s a world to discover.
As my friend told me before I left Italy: “Who knows, perhaps you will get inspired for some of your novels”. Happy to confirm that I’ve got inspired.
Yes, because one of the little personal goals which I’ve just spoken is have finished the writing of my second novel, right here in Montrose. As it may seem irrelevant for the rest of the world, writing has ever been my vocation, and to be able to “blend” it with my adventure here as an integral part of it, represents a great outcome and a big awareness for me.
I concluded my latest post with the hope for a more clement weather, and now seems that it’s gently accepted my request… sometimes.
So I’m going to close this post with the hope to improve my English – pardon, my Scottish – which keeps to be not good (damn me).

Thanks to all of you for encouraging me.

Marika Davoli
European Volunteer

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Dandelions the most undervalued wild flower

At this time of year we are bombarded with TV adverts about how dandelions are going to destroy your lawn and driveway.

What’s so wrong with an over grown lawn or a road verge full of weeds?

Why is it that everyone is so obsessed with keeping things tidy?

My biggest spring bugbear is when councils and home owners insist on cutting road verges. If it was a visibility issue then that makes sense but if that’s not an issue then why not let the vegetation grow?

What people don’t seem to realise is that road verges can be a useful wildlife corridor, offering food and shelter to small mammals and insects. One of the champions of these corridors is undoubtedly the humble dandelion. Persecuted by many as an invasive weed, most people don’t seem to understand its true value.


Loewenzahn; Taraxacum officinale – wikimedia commons

The dandelion (Taraxacum officiniale) is actually a type of daisy, part of the Asteraceae family. It is commonly found in meadows, pastures, waste ground and road verges. I first noticed their abundance at the beginning of the month as they replaced the Daffodils, with an equally bright display of colour.


Florets – Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen – Wikimedia commons

The flower head or capitulum of a dandelion is actually made up of lots of individual flowers known as florets or ray flowers. Each have stamen with pollen, nectar and a single petal. This is a key feature in daisies and is part of the reason why they are so vital to pollinating insects.  With continuous flowering through spring and summer, each floret provides pollen and nectar and therefore a near continuous supply of food for visiting insects.


Fruit – Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen – Wikimedia commons

However as I’m sure you know dandelions don’t actually need insects to propagate through cross pollination. Instead their flowers develop into seeds, creating the dandelion clocks that I used to play with as a child. These seeds are an exact replica of the parent plant and use the wind to disperse. So the relationship between the dandelion and the pollinators it supports is a positive neutral relationship, named commensalism. Meaning the flower doesn’t suffer or gain anything from its relationship with the insect, but the insect gains something positive.

Dandelions can supply food to a number of different pollinators including bumblebees, butterflies, hover flies, day flying moths and solitary bees.

F Green-veined White butterfly

Green veined white butterfly on a dandelion – Andy Wakelin

There is a growing need for people to recognise that our pollinators, and in particular our honey bees are coming under threat of extinction. This is no small matter as we need our pollinators to pollinate many of our fruits and vegetables.

In fact, there are already places in the world that have to transport bee colonies to and from farms just so that they can pollinate the crops. For certain crops, pollination is necessary for the fruit to develop and grow. Therefore these mobile colonies of bees are becoming big business and sadly essential.

In the UK we are heading in that direction and if we all just took the opportunity to sit in the garden and not mow the lawn we might all be better for it in the long run. Just think of all the bees and butterflies you could sit and observe on a sunny day. Of course valuing dandelions as an essential food source and not an ugly common weed can’t be the only way to solve the decline in our bee populations but it is something that everyone can do.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust are currently running a campaign to Save our bees by urging the Scottish Government to recognise that neonicotinoid insecticides are harmful to our pollinators. Click the links to find out how you can help.

Special thank you to Neil Bromhall for allowing  us to use this excellent timelapse footage. His website www.rightplants4me.co.uk is available to help with plant ID.

