The most exciting breakfast EVER!

Pink-footed geese taking off from Montrose Basin

Pink-footed geese taking off from Montrose Basin

Calling all lovers of breakfast!  Would you like to experience Sunday morning brekkie in a new and exciting way??

Why not join us for our famous Goose Breakfast!
Join us at 6:30am on Sunday the 28th, and experience the geese lifting off the basin at sunrise! Then back to the Visitor Centre for some breakfast and a hot cuppa.

The rangers have been out this morning to count the Pink-footed Geese!!! Our total now stands at 4,778!!! This should continue to rise throughout the week! The number of Geese last year peaked during September so with 6 days to go we should be inundated with Geese by Sunday.

Booking is essential. Please call the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre on 01674 676 336

Adults £8, Children £4.


Posted in Birds | Tagged , , |

Reserve Sightings

Pink-footed Geese Harry Bickerstaff (217) - resized & copyright

Pink-footed Geese on the Salt Pans (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

The numbers of Pink-footed Geese have increased this week to 346, as seen on the Monday. This number is lower than the 3,000 seen last year and the awe inspiring 63,844 of 2012> It is likely that the milder weather has meant that they’ve stayed in Iceland and Greenland to feed for longer before their migration of 2,250km to Montrose. Others migratory cues (such as day length) will have taken over though and the numbers will probably increase rapidly over the next week.

Wigeon & teal flight Harry Bickerstaff - resized & copyright

Wigeon and Teal in flight (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Kingfisher continues to make its daily appearance on ‘its usual perch’ in the Salt Pans in front of the Visitor Centre and numbers of Red-breasted Merganser and Goosanders remain high and visible (89 and 96 respectively) throughout the Basin. Numbers of Wigeon and Shelduck have also greatly increased in the Basin and the elusive Teal can still be seen in the Salt Pans, with 11 spotted on Monday.

DSCN0177 - Andy Wakelin - cropped, resized & copyright

Swallow on Visitor Centre (c) Andy Wakelin

Some of our summer visitors have also remained with us this week; 12 Swallows have been seen flying around the centre’s eves, 2 Sandwich Terns spotted on Buoy 2, and a juvenile Osprey in the centre of the Basin.

Herons on Dyke - Andy Wakelin - resized & copyright

Grey Heron at the Salt Pans (c) Andy Wakelin

Other sightings this week have been 23 Goldeneye mid Basin, 3 Golden Plover and 80 Lapwing in front of the Visitor Centre, 3 Greenshank at Rossie Spit, and a Little Egret at the Old Montrose Pier. Canada Geese continue to make an appearance with 15 seen on the 14th and 9 Greylag have also been seen on the Basin on a regular basis. Grey Heron numbers also remain relatively high, with 23 seen at the Salt Pans on the 17th. The Stoat has made another appearance this week, at the Dipping Pond which seems to be its regular Rabbit watching spot.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Mammals, Sightings |

Wildlife watching in Autumn

Geese2 AndyWakelin

Pink-footed geese on the Basin (c) Andy Wakelin

September is officially the start of autumn in the UK and with the earlier nights and slight chill in the air it’s easy to start thinking about staying indoors, drinking a warm cups of tea, and watching the TV. But it’s definitely worth ignoring this instinct to hibernate, putting on another layer, and getting outside to do some wildlife watching. Not entirely convinced? Here’s why.

Firstly, as the vegetation starts to die back and the leaves begin to fall from the trees it becomes a lot easier to see the birds and mammals around you. You’ll find out that that rustling noise you’ve been hearing in the trees is actually a Red Squirrel and the distinctive ‘tsee tsee tsee trrrr’ call belongs to a Blue Tit. In fact, if you’ve always wanted to learn to identify birds by their song, now if the best time to start as you can see exactly which birds are making which noise. September is also the month when hedgerows and trees become laden with berries. For many birds this is an important source of food, especially as it becomes scare in other areas, and you can get great views of even the most cautious species helping you practise your identification skills it time for the more challenging summer. Red Squirrels also go into overdrive around this time of year, finding seeds and nuts to bury for the winter, and this greatly increases your chances of getting prolonged views of this enigmatic creature.

