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

Posted in VC refurbishment | Tagged , , |

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, which 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.

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager – Emma Castle-Smith

Posted in Events, General, People, Uncategorized | Tagged , |

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

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

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

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 ©

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

Posted in Birds, EVS, People, Species profile | Tagged , , , |

Interpreting Montrose Basin

In the last 20 years Montrose Basin Visitor Centre has had a few minor and one major refurbishment. Some worked very well, others not so much. Many of you may remember what it looked like when we opened on the 27th June 1995.

The original reception desk

The original reception desk

Visitor centre entrance

Visitor Centre entrance

The mud man of the Basin

The mud man of the Basin

Then in 2004/5, we were lucky enough to be granted more funding and the Centre changed again. Mud man was removed and in went world of tides and the history drum.

World of tides and the history drum

World of tides and the history drum

In 2007 improvements were made to the children’s corner by former Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger and artist, Jan Hendry.

Local artist Jan Hendry repaints the children's corner

Local artist Jan Hendry repaints the children’s corner

Fast forward 8 years and Regional Visitor Centre Manager, Caroline Hendry has been working tirelessly on getting funding for the latest enhancement project. Fortunately Heritage Lottery Funding granted us the bulk of the funding in November 2015. So with this new grant funding we have been able to kick start the process of redesigning the interpretation in the Centre.

Personally I have been on my own journey of learning about what makes good interpretation.

What do people want from a visitor centre? How do people learn? Is there a place for high tech interactive learning in a Centre like Montrose Basin?

What lives under the mud - Microscopes

What lives under the mud – Microscopes

My first professional experience of interpretation was my attendance at a Sharing Good Practice event at Battleby in Perthshire. Run by Scottish Natural Heritage it was aimed at people like me who  had designing interpretation as part of their job description. From this experience I learned that knowing your audience was a key element of designing interpretation. Not an easy thing when there are so many different types of people that use our Centre.

So my first challenge was to redesign our annual Visitor Centre surveys and add in questions about the current interpretation and the visitor demographics. I wanted to see if there was anything that was really loved by our visitors and that would be a mistake to remove. The migration globe was in the forefront of my mind as it is such an imposing piece of kit and it actually turned out to be the most liked by the visitors. So surely that means that it has to stay, doesn’t it?

Migration globe

Migration globe

I also found out who uses our Centre; tourists, locals, amateur birders, twitchers, amateur photographers, families, school and community groups. The list is long, a huge range of people all looking to get something slightly different from their experience. How do you cater for everyone? Can one size fit all?

From the surveys I now know who uses the Centre, what interpretation is used and what age group needs more encouragement to visit but how can new interpretation in the Centre benefit the staff?

Fortunately, our design company has been very good at helping us realise the Centre’s full potential. To begin with, they asked the staff some simple questions. Where do you sell memberships? Where do you tell people about the walks on the reserve? How do you currently use the Visitor Centre? These simple questions got us thinking about what we currently do and where there was room for change. Not such easy question to answer when you have worked in the same environment, with the same interpretation for a long time.

However, we quickly realised that this was our chance to dramatically change the Visitor Centre and bring it into the 21st Century.

Watch this space for more developments…

Emma Castle-Smith

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager



Posted in Events, General, Uncategorized | Tagged |

Where are the summer migrants?

Yes, it is that time of year, when we start to ask that question. As looking on the calendar, I realised that it is the end of August, and it means also that I have been here since six months. It is quite unbelievable.


Common Terns breeding on the raft. ©Andy Wakelin

One morning we noticed that there were almost no terns on our raft and the chicks had fledged. This was probably the first time that I realised that summer is almost gone and autumn is coming. Our tern raft has been very successful this year. There were more than a hundred terns on it every day. Now, most of them are feeding up and preparing to depart for West Africa.

Sand Martin wall © Andy Wakelin

Sand Martin wall © Andy Wakelin

Also, the Sand Martin wall, which I liked to show visitors in the summer, has only a few birds left. They also started their migration to the South of Sahara. With about 25-30 nests, plenty of them raising two brood this year, it has been a good year for them, too.

Kingfisher © Scottish Wildlife Trust

Kingfisher © Scottish Wildlife Trust

This year, when I arrived in March, one of the most famous birds was the Kingfisher. We saw him every day at that time. Then spent the breeding season at the Lurgies part of the reserve and now he is back. Our visitors like him very much, when he is here, almost everybody watches him. Although we don’t see him every day now, I hope, he will be back every day this winter.

