Basin Notes - December 1998

The 12 Birds of Christmas

In these closing days of the year the natural world has many gifts to bestow on those eager to escape from the TV, relatives or turkey sandwiches! On the twelfth day of Christmas, Mother Nature sent to us:
Twelve snipe a drumming, (Very difficult to see as they inhabit reed beds and marshland and are not usually demonstrative except on the mating flights where the outer tail feathers produce the characteristic drumming sound)
Eleven oystercatchers piping, (One of the most characteristic sounds around estuaries and coasts as they flee danger and warn the other creatures around as well)
Ten teal a leaping, (The collective noun is a Spring of Teal - so called because of the way they take to the air when a group fly off)
Nine grebes a dancing, (The mating ritual of great-crested grebes includes a balletic dance as the pair rise out of the water and shake their heads at each other)
Eight wigeon whistling, (The high pitched whistle of the male wigeon is like no other bird)
Seven swans a swimming, (Perhaps the most stately and perhaps haughty sight in the natural world as mute swans swim effortlessly around)
Six geese a flying, (Evocative of Montrose from October to March as skeins of the pink-footed variety fly to and from the basin on their daily feeding flights)
Five golden plover, (Down from the high moorland where they nest, almost invisible on the shingle banks until scared off in a pulsating, fast flying mist of wings)
Four eider calling, (The most harmonious of duck calls as the males woo the females to accept them as the best partner)
Three Common Gulls, (Often overlooked, these neat, kindly looking gulls are not actually really common over all the UK, but there are plenty on the basin)
Two collared doves (A very successful bird that has spread all over Britain since the '50's and regularly visit our gardens)
And a Partridge in a pear tree. (Plenty of these about but as they don't have too many pear trees to sit in, they mostly skulk around the base of hedges)
And what better place to search for these gifts than on our doorstep - Montrose Basin.