Basin Notes - February 2009

Reaction to spring-like weather

With the mild spell continuing, the birds are feeling quite 'spring-like' and many are in full song.

It is great to wake up and be serenaded by Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and perhaps even Starlings. The latter are brilliant mimics, and more than once I have believed I was listening to Buzzards, Curlews or even Lapwings.

Not so welcome will be the incessant calls from our local Herring Gulls! Because Montrose is right beside the sea, these birds feel that some of our buildings resemble cliffs, and are very happy to sit on them and even nest on them! The above songbirds are a welcome sound to our awakening in the morning but not so the gulls.

The Eider drakes at the SWT Montrose Basin are doing their 'Frankie Howard' impressions (if you do not understand this: then go and listen for yourselves) as they and all the other duck species are in their best 'dress' at the moment to impress the females.

The drake Goldeneyes are worth watching from the Centre window. Most of these ducks will have been 'paired-off before Christmas. Even the local Rooks are back at their nest sites high up in the trees, and most birds of prey such as Buzzards, Peregrines and Golden Eagles will be well under way with their spring displays by now.

Some wildflowers are showing already with Lesser Celandine and White Butterbur being the most obvious, and our Hazel bushes are displaying their greenish catkins. If you take a very close look at these bushes, you may well spot the first tiny crimson flowers appearing on the tips of the buds.

In the Basin, there has been a recent high count, of Pink-footed Geese (around 13,000) and the reason could be that they are gathering with the thought of heading back to Iceland already! I have also noted a party of Whooper Swans with probably the same thought in mind. There have been over 100 of these birds in the Basin along with over 2,000 Wigeon, 130 Pintails, 40+ Scaup and 4 Greenshanks.

A little bit further up the coast, I visited the cliffs at Fowlsheugh recently and was amazed to witness thousands of Guillemots back on the ledges already with many more thousands out at sea!

Whether they will stay for the spring now or move out to sea if they weather worsens only time will tell, but with most birds it is a good idea to return to the nest sites early to secure the best positions.