While we usually identify spring with the season of breeding, autumn also plays a key part in the reproduction of many species. Rutting Red Deer are probably one of the most famous autumn wildlife events in Scotland. With Red Deer becoming more visible in autumn as the colder weather causes them to move down to lower ground in the Highland and Islands, now is the perfect time to watch and listen to the larger males strutting and bellowing in an attempt to ensure that they father a number of next year’s offspring.   Autumn is also the time that Grey Seals pup. Mainly found in the north of Scotland, especially Orkney and Rona, silky white pups can be seen on the coastal rocks staying out of the water and keeping warm in the autumn sun. A little further in land, many of the male wildfowl that have spent the last couple of months in eclipse are now moulting back into breading plumage. Particularly impressive, and visible, around this time of year are the Eider, Teal and Wigeon ducks.

Here at the Basin the loss of summer migrants certainly doesn’t leave our muddy landscape bare, with wader numbers being at their highest during the autumn and winter months. A scan across the exposed mud regularly produces sightings of Redshank, Greenshank, Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatchers, Dunlin and Knot, as well as less regular sightings of Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Golden Plover, and Whimbrel. The number of wildfowl numbers also increases. Along with the spectacular view of thousands of Pink-footed Geese flying into the Basin, we also get Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Mute and Whooper Swans, Goldeneyes, Pintails, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, and of course Eider ducks. Large numbers of Goosanders and Red-breasted Mergansers can be seen throughout autumn and winter, and there’s even a chance of seeing a Red-throated Diver here during September. Autumn and winter also makes perfect viewing of the Kingfisher from the Visitor Centre window as the salinity of the water found in the Salt Pans prevents the water from freezing, allowing for fishing throughout the colder months.

Of course, the added bonus to watching wildlife during these colder months is the lack of biting insects, like midges, and ticks.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

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

The Pinkies are back!!!

We caught our first glimpse of the Pink-footed Geese on the 31st of August, and then again just recently on the 11th of September, 65 were seen roosting on the sandbank behind the Seals.  This time last year there were over 100 recorded on the Basin.  So the numbers are not too far off from last year.

Over the next few weeks we expect their numbers to steadily increase, with previous years reaching around 63,000 individuals at their peak.  An awe inspiring sight!

Pink-footed geese taking off from Montrose Basin

This photograph taken a few years ago by an SWT volunteer, beautifully illustrates how spectacular the Geese flying out can be.  If you agree, then why not come along to our Goose Breakfast event on the 28th of September!


Goose breakfast sunrise

Last year at the Goose Breakfast there were more than 20,000 Geese on the Basin, so it’s well worth the effort of getting up early if you wish to see the sunrise and the geese lift off.   Our Ranger Anna Cheshier will take you to a fabulous location to watch the sunrise and give you an informative talk about the Geese and the Basin.   Afterwards it’s back to the Visitor Centre for a question and answer session with Anna, breakfast and a cup of tea.  It’s a 6:30 am start from the Visitor Centre so please wrap up warm. Booking is essential as this is a popular event.  Adults £8, Children £4, 01674 676336.

bird watching1

If getting up early for the Pink-footed Geese is not your thing then why not come along to the Centre during the day.  Common sightings this week include the Kingfisher, Redshank, Greenshank, Oystercatcher and Grey Heron to name just a few.

Why not bring the kids along on the 20th of September for our event;

‘An introduction to bird watching for children’

£4 per child, it’s a 1pm start with expert help in the basics of identification and the opportunity to try out your newly honed skills.

See you all soon

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager – Emma Castle-Smith

Posted in Uncategorized |

Voting is now open!!!!!!

Thanks to Jonathan Pinnick (Visitor Centre Assistant Manager) at the Loch of the Lowes, our world famous Osprey tree has been entered into this years Woodland Trust ‘Scotland’s Tree of the Year’ award.  We are delighted to inform you all, that Lady’s Tree has been shortlisted and the voting is now open!

Lady's Tree at Loch of the LowesPlease read about our incredible tree and vote now by clicking the link below!

Emma Castle-Smith – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Posted in Events | Tagged , |

Reserve Sightings

Kingfisher - Nick Townell - resized & copyright

Kingfisher on Salt Pans perch (c) Nick Townell

At this time of year the Pink-footed Geese aren’t the only birds that we keep our eyes (and ears) peeled for. We also regularly watch a perch located in the Salt Pans directly in front of the Visitor Centre and if you’ve been watching that this week you won’t have been disappointed – the Kingfisher was spotted there on the 31st August, and the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th of September.

