Lots of new things to see and do!

The Centre has reopened!

Big success last Friday, the day when the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre did officially open to the public after the refit project was completed.

Many people came and enjoyed the new interpretation panels, the new touch screens, the new “call a curlew” activity, and of course, the wildlife that can be seen from the windows, not only with the naked eye but also with the powerful telescopes and binoculars.

call a curlew

Our Wildlife Watch Group experimenting with the Call a Curlew phone – © Alison O’Hara

We have been featured in the press many times in recent days – several newspaper articles, as well as appearing on STV news and BBC Radio Scotland “Out of doors” programme. For those who missed the radio interview, or would like to enjoy it again please use the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08ffzcg#playt=0xh35m54s

stv staff

STV filming our Wildlife Watch Group – © Alison O’Hara

During the mid-term holidays many families came with their children to learn more about the Montrose Basin, its habitats and its wildlife, enjoying the spring-like weather. Indeed, in the last few days we had the first sights of a lively Yellowhammer!


The first sign of spring – a Yellowhammer – © Ron Mitchell

If you haven’t been along to enjoy the Visitor Centre yet, don’t worry because we are already following summer opening hours: we’re open daily from 10.30am to 5pm and look forward to welcoming you soon!

Alison O’Hara – Lead Teacher Naturalist

Marika Davoli – European Volunteer

Noémi Menczelesz – European Volunteer

Posted in Birds, EVS, General, People, VC refurbishment | Tagged , , , |

Big changes in progress

We are in the third week of our refit, and with the increasing noise, more and more changes can be seen in the centre.


Reception desk back in place

The new reception desk is back in place, with a shiny new coat. Most of our new interpretation has already been put up, but there is still some to finish off. We have to be careful, where we are walking, so that we don’t step accidentally on a new interpretation board lying on the floor.

Our migration globe has a new design, as does the mud life wall. The world of tides board has also gone, but instead of that we have information, telling a different story of the Basin. We have a new guide to the landmarks that can be seen from the window. It is quite useful, if you don’t know the area very well.


A working progress

They also began to lay down the new carpet. As the process requires glue, sometimes we can smell it while working. We will have two different colours on the floor for our shop/cafe area and the main part of the visitor centre. We also have a new colour coded sign, which shows you the directions to these parts.

According to our plans, we have one or two weeks of work left. We hope that you are just as curious about the new outfit as we are.


Electrics and new interpretation

Follow us on Facebook – Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve and Visitor Centre and on Twitter @MontroseBasin for more updates.

Noémi Menczelesz – EVS Visitor Centre Assistant

Our first event of the season is with our ranger to celebrate World Wetlands Day.

Wondrous wetlands

Posted in Events, EVS, VC refurbishment | Tagged , |

What is new at the Visitor Centre?

As you might know, right now, we are in the middle of our refit in the visitor centre. For me it is very interesting to see the centre change and I am very excited about the outcome.


Removal of old interpretation

After the hard work of packing up everything, the contractors arrived, and the loud work began with a lot of drilling, knocking and hammering. The old outfit of the visitor centre has now been removed, which has been quite a quick process. A lot of old interpretation disappeared, but if you liked our migration globe, don’t worry – it is still here.


Changes to the migration globe

We also have some of the new interpretation and new equipment up. There are new screens and new wood on some walls with a smell that I personally like very much. Some days the smell of fresh paint has been quite strong. We have some new “newspaper pages” up with interesting information on them.  We also have new arrows which will direct people to the upstairs and downstairs rooms.


A fresh coat of paint

I think we have even more exciting times ahead of us, with the anticipation of seeing the rest of the new interpretation go up. We are looking forward to the changes and after that the reopening for the public. Follow us for information about the process of the work and the date of our reopening.

Noémi Menczelesz – EVS Visitor Centre Assistant

Our first event of 2017 is our Wonderous Wetland work party! Join us on World Wetlands Day February 2nd.


Posted in EVS, General, People, VC refurbishment | Tagged , , |

The refurbishment has begun!



The migration globe

As many visitors, members, friends, and followers know, the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre is now closed for alterations.

Already the changes that are taking place, give us a sense of excitement of what is to come.


Packing up the shop

In the last days of December we started to dismantle a few things: the shop stock has been packed and put in a safe place, most of the computers have been removed, and the furniture has been moved or hidden, far away from the dust that the works will raise this month.


