Basin Notes - August 2004

Owl pellet findings sought by the BTO

People with a keen eye for spotting the unusual are a great asset to the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

When out for a walk or returning from berry-picking by the old farm building, something catches the eye - a crusty, dark grey pellet, the remains of a meal. There's been an owl on the prowl.

The barn owl, the tawny and little owl, also the short eared and long eared owls produce these pellets - size and shape help determine which.

The owl will swallow prey whole, later the indigestible parts are coughed up, possibly twice a day. These tend to accumulate in fair numbers, highly convenient to the curious collector. An examination of these pellets reveals a package of bones and fur and even occasionally a bird ring.

The British Trust for Ornithology are interested to receive these bird rings or you can contact your local wildlife trust. The Mammal Society has produced a leaflet "Analysis of Owl Pellets" which is available on their web site (www.

A collection of slides produced by Lynn Griffith has been in constant use since the Wildlife Centre opened in 1995. One of these has the array of bones from such an owl pellet which can be examined in greater detail under the microscope.

Owls glide silently, their feathers round-ended to assist this successful predator to forage, quite different to the angular falcon. Larger hawks which like to soar high on the thermals may have round-ended tail feathers, again assisting gliding and soaring.

An interesting and varied exhibition by naturalist Russell Nisbet is on at present at the Wildlife Centre. Russell travels, taking with him small groups of keen amateurs and these pictures show plants and creatures from locations in Goa, the Algarve and Romania. The exhibition runs until the end of August.

In September, Archaeology month, the Montrose Basin Heritage Society has an exhibition entitled "Sands of Time". They will also hold an open evening when anyone interested in learning about historical research can find out more. This event is free.

A popular family fun day is being held on August 22 from 1pm to 5pm with lots of activities for all ages.

On August 29 from 1pm to 3pm there is a guided walk to help identify wildfowl with the Angus ranger, starting from the Old Mill car park - wear wellies and old clothes. More information on these and other activities on 01674 676336.

Meanwhile, unsuccessful breeders and young birds are flocking in to the basin from their northern breeding grounds while swallows, sedge warblers and sand martins are still busy over die salt marsh and Rossie Spit.

There is not one but sometimes four osprey over the estuary and still many butterflies are enjoying the flourish around the visitor centre - so do walk or cycle out from Montrose and catch the natural beauty on your doorstep!