Busy week at the Basin!

There’s been plenty going on here at Montrose Basin over the past week!

We started out on Monday, with our Balsam BBQ. Our volunteers spent a few hours out on the reserve removing non native Himalayan Balsam from the reserve, followed by some delicious food. The turnout was good, and we are absolutely delighted by the amount of progress which was made. A big thank you goes to everyone who helped us out!

Eider creche2 AndyWakelin

An Eider duck creche. (c) Andy Wakelin

While we’ve been busy, so has the wildlife! To go alongside the Moorhen chicks which have inhabited the Saltpans for the past few weeks, we have now had sightings of Shelduck chicks and Eider duck chicks. First seen on Sunday and Friday respectively, we can’t wait to watch front and centre as these ducklings transform into independent adults in their own right. We invite you all to join us during what will be a very exciting time, to see the development of these waders, along with migrants such as Sand Martin, Swallows and Terns, which are finally nesting and showing intent to breed.


So, what’s next for June? On Monday 8th, we are hosting a member of the Highland Pony Society for a talk on how our ponies, Inga and Blossom, contribute towards the conservation of the reserve. Then, on Saturday 27th, it’s our Visitor Centre’s 20th Birthday, and to celebrate, admission is free all day! Join us and discover firsthand what makes Montrose Basin so special. Also, children’s activities will run throughout the afternoon, meaning this anniversary is one you won’t want to miss.

Highland Pony Talk


David Murray – Visitor Centre Assistant


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A little bit on the Little Egret

If you’ve been following us on Social Media over the past week or so, you may have seen us getting quite excited about a white bird which has been wandering around the Saltpans in front of our Visitor Centre recently. What you may not know is why.

Little Egret Andy Wakelin

(c) Andy Wakelin

This bird is the Little Egret. A smaller member of the Heron family, the Little Egret is white with a black bill, black legs and yellow feet. Although it is quite unmistakeable when recognised, many of our visitors have had to look twice, with some doubting their vision. This is because this particular bird is extremely uncommon in Scotland. In fact, their first breeding record in the whole of the UK was less than 20 years ago, and most bird guides claim that they are only found in the South of England.

However, climate change is driving natives of the Mediterranean such as the Little Egret further north each year, and the tidal estuary at Montrose Basin; especially the marshland areas such as the Saltpans, provide both a suitable habitat and plenty of fish and crustaceans for this bird.

Little egret Kyle Thomson

(c) Kyle Thomson

Unfortunately, our Little Egret is, as far as we know, on her own at Montrose Basin, which means that we aren’t expecting her to have chicks. We can hope that it’s only a matter of time, however; with many migrants finding themselves in a more northerly location each year, until she finds a mate. Until then, we will appreciate this magnificent individual in all its glory.

(c) David Murray

(c) David Murray


Come down to Montrose Basin to check out the Little Egret along with a whole host of other wildlife and spectacular scenery!

David Murray

Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Assistant

Email: montrosebasin@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Facebook: Montrose-Basin-Wildlife-Reserve-and-Visitor Centre

Twitter: @MontroseBasin

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Balsam BBQ!

Balsam BBQ Event! 25 May 1pm – 5pm

What is Himalayan Balsam?

Introduced to the UK in 1839, Himalayan Balsam is now a naturalised plant, found especially on riverbanks and wetlands where it has become a problem weed. Himalayan Balsam tolerates low light levels and also shades out other vegetation, gradually impoverishing habitats by killing off other plants. It is sometimes seen in gardens, either uninvited or grown deliberately, but care must be taken to ensure that it does not escape into the wild.


Himalayan Balsam is a tall growing annual, 2-3m (6-10ft) in height. Between June and October it produces clusters of purplish pink (or rarely white) helmet-shaped flowers. The flowers are followed by seed pods that open explosively when ripe. 9620900873_a464975e94_k © digirose

The problem.

Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds. These are dispersed widely as the ripe pods eject their seeds, the explosion is incredibly robust; seeds from one pod can cover as much as 23 feet (7 meters).

Aerial spread!

Close up of the “grenade” pod.

The plant is spread by two principal means;

  • The most widespread distribution tends to be by human means where individuals pass on seed to friends.
  • Once established in the catchment of a river the seeds, which can remain viable for two years, are transported further afield by water.


Plants that out compete other more desirable plants or simply invade half the garden are classed as weeds and require control. This can be done using non-chemical means such as pulling or digging out, or suppressing with mulch.  

What not to do.

So if you come across Himalayan Balsam, don’t disturb the pods. Not only will you help it spread, you might get blasted by the ‘grenade’ pods.  

What to do & How you can help?

Last years volunteers hard at work.

Last years volunteers hard at work.

This 25 May will be our ‘Balsam BBQ’ event from 1pm to 5pm, join the ranger for an informative day of practical volunteer work controlling this invasive non-native species on the reserve. Followed by a well earned BBQ! For more information on the ‘Balsam BBQ’ event: Facebook Balsam BBQ Event!