Removal of the old interpretation panels has begun

At the moment our Visitor Centre feels odd to us. The panels that we knew are being taken off and some exhibitions are going to be disassembled. There is nothing on the entrance desk and no binoculars and telescopes at the windows.


Telescopes and binoculars removed

Strange, eh?

But don’t worry, we are still here working hard to transform the Visitor Centre into an even better meeting point for everyone!


Dust sheets up to protect existing exhibits

We are working every day to organise the new displays and exhibitions, so don’t forget to check our social media for more updates!

Marika Davoli – European Volunteer Service – Visitor Centre Assistant

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Inspiration for Interpretation

As you may have heard we are in the final stages of creating content for our new interpretation that will be installed in the Montrose Basin visitor centre in January 2017.  There is a lot of work that goes into changing information boards and even more that goes into deciding what it is that you want to say. Only a handful of people are involved in the project but this blog is about my personal inspiration for the content our new interpretation.


View of the Danube from the top of the Persina visitor centre, Belene, Bulgaria

In the Autumn of 2015 just before we were granted the funds. I was lucky enough to go on an adult learning course with Arch Network. Funded by a grant from ERASMUS+, it involved a visit to Bulgaria to discover how they use interpretation in their visitor centres and national parks.

Tourism from the UK to Bulgaria is more common than I had originally thought, with around 250 thousand Brits visiting Bulgaria on holiday in 2015 (National Statistics Institute Rep Bulgaria). Bulgaria has a lot to offer tourists; it has the Black sea coastline in the east, the mountains in the south, the Plateau and the Danube to the north. With such a wide range of habitats Bulgaria has a rich diversity of bird and insect life.  It is also fortunate enough to have many large mammals such as wolves, brown bear, wildcats, wild boar and red deer.  So how is Bulgaria promoting its wild areas and its wildlife to the general public?

Grass hopper

Grass hopper

The Devetaki Plateau Association is at the forefront of this, actively promoting the culture and wildlife in their area.  The Devetaki Plateau Association works across a large area in the North of Bulgaria, which the association is named after. In this area they have many caves, waterfalls, woodland walks and open countryside with agriculture and viticulture.

Devetaksha cave information boards created by Devetaki Plateau Association

Devetaksha cave: Information boards created by Devetaki Plateau Association

I was interested in the interpretation of the natural landscapes within the visitor centres.  I had a few questions and issues that had cropped up in our centre that I wanted to answer.

  1. How much writing is too much writing?
  2. Should we include other languages?
  3. Hi-tech or low-tech? Graphics or inter-actives?

1. How much writing is too much writing? 

Panichishte visitor centre high in the Rila mountains national park, is frequented by hikers, walkers and skiers. The staffs main function was to instruct people on the restricted areas of the national park and help people safely navigate through the mountains vast forests. To do this they had live interpretation by a member of staff using a model of the mountains.  She indicated where was safe to hike, and where access was restricted due to its high biodiversity value.

Knowing that this is something we currently do in the Visitor Centre I could appreciate the usefulness of such a model.


Topographic model of the Rila Mountains national park


Panichishte Visitor Centre, bi-lingual information boards about the wildlife and geology of the Rila Mountains

They choose to display a wealth of information on the wildlife and geology of the national park in a series of boards. It was simple yet effective with a lot of photographs of wildflowers, wildlife and mountains lakes. However, I felt that it could have been displayed in a more interesting way and I choose to only read a few boards as there were around 10 boards and therefore a little too much writing to hold my interest.

2. Should we include other languages

Many of the information boards in Bulgaria were bi-lingual, Bulgarian and English, including the boards in the Panichishte visitor centre. This is something that we don’t have in the centre but we do our best to translate our visitor information guide into many different languages. Unfortunately in the UK there is no obvious second language to use in interpretation, as we have visitors from all over the world.

3. Graphics or interactive?

There were some very interesting inter-actives up in the mezzanine of Panichishte visitor centre. A few games to test whether you knew the names of the lakes or wildflowers. There was a tracks game that sadly wasn’t working. The idea was clever yet simple, complete the circuit by touching the circle by the wolf and the correct circle by it’s footprints.


Wildlife and their tracks interactive game

It also has some interactive displays for the children to use and learn with.  The most interesting of which, was a telephone and a telephone book. Where prerecorded sounds are allocated a number so you can ‘call’ a woodland animal.  For example as shown in the photo, the Capercaillie is number 17. If you dial 17, you can hear the call of the Capercaillie. This innovative yet simple idea allows visitors to experience and learn different animal calls before they venture out into the woods.


