Basin Notes - February 2004

Flocking to Basin

The Basin is teeming with birdlife at the moment with around 4,000 pink-footed geese still present, 4,000 wigeon and 2,000 eiders, as well as all the other usual ducks and waders.

The bird feeding station has been very productive with the odd siskin, brambling, and great spotted woodpecker appearing along with the more normal greenfinches, house sparrows, robins, dunnocks, great and blue tits, and collared doves.

At the high tide wader roosts, a peregrine falcon may sometimes be spotted chasing the knots, redshanks, dunlins, turnstones, oystercatchers and either of the two species of godwits - black-tailed or bar-tailed.

Another predator which is probably more ruthless than the peregrine is the grey heron. This tall shorebird will tackle a variety of food items as diverse as: crabs through fish and eels to mice and even a stoat or a weasel.

The peregrine is very spectacular in its pursuit of prey, causing mayhem in doing so, but the patient grey heron will hardly be noticed standing in shallow water waiting for exactly the right moment to pounce.

A few groups have been visiting the Centre recently with one group of six year-olds actually venturing onto the February mud to look for the numerous creatures which live there. Luckily, the day they chose to visit was a clement one.

The other half of this school group was making bird feeders from old pine cones which they covered with margarine and then coated in a seed mix. A length of wool was then attached in order to hang it up. Other groups were interested to have a tour of the Centre displays which they will have seen for the last time as these interpretive displays are to be upgraded in March.

In fact, the Centre will be closing on March 1st, and it is hoped that all the work will be completed by May 1st. Watch out for the latest news in future Basin Notes. We are hoping that everyone will be keen to come along in the early summer to have a look at the new displays.

The recent mild spell has made some of the local birds feel that spring has arrived and already song thrushes, blackbirds, dunnocks, chaffinches and robins have been bursting into song in the hope of the mild weather continuing.

The flowers too are a bit early, and the white butterbur, hazel, barren strawberry and dog's mercury are all in flower. The willows have their white hairy covering on the buds and fresh leaves are appearing on the honeysuckle.

The first of the migrants appear in late February. These are the lesser black-backed gulls which winter in the Mediterranean. Many of the species are now over wintering in Scotland, but many more will be returning from warmer climes.

Chiffchaffs and blackcaps occasionally over winter as well, and I spotted one of the former in Montrose in January. We will really be aware that spring has arrived when we see the sand martins flying around the man-made nesting bank outside the Centre window, and this could happen in mid March.