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 sunset

Ben Newcombe – Visitor Centre Volunteer

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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

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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

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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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A Dread of Terns

Common tern and chick

© Richard Blackburn

After several weeks of closely scanning the tern raft, we can finally confirm a number of sightings of tern chicks this week. While they can be a little tricky to see, if you drop by the centre you’ll often see them running over to meet feeding adults and they’re very visible if a ‘dread’ occurs — when the adults are disturbed, whether by a predator or other movement, and all fly up at once.

Our highest count so far stands at 12, and we’re hopeful we’ll see more over the coming week.

Sandwich Terns feeding

Sandwich Tern © Nick Townell

Overall we’re confident that the terns nesting on the raft are all Common terns, though we also have a number of Arctic and Sandwich terns in the area, with over 600 Sandwich terns counted at Tayock this very morning!


© David Murray

The Kingfisher continues to be a regular visitor, pausing in front of the sand martin wall almost every day! This makes for some terrific views, and has given us some great opportunities for photos.

By this time many of the year’s juvenile Ospreys have fledged, too. We often see a larger number from the centre, as they learn to fish and the adults prepare for migration. We’ve already seen two fishing in the Basin today!

Wild about the Basin summer

In other news, there’s still time to join this week’s Wild about the Basin. This week you’ll be having a go at pond dipping just in front of the centre, and discovering great diving beetles, water boatmen, and hopefully maybe even dragonfly larvae!  Bookings are only £4 per child, and can be arranged by calling us on 01674 676 336.

Ben — Visitor Centre Volunteer

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A eventful week on the Basin


Kingfisher – (c) Andy Wakelin

Well it has been another very eventful week on the Montrose Basin reserve.  From the visitor centre we have been delighted to see the Kingfisher hanging out at his regular fishing spot.

Northern LapwingSWT

Northern Lapwing – (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

We have also seen a second brood of Moor hen chicks, which are now being shown how to feed and forage in the salt pans by their siblings from the first brood.  We have also had regular sightings of a good number of Starlings and Lapwings right in front of the visitor centre windows.


Juvenile Stoat – (c) Andy Wakelin

There has also been almost daily sightings of the juvenile stoats by the dipping pond.

Little egret Kyle Thomson

Little Egret – (c) Kyle Thomson

We have also been fortunate enough to have reports of four Little Egrets on the Lurgies.  Many of you will remember that we have had one Little Egret visiting the salt pans  throughout the Spring.


Fledgling Sand Martin – (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust


Sand Martin – (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

We have also rung some of our Sand Martin chicks with BTO bird rings.  Our newly refurbished Sand Martin wall has been doing exceptionally well this summer and we are hopeful that a second brood will be laid in the coming weeks.

In addition to all of this we have had regular sightings of Roe deer, Foxes, Common Sandpiper, Tern chicks and we’ve had two new Highland Ponies delivered to graze the salt pans. I could bore you all day about the many varied and different things that we have seen from the visitor centre.  There is never a dull moment here, you should come and experience it for yourselves.

Our Wild about the Basin events have been doing spectacularly well, with 24 children going out onto the mud on Wednesday.  So please book, call 01674 676 336 if you wish to attend this weeks Wild about the Basin event – Camouflage mini beasts. That way we can avoid any disappointment.Wild about the Basin summerPlease follow us on Twitter @MontroseBasin or like us on Facebook – Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve and visitor centre – http://on.fb.me/1Mhk7TW

See you soon,

Emma – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager



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Summer Sightings

While we’ve often mentioned many of the birds you can see at low tide, the basin is also a great spot to see wildlife at high tide. The many eider ducklings we’ve seen over recent weeks are getting bigger and bigger now, and some growing from almost featureless black balls of fluff to brown juveniles.

The lapwings are returning to the basin, having spent the last few months in the fields nearby the basin for the breeding season. Additionally, we saw some really great views of Goosander right in front of the visitor centre this week, as they chased for fish in their distinctive manner.

Several Goosander in Montrose Basin.

© Andy Wakelin

At last, the stoats have been more adventurous! We’ve known that there have been stoats nearby for a while, but in the last week at least 3 youngsters have been spotted play-fighting around the dipping pond. Hopefully there’ll be even more to see soon, as stoats tend to have litters of roughly 6 to 12 kits.

Over the last few days we’ve also begun to see some flocks of juvenile Starling come into the salt pans just in front of the basin, with one of our volunteers counting a flock of 47. Also increasing is the number of common tern, with counts seemingly doubling to numbers of 70 – 80 on the raft. This will only rise further when we begin to see their young emerge.

Starling on a feeder.

© Andy Wakelin

The swallow chicks that have been nesting under the eaves since April have just started to fledge, too. 2 chicks were seen, and there are at least 3 more nests so you can expect to see more over the coming weeks! Finally, we’re very hopeful to see sand martins fledging soon. They were late to arrive this year, but we’ve been seeing more and more activity near the wall recently.

A Swallow on a window ledge.

© David Murray

The perfect opportunity to see all this is our Journey to the Centre of the Mud event this Saturday! This takes advantage of the lowest tide of the year to provide an unusual opportunity to see the wildlife of the basin from a different angle.

