Wildflowers – Blog #1

This month at Montrose Basin, we’re wild about wildflowers! We’ll be posting blogs throughout April to focussed on three rare and common wildflowers which you might see on or around our reserve. This time, it’s Viper’s Bugloss, Ragged Robin, and Forget-Me-Not.

Viper's Bugloss (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Viper’s Bugloss
(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Viper’s Bugloss (echium vulgare) is a wildflower that can be found at Montrose Basin during May and September on the Visitor Centre grounds and at Tayock. Also known as ‘snake flower’, its name comes from the stamen, which is red and flicks out like a viper’s tongue. Although the flower can cause skin irritation, various non-humans; specifically bees, hoverflies and butterflies find it to be a terrific pollinator. Despite this, it was once coveted by humans as anti-venom for spotted viper bites!

Ragged Robin (c) Scottish WIldlife Trust

Ragged Robin
(c) Scottish WIldlife Trust

Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculis) can be spotted on the Visitor Centre grounds and the Mains of Dun from May to August. Particularly fond of wet and damp areas, its wavy pink flowers are sure to spruce up any meadow. Interestingly, the appreciation of this wildflower goes back centuries, notably being mentioned in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as part of Ophelia’s garland.

Forget-Me-Not (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Forget-Me-Not
(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Forget-Me-Not,(Myosotis) is another flower that can be found at Montrose Basin, most commonly at Tayock between mid June and late July. Although they are most commonly thought of as having blue petals, the petals are also known to be white or pink. During the day, it is essentially scentless, but come the evening, the small flower produces a fine aroma. Yet another flower to be referenced in famous literature, J.M. Barrie likens Captain Hook’s eyes to Forget-Me-Nots in Peter Pan.

Terri Baker – Volunteer / David Murray – CJS Visitor Centre Seasonal Assistant

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First Tour of Montrose Basin

Yesterday, we took a trip around Montrose Basin in order to see the estuary up close and personal. Emma, the Visitor Centre Assistant Manager, Raymond, our intern and I (David, CJS Visitor Centre Assistant) finally decided that we had spent far too long in the centre itself without seeing the beautiful reserve that we have at our fingertips.

Lurgies

Lurgies (c) Scottish WIldlife Trust

Our journey began at the Lurgies. Going between the Old Montrose Pier and the Bridge of Dun, this gorgeous combination of reedbeds, grasslands, river and mud provides a wonderful opportunity for both nature watching and leisurely strolling. We had hoped to see Wood Pigeon, Godwit or Little Grebe, amongst other species, but beyond a couple of Mute Swans, we were rather unlucky.

Bar-Tailed Godwit - seen at the Wigeon Hide (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Bar-Tailed Godwit – seen at the Wigeon Hide
(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Sedge warbler - seen by the Shelduck Hide (c) Andy Wakelin

Sedge warbler – summer visitor at the Shelduck Hide
(c) Andy Wakelin

It was at this point that the mist which had hindered our vision that morning threatened to make a comeback, but we persevered. Emma drove along to the Old Mill car park, which is the starting point for both walks to the Wigeon Hide and the Shelduck Hide. Beyond a small area of woodland, the track takes you through open farmland, giving you breathtaking views of Montrose Basin, as well as potential sightings of not just Wigeon and Shelduck, but also Linnet, Curlew and Skylark,  before culminating at either Hide (depending on which way you go).

Montrose Basin covered in mist (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Montrose Basin covered in mist
(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Following this, we headed back towards the town, and Tayock. At this point, the mist had completely covered Montrose and all of its surroundings. We anticipated seeing plenty of Finches and Eider ducks, and potentially even some remaining Pink-footed Geese, but what we received was an almost eerily grey Montrose Basin, a sighting of a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, a Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen and a dog that kindly obliged in sniffing our legs.

After a quick stop at Montrose Railway Station to see if the view was any clearer (it wasn’t) we went back to the Visitor Centre to discover that the mist was nowhere to be found. We were unable to decide whether the trip had been a successful or not, but one thing was clear: even in the dullest weather imaginable to man, the beauty of Montrose Basin still shines through.

Bank of Scotland hide

Bank of Scotland hide (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

You too can go on the walks mentioned in this blog. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/1agg1eh or drop into the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre.

Don’t forget we have some excellent events coming up. Wednesday 8th and 15th April we have our ‘Wild about the Basin’ children’s activities, as well as our ‘Wonderful Wildflower’s’ event on Saturday 11th April.

Wildflower and kids event April

David Murray – CJS Visitor Centre Seasonal Assistant

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

First signs of spring

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Snowdrops

One of the first plants of the year to flower are Galanthus, or snowdrops to use their common name.  Flowering from January to March, these rather hardy bulbs can grow in harsh weather conditions, with only partial sunlight. As long as they are given moist soil, they will multiply rather quickly in a small space which makes them relatively easy to manage. They can vary in their height, shape, flower size and even colouring but these usually pale flowers are a sign that spring is coming. An alkaloid named Galantamine can be isolated from this plant and is used as pain relief and to treat Alzheimer’s.

