Golden Plover

The Montrose Basin is home to many migrating birds (not just the Pink-footed Geese!).  Another species of interest is the Golden Plover, which we’ve been lucky enough to see recently.

The Golden Plover is a beautiful wading bird. They feed on worms and insects, which are plentiful at the Basin, grabbing them by running and dipping their short bills in to the ground. Golden Plovers spend the summer breeding months in solitude in upland moors and above the treeline of mountains; however in winter they flock together and migrate to warmer lowland areas, such as the Montrose Basin, where they remain in large groups. They can generally be seen here during autumn and winter months.

Golden Plover flight

Golden Plover in flight (c) Harry Bickerstaff

Plovers belong to the same family as Lapwings, and the two species are often spotted in mixed groups. Although related, the plumage of the Golden Plover varies greatly to the Lapwing. This doesn’t make them easy to spot, however! The beautifully speckled Golden Plover doesn’t just look pretty; their cleverly coloured feathers make them well camouflaged on the rocks and sandbanks of the Basin, and other habitats they occupy such as ploughed fields and pastures.

Golden Plover flock

Golden Plover flock on rocks (c) Harry Bickerstaff

The plumage of the Golden Plover changes throughout the year. In summer breeding months, the underside of the bird is black; whereas in winter, the underside turns white.  The feathers on its back however remain dark brown with golden notches around the edges, which gives the bird its beautiful speckled plumage and distinguish it from the Grey Plover.

Golden Plover body feather  (c) Harry Bickerstaff

Golden Plover body feather (c) Harry Bickerstaff

This month (October), 330 Golden Plover have been seen so far, from the visitor centre viewing window. So if you’d like to see these wonderful birds for yourself, now is a good time to come!

Aileen Corral – Visitor Centre Intern

Awesome Autumn

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What flies in large V shapes to Montrose in September? Here’s a clue: Pink feet!

You guessed it! Pink-footed geese! With our upcoming People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast just around the corner, it would only be right to share some facts about these glorious birds.

Pink-footed Goose (close) SWT (21)

(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

With a grey-brown round head, short neck and a pale chest, the Pink-footed goose may be difficult for a new bird watcher such as myself to distinguish from other geese. However, for those eagle-eyed, (excuse the pun!) budding new birders,  their most identifiable feature are the pink bill and legs that they possess. Often travelling in family groups, they migrate from mainly Greenland and Iceland to arrive in the UK to spend the winter months in a milder climate.

Pink-footed Geese Harry Bickerstaff (32)

(c) Harry Bickerstaff

The importance of the migration to the Pink-footed geese is to utilise the best ecological conditions to suit their needs for that particular time of the year.

Montrose Basin is Internationally important for Pink-footed geese, with last years count (2014) reaching a massive 78,970 – our highest ever recorded number!

Pink-footed Geese

(c) Harry Bickerstaff

The Pink-footed geese will eventually leave the UK and travel back to their breeding grounds in the Spring of next year.

For more information and updates please visit our Facebook page, Twitter page and Website.


Meili Oh – Visitor Centre Intern

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Moth month


Moth enthusiasts of all ages. (c) Alison O'Hara

Moth enthusiasts of all ages. (c) Alison O’Hara

Every month at Montrose Basin visitor centre has been themed this year to give a little extra to our visitors.  We started September by taking part in ‘National Moth Night’.  We were delighted to welcome Paul Brookes, our local moth recorder for the East Scotland branch – Butterfly Conservation.  Paul has been moth trapping at Montrose Basin Nature Reserve for a number of years now and continues to find new species records for the site. This year alone he has caught 12 new species of Moth, previously recorded in other parts of Angus but new to the reserve.

Early Grey (C) Paul Brookes - New to Montrose LNR April 2015

Early Grey (C) Paul Brookes – New to Montrose LNR April 2015


Moth night with Paul Brookes (c) Alison O’Hara

During our event at the visitor centre for national moth night we had 21 eager moth enthusiasts joining us to learn more about moths.

In addition to our successful night, we have also had the pleasure of hosting a wonderful exhibition by Charlotte Craig, a graduate from the Glasgow School of Art.  It has been up in the mezzanine all month and we have had lots of positive feedback from it.

