Reserve Sightings

Canada geese flying Glyn Lewis - resized and copyright

Canada Geese flying at Ferryden (c) Glyn Lewis

This week has definitely been a week of Canada Geese, with numbers remaining high at 380 throughout the week. Their very distinctive V-flight formation can be seen across the sky, especially in early mornings and late afternoons.  Pink-foot numbers have remained at 9 as have the Greylag Geese at 38. So far all these sightings have been on the west area of the Basin, but the next few months should give us closer viewing from the Visitor Centre and it shouldn’t be too long now until we start to see the large flocks of Pink-footed Geese we expect to see in September.

Wader numbers have now increased to those we are used to seeing through autumn and winter, though there have been some unusually high numbers for some of the species. 1006 Oystercatchers, 1289 Curlew, 1147 Redshank, and 12 Greenshank are what we would expect. However, this year’s 867 Lapwing is almost 3 times the number from last year and the 149 Dunlin and 201 Black-tailed Godwit are also much higher than this time last year. Other wader counts for this week have been 4 Knot, 1 Snipe and 8 Golden Plover.

Other sightings this week include 2 Gadwall at the Salt Pans, 2 Moorhen, 1 Osprey hunting out front, 271 Cormorants, 101 Goosander and 54 Red-breasted Mergansers throughout the Basin, and 6 Goldeneye. Slightly more unusual sightings have been the Short-eared owl and the 4 juvenile Little Grebes both spotted on the 24th.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Special thanks to Glyn Lewis for allowing us to use his photo.

Posted in Birds, General, Sightings |

Are birds dinosaurs?

Jackdaw Harry Bickerstaff (148) - sized & copyright

Jackdaw (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Birds are one of the most successful animals on the planet and, when it comes to wildlife watching, one of the easiest to see. Thanks to modern technology and some very dedicated researchers our understanding their behaviour, including migration routes, has greatly increased over the last few years. However, how they evolved has always been a bit of an enigma.

The first hint of their possible evolutionary origin came in the 1860s from a quarry in south Germany where the first specimen of Archaeopteryx was discovered. As the first known bird, its arms and tail were covered with modern appearing feathers, but unlike modern birds it also had teeth, a long bony tail, and its hands, shoulder girdles, pelvis and feet bones are distinctive and not fused. This led to Darwin’s friend, Thomas Huxley, to first suggest the link between dinosaurs and birds in 1868. The idea fell out of favour, however, in the early 20th Century when palaeontologist Gerhard Heilmann published ‘The Origin of Birds’ stating that birds evolved directly from thecodonts, a reptilian group which also gave rise to dinosaurs, crocodiles, and pterosaurs.

Then in the 1970s palaeontologists noticed that Archaeopteryx shared a number of features with small carnivorous dinosaurs called theropods, and the resulting evolutionary tree implies that birds are just a ‘twig’ off the dinosaur branch. Fossils discovered over the last 15 years, predominantly in China and South America, have backed up this theory with the theropods seen to be closest to birds on the evolutionary tree showing several different types of feathers. Changes to the hand digits of dinosaurs in the theropod group also show evidence of this connection between the two groups as the fifth and then fourth digit is completely lost as you move towards the bird twig. The wrist bones under the first and second digits is also shown to fuse together and become more semi-circular, allowing the hand to rotate sideways against the forearm. More recent research, published in Science, has found that theropods were the only dinosaurs to get continuously smaller, shrinking 12 times before becoming the size of modern birds.

As with all theories, there are some anomalies that need to be looked into further. Developmental studies on bird hands now indicate that they actually comprise of digits 2, 3, and 4 rather than the 1, 2, and 3 you would expect if they evolved from theropods. There is also evidence that the feathers seen of earlier theropod fossils may actual just be collagen fibres found in skin that has been preserved in an unusual way.

Despite this, the evidence behind birds descending from dinosaurs is a compelling one. So instead of them being extinct, we could in fact be feeding small dinosaurs in our back gardens.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, General, Species profile |

Reserve Sightings

RainbowOverMontrose - Andy Wakelin -resized & copyright

Rainbow over Montrose (c) Andy Wakelin

This week’s reserve sightings couldn’t be written without mentioning the low rainbow seen over Montrose on Thursday. Caused by the reflection and refraction of light in water droplets, they allow us to see the full spectrum of light against the sky. This rainbow was made all the more spectacular by the dull, overcast day we’d been having before.

