Basin Notes - December 2003

Read All About It

The eternal Christmas question - What do we get for Uncle Harry? If he is interested in the natural world and lives near Montrose Basin then a good start is a subscription to the Scottish Wildlife Trust which includes three editions of the "Scottish Wildlife" magazine each year as well as free entry to SWT reserves.

For some stocking fillers there are plenty of books available to increase his knowledge and enjoyment of the varied habitats that make the Basin a joy to visit. The books fall into the categories: identification, scientific and general (What?, Why? and How?).

Firstly, being able to identify what you see is a first step to enjoying a day out in the wild. Bird identification books abound, but the best one at the moment for beginner and expert alike is the "Collins Bird Guide" by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant. This contains excellent illustrations of birds in all their plumages and full descriptions of each bird that will help distinguishing the tricky species. Its only failing is that it is just too big to slip into a coat pocket. A much slimmer alternative is "The New Birdwatcher's Pocket Guide to Britain and Europe" by Hayman and Hume. This has shorter descriptions of each species but the illustrations are good quality.

There are several identification guides that are focused on the flora and fauna of the seashore. The "Lomond Guide to Seashore Life" covers the plants, seaweed, molluscs and crustacean that can be found on British shore lines. The "Collins Gem Guide - The Seashore" covers the same realm as the Lomond Guide but adds birds and fish. Both these are small and easily fit into the slimmest pocket.

Essential reference works that you need on your bookshelf are the more scientifically based volumes. A very interesting book in this category is "The Birdwatcher's Handbook" by Ehrlich, Dobkin, Wheye and Pimm. As well as information on each bird species, there are essays discussing the more general topics concerning bird activity like migration, song, and feeding behaviour. "The Biology of Soft Shores and Estuaries" by Little provides a scientific approach to the interrelationships of plants and animals that make these ecosystems work.

More general reading for the avid Basin watcher could include Flegg's "Birds of the British Isles" or Martin's "Wildfowl of the British Isles and Northern Europe". Both provide a general and very readable portrait of birds in their various environments. These can be picked up and browsed on cold, dark evenings to whet the appetite for planned expeditions.

These are not the only titles available, as a search in your local bookshop or at will reveal a wide range of books at a range of prices. You could always visit the shop at the Wildlife Centre and sample the books on the natural world that are stocked there. The Centre is open 7 days a week except Christmas Day and Boxing Day from 10:30am to 4pm.

So get away from the crowds and spend a little time watching wildlife and browsing books in the peaceful surrounding of the Wildlife Centre.