Dial 17 to hear a Capercaille call

In other areas that we visited there was outdoor interpretation. One of the most interesting pieces was a board created by Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation. This piece of interpretation was installed at sites that had breeding or hibernating colonies of bats. The disturbance of bats in Bulgaria has been an issue in the past and this clever idea was how the charity chose to inform the public about these important animals. The size of the board is actually the same size as the wingspan of the worlds largest bat. The board is also bi-lingual with Bulgarian on the left and English on the right. An innovative and fun way to deliver an important message.


Bat species in Bulgaria

We did visit a few more places including The Central Balkan National Park, The Deli Hammam and Persina Nature Park Visitor Centre, these places were fascinating and I learned a lot from their ideas about interpretation. So much so that I could probably write another blog but instead I thought that I’d provide a few photos of my favourite pieces. Who knows, maybe some of these inspirational ideas might make their way into our own enhancement project.


Life size silhouettes of birds on the Danube


Bringing the outside in. Persina visitor centre


Marina demonstrates just how deep the Danube is and how tall the lilypads have to grow

The Visitor Centre will be closed from Sunday 1 January for around six weeks so that we can make exciting improvements to the visitor experience.

The reopening date will be announced in February. To keep up to date follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Arch Network is a Scottish Non Government Organisation promoting learning and development in natural and cultural heritage between Scotland and other European countries.

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager – Emma Castle-Smith

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Highlights of 2016

It’s December, time of analysis!
I have been here, in Montrose, for more than nine months (my goodness, time flies) and since March I’ve seen many, many birds, some of which I’ve never had the chance to spot because they are totally absent in Italy.
Some of these are quite common around the Montrose Basin’s nature reserve, permanently or following the migrations… but not all of them.
In a large space that includes a different range of environments it is possible to find some unusual species, birds that decide to stop at the Basin for resting or for food, or are too elusive to be seen very often.
But we did.

First of the year – in the early days of January – was the Bittern, a truly secretive bird, silent and camouflaged in the reed stalks of the saltpans, to the right of the windows.
It was skiing on the ice; I wasn’t here yet, but everyone told me that was incredibly exciting.
And guess what? The most recent sighting of a Bittern from the Visitor Centre was the on the 11th of November, so maybe it’s still around here!

Bittern - ©Ron Mitchell

Bittern – ©Ron Mitchell

In March we had a Ringed plover, it was seen in the Lurgies area, the same place where we also spotted some Little ringed plovers a few days later. They look pretty similar and belong to the same family, but they’re two different species.
We saw a couple of Little Ringed Plover also during the summer, on the 1st of July, along with two chicks.

Ringed plover - ©Richard Blackburn

Ringed plover – ©Richard Blackburn

Little ringer plover

Little ringer plover

In May we had the surprise to spot a Glossy ibis, a rare bronze-coloured bird with a slender curved bill. It’s very uncommon to see in the UK because its species prefers nesting in warmer regions of Europe, but seems that in the last few years records are increasing.
It was observed from the Shelduck Hide, and it remained in the nature reserve for at least 10 days.

Glossy Ibis - ©Neil Black

Glossy Ibis – ©Neil Black

At the beginning of July appeared another very infrequent visitor, noticed both at Lurgies and Maryton Ditch: a Spoonbill.
UK doesn’t have a sizeable population of them, few pairs breed in England and sporadic members of the species are spotted throughout Scotland, mostly during the summer.
There is no significant news about Spoonbill’s breeding in Scotland since about 2008 so we think it was just an occasional visitor… but you never know.

Spoonbill - ©Ron Mitchell

Spoonbill – ©Ron Mitchell

In the middle of July we had the pleasure to meet two components of the Pelecaniformes order – the same Glossy ibis, Spoonbills and Herons belong to: a Great white egret and a Little egret.
Great white egrets are seen pretty frequently in the UK, more than in the past, and even if their main territory is south-east England and East Anglia, you can find both of them in the vicinity of the Montrose Basin quite often.
Our most recent sighting of a Little egret was on the 8th of December near Mill Burn reed bed, while for a Great white egret was on the 6th of November.

