12 days of a Montrose Basin Christmas

12 days of a Montrose Basin Christmas

To be sung with the original 12 days of Christmas tune!

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: A Partridge in the field

Gray Partridge (c) Marek Szczepanek

Gray Partridge (c) Marek Szczepanek

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Water-Rail-DSC_0066

Water rail (c) Ian Sim

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Northern Lapwing (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Northern Lapwing (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Cormorant (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Cormorant (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail
and a Partridge in the field

Pintail Duck (c) Mark Lasnek

Pintail Duck (c) Mark Lasnek

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Pink-footed goose Harry Bickerstaff (249)1

Pink-footed Goose (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Whooper Swan (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Whooper Swan (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Golden Plover (c) Dave Appleton

Golden Plover (c) Dave Appleton

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me: Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Common Seal (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Common Seal (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the tenth day of Christmas                                                                                                          my true love sent to me: Ten Reeds a bunting, Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Reed Bunting (c) WildCrail

Reed Bunting (c) WildCrail

On the eleventh day of Christmas                                                                                                   my true love sent to me: Eleven Oystercatcher, Ten Reeds a bunting, Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Oystercatcher (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Oystercatcher (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

On the twelfth day of Christmas                                                                                                       my true love sent to me: Twelve Ducks a diving, Eleven Oystercatcher, Ten Reeds a bunting, Nine Seals a sleeping, Eight Golden Plover, Seven Whooper Swans, Six Geese a roosting, Five Pintails, Four Cormorants, Three Lapwings, Two Water rail, and a Partridge in the field

Eider Duck (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Eider Duck (c) ScottishWildlifeTrust

Merry Christmas from the Montrose Basin staff and volunteers

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

Water rails at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)

Water-Rail-DSC_0066

Water rail feeding beside the bird feeders. (c) Ian Sim

Water rails are said to be one of the most elusive birds in Scotland, but with around 1,250-1,400 breeding pairs in lowland Scotland, you would think we would encounter them more often.  Keen bird watchers are often aware of their presence by the distinctive sound that they make, a loud piglet like squeal. They are about half the size of a Moorhen and a little slimmer.  They live in wetland habitats up to 200 metres above sea level.  Our salt pans are an excellent example of good habitat for the species to breed and winter in, as they never freeze over.  The salt pans are surrounded by reed beds, providing shelter and security.  These are periodically flooded by the tidal estuary, providing a fresh supply of food stuffs.  They mainly eat small fish, snails and insects.

We have had a number of good sightings this week of the Water rail.  It has been venturing out of the Salt pans and up towards the centre.  A regular visitor to the centre managed to take an excellent photo of the Water rail.  It had wandered about 10 meters away from the water to feed in the bushes by the bird feeders.  The recent increase in sightings from the Visitor Centre window is in part due to the vegetation dying back and because there are simply more individuals around after the summer months.  We are very excited to be able to show such an elusive species to the public.

Common Seal RWW NON T SWT

Common Seal (c) SWT

Other sightings this week include 350 Knot, 110 Golden Plover, 28 Scaup, 16 Common Seal, 7 Grey seals, the Kingfisher and of course our resident Stoat.

The centre is open 10.30am – 4pm, Friday-Sunday.  So you can come along and experience all these lovely species for yourself.

Emma Castle-Smith – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Posted in Birds, Mammals, Sightings, Species profile, Uncategorized | Tagged |

Reserve sightings 21st Nov 2014

There has been a lot of excitement on and off the Reserve this week.  As a very rare small bird was spotted on Montrose beach.  Keen members of the Dundee and Angus bird group spotted a Desert Wheatear on Montrose beach on Sunday 16th November.  At the centre we were delighted to be shown a photograph of this rare megavagrant.  The last confirmed sighting of it, was 127 years ago in Arbroath.

Since last Sunday we have regularly seen the Kingfisher, Water rail and Greenshank on the reserve.  We have also seen a few rafts of Scaup, with numbers reaching 27 yesterday.

An Icelandic Goose count was also done on Sunday with a staggering 32,729 Pink-footed Geese recorded.  While this Sunday our monthly wetland bird survey (WeBs) will be completed by the Ranger.  So watch this space!

We also have a Christmas Goose event coming up soon. Details on the poster below.

xmasgoose

14th December 2-5pm

Emma Castle-Smith  - Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

 

Posted in Birds, Events, General, Sightings, Surveys | Tagged , , |

Reserve Sightings 15th Nov 2014

After the wet and windy weather yesterday the Reserve has been a hive of activity.  Despite all the flotsam that’s come down the South Esk river into the Basin overnight.  There are still large numbers of Eider ducks, Lapwing and many other species feeding on the mud.