Large Emerald (C) Charlotte Craig

Large Emerald (C) Charlotte Craig

Charlotte’s work explores the relationship between man-made and natural environments ‘how we mark the land and the land marks us’. As part of her final degree art show; she has made several moths, all from natural materials, such as grasses and seeds. Even her paint was made from leaf mulch, charcoal and blue-green algae. The project was initiated with the help of Butterfly Conservation, and 15% of any prints or greetings cards sold is going to the charity.

Flame Carpet (c) Charlotte Craig

Flame Carpet (c) Charlotte Craig

The exhibit will be with us for a few more days, so if you want to see them then come along ASAP! Otherwise, they are heading to the Scottish Natural Heritage Battleby Centre near Perth for exhibit next month.

We would like to thank Charlotte for letting us show off her wonderful work and we hope to do more collaborations in the future.

Emma Castle-Smith – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager


Posted in Butterflies & Moths, Events, General | Tagged , , |

September can be an exciting time to be a birder

Pink-footed Geese (45) - Harry Bickerstaff - resized & copyThis month heralds the return of the Pink-footed Geese back to Montrose Basin after a long summer in Iceland and Greenland. We were fortunate to have a large influx of Greylag and Canada geese (1350) at the beginning of September, but these are now giving way to our fabulous Pink-footed Geese. The first 7 were spotted on 10th September, with a steep climb to 253 individuals the following evening. We can only hope to match the spectacular peak number of 2014 (79,970 individuals) this Autumn. They may surprise us and surpass that number breaking our records once more – only time will tell.

Goose breakfastIf you are interested in gaining a unique experience, you might be interested in attending our famous ‘People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast’. Booking is essential as places fill up fast for this event. Call the centre on 01674 676336.


(c) Andy Wakelin – Peregrine in action pursuing a Lapwing

However, it’s not all about the Geese. Here at Montrose Basin we are very lucky to witness some stunning sights over the Autumn. In the last 2 weeks we have had several sightings of Peregrine Falcon. One afternoon, we witnessed one pursuing a Lapwing, fortunately for the Lapwing it was unsuccessful but fascinating to watch none the less.  We have had daily sightings of Osprey, many of which are now passing through on their migration south to West Africa. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and juvenile Buzzards have also been making frequent appearances in front of the visitor centre windows.

Long Eared Owl 1-p19v3fafe31k4f367872doe118f

(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust ~ Long-eared Owl – Winter 2014

Our most exciting visitor by far this month has been the Long-eared Owl! An eagle eyed visitor spotted this shy bird hiding in a bush in front of the Visitor Centre. Hopefully this won’t be the last time we see it this autumn.

Turnstone Harry Bickerstaff (327)

(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust – Turnstone

Other less common visitors include Spotted Redshank on the Lurgies walk, Great Crested Grebe out in middle of the Basin, Curlew Sandpiper and Turnstone on Rossie Spit.


(c) Simone Keeley – Kingfisher on the Lurgies

Our resident male Kingfisher continues to visit daily and fish in the Salt pans, delighting everyone.

Emma – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

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

National Moth Night

This week includes National Moth Night, an annual event encouraging public interest in moths.

While you may be more familiar with species of butterfly, moths actually make up the majority of species in the Lepidoptera order, with an estimated 150,000 species worldwide!

There are a number of distinctions between butterflies and moths, but the easiest way to distinguish the two is the shape of their antennae. Where butterflies have a simple, thin antenna with a thicker, club-like end, moths have much more variety in their antenna’s shape, but lack the distinct club shape tip.

A Garden Tiger moth. © Andy Wakelin

A Garden Tiger moth.
© Andy Wakelin

If you thought moths were drab or colourless you couldn’t be more wrong. The Garden Tiger moth pictured above is just one example of the moths that have been caught at the Basin recently.

The Larch Pug micro-moth, a newly-confirmed sighting at Montrose Basin. © Paul Brookes

The Larch Pug micro-moth, a newly-confirmed sighting at Montrose Basin.
© Paul Brookes

Species of moths belong to one of two sub-orders: micro- and macro-lepidoptera. Micro-moths’ size limits the number of distinctive features, making them much harder to identify than their larger relatives. However, this does mean that we’re always learning more on the territories of micro-moths, and we’ve had 8 confirmed new species to the Basin so far this year!

A day-flying Cinnabar moth. © Charles Sharp

A day-flying Cinnabar moth.
© Charles Sharp

While you may associate moths with nocturnal creatures that are attracted to bright lights, there are also a number of day-flying moths, such as the distinctive Cinnabar, which is a relatively common sight in the UK, often found feeding on Ragwort.