Our Wild about the Basin events kick off next Wednesday, and continue every Wednesday through the 5th of August at 10:30 – 12:00. Each week has a theme as we discover the wildlife near the basin, and you can find out this week’s theme over on the Facebook page in the next few days.

Booking for both these events is essential, and can be arranged by phoning 01674 676 336.

Journey to the centre of the mud1Wild about the Basin summer











Ben Newcombe – Visitor Centre Volunteer Intern

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This Week at Montrose Basin

I’m new to the basin this week, and it’s been great so far. I’m looking forward to working with everybody here, and my ID skills are already undergoing crash course training with all the wildlife on the basin! It was quite an eventful week to start on, as there have been plenty of good sightings from the centre – A brief highlight of mine was seeing an osprey on the basin. We’ve also periodically had some good views of a young buzzard from the scopes right here in the centre.

Osprey and Fish[1] AndyWakelin

(c) Andy Wakelin

There was an eventful afternoon one day, as a mallard took her chicks on top of the sand martin bank at the worst possible time – a couple of crows and a heron were both lingering nearby. It wasn’t long before one of the ducklings inevitably dove off of the edge, soon followed by all the others, and the nearby birds quickly swooped in. Unfortunately the heron had already claimed the first chick before the mallard could get down to the water in front of the bank and regroup her chicks.

Grey Heron AndyWakelin

(c) Andy Wakelin

As we briefly mentioned last week, the common tern on the raft have been receiving a lot of hassle from a nearby crow. This has only increased this week, and the crow has been seen appearing to steal a number of eggs throughout the week! Luckily the terns now seem to be getting slightly better at warding it off, but the crows are far too persistent for them to chase them off consistently. It has certainly made for great watching for everybody visiting the centre over the last week.

As you may be aware, the centre’s 20th birthday is coming up,and as part of the celebrations we’ve also been preparing a timeline of the centre’s history. This has plenty of information on the centre, including some articles and photos some of us had long since forgotten! This is now ready to view on the mezzanine upstairs, alongside further information on the two highland ponies that have recently joined us. We’ll also be holding a free open day on the 27th of June to celebrate this event, and we’d all encourage you to drop by – experience should be no barrier, as we’d be more than happy to direct you to some good sights and provide help with the scopes and binoculars to get a good view, should you need it.

Happy Birthday, Visitor Centre!


Ben Newcombe – Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Volunteer Intern

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Basin Baby Boom!

Is it pre-emptive to say that summer is finally upon us? It certainly feels as though it is with this utterly fantastic weather we’ve been having. And to go along with the nice weather, things are certainly becoming exciting on the Nature Reserve itself!

The numbers of chicks which have been seen from just our windows alone have been phenomenal. With each passing day, the number of young Eider ducks has been growing steadily, and Moorhen and Shelduck chicks have been joined by new Mallard ducklings.

While chicks on the reserve have been hatching, so have the Ospreys on nearby nests. This has resulted in more of the species coming to Montrose Basin to fish in the river. Usually at a low tide, we have been known to spot up to 6 Osprey at once on the reserve, which provides a unique viewing experience for our visitors. Joined by other birds of prey such as Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and sometimes even Peregrine Falcons and Marsh Harriers, they truly highlight the level of diversity of wildlife on Montrose Basin.

Osprey, Montrose Basin by Gus Guthrie

(c) Gus Guthrie

Elsewhere, both the artificial Sand Martin bank and the Tern Raft have been busy. We have been delighted with the number of Sand Martin which have showed signs of nesting in the wall; although we were worried with their late arrival, it has been a significant improvement on last year and shows that the refurbishment it was given in March was truly worthwhile. The Tern Raft has also attracted good numbers of Common Tern this year, but a crow has been persistently landing on the raft and disturbing their attempts to nest and mate. We will need to just keep on watching to see what will happen next.

(c) Andy Wakelin Meanwhile, the seals are still content!

(c) Andy Wakelin
Meanwhile, the seals are still happy!

With all of this activity, we are extremely fortunate to be able to share it with the rest of the world. Much of our work would not be possible without the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. For every £2 spent, 50p goes towards charities such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and of the millions of pounds raised in this way for the Trust, Montrose Basin has managed to not only maintain our beautiful reserve, but also give the public the opportunity to experience this haven in different and exciting ways. This includes Journey to the Centre of the Mud on July 4th, a guided walk into the estuary led by the Ranger, and the People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast on October 4th in which people can come here early and see tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying over the Basin, followed by breakfast. These funds are also put towards the maintenance of our camera, which allows us to stream sights from Montrose Basin live on the internet every day on the Scottish Wildlife Trust website.

Before all of that, however, we are celebrating our 20th Anniversary on the 27th June, and everyone is invited to join us! We will be holding an open day during which anyone can come along and see what we’re all about. In the afternoon, we will host two of our popular children’s activities, pond dipping and mud safari. There will be FREE entry all day long, and we’d love to see you here!

Happy Birthday, Visitor Centre!

David Murray – Visitor Centre Assistant

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