Great white egret

Great white egret

Little egret - ©Ron Mitchell

Little egret – ©Ron Mitchell

This year many infrequent waders came to the Basin, some of them apparently just for the summer, other remained until at least the end of September.
In July a White-rumped sandpiper was spotted in Rossie Spit, and in the same days we had also one or more Ruff, and a Little stint.
Ruff is a sexually dimorphic bird (condition when there are differences in appearance between males and females of the same species, such as in colour, shape, size, and structure) and normally doesn’t breed in the UK, but it can be found overwintering near the coasts, or in summer when the young are migrating to Africa. We can spot a Little stint during the migration as well, given that a very small number of them spend the winter here.

Ruff - ©Harry Bickerstaff

Ruff – ©Harry Bickerstaff

Little stint (with a Oystercatcher)

Little stint (with a Oystercatcher)

August was the right moment to see other interesting wildfowl:  Curlew sandpiper visited  along with a Spotted redshank and some Purple sandpiper.
They remained for a while around the Montrose Basin, for the joy of all the birdwatchers that tried to take pictures of these pretty rare guests of the Basin.
A Spotted redshank was observed again in early November, so there’s probably the chance to see it during the winter.

Curlew sandpiper

Curlew sandpiper

Purple sandpiper

Purple sandpiper

In the late summer we had the luck to spot a group of lovely Sanderlings, with their unmistakable walk. During the migration they are more likely to be seen at the nearby Lunan Bay or on Montrose beach, but sometimes they fly just in front of our viewing area.



The Pink-footed geese returned in mid-September, along with numerous seasonal species, some common, other less common, like the beautiful Waxwings, that prefer flying over Montrose in search of sweet red berries, or Fieldfares and Redwings, looking for the same food!

Waxwing - ©Marika Davoli

Waxwing – ©Marika Davoli

In a large, composite area like this many birds have the chance to find a place  to rest, to feed themselves, to breed, to moult, to live, and 2016 till now has been full of surprises.
And we are waiting for many others in 2017!

Marika Davoli
Visitor Centre Assistant Volunteer

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What I missed while I was home

Almost every time, when I am on holiday, I feel like I miss something, while I am not in the Visitor Centre. It was the same in the beginning of November, when I was lucky enough to spend a week in my home country. As soon as I opened my computer after my arrival home, I saw that colleagues from the basin were talking about the first sightings of waxwings.


Waxwing in rowan – Montrose ©Paul Brooks

Waxwings are winter visitors in the UK. They arrive first to the east coast of the country from Scandinavia, and usually move inland as food is getting scarce. They feed on rowan, hawthorn or cotoneaster berries, and can quickly strip a tree. If these berries are fermented enough, they can also get intoxicated!

They start to return from the wintering grounds in February or March and nest mainly from mid June to July. During courtship, the male will pass a small item; usually a berry to the female and then she will pass it back to him. After that they continue to pass this berry back and forth a few times.


Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) ©WikiMedia

There are three species of waxwings; the Bohemian waxwing, the Japanese waxwing and the cedar waxwing. In the UK, it is most likely to see the Bohemian waxwing. Bohemian waxwings are around 20 cm in length and reddish-brown in colour. They have a very distinctive head crests and yellow-tipped tails. Their wing has black, white and red markings; they also got their name from their red wingtips, which look like sealing wax. On the head you can see black mask shapes around their eyes and a black throat underneath. Their wing shape is triangular, so they can be easily mistaken for starlings.


Japanese Waxwing (Bombycilla japonica) ©WikiMedia

The Japanese waxwing breeds in coniferous forests in Russia and in north-east China. They lack the row of waxy red feather-tips on the wing. Another difference is that they have reddish-brown stripe across the wing. The third species, Cedar waxwings are a native of North and Central America and are smaller and browner than the Bohemian waxwings with a yellow belly. Their under tail is white, whereas Bohemian waxwings have an orange under tail.


Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) in Montrose ©Paul Brooks

In Montrose, there are several places to see the waxwings. On my route to work, I pass a few Rowan trees but I only saw that the waxwings were there (one of the trees was completely stripped). I have not seen them yet, I hope that next time I will be luckier.

Noémi Menczelesz – Volunteer Visitor Centre Assistant, European Voluntary Service.

Posted in Birds, Sightings, Species profile | Tagged |

How do you take a photograph of 80 thousand geese?


Every year at Montrose Basin we are fortunate enough to have an influx of one of natures most spectacular sights and sounds. In late September, Pink-footed geese begin to arrive from Eastern Greenland and Iceland, a journey that can take them 2 days to fly.