Another bird we get to see a little more often as winter comes around is the Teal and so far 2 females and 2 eclipse males were seen in the Salt Pans on the 5th. Another, slightly unusual, sighting for the Visitor Centre was the immature Little Grebe spotted just in front of the viewing windows. While Little Grebes are more regularly seen at Old Montrose Pier, with 8 sighted there on the 31st, we wouldn’t normally expect to see them on the east side of the Basin.

Other sightings this week have been 15 Golden Plover, 14 Knot, 350 Lapwings, and 28 Goldeneye throughout the Basin. 3 Tree Pipets were seen by the Bridge of Dun and 3 Linnets in front of the Visitor Centre. Grey Herons remain a continuing presence at the Salt Pans, with 22 seen on the 1st, as do the 2 Moorhen who make a daily appearance and 10 Goosanders regularly seen ‘fishing’ close to the Visitor Centre around mid-tide. On the predator side, a Sparrowhawk was staking-out the bird feeders on the 1st and a Stoat was spotted near the dipping pond on the same day. While Canada Geese can still be seen at the Basin, with 30 counted on the 31st, we are yet to have any further sightings of Pink-footed Geese.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant


Posted in Birds, General, Mammals, Sightings |

Angus Doors Open Day and Bioblitz Extravaganza!!

Whether you are spending time in Angus or travelling down to Fife, there are plenty of things to see and do this weekend.

Grey Heron AndyWakelin

Grey Heron – Copyright SWT

Saturday 6th September – Montrose Basin Visitor Centre is taking part in the Angus Open Doors Day event.  You can come and spend the day watching the birds out on the Basin from our wonderful panoramic Visitor Centre window.  There is also lots for the children to do in our kids corner, packed full of quizzes, games and interactives.


Children’s corner – Copyright SWT

On this day entry is FREE for all ages!


For anyone that would like to get involved in an exciting weekend of recording wildlife.  Head down to the Botanic Gardens in St Andrews, Fife.


Fife Map – St Andrews

From Friday at 19:30 you can watch Duncan Davidson (East Scotland Butterfly recorder) set up the Moth trap for the night.  A return visit to the moth trap on Saturday morning, should reveal the nights work, with expert help in the identification of the moths found.

Red Underwing Moth

At 20:00 (Friday) there is a guided walk with Les Hatton (An active member of Bat Conservation Trust).  His boundless bat knowledge and enthusiasm will help you to understand the wonderful world of the bats.


Soprano Pipistrelle – Copyright SNH (Laurie Campbell)

However, if bats are not your thing then why not go pond dipping in the dark with        Nikki MacDonald at 21:30.

Visitor Centre Assistant Manager - Emma Castle-Smith

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , |

Reserve Sightings

Canada geese flying Glyn Lewis - resized and copyright

Canada Geese flying at Ferryden (c) Glyn Lewis

This week has definitely been a week of Canada Geese, with numbers remaining high at 380 throughout the week. Their very distinctive V-flight formation can be seen across the sky, especially in early mornings and late afternoons.  Pink-foot numbers have remained at 9 as have the Greylag Geese at 38. So far all these sightings have been on the west area of the Basin, but the next few months should give us closer viewing from the Visitor Centre and it shouldn’t be too long now until we start to see the large flocks of Pink-footed Geese we expect to see in September.

Wader numbers have now increased to those we are used to seeing through autumn and winter, though there have been some unusually high numbers for some of the species. 1006 Oystercatchers, 1289 Curlew, 1147 Redshank, and 12 Greenshank are what we would expect. However, this year’s 867 Lapwing is almost 3 times the number from last year and the 149 Dunlin and 201 Black-tailed Godwit are also much higher than this time last year. Other wader counts for this week have been 4 Knot, 1 Snipe and 8 Golden Plover.

Other sightings this week include 2 Gadwall at the Salt Pans, 2 Moorhen, 1 Osprey hunting out front, 271 Cormorants, 101 Goosander and 54 Red-breasted Mergansers throughout the Basin, and 6 Goldeneye. Slightly more unusual sightings have been the Short-eared owl and the 4 juvenile Little Grebes both spotted on the 24th.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Special thanks to Glyn Lewis for allowing us to use his photo.