Snowdrops, close up

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Daffodils are on their way!

Narcissus, or daffodils if you prefer, are a common yellow flower that also grow from a bulb.  Flowering sometime between February and early May, these flowers can handle our harsh Scottish weather, and can grow in either sun or partial shade. They are easy to maintain and will spread quickly so the familiar yellow flowers are around for all to see. They are sometimes nicknamed as the “Heralds of Spring” as the bright plant is associated with the beginning of spring and the bright days to come.

Daffodils in bloom

Primula vulgaris, better known as primroses, are one of the surest signs that spring is on its way. They flower between March and May, though are usually planted in the autumn. They prefer to grow in the shade but can grow in sunlight if need be. These easy to manage, hardy plants, are ideal for gardens, especially since they are quite small. Oddly enough, while the name of these flowers derives from the Latin “prima rosa” meaning “first rose”, they are not members of the rose family.

Wild primroses

Terri Baker – Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Volunteer

Posted in Wildflowers | Tagged , , , , |

Have you ever fancied working in conservation?

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12 days of a Montrose Basin Christmas

12 days of a Montrose Basin Christmas

To be sung with the original 12 days of Christmas tune!

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: A Partridge in the field

Gray Partridge (c) Marek Szczepanek

Gray Partridge (c) Marek Szczepanek

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Water-Rail-DSC_0066

Water rail (c) Ian Sim

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Northern Lapwing (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Northern Lapwing (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Cormorant (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Cormorant (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail
and a Partridge in the field

Pintail Duck (c) Mark Lasnek

Pintail Duck (c) Mark Lasnek

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Pink-footed goose Harry Bickerstaff (249)1

Pink-footed Goose (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Whooper Swan (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Whooper Swan (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Golden Plover (c) Dave Appleton

Golden Plover (c) Dave Appleton

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Common Seal (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Common Seal (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the tenth day of Christmas                                                                                                          my true love sent to me: Ten Reeds a bunting, Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Reed Bunting (c) WildCrail

Reed Bunting (c) WildCrail

On the eleventh day of Christmas                                                                                                   my true love sent to me: Eleven Oystercatcher, Ten Reeds a bunting, Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Oystercatcher (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Oystercatcher (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the twelfth day of Christmas                                                                                                       my true love sent to me: Twelve Ducks a diving, Eleven Oystercatcher, Ten Reeds a bunting, Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Eider Duck (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Eider Duck (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Merry Christmas from the Montrose Basin staff and volunteers

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

Water rails at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Water-Rail-DSC_0066

Water rail feeding beside the bird feeders. (c) Ian Sim

Water rails are said to be one of the most elusive birds in Scotland, but with around 1,250-1,400 breeding pairs in lowland Scotland, you would think we would encounter them more often.  Keen bird watchers are often aware of their presence by the distinctive sound that they make, a loud piglet like squeal. They are about half the size of a Moorhen and a little slimmer.  They live in wetland habitats up to 200 metres above sea level.  Our salt pans are an excellent example of good habitat for the species to breed and winter in, as they never freeze over.  The salt pans are surrounded by reed beds, providing shelter and security.  These are periodically flooded by the tidal estuary, providing a fresh supply of food stuffs.  They mainly eat small fish, snails and insects.

We have had a number of good sightings this week of the Water rail.  It has been venturing out of the Salt pans and up towards the centre.  A regular visitor to the centre managed to take an excellent photo of the Water rail.  It had wandered about 10 meters away from the water to feed in the bushes by the bird feeders.  The recent increase in sightings from the Visitor Centre window is in part due to the vegetation dying back and because there are simply more individuals around after the summer months.  We are very excited to be able to show such an elusive species to the public.

Common Seal RWW NON T SWT

Common Seal (c) SWT

Other sightings this week include 350 Knot, 110 Golden Plover, 28 Scaup, 16 Common Seal, 7 Grey seals, the Kingfisher and of course our resident Stoat.

The centre is open 10.30am – 4pm, Friday-Sunday.  So you can come along and experience all these lovely species for yourself.

Emma Castle-Smith – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Posted in Birds, Mammals, Sightings, Species profile, Uncategorized | Tagged |

Reserve sightings 21st Nov 2014

There has been a lot of excitement on and off the Reserve this week.  As a very rare small bird was spotted on Montrose beach.  Keen members of the Dundee and Angus bird group spotted a Desert Wheatear on Montrose beach on Sunday 16th November.  At the centre we were delighted to be shown a photograph of this rare megavagrant.  The last confirmed sighting of it, was 127 years ago in Arbroath.