Water Rail (3)

Water Rail (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

We have also been lucky enough to see the Water rail this morning out on the salt pans.  Our visitors were treated to a rare sight of the Water rail feeding out in the open for around 30 minutes.  During that time we also saw a Moor hen and the Kingfisher, fishing from it’s usual perch in the salt pans.  I’m sure our excited visitors didn’t know where to look first!

In fact looking over the log book for the last week, the Kingfisher and the Water Rail have been making an almost daily appearance on the salt pans.

We have also been very fortunate recently to see some mammals out on the reserve.  A Stoat was seen this week out by the Shelduck hide, and another one just outside the Visitor Centre.  We were also treated to a rare sighting of a Polecat-Ferret.  From the photo that our volunteer Andy took, we ascertained that it was not a true wild Polecat but possibly a Ferret or Polecat-Ferret hybrid.  Either way we were very excited to see it from the Visitor Centre window.

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Polecat-Ferret seen in the grounds of the Visitor Centre. (c) Andy Wakelin

Our Whooper Swan numbers are increasing, with 28 seen at the river mouth on the 7th November and 100 recorded at the same place on the 9th November.

As always there are so many things to see from the Visitor Centre and well worth a visit.

Emma Castle-Smith – Visitor Centre Assistant Manager

Posted in Birds, General, Mammals, Sightings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , |

Kingfisher 101

With the Kingfisher making an almost daily appearance at the Visitor Centre we thought it was about time we gave this enigmatic species its own blog post.

This is one species that doesn’t need any physical descriptions, but at only 16-17 cm it’s definitely much smaller than people expect and on very dull days you can get a hint of the Kingfisher’s actual colour, a dark brown. The distinctive colours that we see are actually due to the interference between the different wavelengths of light being reflected from the different layers of its feathers. Males and females can be distinguished from each other by the orange-red colour of the female’s lower mandible, and juveniles tend to be duller than the adults with blackish feet.

Kingfisher (1) -

Wind swept and interesting at the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Its compact body, large head and long bill make it perfectly adapted for dive fishing, and the distinctive head bobbing is a good indicator that food has been spotted as it uses this movement to gauge the distance of the prey. While it keeps its body compact and streamlined in dive, the wings are opened once it enters the water, allowing it to reduce its speed and depth as well as propel itself back out of the water. To ensure that it continues to have a visual on its prey once it enters the water its eye has two foveae (the area of the retina which contains the greatest density of light receptors) and the Kingfisher is able to switch from the central fovea to the auxiliary fovea giving it binocular vision while in the water. It is also able to protect its eye by closing a transparent third eyelid.

Kingfisher - Nick Townell

Kingfisher on its ‘usual perch’ at the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre (c) Nick Townell

Kingfishers are solitary and highly territorial, mainly due to the fact that they must eat around 60% of their body weight on a daily basis, with territory size depending on the amount of food available. Even pairs formed in autumn will keep separate territories until mating begins in spring. Due to this high food requirement mortality rates can be high, especially in juveniles who may not have even learnt to fish before they are driven off their parents’ territory, and being high on the aquatic food chains means that they are vulnerable to river pollution and build-up of chemicals.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, Sightings, Species profile |

Tricks and Treats

We are delighted to announce that our Goose Breakfast is now fully booked and with record numbers of geese, looks set to be one of our finest events.

If you were not lucky enough to have booked a place, don’t fret.  Our next Goose event is Sunday 14th December, where you can experience the Pink-footed geese from the comfort of the Visitor Centre, while eating a mince pie and a hot drink.  For the kids there are loads of Christmas themed crafts to keep them entertained. Booking is essential.

This weekend is also a family fun filled event with our Halloween party from 1-4pm this Saturday.  Prizes for the best Halloween costumes and lots of fun crafts.

No need to book just turn up on the day in fancy dress!

Look forward to seeing you all.

halloween ffd & goose breakfastEmma Castle-Smith – VC Assistant Manager

Posted in Events, General |

Last chance to vote!!

We would encourage everyone who has not voted for the Woodland Trust – Scotland’s tree of the year, to go and do it now! Closing date is Sunday 26th October.

Please vote using this link: http://bit.ly/TreeoftheYear

Our old faithful Scots pine at the Loch of the Lowes has been nominated and we are really hoping that we win.  For those of you that don’t know the story behind the tree you can read Sarah’s blog (Link below).

http://blogs.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/osprey/2014/10/04/vote-for-ladys-tree-as-scotlands-tree-of-the-year/

LOL-Tree-JClose-625x1024

Lady’s Tree (c) J.Close

Emma Castle-Smith – VC Assistant Manager

Posted in Events, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , |

Reserve Sightings.