Pink-footed Geese (c) SWT

Pink-footed Geese (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Perhaps the most exciting observation this week has been the 9 Pink-footed Geese spotted just behind the Visitor Centre on the 20th. This is a very early sighting for Pink-feet, with last year’s first sighting being on the 8th September, but as this seems to be a year full of ‘unusual activity’ perhaps it’s not quite so surprising. Other geese seen this week are 8 Greylay Geese spotted in the Ferryden area on the 22nd.

Further sightings on the reserve this week include a Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk outside the Visitor Centre, 77 Grey Heron at the Lurgies, 400 Lapwing on the Salt Pans, 41 Goosander mid-basin, 119 Cormorants unusually sighted at Maryton Bay and over 700 Eider throughout the Basin. The tern raft has remained a great viewing opportunity throughout the week with adults Terns making regular trips carrying fish back to the chicks. On the mammal front, a Stoat was seen again at the dipping pond on the 20th and today’s count of Common Seals is 29.

In other news, next weekend will be a great weekend if you are trying to find something for the kids to do as we have the Family fun day – “Messy mud at Montrose” – on the Saturday and “It’s Our World Partnership” on Sunday.

 

Messy mud & it's our worldGeorgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Events, General, Mammals, Sightings |

Reserve Sightings

Closer inspection of the tern raft this week has revealed that the tern’s breeding success has been better than previously thought. 12 Common Tern chicks have been counted this week, the highest number so far this summer. A few of the chicks look to be no more than a few weeks old so it will be a fight against time for their parents to successfully fledge them before heading on their long migration south. The chicks are currently finding the courage to make their first explorations out from under their brick homes and around the raft, and the Visitor Centre viewing gallery is the ideal place to watch this.

This week has also seen the number of Canada Geese rise to the 371 counted on the reserve today. Having been introduced from North America, Canada Geese don’t have a natural migration path in the UK. This, however, hasn’t stopped them from moving northwards in a mini migration and is the reason behind the increased numbers seen on the reserve at this time of the year. The flocks of geese that besiege English parks and gardens fly north in early summer and congregate on the Beauly Firth before heading south again in late summer. Another mass congregation on the Basin this week has been that of Herring, Black Headed and Common Gulls. Over the last few weeks there have been up to 8,000 of them feeding together across the reserve. Local fisherman have reported seeing higher numbers of fish in the sea than anytime over the past 20 years, so the gulls must be feeding on these schools of fish as they flood the Basin on the incoming tide.

Other sightings on the reserve this week have included 2 Spotted Redshank, 10 Greenshank, 2 Kingfishers and a Little Egret at the Lurgies on the 14th along more regular Osprey sightings across the reserve, probably due to the fact that most the juveniles in the local area are now fully fledged and therefore hunting by themselves. High counts today have included 172 Mute Swans, 321 Lapwing, 96 Red Breasted Merganser, 90 Goosander and 105 Herons.

Greenshank (c) Harry Bickerstaff

Greenshank (c) Harry Bickerstaff

Craig Shepherd,

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager.

Posted in Birds, Sightings |

Weekend Events

It’s that time of the year again, when the long summer comes to an end and the children have to go back to school. So why not make this tough time a bit easier…..by bringing them along to one of our fun filled weekend events!

You can choose between joining us on a ‘Journey to the Centre of the Mud’ on Saturday or helping us to discover seaside creatures on Sunday by taking part in our ‘Rockpool Ramble’. Just see the posters below for details and don’t forget to ask in advance if you’re unsure of how to get to the meeting points.

 

Journey to the centre of the mud (c) SWT

Journey to the centre of the mud (c) SWT

 

Rockpool ramble (c) SWT

Rockpool ramble (c) SWT

Posted in Events |

Reserve Sightings

Common Tern and Eel - Darin Smith

Common Tern and Sand Eel (c) Darin Smith

This week has continued to be a great week for wader watching and gull gawking. On almost a daily basis hundreds of Black-headed, Herring, and Common Gulls can be seen diving into the water at mid-tide usually joined by the three Tern species found at the Basin. We can’t be a hundred percent certain what it is they’re hunting for but, judging from what the Common Terns are bringing back to their chicks on the raft, it looks its Sandeels.

Godwit group Rossie Spit Harry Bickerstaff

Black-tailed Godwits (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Today’s count of waders includes 134 Lapwing, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, 20 Dunlin, 380 Oystercatchers and 100 Redshank. A large group of 120 Goosanders were also seen at high tide today, near the Tern raft and, among the waders at Rossie Spit, 12 Sandwich Terns and 50 Herring Gulls.

Mute swan flying - Nick Townell

Mute Swan (c) Nick Townell

Numbers of Mute Swans seen on the Basin also increases around this time of year as moulting makes them more vulnerable to land predators. Today’s count was 160 individuals. A number of juvenile Shelduck can also be seen on the Basin – 10 were seen with 8 adults today in front of the Visitor Centre.