National Moth night

We’ll be hosting a talk this Thursday to celebrate National Moth Night, including a chance to examine some of the moths that have been caught here. Call us on 01674 676 336 to book your place, and visit for more details and events.

Posted in Butterflies & Moths, Events, Sightings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , |

End of Summer

As we reach the end of Summer (not that it ever truly begun!), we’re looking forward to the arrival and departure of the huge variety of migrating birds, we see at the Basin each year.
In recent years, satellite tagging has allowed us a much clearer understanding of Osprey migration. Our friends over at Loch of the Lowes have had a great year for Ospreys. One of their tagged juveniles, FR3, has already begun it’s migration south. Starting at only 84 days old, it flew south, crossing the channel and reaching France in just 5 days. From here, the Ospreys will travel through Spain, crossing the Mediterranean to reach West Africa. Once they have begun migration, juveniles will no longer be dependent on their parents, which seems amazing given they’re travelling over 4,500 km without a guide! You can follow FR3’s progress with the Osprey Tracking page.

A Swallow at the Visitor Centre

A Swallow at the Visitor Centre
© Andy Wakelin

The second brood of Swallows have been fledging this week, a sure sign they’re close to departing! Migration can be especially taxing for Swallows, as while many species would avoid the main body of the desert, Swallows will actually fly across the Sahara to reach the most southerly parts of Africa. Furthermore, they gain relatively little weight prior to migrating, preferring to find food along the way.

Marsh Harrier © Sumeet Moghe

Marsh Harrier
© Sumeet Moghe

Recently we’ve been seeing the occasional juvenile Marsh Harrier near the Basin, too. Similar to Osprey, they will soon be migrating to West Africa, though it’s likely some will remain in the south of England.

A pair of Pintail ducks © J. M. Garg

A pair of Pintail ducks
© J. M. Garg

In terms of arrivals, we expect that small numbers of Pintail Ducks will begin to arrive throughout autumn, with a greater number of individuals expected in November.

Wigeon ©  Harry Bickerstaff

Wigeon © Harry Bickerstaff

Wigeon have begun migrating from Iceland and are already arriving, with 110 seen today, and a peak expected in October (5378 counted in Oct, 2014).

A Pink-footed Goose on the Basin. © Harry Bickerstaff

A Pink-footed Goose on the Basin.
© Harry Bickerstaff

Finally, we’re all highly anticipating the return of the Pink-footed Geese! While we’ve had a small number remain in the area over the summer, we’d typically expect to see them begin to arrive around the 15th of September. As I’m sure you’re aware, we had record numbers last year, with over a fifth of the estimated worldwide population here at the Basin!

We’ll be holding our famous ‘People’s Postcode Lottery’ Goose Breakfast and Pink Sunset events once again this year. Both of these events are always popular, so booking in advance is a must!

Goose breakfast


Pink sunset2Ben Newcombe – Visitor Centre Volunteer

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

Brilliant Bats

Little Stint, © Scottish Wildlife Trust

© Scottish Wildlife Trust

Not only has it been a great time for views of the Kingfisher, with visitors getting sightings of it throughout the week, but we’ve also had a few more unusual sightings on the reserve walks, including Little Stint, Ruff, and even a juvenile Marsh Harrier!

However, our main focus this week is on bats, ahead of our event on Friday the 28th. We’ll be giving a talk providing a great introduction to the bats present in the UK, and hopefully dispelling a few myths that you might have heard, before heading out on a guided walk with some bat detectors!

Bats are a unique and fascinating species, as the world’s only truly flying mammals. The tropical species of bats also play a large role in worldwide pollination, with over 500 species of flora, including bananas, cocoa plants and peaches, relying on them.

Daubenton's Bat, © Giles San Martin

© Giles San Martin

Soprano Pipistrelle, © Evegeniy Yakhontov

© Evegeniy Yakhontov







Ahead of the event we’ve been identifying what species of bats are near the basin – we followed the same route as the guided walk, and so far we’ve detected Soprano Pipistrelles and a lot of activity from Daubenton’s bats, so we’re hopeful there’ll be plenty around to hear on Friday! Both of these are pictured above.

Brilliant Bats

To book a place call us on 01674 676 336, and remember to bring sturdy footwear and a torch if possible.