Montrose Basin Visitor Centre

Email: montrosebasin@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Facebook: Montrose-Basin-Wildlife-Reserve-and-Visitor Centre

Twitter: @MontroseBasin

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

Signs of Spring – Sand Martins, Swifts and Swallows

Don’t let the weather fool you – spring is well and truly under way, which means that our summer migrants are coming back to Montrose Basin.

One such bird is the Sand Martin. It’s tendency to breed along rivers makes Montrose Basin a prime location for Sand Martin, and in 2001 we built an artificial nesting bank fit for their breeding needs. In the past, we have seen over one hundred at one time and we are just beginning to see this year’s Sand Martins arrive on the reserve, with many sightings at the Bridge of Dun. They sometimes return as early as March, but they, along with many other migratory birds, have been behind schedule this year! Sand Martin’s are the lightest of the Martin family; an adult male weighs less than a £2 coin!

Sand Martin

(c) Ken Billington

In the past, our Sand Martins have been followed closely by Swallows. Nesting on ledges and beams in the top of buildings, sheds and also under bridges. Here at Montrose Basin, we often find Swallows nesting in nooks and crannies on the edge of our Visitor Centre. There was much folklore surrounding Swallows; seeing the first Swallow of the year was considered a good omen, and before migration was understood, it was thought that Swallows spent the winter buried in the mud of ponds and lakes!


(c) Earth Rangers

Another summer migrant which is often mistaken for members of the Swallow and Martin family are Swifts. Despite being bigger than both the Sand Martin and Swallow, all three are most commonly seen on the wing travelling at very high speeds and can therefore be difficult to identify. Swifts even sleep on the wing, appearing motionless at 10,000 feet. What a sight that must be!


(c) Michael Veltri

Don’t forget to attend our Optics Fair this weekend at the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre. From 10:30 am until  4 pm, an Opticron representative will be on hand to advise you about a wide selection of binoculars and telescopes.

Optical Fair May

David Murray

CJS Seasonal Visitor Centre Assistant

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

Osprey over Montrose Basin

Montrose Basin has been a popular area for ospreys for years!

What do they eat?

Virtually any fish they can carry back to land. Here, Montrose Basin, ospreys have been sighted to hunt flatfish, trout and salmon at low tide.


Lunch time! Stunning footage of the osprey feeding at Montrose Basin.

September 2013


When is it best to spot?

April through to September at low tide, as the channels to the estuary narrow as the tide recedes, improves their chances of catching fish in a shallower/narrower area. The previous year, views from Visitor Centre of an osprey feeding was an almost daily occurrence during low tide!

Osprey, Montrose Basin by Gus Guthrie(c) Gus Guthrie 2014


Where is the best area to spot an Osprey?

Here in the Visitor Centre! Complete view of the Montrose Basin, spot with the naked eye and our optics to view in greater detail.


Posing for our camera! I guess if you looked as good as he does, why not?

July 2013


For more information on Ospreys, especially in Loch of the Lowes, visit SWT blog: http://blogs.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/osprey/



Visitor Centre Volunteer Intern

Montrose Basin Visitor Centre

Email: montrosebasin@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Facebook: Montrose-Basin-Wildlife-Reserve-and-Visitor Centre

Twitter: @MontroseBasin

Posted in Birds, Fish, General, People, Sightings |

Spring in full swing

The recent warm spell of weather here at Montrose Basin has awakened the insect life of spring. Outside the front of the Visitor Centre we have had the warming glimpses of Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies and Peacock Butterflies.

DSCN6877a Andy Wakelin

Peacock Butterfly (C) Andy Wakelin


The Primroses, Vipers Bugloss and Pink Campion are all in flower attracting lovely variations of bees and wasps. The Hawthorn out the front of the viewing area is starting to bloom, which is helping to attract our population of garden birds. We have had the first views of summer migrants on the Reserve, awing sites of Ospreys, Sand Martins and Swallows. We are also hearing the calls of migratory birds such as the Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.


Willow Warbler SWT (2)

Willow Warbler (C) SWT

Shoulder Stripe MBVC 060415 1

Shoulder Stripe (C) Paul

Recently we have had frequent visits from Paul, our local Moth expert. The warm weather has increased the activity of Moths and he has been busy putting out moth traps next to the Visitor Centre. He has had some interesting findings such as 3 new species of Moth that has not been previously recorded here; Shoulder Stripe, Early Grey and Pale Pinion. We have also had the usual suspects of Moth species such as Clouded Drab, Chestnut, Common Quaker and Hebrew Character.

We have had fleeting glimpses of Sand Martins on the reserve, we are desperately waiting for them to take residence in our newly renovated Sand Martin wall out the front of the Visitor Centre. The Swallows have also been exploring around the eaves of the Visitor Centre, so hopefully they will soon make them their home.

DSCN0177 - Andy Wakelin - cropped, resized & copyright

Swallow (C) Andy Wakelin

Spring is in full swing, and all of us here at Montrose Basin are looking forward to what it will bring us.

Simon Ritchie

Seasonal Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Butterflies & Moths, Uncategorized, Wildflowers | Tagged , , , |

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

(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 (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



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


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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