Pink-footed Geese (45)

Mass Take Off (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

This week has been a pretty amazing week when it comes to Pink-footed Geese numbers. Tuesday’s count gave us an amazing, Basin recording breaking number of 70,153, but today’s counts is even higher at 78,970! This is a great sign for the health of the species and should make for spectacular viewing on our People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast next Sunday morning.

Kingfisher (5)

Kingfisher at the Salt Pans (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Golden Plover numbers have also been unusually high this year, with over 1270 sighted on the Basin at low tide. The Kingfisher can still be seen daily from the Visitor Centre, even remaining long enough for some great photos, along with the more unusual sightings of a Blackcap. Other unusual sightings have been an Osprey seen over Rossie Spit on Wednesaday and a Water Rail at the Salt Pans at high tide.

Godeneye  (109)

Goldeneye (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Little Grebes have made a real return to the Basin this season, with regular sightings at Rossie Spit including 19 seen on Wednesday. Other waterfowl seen at the Basin this week have been 6 Barnacle Geese, 1 Canada Goose, 6 Whooper Swans, 25 Goldeneye, 9 Scaup, 2 Shovellers, 3 Teal, and 24 Pintails. Waders have included 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 17 Dunlin, 4 Greenshank, and 25 Curlew. On the predator front, both a Sparrowhawk and a Stoat have been seen in front of the Visitor Centre along with the daily viewings of Buzzards.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Birds, General, Mammals, Sightings |

Reserve sightings 10th October 2014

This week we have seen the numbers of Pink-footed Geese climb to over 44,000.  The Rangers have estimated that the peak number could now have approached around 60,000 but without an official dawn count we can’t be sure of the exact number.

Pink-footedMassTakeOff (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Mass take off (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

On that note, we have rescheduled our Pink Sunset event, as it was postponed due to poor weather conditions.  We are delighted to announce that it will now be on Saturday 18th October at 5pm.  Please call the Visitor Centre to book for further details.

Pink sunset

The Kingfisher continues to make its daily appearance in front of the Visitor Centre.

A Little Egret has been spotted on the salt pans this week, as well as a solitary Canada Goose, Teal and Grey Heron.

Yellow-browed Warbler (3)

Yellow-browed Warbler (c) Scottish Wildlife Trust

Our most exciting spot this week has been the Yellow-browed Warbler, a rare migrant from Siberia.  It’s a similar size to the Firecrest and moves quickly in the berry covered trees.  It was first spotted on Tuesday but has been seen throughout the week at other places around the Basin and in front of the Visitor Centre today.

Golden Plover have also been spotted on the Basin at low tide.  These were initially counted by a volunteer on Wednesday and numbered around 226.  Today the count increased to around 350 individuals.

It just goes to show, that even though the weather is getting colder, the Basin continues to support a vast number of species and individuals.

Posted in Birds, General, Sightings | Tagged , , , , |

Autumn Crafting

WP_20141008_12_08_22_Pro - Alison O'Hara - c,r,c

Awesome Autumn creations (c) Alison O’Hara

As those of you that came to our Awesome Autumn yesterday will know, autumn is the perfect time to do a bit of crafting with the children. With trees dropping leaves, twigs, nuts, and seeds a little bit of scavenging can produce a large array of tools and supplies to make some unusual items.

Leaves are definitely the easiest to find, the most colourful and have the most versatility. While they can be used as stamps, dried leaves can also be painted on directly to produce a variety of pictures. They work particularly well for painting trees and a mammal who loves dropped leaves the most, hedgehogs. Damp, newer leaves can be folded and rolled to produce flowers, with the red to yellow colours fitting in perfectly with the colours we expect to see in roses. Those crafters with shaped hole punches can use them on the leaves to produce unique toppers to any picture or even cards.

Trees’ nuts and seeds can be used for more than just a game of conkers. Acorns work well on their own, with a bit of glue, to producing flowers while adding toothpicks means you can make people and beloved pets. Those lucky enough to have a Horse Chestnut tree near them can string the seeds together to product brown caterpillars and snakes, which can be painted to produce brighter varieties, or used as the base to make hedgehogs, squirrels, and snails.

Twigs make great paint brushes and stamping tools, perfect for painting trees, but work particularly well as a base for more 3D structures. Weaved together or fastened with string they are great for photo frames, dream catchers, and mobiles, as well as being part of more wintery flower displays.

Then, of course, there’s the mud. More easily accessible around this time of year it can either be used on its own, mixed with a little bit of water, or added to red and orange acrylic paint to produce textured pictures with a unique colour all of its own.

All of this with the added bonus of doing a bit of wildlife watching while you collect your supplies, not exactly something you can do in a shop. If you want to learn more about autumn crafting then why not come to our next Awesome Autumn children’s activity on Wednesday 15th October, 10.30am – 12noon.

Georgina Bowie, Visitor Centre Assistant

Posted in Events, People |