They choose to land in the Basin for a number of reasons. One being that they have a bountiful supply of food nearby and they are also safe from predators, when they roost in the north east part of the Basin. Whether the tide is high or low, tens of thousands of ink-ing Pinkies will descend on the Basin, much to the delight of the residents of Montrose. A sure sign that autumn has arrived.

So with such a spectacle how do you capture the beauty as an amateur photographer? We asked one of our dedicated volunteers to give us a quick guide on ‘how to photograph large flocks of geese’. He was the man responsible for the widely publicised photo below, so I’m sure you will agree that I asked the correct person.

Pink-footed Geese (45) - Harry Bickerstaff - resized & copy

Mass take off ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

  1. First thing to remember is: no one really wants to see pictures of the rear end of geese flying off, so you want to have them approaching you, or flying across your camera view.

    Geese taking off away from the photographer ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

    Geese taking off away from the photographer ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

  2. In general, geese try to take off into the wind, as it gives them ‘lift’ and gets them into the air more easily. So, you need to be upwind of the geese, or possibly a wee bit to either side of the wind direction, but definitely with the wind blowing on to the geese, whether they are on the Basin, or in a field.
  3. The other essential is the position of the sun, relative to the geese. If the sun is right behind them, there’s a good chance your camera will darken down automatically, to compensate for the bright light shining into it. You will not like your pictures if the geese are all big black shadows, because the sun’s behind them.  So, you need the sun behind you, or at least, generally lighting up the front of the flock as they fly past you.


    Flock lit up by dawn sunlight ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

  4. So, with the sun, more or less, behind you and the wind blowing on to your back or side, how do you know when they are going to take off and give you that picture? You have no control over that and this really is the difficult bit, as it can take hours of waiting.  You must be prepared to wait for the magic moment, when it happens and if you don’t have your camera out and ready to go, it will all be over so quickly, and you will not be very happy if you missed the shot. Too late to check camera settings after they’ve gone.
  5. You need to think about getting close to where you want to be, as soon as it is light enough for the pictures. 8 am is early enough in autumn/ winter, when the birds are here as the sun isn’t all that high – and you need light!
  6. Be prepared for failure, as the geese do what they want. They aren’t taking off and landing all the time, to give you another chance of getting it right, so you need to be ready. Sometimes a large group gets up and simply flies around a wee bit and then just settles back down again in a slightly different part of the Basin.


    Geese at Tayock all moving in different directions. ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

  7. Best lens for the job, is NOT a wide angle lens, as it makes the birds appear to be further away than your eye sees. A standard, or telephoto type lens, has the effect of ‘compressing’ the geese and showing how dense the flock is.
  8. Best place for all this is at Tayock, where the Scottish Wildlife Trust has a hide. Best views are definitely from the hide area and it is well worth going there.


    Practice and patience ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Best general advice is: wrap up warm and be prepared for a long wait and no success. However, when it all comes together, it’s worth all the cold, frustration and early rise.

Writing and photographs by Montrose Basin volunteer – Harry Bickerstaff

Prelude and editing by Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Assistant Manager – Emma Castle-Smith


Posted in Birds, reserves, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , |

Of wicked trees and autumnal stuff


Pink-footed Geese everywhere.

Traditionally Autumn is the time of the year when Montrose Basin experiences an influx of Pink-footed Geese.
It is also the moment of the year when the trees turn red, yellow, orange and brown, when days get shorter and nights darker, and for the smaller birds that inhabit the Basin, their feeding pattern changes because the view gets full of their favourite berries.
These little red berries come from Rowan trees, and right in this period you can admire them in all their splendour from the Visitor Centre’s viewing area… along with the birds occupied to enjoy them.

The Rowan is a very important tree in European folklore: it is associated to white magic and is the runes’ tree, since it was on its wood that the Druids traced their formulas in the ancient language.
From the berries of this lavish shrub it produces jams, chutney and wine. In Wales they were used to produce beer and cider, and the bark was used to dye dark the wool that kept .warm in winter. Rowan was also planted nearby cemeteries to ensure a peaceful rest to the dead.
It is said moreover that they keep away the witches, but Emma, Alison and I are still here so maybe it is not true in view of our Halloween event, on the 29th of October, we hope not!