Other sightings this week include Osprey hunting mid Basin, a Snipe spotted near the Shelduck Hide, a Common Sandpiper at the Mill Burn entrance and a Marsh Harrier, all on the 5th. A Willow Warbler was also spotted that day on the Visitor Centre feeders and a Sparrowhawk near the same spot on the 8th.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Fish, Sightings |

Reserve Sightings

Common tern and chick - resized & copyright

Common Tern with chick (c) Richard Blackburn

Since the sighting of 2 Common Tern chicks last week all eyes have been turned onto the tern raft. Now spending more time away from the protection of the bricks they are much easier to see, and 5 chicks were seen today.

A more unusual sighting at Montrose has been a species you would normally see while taking a walk along the Seaton Cliffs. This is the Kittiwake, with 70 seen at the Rossie Spit today during low tide along with 52 Black-tailed Godwits, around 300 Redshank, and 150 Oystercatchers.

The Lurgies continues to be a good spot to see waders, with a Spotted Redshank, a Green Sandpiper, a Whimbrel, and 17 Greenshank sighted there on the 31st July, and 9 Common Sandpiper today. The Little Egret continues to be seen there on a regular basis, with official sightings on the 31st July and today.

Other sightings this week include the regular view of the adult Moorhens and 2 chicks at the Salt Pans, a Water Rail seen at the Bank of Scotland Hide on the 31st July and the Salt Pans on the 2nd August, and 16 Grey Heron on the 2nd. 49 Goosanders were also seen at high tide on the 30th July fishing in front of the Tern Raft, 8 Swallows flying around the Visitor Centre on the 28th, and 15 Canada Geese in the centre of the Basin on the 28th.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Sightings |

Great British Dangers

There’s no better way to enjoy the glorious British summer than a relaxed stroll in the sun is there? Get your shorts on, take a picnic and head out into the great outdoors without a worry in the world…….or so you think. Although the British countryside is relatively danger free compared to most, there are still perils to be found. So here’s a list of what’s worth looking out for;

  1. One of the biggest killers of the British countryside, believe it or not, are cows! Although you would naturally associate bulls with aggression and high speed chases, it’s actually cows that provide the biggest source of danger. You should be particularly wary around cows when they have calves, as they will stop at nothing to ensure the safety of their young. Most attacks in the breeding season occur when people walk their dogs in fields with calves, as the cows take the dogs for predators and will charge to deal with this associated danger. Incidents in the past few years have included that of the former home secretary David Blunkett being injured by charging cows whilst walking his guide dog in 2009.
  1. Not a problem in Scotland, but instead in southern England where they have been accidentally re-introduced, Wild Boars are the next on our list of great British wildlife dangers. Although generally not a threat to humans they can become aggressive when they feel threatened themselves, particularly by dogs. There has been an increase in reports of dogs and their owners being attacked by the species and of horses being spooked in recent years. This feeling of being threatened by dogs is thought to be hardwired into the boars as a result of their time spent alongside Wolves, both in the UK and across Europe.
  1. Next on the list are Deer; fond of both charging people and unfortunately colliding with cars. You’re more likely to be injured by a deer whilst in the ‘safety’ of your car, with up to 50,000 collisions involving deer happening on a yearly basis. As is the case with cows, deer are most likely to become aggressive whilst protecting their young, with incidences including one man being chased by 11 hinds and groups of walkers being forced to climb trees being reported in the past year. Another time to be wary of deer is in the autumn, when males are full of testosterone and show heightened aggression towards each other whilst rutting. Any innocent bystanders may be mistaken for rivals and promptly chased off their territory.
  1. Next comes something you would expect to be on a list of dangerous animals – our only venomous snake. Widespread throughout the UK, but more common in the south, Adders are usually associated with open heathland and woodland. Although over 100 Adder bites were reported to the NHS last year, seeing one is no reason to panic. Adders are calm and retiring creatures that only resort to biting as a form of defence when people attempt to handle them or stand on them. The slim chance of being fatally attacked by the species is highlighted in the fact that only 14 deaths have been attributed to adder bites in the past 140 years, although fatal attacks on dogs are much higher. Although rare, adder bites should still be taken seriously and medical attention sought promptly. Symptoms include dizziness, vomiting and painful swelling with the only instruction being to immobilise the affected limb before seeking medical attention.
  2. Adder (c) Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group

