Basin Notes - July 2002

Basin Life Flourishes During the Summer

AS June gets underway with ever lengthening days and, we hope, rising temperatures nature continues to flourish and multiply.

In the depth of the Basin the breeding cycle of many invertebrates is in full swing as they seek to replenish their numbers which were vastly depleted by wintering waders.

On the ground and in the trees young birds are being seen in ever increasing numbers as they beg for food from their parents and seek to improve their flying techniques.

In their juvenile plumage they can sometimes pose a real identification challenge to the birdwatcher.

The first eider and shelduck ducklings will appear on the Basin in early June and as the month progresses the male eiders will gradually slip into eclipse (camouflage) plumage before starting their wing moult later in the summer.

Recent sightings last month included a fulmar on the 20th, a whitethroat on the 21st and on the same day the rarer lesser whitethroat was heard singing at Tayock.

A ruff was seen by the Mill Burn on the 26th as was a whimbrel near the widgeon hide. In addition 91 cormorants were counted on the 27th, the highest number for some years.

On the 29th 80 black-tailed godwits were feeding on the estuary, many in summer plumage. This was an unusually high number so late in the season.

These elegant waders are likely to have wintered in Scotland and were on their way to their breeding grounds in Iceland. On June 2, three moorhen chicks just days old made their debut on the pool in front of the visitor centre.

At the Wildlife Centre, the young blue tits in our "camera nestbox" are growing rapidly.

Fed on a diet of juicy caterpillars by their every attentive parents, they will be leaving the nestbox any day now. The pair of swallows observed from another miniature camera have built their mud nest and lined it with feathers. By now the female will have started laying her clutch of four or five whitish eggs with red and brown spots.

The peanuts in our feeder outside the Centre are a rich source of nutrients for small birds but recently they have been attracting a number ofjackdaws.

Despite the size of their beaks they can quickly break up the peanuts and extricate the pieces through the wire mesh. It is an example of how adept members of the crow family can be in exploiting different food sources.