Ben Newcombe – Visitor Centre Volunteer

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

Employment Opportunity at Montrose Basin

Six months ago, I began working here at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre. I got the post through an SCVO scheme called Community Jobs Scotland, which provides funds for employment for young people such as myself.

CJS poster

Within my job, I have learned countless new skills, not only related to wildlife and conservation, but also customer services, administration, marketing and social media. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with some genuinely lovely people, both staff members and volunteers.

There isn’t really such a thing as a typical day at Montrose Basin. For example, on my second day of the job, two volunteers, and I spend the day fixing the door for the men’s bathroom. I’ve had the opportunity to see swallows and sand martins fledge, and I’ve had the chance to see beautiful birds such as the Kingfisher and Ospreys at very close quarters. On top of this, I’ve been able to meet lots of interesting characters who have visited the centre during my time here. This variety will not only keep you on your toes and make things extremely enjoyable, but it will also give you a lot of different things to put on your CV.

swallow David Murray (1)

(c) David Murray

(c) David Murray

(c) David Murray

All in all, I would wholeheartedly recommend that anyone between the ages of 18-24 who is unemployed should strongly consider applying for the role of CJS Assistant at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past 6 months here, and I really think that anyone who takes the post would too.

Don’t miss your chance to see Montrose from an unusual angle on ‘Journey to the Centre of the Mud’!Journey to the centre of the mudDavid Murray – CJS Visitor Centre Assistant

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Weekly Sightings – 3rd – 9th August

It’s been a lovely week at Montrose Basin, with both the weather and the wildlife exceeding our expectations.

(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

(c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Continued daily sightings of the Kingfisher on the perch in front of the Sand Martin wall have left many of our visitors in awe of its immense beauty, and rightly so.

(c) Andy Wakelin

(c) Andy Wakelin

Speaking of Sand Martins, we have begun to see the tiny heads of a second brood of chicks come from the holes in the wall. It’s now only a matter of time until the juveniles begin to fledge; something which we are all very excited about.

(c) Amanda Thomson

(c) Amanda Thomson

Meanwhile, now that the juvenile birds of prey from any nearby nests are bound to have fledged, we have had a good number of ospreys, buzzards and the occasional peregrine falcon visiting the reserve. With the low tides which have occurred most days this week, we’ve been able to see the ospreys fishing and ultimately eating their catches.

Also, we’ve been seeing around 200 Canada Geese and 50 Greylag Geese, which hopefully means that the Pink-Footed Geese won’t be too far behind.

This is but a small handful of the wildlife which can be seen on Montrose Basin, so why not experience it for yourself? We’re open daily from 10:30-17:00, and there’s always something to see from our windows no matter how high or low the tide is!

Don’t miss out on our double event this coming Sunday, 16th August. At 9am we will host a bird ringing demonstration, and immediately after this, from 11am until 5pm, join the BTO to learn about wetland bird identification, followed by an opportunity to put these skills into practice on the reserve! Places are limited so booking is absolutely essential!

Ringing and WeBs poster

David Murray – Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Uncategorized |

Stoats and sightings

It’s been a terrific few weeks for bird sightings, which has continued with the sightings of at least 4 Ruff and juvenile Kingfishers at the Lurgies. However, one species of mammal which we have been seeing regularly from the Visitor Centre is the Stoat.

A member of the weasel family, a number of juvenile stoats, or ‘kits’ have been seen playing around our dipping pond, much to the delight of our visitors.

(c) Barry Maynor

(c) Barry Maynor

(c) Barry Maynor

(c) Barry Maynor

However, as adorable as they are, the stoats also do an important job for us. We’ve often had issues with rabbits burrowing around and causing damage to areas such as the Sand Martin wall and the wildflower meadow. Even though Eurasian Wild Rabbits can be around five times bigger, the stoat is their natural predator, and can control their numbers. Also, since there are no ground-nesting birds around the Visitor Centre, they don’t threaten the eggs of these species.

Stoats can potentially be seen all year round at the Basin. In winter, their fur is ‘in ermine’, which means they are completely white, except from their black tail which they retain at all times.

(c) Andy Wakelin

(c) SWT

Don’t forget about our ‘Wild about the Basin’ event this Wednesday. This week’s theme is Mud, Glorious Mud!

Wild about the Basin summer
David Murray – Visitor Centre Assistant

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