Since last Sunday we have regularly seen the Kingfisher, Water rail and Greenshank on the reserve.  We have also seen a few rafts of Scaup, with numbers reaching 27 yesterday.

An Icelandic Goose count was also done on Sunday with a staggering 32,729 Pink-footed Geese recorded.  While this Sunday our monthly wetland bird survey (WeBs) will be completed by the Ranger.  So watch this space!

We also have a Christmas Goose event coming up soon. Details on the poster below.

xmasgoose

14th December 2-5pm

Emma Castle-Smith  - Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

 

Posted in Birds, Events, General, Sightings, Surveys | Tagged , , |

Reserve Sightings 15th Nov 2014

After the wet and windy weather yesterday the Reserve has been a hive of activity.  Despite all the flotsam that’s come down the South Esk river into the Basin overnight.  There are still large numbers of Eider ducks, Lapwing and many other species feeding on the mud.

Water Rail (3)

Water Rail (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

We have also been lucky enough to see the Water rail this morning out on the salt pans.  Our visitors were treated to a rare sight of the Water rail feeding out in the open for around 30 minutes.  During that time we also saw a Moor hen and the Kingfisher, fishing from it’s usual perch in the salt pans.  I’m sure our excited visitors didn’t know where to look first!

In fact looking over the log book for the last week, the Kingfisher and the Water Rail have been making an almost daily appearance on the salt pans.

We have also been very fortunate recently to see some mammals out on the reserve.  A Stoat was seen this week out by the Shelduck hide, and another one just outside the Visitor Centre.  We were also treated to a rare sighting of a Polecat-Ferret.  From the photo that our volunteer Andy took, we ascertained that it was not a true wild Polecat but possibly a Ferret or Polecat-Ferret hybrid.  Either way we were very excited to see it from the Visitor Centre window.

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Polecat-Ferret seen in the grounds of the Visitor Centre. (c) Andy Wakelin

Our Whooper Swan numbers are increasing, with 28 seen at the river mouth on the 7th November and 100 recorded at the same place on the 9th November.

As always there are so many things to see from the Visitor Centre and well worth a visit.

Emma Castle-Smith – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Posted in Birds, General, Mammals, Sightings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , |

Kingfisher 101

With the Kingfisher making an almost daily appearance at the Visitor Centre we thought it was about time we gave this enigmatic species its own blog post.

This is one species that doesn’t need any physical descriptions, but at only 16-17 cm it’s definitely much smaller than people expect and on very dull days you can get a hint of the Kingfisher’s actual colour, a dark brown. The distinctive colours that we see are actually due to the interference between the different wavelengths of light being reflected from the different layers of its feathers. Males and females can be distinguished from each other by the orange-red colour of the female’s lower mandible, and juveniles tend to be duller than the adults with blackish feet.

Kingfisher (1) -

Wind swept and interesting at the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Its compact body, large head and long bill make it perfectly adapted for dive fishing, and the distinctive head bobbing is a good indicator that food has been spotted as it uses this movement to gauge the distance of the prey. While it keeps its body compact and streamlined in dive, the wings are opened once it enters the water, allowing it to reduce its speed and depth as well as propel itself back out of the water. To ensure that it continues to have a visual on its prey once it enters the water its eye has two foveae (the area of the retina which contains the greatest density of light receptors) and the Kingfisher is able to switch from the central fovea to the auxiliary fovea giving it binocular vision while in the water. It is also able to protect its eye by closing a transparent third eyelid.

Kingfisher - Nick Townell

Kingfisher on its ‘usual perch’ at the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre (c) Nick Townell

Kingfishers are solitary and highly territorial, mainly due to the fact that they must eat around 60% of their body weight on a daily basis, with territory size depending on the amount of food available. Even pairs formed in autumn will keep separate territories until mating begins in spring. Due to this high food requirement mortality rates can be high, especially in juveniles who may not have even learnt to fish before they are driven off their parents’ territory, and being high on the aquatic food chains means that they are vulnerable to river pollution and build-up of chemicals.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Sightings, Species profile |

Tricks and Treats

We are delighted to announce that our Goose Breakfast is now fully booked and with record numbers of geese, looks set to be one of our finest events.

If you were not lucky enough to have booked a place, don’t fret.  Our next Goose event is Sunday 14th December, where you can experience the Pink-footed geese from the comfort of the Visitor Centre, while eating a mince pie and a hot drink.  For the kids there are loads of Christmas themed crafts to keep them entertained. Booking is essential.

This weekend is also a family fun filled event with our Halloween party from 1-4pm this Saturday.  Prizes for the best Halloween costumes and lots of fun crafts.

No need to book just turn up on the day in fancy dress!

Look forward to seeing you all.

halloween ffd & goose breakfastEmma Castle-Smith – VC Assistant Manager

Posted in Events, General |