Go wild in June with our 30 days wild challenge

Emma Castle-Smith                                                                                                                                  Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Posted in General, Uncategorized, Wildflowers | Tagged , , , , , , |

Teacher Naturalist – a special kind of job

Finally, my colleagues have worn me down and I have agreed to post a blog or two. So – where to start? “At the very beginning…” as Julie Andrews tells us, “it’s a very good place to start!”
Montrose Basin Visitor Centre was declared open in June 1995 by Magnus Magnusson and I was there! I was working for the outside catering company and I felt quite honoured to serve him his glass of bubbly. Our base for sorting out the food and drink was the education room – little did I know then how much time I was going to spend there in the coming years.
The local children were keen to visit the Centre and to join the monthly Wildlife Watch group, started by the new education officer, Blair Wilkie. My son, Scott, then 8 years old, really enjoyed it and I soon began volunteering, along with a couple of other parents, to help run the many and varied activities.


Wildlife Watch 1998

Late in 1999 there were a number of changes in the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Blair began working at head office in Edinburgh. Myself and a couple of parents kept the Watch group running with the help of the ranger, Karen Spalding. By this time it was my daughter, Amy who was attending along with her friends. Karen was missing Blair at the Visitor Centre and proposed a new way of delivering education at Montrose Basin – the Teacher Naturalist programme was born!


Teacher Naturalist Team 2004

I was employed, along with 5 others, and trained to deliver occasional activities. We mainly took groups out on the estuary mud at low tide, to hunt for the creatures lurking there and learn more about them; this is still our most popular activity today.
As time went on the team, who all had other jobs, were barely able to keep up with demand from local nursuries, primary schools and groups such as Brownies and Cubs and in 2002 it was suggested that a “Lead Teacher Naturalist” be employed, one day per week from April till October. I was delighted to be chosen as the successful candidate and still hold this position today.
Currently we have 13 Teacher Naturalists (or TNs as we call them) who have been trained and employed on an “as and when required” basis. They have a wide variety of skills and interests, and all have an extensive knowledge of the natural world and in particular our estuary here at Montrose and it’s wildlife. Some of them only deliver very few activities annually but are still as valued as those who manage to cover many events. We get together for “in house” training a couple of times a year and share our knowledge and good practice as well as being professionally trained in outdoor emergency aid.
Why not come along to one of our many family fun days, wild about the basin events or other activities? You are sure to meet one of our team of enthusiastic, knowledgable TNs and have a great time while discovering more about the world around you.

Alison O’Hara
Lead Teacher Naturalist
Montrose Basin Visitor Centre


Don’t forget this weekend!!!

Pollinator Paradise May 2016 Optical Fair May 2016

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One step forward, two steps back

Tallinn - first day of spring

Tallinn – first day of spring 2016

I happened to be on holiday in Estonia on the first day of spring this year and it was snowing. Naturally you make excuses for such a thing due to the fact that Estonia is so much further north than Scotland. So snow on the first day of spring was acceptable. Fast forward to the end of April and what do we have here in Angus. Snow. Fortunately it is not heavy and the ducks don’t seem to mind but it certainly doesn’t feel spring like at the moment.

Despite the odd weather, we have had a number of spring migrants make their way back to Montrose and the surrounding area over the past month.

Sand Martins Wall AndyWakelin

Sand Martins at the wall (c) Andy Wakelin

Our Sand Martins returned earlier than usual on the 29th March and have been very active at the wall especially when the sun is out. Chiffchaff were also heard singing for the first time this year in the last week of March.  The first of the Swallows to investigate the eaves arrived on the 6th of April but have scarcely been seen since then.

This month we’ve also had our first sightings of Osprey, Willow Warbler, Sandwich Terns and a male Black cap eating at the feeders.

wren RM

Wren nest building April 2016 (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

More importantly there has been a lot of evidence of nesting around the centre and on the reserve. Recently one of our members photographed a wren building its nest by the Bank of Scotland hide and one of the rangers accidentally disturbed a female Eider duck this afternoon who has begun building a nest out on the reserve.