Posted in Birds, General, Sightings |

Are birds dinosaurs?

Jackdaw Harry Bickerstaff (148) - sized & copyright

Jackdaw (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Birds are one of the most successful animals on the planet and, when it comes to wildlife watching, one of the easiest to see. Thanks to modern technology and some very dedicated researchers our understanding their behaviour, including migration routes, has greatly increased over the last few years. However, how they evolved has always been a bit of an enigma.

The first hint of their possible evolutionary origin came in the 1860s from a quarry in south Germany where the first specimen of Archaeopteryx was discovered. As the first known bird, its arms and tail were covered with modern appearing feathers, but unlike modern birds it also had teeth, a long bony tail, and its hands, shoulder girdles, pelvis and feet bones are distinctive and not fused. This led to Darwin’s friend, Thomas Huxley, to first suggest the link between dinosaurs and birds in 1868. The idea fell out of favour, however, in the early 20th Century when palaeontologist Gerhard Heilmann published ‘The Origin of Birds’ stating that birds evolved directly from thecodonts, a reptilian group which also gave rise to dinosaurs, crocodiles, and pterosaurs.

Then in the 1970s palaeontologists noticed that Archaeopteryx shared a number of features with small carnivorous dinosaurs called theropods, and the resulting evolutionary tree implies that birds are just a ‘twig’ off the dinosaur branch. Fossils discovered over the last 15 years, predominantly in China and South America, have backed up this theory with the theropods seen to be closest to birds on the evolutionary tree showing several different types of feathers. Changes to the hand digits of dinosaurs in the theropod group also show evidence of this connection between the two groups as the fifth and then fourth digit is completely lost as you move towards the bird twig. The wrist bones under the first and second digits is also shown to fuse together and become more semi-circular, allowing the hand to rotate sideways against the forearm. More recent research, published in Science, has found that theropods were the only dinosaurs to get continuously smaller, shrinking 12 times before becoming the size of modern birds.

As with all theories, there are some anomalies that need to be looked into further. Developmental studies on bird hands now indicate that they actually comprise of digits 2, 3, and 4 rather than the 1, 2, and 3 you would expect if they evolved from theropods. There is also evidence that the feathers seen of earlier theropod fossils may actual just be collagen fibres found in skin that has been preserved in an unusual way.

Despite this, the evidence behind birds descending from dinosaurs is a compelling one. So instead of them being extinct, we could in fact be feeding small dinosaurs in our back gardens.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, General, Species profile |

Reserve Sightings

RainbowOverMontrose - Andy Wakelin -resized & copyright

Rainbow over Montrose (c) Andy Wakelin

This week’s reserve sightings couldn’t be written without mentioning the low rainbow seen over Montrose on Thursday. Caused by the reflection and refraction of light in water droplets, they allow us to see the full spectrum of light against the sky. This rainbow was made all the more spectacular by the dull, overcast day we’d been having before.

Pink-footed Geese (c) SWT

Pink-footed Geese (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Perhaps the most exciting observation this week has been the 9 Pink-footed Geese spotted just behind the Visitor Centre on the 20th. This is a very early sighting for Pink-feet, with last year’s first sighting being on the 8th September, but as this seems to be a year full of ‘unusual activity’ perhaps it’s not quite so surprising. Other geese seen this week are 8 Greylay Geese spotted in the Ferryden area on the 22nd.

Further sightings on the reserve this week include a Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk outside the Visitor Centre, 77 Grey Heron at the Lurgies, 400 Lapwing on the Salt Pans, 41 Goosander mid-basin, 119 Cormorants unusually sighted at Maryton Bay and over 700 Eider throughout the Basin. The tern raft has remained a great viewing opportunity throughout the week with adults Terns making regular trips carrying fish back to the chicks. On the mammal front, a Stoat was seen again at the dipping pond on the 20th and today’s count of Common Seals is 29.

In other news, next weekend will be a great weekend if you are trying to find something for the kids to do as we have the Family fun day – “Messy mud at Montrose” – on the Saturday and “It’s Our World Partnership” on Sunday.


Messy mud & it's our worldGeorgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

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