Basin Notes - April 2003

Harbingers of Spring

Spring seems to have arrived over the past weeks with warm, dry weather and the plant life is really appreciating the conditions. Snowdrops were well in evidence but have now given way to that other harbinger of Spring, the daffodil.

Spring, the season of renewal! Not only do the plants and animals rejoice in the longer days and prospects of a new year with its promise of new life, but we humans get the same uplift in spirits. This is in no small part a response to the awakening life around us, for we are linked more closely than we might appreciate to the changing seasons and the signs and sounds from our natural environment.

The robins and blackbirds are making their presence felt with rich, warbling song that talks to our inner selves of joy and anticipation.

Of course, we are not yet at full strength with the migrant birds still on their way from Southern Europe and Africa to replace the winter visiting pinkfooted geese, knot and dunlin that have graced Montrose Basin with their sounds and aerial acrobatics since last Autumn.

What would we do without all these hardy travellers?

Sadly we may have to find out. In Iceland a large hydro-electric plant is being constructed that will destroy a major part of the nesting area of our pinkfooted geese. This might produce a major impact on the number of geese we see each October.

Closer to home, plans for a new London airport would concrete over a Kentish estuary and salt-marsh that is a vital wintering ground as well as nesting and roosting area for thousands of birds and animals. This area is "protected" by environmental designations such as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) as well as large areas being owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It seems incredible that such a plan was ever put forward.

What would we do if an airport was proposed for the Basin? Would the SSSI, SPA and Ramsar designations stop the determined developer? I hope so!

In the 1960's, Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" was a crucial factor in identifying and halting the use of DDT due to its adverse effects on the natural environment. So much of the natural habitat that sustains the birds and animals that we rely on to enrich our lives is disappearing under concrete that her prediction of man living in a world without wildlife may yet come to pass.

Until that disaster happens, we can enjoy our gardens and wildlife havens. Even more from next week when the Wildlife Centre re-opens on 1st April after its internal building work. The new lift will allow less able visitors to access the lower floor, where new windows will provide an alternative view of the Basin. Staff and Volunteers will have more office space and the entrance area is now opened out to give a more spacious feel to the main floor.