So despite the crappy weather the birds are getting on with their spring duties and fingers crossed the weather improves soon.

Don’t forget that the centre is warm and has fantastic views across the Basin. We sell tea and coffee so it’s definitely the cosiest place in Angus to bird watch. Our next event is on 8th May, Pollinator paradise family fun day and an optics fair with an Opticron representative to answer all your questions.

Emma Castle-Smith

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Optical Fair May 2016Pollinator Paradise May 2016

Posted in Birds, Events, Sightings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , |


Hi, I am Noémi, the other EVS volunteer from Hungary. I can tell you that at first it was very hard for me. Not just because I haven’t left my home country, Hungary, for such a long time before, but because I had to leave my family as well. At the same time, I was looking forward to the new experiences and adventures. I felt lucky, because this was my first opportunity to work in the conservation sector.

Where is Hungary in Europe?

Where is Hungary in Europe? – commons.wikimedia.org

The reaction of my friends was very variable, when I told them that I will be away for one year. Many of them didn’t understand, why I am doing this – I had a job in Hungary that wasn’t a voluntary work, obviously. Of course sometimes I asked myself the same question. However I still think that having an abroad experience should be a part of everyone’s life and this is a very good way for it.

I left my home very early, at 4:30am. My parents brought me to the airport. After the tearful farewell, luckily everything went well, although I was worried that the size of my handbag will be too big. At first, I landed at London Heathrow Airport, this huge building compared to the size of Budapest’s  Airport. After a short bus trip to the next terminal, I had to wait for my flight to Edinburgh, but at least I had some chance to walk around in the building. After the arrival to Edinburgh, I managed to find the bus to the train station with a little difficulty and then took the train.


Basin at sunset – Noémi Menczelesz

When I arrived to Montrose after the long journey, the first experience was the cold and windy weather. I have to admit that at first I didn’t know how I will hold on for one year. But the people who were waiting for me (Alison from the Visitor Centre, Matt, our landlord and Marika, the other EVS volunteer from Italy) were very welcoming, and soon we ended up in a restaurant. The journey to explore a new country and culture began, following with the first day, when I got a taste of a real English tea with cake. Later it turned out that it is an everyday habit here, which is very nice, because it can keep someone warm.

As I came from another country, learning a new job may be more difficult than in someone’s home country. There are many things to get used to, even little ones, like the new money. Luckily, everybody was very helpful and patient.

I think that in the first month, I have already learnt very much from the Scottish culture and food. The friendly staff in the Visitor Centre and our new friends in Montrose gave many opportunities to experience life here. In this first one month, I tried different places, bars and restaurants. Of course, one of the first meals to try here is haggis, as one of the most Scottish foods. At first I was worried about trying it, but it is a nice meal – even if a little bit spicy. As eating, I found it very similar to a Hungarian dish called hurka, which is traditionally made when slaughtering a pig. It is made from the liver, lungs and fat of the pig and rice, filled in the intestines of the pig. The seasoning is a little bit different from the Scottish one: we use salt, pepper and paprika (http://www.meatsandsausages.com/sausage-recipes/hurka).

It is interesting that ginger is used here many times – for example in beers, which I found very tasty. Of course I have tasted traditional Irish and Scottish beers, too, in the bars that I have visited. I can say, they taste different than Hungarian ones, but my favourites will still remain the sweet drinks.


Sprinkling – hu.wikipedia.org

As I like sweet food very much, too, I liked the traditional Easter cake, the hot cross bun since the first time. This cake has a cross on its top, which symbolizes the cross of Jesus. Hungary has traditional Easter meals, too, we usually eat boiled ham with eggs for Easter. There is an interesting tradition in Hungary in connection with women’s fertility: boys go around the town and sprinkle perfume on the girls head. Even a few decades before they used water for this procedure! (http://www.hungarotips.com/customs/locsol.html)


Daffodils at the Centre – Noémi Menczelesz

As Easter and spring pass, the daffodils are still blooming, while walking to work, so let’s hope for a warmer weather soon.

