Basin Notes - July 2007

Growing up in the Basin has trials and tribulations

Looking out of the centre window this morning I was watching a couple of young goldfinches getting to grips with the prickly issue of extracting seed from a thistle head in the grounds.

It reminded me of the trials faced by many species at this time of year as they have to learn to fend for themselves. Although lacking the finesse of their parents I don't think this pair were making a bad job of things.

The most abundant species on Montrose Basin at this time of year are the Eider ducks and the young ducklings have to rate pretty highly in the 'cuteness' stakes. The female eider is very attentive doing all the incubation and rarely if ever leaving the nest.

After all her young have hatched she'll escort the young ducklings down to the basin. But at this stage Eider child-care is second to none because the ducklings join creches supervised by non breeding females.

These creches can contain 30 young ducklings watched over by half a dozen or more females who will defend and care for these young many of which will not be their own progeny.

This nurturing instinct was demonstrated brilliantly earlier this year.

We will not normally accept wounded birds because we have no facilities to look after them and I would always advocate leaving young birds alone even when you think they have been abandoned.

But when a young Eider duckling was brought to us at what appeared to be death's door I didn't think there was much that could be done for it.

Knowing what good parents Eiders ducks are, however, I thought the only chance for it was to go out and give it to a group of females despite the fact they had no young.

As soon as the females saw this duckling on its own they went over to it and herded it into their midst. The youngster seemed to get a new lease of life.

This bond between the duckling and its adoptive parents was tested to the limit when a Greater Black Backed Gull came down looking for an easy meal. One female took the duckling literally under its wing whilst the others kept the gull at bay.... No easy meal this time.

On another occasion I witnessed a crow which had caught a young rabbit; its siblings looked on unsure of what to do.

But then from out of nowhere came the doe rabbit and proceeded to charge at the crow until it released the youngster which then bolted with its brothers and sisters back into its burrow (only to pop their heads out two minutes later looking for more mischief as if nothing had happened!).

These are two of the most memorable events I have watched this year as we witness the trials and tribulations of the inhabitants of the Basin growing up.

Each visitor, volunteer and staff member will have their own most memorable visit. Yes, sometimes life can be harsh and nature can deal cruel blows but watching it all unfold beats any TV soap or episode of Big Brother.

I must again emphasise that we cannot look after wounded animals if you find a wounded animal the first point of contact should be the SSPCA.