Sorbus aucuparia

Details of Sorbus aucuparia. © via Wikipedia.it

Rowan is a small-medium sized, deciduous tree, it tolerates harsh climates and conditions, so much that in Scotland we can find them growing on cliffs, steep stream-sides and on top of large boulders.
It is also known as Mountain Ash because it is capable of growing at altitudes till 760m (2500ft), and because of the similarity between its leaves and the Common Ash tree’s leaves.
The Latin name is Sorbus aucuparia, and in my country – Italy – is known as “Sorbo degli uccellatori” (literally translated: bird catchers’ Rowan), just because people used to hunt in the vicinity of it to catch the birds attracted in big number by Rowan’s berries, an important source of sugar and nutrients that birds “store” for the winter.


A Goldcrest (is lovely, isn’t it?) © Andy Wakelin

In these weeks I’ve seen for myself the changes of our Rowan tree, situated right in front of one of our windows. A great observation point, indeed.
If until ten days ago it was full of the famous berries, now you could find just three of them!
Blackbirds, Blue tits, and Chaffinches are common visitors that shake the branches, and in the last few days we had the pleasure to spot a couple of Song Thrushes. Warblers of different species wander around (and trying to find out which species is always a challenge), and a pair of lovely Goldcrests have appeared. I spotted a Redwing, some Blackcaps, and we hope to soon see Mistle Thrushes, Fieldfares and Waxwings.


A Fieldfare

All of this reminds us that winter is coming (brrr) and while some birds that inhabit the Basin – and our gardens – are going to leave Scotland towards warmer countries, most of them will stay here and keep us company. So it’s appropriate to think about support feeding them.

Essentials to know when feeding birds;

  1. Situate feeder in places away from predators – like cats or dogs;
  2. Not too much food at the same time but refill regularly;
  3. Avoid feeding bread, it is better to choose seed mixtures as they are generally fit for most of the birds;
  4. For insectivores – Robins, Tits, Blackcaps and Blackbirds – we can offer small pieces of apple, raisin, hazelnuts and walnuts, and biscuits’ sweet crumbs as well.

Listening to the songs of these little creatures for me is always a joy, they make me feel at home, and I wish to continue to spot new and exciting species. Perhaps on the Rowan, our wicked tree that always has a surprise in store.

Marika Davoli – EVS volunteer


Posted in Birds, EVS | Tagged , , , , , |

The sound of October

In September I was away from the visitor centre quite a lot. When I came back at the end of it, a nice surprise awaited me, the first geese had arrived. Although I knew that they would be here, it was hard to believe that it is already that time of the year.


Pink-foot family ©Andy Wakelin

I think that the arrival of the geese can have a different effect on people. You can associate it with the cold and rainy weather and dark, early nights, but also it can mean beautiful coloured leaves on the trees. I personally have mixed feelings about autumn. Almost always I am a little bit sad that the summer is away, but sometimes I look forward to Christmas and New Year’s events.


Pink-footed geese at Tayock © Ron Mitchell

At Montrose Basin, we have the Pink-footed geese in high numbers. Last year their numbers were a new record for the reserve, 85,632! They are medium-sized geese with dark head and pink legs, as their name suggests. Since the 1950’s the number of these overwintering geese have increased in the UK. In October 2015 the UK census count recorded 536,871 Pink-footed geese. However, they are not the only species of geese that can be seen at the Basin.


Pink-footed goose at Tayock ©Ron Mitchell

Pink-footed geese are similar to Greylag geese, except that their head and neck is darker and their bill is pink compared to the orange of the Greylag geese.


Greylag geese ©Glyn Lewis

Barnacle geese and Canada geese are also similar. Canada geese have a smaller white patch on their head (a chin-strap), whereas the head of Barnacle geese have a white face mask.


Barnacle goose ©en.wikipedia.org

Canada Geese ©WikiComms

Canada Geese ©WikiComms

The Pink-footed geese arrive here from Iceland and Greenland in September. Usually they spend a couple of weeks feeding in the area before moving further south, most of them to Norfolk area. They leave to feed in the stubble fields in the area at dawn, travelling up to 20 km to get there. At dusk, they come back to the Basin to roost. However, sometimes a few of them stay at the Basin during the day. They can be seen well from the Tayock Hide, because their roosting place is near to it. At this time of year this bird hide is well worth a visit.


The Tayock Hide on the Reserve

Now, while walking to and from work, I can hear the sound of the thousands of geese. The next challenge for me is going to be, to distinguish between the sounds of the different species. I hope that after listening to the Pink-footed geese for months, I will be able to recognise them. Until then, I will fall asleep to their sound every night.

Noémi Menczelesz – European Volunteer

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