Noémi Menczelesz, European Voluntary Service volunteer, Montrose Basin

Please see our next events on the 8th of May

Optical Fair May 2016 Pollinator Paradise May 2016

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How to put yourself in trouble

Ciao to everyone, Marika speaking.
Do you know when, for years and years, you chase a desire, an inspiration for which you feel like you could do everything, and suddenly the possibility that this desire can become a reality?
So, do you know the deadly panic that assails you when your desire is so close to becoming reality?
Well, I felt that too.
Well, that’s exactly what happened to me when the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s email arrived to my mailbox for inform me that I was selected for a twelve months project in the town of Montrose, on the east coast of Ewan McGregor’s home land.

This is the situation’s panoramic: for a long time I was looking for an abroad experience, and for a year I threw myself in the EVS’ – European Voluntary Service – world, researching a project for which I was right, and which it was right for me. After some attempts, motivational letters, emails without answer and interviews via Skype, I really was losing hopes, ‘til the news of my selection arrived.
Obviously I knew about the project length, activities and accomodation, but the step between dreaming it and doing it, is always an unknown that doesn’t respond to the logical laws but emotional ones. My emotions, reached that step, came into conflict.
An instead entire year away from everything I recognise, from everyone I know, in a new society with a different culture, new people and new things to learn, to assimilate, to discover, to create; it was about launch me out of my comfort zone and get in a totally foreign dimension.
The question that I often asked myself was: “Going there or not going there?”, accompanied by more visceral one: “Am I doing the right thing?”
If I am doing the right thing was a question that concerned only me, my attitude and my way of facing the situation; and about the first question I decided that I didn’t want tease myself. I sweated, I wrote, I engaged for months and months to obtain the result of a departure – and for a important project – backed down was like admitted that my desire was only a fantasy.
And I knew it wasn’t.
So, like it or not, I had two months for accustom myself to the idea, and little by little the departure became a fact. The news emerged spontaneously with friends, I was beginning to boast a little with acquaintances, I declined some invites because I knew that, by that time I wouldn’t be in Italy. I lived with mix of sadness, terror and excitment for the new and unknown.
At the end, I left.
First day of March started really “good”, with total anxiety because of an accident at the motorway exit and relative queue, that make me fear of missing the flight, but everything was ok, and even better: luck was with me because the not very hardworking airport employee ignored that my bag exceeds the weight for which I booked. Then, alright! I arrived to Edinburgh airport greeted by smiling operators, I took the coach for station and there I collected the ticket for Montrose, that I booked in Italy. At dusk I was on the train and the Scotland profile accompanied me while I thinking that the day went as smoothly as honey, for me, which travelling alone is always a source of anxiety, was a real satisfaction.
In Montrose I met two lovely people – Alison and Matt – and some hours later also Noemi, the girl that will be my EVS adventure mate for one year. For made us familiar they invited us out for dinner, showing a cordiality that, in that frightfully cold and windy evening, melted our hearts.

The unmistakable profile of Montrose town - Marika Davoli

The unmistakable profile of Montrose town – Marika Davoli

From the next day was started our new adventure: we did a little journey in this city of about 12.000 people and with a unmistakable profile, and then to Visitor Centre, where the project is located. A pretty, nice place full of big windows and binoculars with which to observe the Basin, where, as well as many non-migratory species, every year thousands of migratory and birds stop to rest, to relax, to moult and to feed them thanks to the circle of biodiversity.

Two frequent visitors of the Center – Marika Davoli

The Visitor Centre will be the centre of my life the for this year, hoping to learn not only English language but also the accent a bit… tough.
This first month was a global smattering of what is waiting for us: lot of information, notions, news, that I hope to can facing little by little, until the achievement of my specific goals, and for discover aspects of me that I have never met.
Only time will tell.
For the moment I just hope for a more clement climate!

Big, blue North Sea - Marika Davoli

Big, blue North Sea – Marika Davoli



Marika Davoli – EVS volunteer

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