Osprey on the Basin © Ron Mitchell

Osprey on the Basin © Ron Mitchell

This time of year might be the last chance to see Ospreys here. This week, we saw two of them! All of their chicks have fledged now, but they still might be around here with their father, before they start their route to West Africa.

White-rumped Sandpiper © Scottish Wildlife Trust

White-rumped Sandpiper © Scottish Wildlife Trust

There was a bit of excitement in the centre recently, when the White-rumped Sandpiper was around. Members and Non-members came here to see it. It was hard to spot it, as it was feeding by Rossie spit. It took me a few attempts to see it in the telescope but at the end I could see something moving around. It is often mistaken with other sandpipers. The upper part of its body is dull grey- brown with white eye stripe. The main distinguishing feature is their white rump, which is visible during flight. We have also been lucky to see Curlew Sandpiper on Rossie spit and in front of the centre over the last few days.

There are already a few geese on the Basin, but I’m looking forward to the arrival of the Pink-footed geese in September, which will definitely be an amazing sight.

Noémi Menczelesz – EVS volunteer and Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Assistant

Brilliant bats1

Posted in reserves, Sightings | Tagged , , , , |

Working outside

I like to be outside since my childhood. With my family, we often had trips to the surrounding area of Budapest. I guess, my interest for nature started that time also. I was also very lucky, because I had the opportunity to be outside, and work in a garden, despite of living in a flat: we have had a weekend house for that. I always felt that I like working outside more than sitting in an office, that’s why I was more than happy to accept the offer to help Anna, our ranger in her work from May. It is also an advantage that during work you can be on the fresh air and physical work keeps you fit.

There is always lots to do around the centre. As there are many of them, you can always remove weeds and cut bushes. To avoid the soil to contain too many nutrients and allow wildflowers to grow, the daffodils need to be cut down after flowering. As time passes, I can see more and more wildflowers in our car park. Unfortunately, we cannot see our Bluebells anymore, but the Red Campion, Daisies and Vipers Bugloss are blooming.


Daisies and Clovers – Noémi Menczelesz

I also had chance to help around our dipping pond. This pond had been restored for children’s activities. I watched the beginning of the work from inside, but I helped at the end of it: we needed to move the soil near the pond.

During my outside work, I had opportunity to visit other Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves. One of them was Seaton Cliffs near Arbroath, where we had an interesting task of testing the benches and doing some beach cleaning. During walking you can see many seabirds, like herring gulls and fulmars, as well as a beautiful view to the sea. These two birds are very similar, except that fulmars don’t have a black wingtip and a red spot on their bills. At first it surprised me, how urbanised the gulls here are. It is very usual here they take food from the bins.

While walking on our reserve I could see many flowers. The Shelduck Hide and Wigeon Hide walk both lead near a farmland, where I could see thistles, daisies, forget-me-nots, white clovers, and buttercups flowering. The gorse that had many flowers in early May, now only has its leaves.


Thistles – Noémi Menczelesz

I can feel that summer is here: the visitor centre often becomes very hot and the windows and doors are usually open. The first chicks of birds also appeared in the Basin. First the Eider chicks, then the tern and Sand Martin chicks hatched. Our visitors love them, too. They grow very fast and are almost the size of the adults now. The Sand Martins are probably in their second brood this year.

2016 Common Tern around the Raft - July - 06

Common terns and their chicks – Ron Mitchell

Apart from the usual bird species, sometimes, you can see interesting and rare visitors. A few weeks ago, for example, we spotted a spoonbill on our reserve. As the breeding pairs in the UK is very low (about 0-4 pairs), it was quite an event for us. In Hungary, it is a more common bird, with about 1000 pairs. Another rare visitor these days was a little grebe in the pond in front of the centre. It has slightly bigger numbers in the UK than the spoonbill. This bird likes freshwater, can swim and dive very well. They use vegetation for hiding, so it may be difficult to spot them.

2016 Spoonbill - Maryton Ditch - 4

The famous spoonbill – Ron Mitchell

I can just encourage everybody to get outside and enjoy wildlife. Even if you don’t have a garden to work in, you can go for a walk and be a little bit on the fresh air. Maybe you will see something that surprises you.

Noémi Menczelesz – Visitor Centre assistant/EVS volunteer

Don’t forget that we have “Wild about the Basin” every Wednesday.

Book a place now for this weeks activities – 01674 676336

Wild about the Basin summer2016


Posted in Birds, Events, EVS, People, Sightings, Wildflowers | Tagged , , , , |