    Adder (c) Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group

  1. Last but not least on our fascinating list is the mighty tick. Often overlooked due to their size, ticks are transmitters of Lyme disease and shouldn’t be underestimated. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by ticks as they feed, having initially picked up the disease from animals such as deer and mice. The most noticeable symptom of Lyme disease is the presence of a pink or red circular rash around the bite, with flu-like symptoms and fatigue following. Lyme disease can be easily treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated can lead to neurological problems and joint pain years later. There are around 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in the UK each year, but there are some simple rules that can be followed to prevent it. It’s, of course, advised to try and avoid areas where ticks are abundant, particularly in the summer months. However, when walking in wooded areas or long grass make sure that you wear trousers and long sleeves, use tick repellent spray and check your clothes and body for ticks before you return home. If ticks are found they should be removed as quickly as possible, preferably using tweezers or specially constructed tick removers.
Tick (c) Tick Info

Tick (c) Tick Info

 

Hopefully, having read through this list we haven’t scared you off from going out and exploring our great outdoors, but instead instilled a little bit of caution when you do so. The British countryside is a safe place to be, however, it’s always worth remembering that you’re putting yourself into the animal’s environment. So always make sure that you adapt to suit them, be careful and more than anything enjoy yourself! Follow these simple rules and nothing can go wrong…….hopefully!

Source; Perils of the English Countryside BBC news Website, July 2014.

Craig Shepherd,

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager.

Posted in General, Mammals, Reptiles, Species profile |

Reserve Sightings

At long last we have some new arrivals on the Tern Raft, in the form of two Common Tern chicks! Having suffered so many setbacks over the summer we were prepared for another year without successful breeding, however, it looks like the Tern’s fortunes may finally have changed. Two chicks were spotted yesterday afternoon as they temporarily left the safety of their hollow brick ‘houses’ to pester their parents for food. Due to the fact the Tern Raft camera isn’t working at the moment we can’t confirm if there are any more chicks on the raft, but it’s a distinct possibility that there are more hidden safely inside their bricks. Although it’s late in the season, there should still be plenty time for the chicks to fledge successfully before their return migration in September.

Today has been a particularly busy day in terms if sightings, with the Lurgies playing host to a Little Egret. Although the species can still be classed as uncommon in the area, sightings of them are increasing as they breed in England and establish themselves in the UK. Also seen on the Lurgies today were 2 Kingfishers, a Ruff and a Green Sandpiper. Seen elsewhere today was an Osprey, a Sparrowhawk, 82 Dunlin, 42 Black Tailed Godwits, 56 Grey Herons, 94 Red Breasted Mergansers and 90 Goosander. Throughout the week it has also been waders filling the pages of our sightings book, with 8 Common Sandpiper, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 3 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover and 1 Little Ringed Plover all been seen. Sandwich Tern numbers have been high throughout the week with a peak of 284 being counted on Rossie Spit today and the adult Moorhen with 2 chicks has continued to be seen in the Salt Pans area.

Common Sandpiper (c) Richard Blackburn

Common Sandpiper (c) Richard Blackburn

Craig Shepherd,

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager.

Posted in Birds, Sightings |

Reserve Sightings

Moorhen chick from video (19-07-2014 12-21) - cropped

Moorhen Chicks (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Probably the most exciting sightings this week have been the 3 Moorhen chicks. 2 were first seen on the 15th, with 3 sighted today at the Kingfisher Pond outside the Visitor Centre viewing window. After watching the 2 adults collect nesting material earlier on this year we weren’t sure if we would see any chicks, so 3 is great news.

Keeping with the rail family, a Water Rail chick was also seen this week at the Bank of Scotland hide on the 17th. Another unusual sighting was a Peregrine Falcon seen catching and consuming a Redshank just outside the Visitor Centre on the 14th.

Other sightings this week include a Sparrowhawk seen outside the Visitor Centre on the 15th. I Green Sandpiper, 3 Dunlin, 106 Lapwing, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, and 11 Greenshank seen at the Lurgies on the 16th, and 44 Common Sandpiper also seen at the Lurgies on the 17th. From the Visitor Centre 198 Redshank were seen on the 13th, 14 Canada Geese on the 15th, 1 Greylag Goose on the 16th, and 61 Goldeneye also on the 16th. Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser numbers have remained high, with 48 and 74 counted on the 13th respectively. Grey Heron numbers have now reached 37, and these can be seen throughout the Basin.

In other news, we have a new exhibition at the Visitor Centre by the Montrose Basin Heritage Society which will run until the end of August. Entitled ‘Mapping Montrose Basin’ it is a display of extracts taken from a series of maps covering the Montrose area from the 16th Century until relatively modern times.

mbhsexhibition2014

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Events, General, Sightings |