Basin Notes - July 2008

Young birds spotted around the Reserve

Around the Nature Reserve the appearance of the next generation of birds is now much in evidence.

Over 150 eider ducklings have been counted although there could be double that number as the Basin is such a vast area to cover.

Several families of shelduck have been seen and mallard and red-breasted merganser will also have ducklings tucked away somewhere on the Reserve. Lapwing broods have been seen and other likely breeders are redshank and common sandpiper.

In the grounds of the Visitor Centre the young of blue and great tit, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, sedge and willow warbler, dunnock and grey wagtail have been seen, many of them still being fed by parents.

Ever since the Visitor Centre opened in 1995, several swallows have nested yearly under the eaves. Last year, although swallows were present, none attempted to nest and we don't know why. However this year birds have fledged from the 2 nests built. On the tern nesting platform in front of the Visitor Centre, 7 clutches of eggs are being incubated.

Recent sightings of interest include 850 curlew, 126 red-breasted merganser, 34 black-tailed godwit, 9 common sandpiper, 7 ringed plover, 4 whimbrel and 2 osprey.

A black tern and a roseate tern were seen on Montrose beach - both quite rare sightings.

Around the Reserve and by woodland, hedgerow and river bank nature's bounty is plain to see.

The rowan tree now has well formed berries and the conkers are "in miniature" on the horse chestnut. Hawthorn berries are in abundance following its prolific bloom in May and ash is sporting its mass of seeds. Alder is unusual in that many of its own woody cones of last year will stay attached to the tree while the new seed cones are growing.

Elder is a real show just now with its foaming flower heads of cream and white signalling the promise of a rich autumn harvest of berries which the birds will take with relish. The wild cherry had a great flush of scented flowers in early spring but already its berries are turning red.

Wild flowers give us much pleasure and many are at their best just now. You will find red campion with its showy flowers growing by hedgerow, roadside or open woodland. Red and white campion may hybridise to provide flowers in various shades of pink.

Russian comfrey has nodding heads of purple flowers; the bold oxeye daisy is always eye-catching as is viper's-bugloss with its tall stems and pink buds which open up into brilliant blue flowers. The nectar is a great favourite with bees and butterflies.

The teasel is tall and bold with a host of spiky defences on its stem, leaves and oval seed heads to deter the human touch if not treated with respect.

The saw-toothed ribs under the leaves are particularly vicious but by late autumn, the goldfinch will extricate the seeds with ease. Now is a good time to find speedwells and forget-me-nots in their various shades of blue.

The humble buttercup is a real gem. With its shiny yellow flowers it is a twinkling star in a sea of green, guaranteed to brighten up the dullest of days.